Fostering a dog or cat in need can be an incredibly rewarding experience for many animal lovers. Furry Friends Rescue relies on a huge network of volunteer foster homes to assist us in rehabilitating and re-homing thousands of dogs and cats each year; we have over 600 animals in care at any given time. Without our foster network, we would not be able to provide these animals a second chance in life. By opening up their homes, our fosters are not only providing the basic necessities, but also care, attention, socialization, and the chance for these animals to know and feel what it means to be a beloved family pet.
As rewarding as fostering is, it’s often impossible not to get attached to a foster animal, especially for those caring for one over a long period. Many of our volunteers have shared that saying goodbye to a foster is the most difficult part of the experience and that they wish they could keep all the animals! We certainly understand (and share) this sentiment, which is why we’ve put together this list of tips to remember for when the time comes to say goodbye to your foster animal.
Set ground rules ahead of time. Before your family takes in a foster animal, it is best to set some ground rules and guidelines to follow for the foster experience. For example, your family may start by taking on short-term or temporary fosters (i.e. those requiring vacation coverage) to get used to both having a foster animal in the home and saying goodbye to a foster animal once the coverage period is over. The temporary nature of these experiences will help to prepare your family to take on a more permanent, longer-term foster animal.
Choose an animal that may not be the right fit in the long-term. It’s incredibly tempting to choose a foster animal based on how perfectly he/she would fit into your home and lifestyle. Cast your net wider and look at those don’t fit the bill of your “perfect” pet but one that you believe you can help to become adopted. For example, if you prefer short-haired cats, try taking in a long-haired. If your household isn’t overly active, try a high-energy pup. Ensure that you are comfortable handling any animal that you take into your household – safety is the main priority – just choose one that isn’t quite the perfect match for your family’s lifestyle. You’ll be sad to see your foster go, but also welcome the shift back to your “normal” routine.
Involve your friends and family in the fostering experience. Proper socialization is one of the most important experiences you can give to your foster animal. As most of our foster animals have had limited contact with humans, it is vital that they interact with a variety of people in a safe environment. By getting your friends and other family involved, not only does this provides the animal with social interaction, it also provides you with the emotional distance needed for when the time to say goodbye comes around (you won’t think of the animal as “your” pet).
Become actively involved in the adoption process. As one of the key responsibilities as a foster home is to conduct meet-and-greet sessions with potential adopters, we ask that our foster volunteers get actively involved by asking lots of questions and providing their feedback, which is taken into consideration by the adoptions team. You can also spread the word to any friends or family looking to adopt an animal and refer them to be considered as potential adopters. You know the animal best – the type of family/lifestyle that would suit them, their quirks, their special needs – and getting involved also puts your mind at ease that your foster animal is going to a great forever home.
Decide on the timing that works best between fosters. Some fosters prefer to take in a new animal immediately after saying goodbye to their previous foster and many long-time volunteers recommend this. However, this may not be right for every home. Working through the emotional attachment to an animal you’ve just sent to their forever home can be a longer process for some volunteers. Take all the time that you need – there is absolutely no pressure to take in a new foster animal right away – as we recognize the importance of self-care. And there may be times in your life that you’re not able to commit to the time it takes to care for a foster animal. Do what works best for you and your family and it will help to ensure that your fostering experiences are enriching and not emotionally draining.
Ask for updates from the adoptive family. Many adopters are more than happy to keep you updated on their new pet’s progress with regular emails and photos. This is especially fun to see for kittens and puppies as they grow into adults. Seeing how well your foster is doing, hearing stories of their new adventures, and keeping that connection with them as “aunts” and “uncles” can ease your anxiety about letting them go. Some of our fosters even act as dog/cat sitters for their adoptive family and arrange regular play dates with their own resident pets.
Put together a small care package to send with your foster to their new home. Another great way to prepare your heart and mind to say goodbye is to spend some time putting together a care package to send with your foster animal. The package can include their favourite toys, treats, a small bag of their food, or an article of clothing like a bandanna. This helps the adoptive family to learn what their new pet likes. It will also ease your mind knowing that your foster animal has immediate access to the things that give them comfort as they are introduced to their new home.
Remember that it opens your home to save another animal. One of our long-time volunteers said it best: We are their step to their forever home. Each and every animal you foster through to adoption is another animal saved from homelessness or death. Adoption may save one life, but opening up your home to fostering guarantees that many lives are saved. The time, effort, and dedication spent on these foster animals is priceless, and being the bridge that allows them to find their forever home is vital work.
While we understand that these tips may not alleviate the sadness of saying goodbye nor will they prevent you from getting attached, we hope that this helps to prepare your heart and mind for the joyous experience of fostering. Remember that every time you open your home to an animal in need, you are saving a precious life that deserves a second chance. Our foster volunteers are one of our most vital assets, and Furry Friends Rescue could not do its work without the dedication of its foster network.
If you require any additional information or support, please reach out to our Foster Home Coordinator at 403-555-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about our volunteer program, please visit our main volunteer page.
We’d now like to ask you: What are some of the things you’ve done (or do) to prepare to say goodbye to your foster animal? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!