Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waifs and Strays - the rewards of dog fostering

Fostering dogs from the Dogs’ Refuge Home Shenton Park is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

In November 2011 we lost our beloved Tilly in tragic circumstances. She was my partner’s pride and joy, the canine love of his life, and we found the house to be a hollow shell without the clitter clack of her little feet on the floor boards.
We were sensible enough to realise that we needed to grieve before we thought about getting another dog, but it soon became clear to us that a house without a dog in it was all wrong.

We’d heard about the fostering program at Shenton Park through a colleague, so we made an appointment to go down to the refuge to talk to someone about whether we would be suitable and generally about what was involved. After a brief conversation we were told that there were two dogs that had just come in who were quite anxious in the refuge and would we like to take them today!


Snowy and Rascal were our first fostering experience. They showed us how quickly dogs can move from being anxious little bundles of nerves to cuddly, affectionate, fun loving hounds when put in a safe, caring environment. 

It is profoundly moving to see how quickly dogs go from seeing you as a threatening stranger to regarding you as an integral member of their pack, someone they'll happily follow anywhere and who's lap they will choose to curl up in given half a chance.

We went on to foster four other dogs over the next few months, each for between 2 - 4 weeks. We had the handsome older gentleman, Jangles, the highly strung but now happy and relaxed Portia and Presley, the awesome Ted and the sadly departed Graham.

Each had a special set of challenges from a case of kennel cough, anxiety, recovery from castration and lastly some health issues. Every one of them made our lives richer from having known them, if only for a short time.

"TED" - auditioning for the part of Doug from the movie "UP"

Fostering dogs gives you an opportunity to take a dog out of a stressful situation and show them that life can be better. This sets them up for better adoption chances, and provides the refuge with information about their personality and behaviour that helps to match them with the right family. 

Many of these dogs come into the refuge with little or no back story. The name you're given may be completely new to the dog so don't be surprised if they don't respond to it straight away. Some of them come fully toilet trained, some less so.  There are likely to be some unwanted behaviours so you need to be patient and remember that many of these guys have just come in off the street, or out of a pound which can be a very scary place.

When we talk to people about fostering they commonly ask if it is hard to give them back and the answer is a definite yes. But there is nothing as thrilling as checking the Shenton Park web site to see your little foster dog with the big “ADOPTED” sign next to their picture. Seeing a success story from their new family is pretty good too - it’s great to hear that your little buddy is all settled in.

There are times in life when committing to a dog of your own just won’t work. Fostering is a really good option. If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, if you’re fly in fly out but home for a few weeks at a time, then think about fostering. Let the refuge home know when you’re available and when you’re not. They are very good at selecting the right dogs for your circumstances.

We have since adopted a recycled puppy of our own so we aren’t fostering at the moment. We hope that once we get the toilet training sorted we might be able to start fostering again if he looks like the kind of dog who’ll make a good foster brother.

"SMUDGE" - foster brother in training
If you’re able to get involved in fostering, start out by emailing I think you’ll find you get as much out of it as the dogs you help, maybe more.

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