For the Love of Fostering a Pet: Four questions answered before bringing a pet into your home

Homeward Bound Foster a Pet

Chance, Sassy, & Shadow of Childhood Favorite Homeward Bound

by Heather Kallevig

Do you remember those animal-related movies we used to watch when we were kids, the ones we can barely handle as adults? Movies like Fox and the Hound, Homeward Bound, and Milo and Otis? They’re filled with frustrating moments and memorable heartbreaking scenes. Yet, the happiness of those movies far outweighed the sadness, and made it worthwhile to watch over and over again.

Well, those childhood movies are similar in many ways to fostering an animal. Training a new pet and bringing them into your nuclear household can have its frustrations, giving up the pet you fell in love with can be heartbreaking, but the overall joy, happiness, and satisfaction generated from doing a good deed and changing the life of an animal in need makes fostering worthwhile. This is the reason many people return to pet fostering time and again.

Why do people foster animals?

foster a petWhen a pet is surrendered from their current home, or rescued from an inhumane condition, animal rescues often prefer to avoid the overwhelming environment of a shelter. Many rescued pets are already facing a very stressful situation, being separated from their home or recovering from danger. For these animals, living in a shelter can increase their anxiety making a foster home their ideal living situation. Also, shelters have limited means and can only keep animals for a brief period of time. By opening their home to these animals, fosters increase living space and lengthen the time and potential a pet has for finding their forever home. When placed in the proper home, pets can have the comfort of free movement, engagement with other pets, and the socialization of their foster parents. This eases the transition and helps better prepare an animal for their future home.

What is it like to foster a pet?

Similar to people, all animals have unique needs and personalities. Whether you open your home to dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, or chickens, fostering is unique on a pet-to-pet basis. That being said, as a foster parent, there are certain steps you can take to increase success. When fostering a pet, here are a few things to remember.Foster a pet

  1. Be Patient. Your new family member is already under a lot of stress. They don’t understand their situation – why they have left their home or why they have been treated poorly in their previous setting. You must be patient with animals in this position. Give them time to adjust. Consider making a room or space theirs, so if they want to relax there alone it’s ok. Give them space if they need it.
  2. Make them part of the family. Do not create a distinction between your own pets and your foster pets. They will feel it. If your dogs sleep in a kennel, give your foster dog a kennel. If they sleep on the bed, give him/her that option too. If you need to separate them, that’s ok. Just make sure you aren’t alienating your foster dog for your pets and visa versa. Your pets also need to know they haven’t lost their place in the household, so make sure you’re also giving them the attention they require.
  3. Begin training right away. It’s never too early to begin learning good habits, and it’s very likely your pet has never been taught.   They may have good habits and not-so-good habits. Either way, they are not likely to come with a training manual or personal profile, so it’s your job to teach them.

foster a catOur most recent foster didn’t know any commands including his name. We had to immediately begin teaching him important words including no, stay, and come. On the other hand, he was housebroken and kennel trained. You may have to housebreak the pet to your home as well. Teach them where the litter box is, or set a schedule to take them outside regularly. Set clear expectations and stick to them. Your pet will be much happier and behave better if he/she knows what’s expected in your home.

  1. Make sure he/she is healthy. Watch for any signs that your foster pet needs healthcare. Depending on the rescue organization you’re working with, the pet should already have their shots and a vet check before they arrive, but you still need to be aware. Many foster pets have been neglected and may have hidden health issues that need addressing. These issues may not have been noticed during the vet visit and could include stomach issues, anxiety, etc.
  2. Give them lots of love. The best way to help your foster “child” adjust is to give them unconditional love. This is the most important thing to remember when fostering a pet. They need attention, affection, and love. Above all else, this will help them adjust and grow.

Who should foster?

Anyone can foster a pet, but you do need to consider whether or not now is the right time for you. Adding another member to your household is a lot of work. It’s intensely rewarding, but it is also challenging. Be prepared, and understand you must be willing to care for the animal, train them, and nurture them. Here are a few things to consider before fostering a pet.

  1. Examine your living situation. Are you suited for another pet? Is your home large enough? Do you have a yard? If you rent, make sure your landlord will approve another pet in your home.
  2. Can you afford it? Depending on the rescue you’re working with, foster parents may be responsible for zero expenses, or they may be responsible for quite a few. Make sure you know what the expectations are, and whether or not this is a financial option for you.
  3. Do you have time? Fostering a pet requires a lot of extra time. You need to be able to exercise them, train them, and spend time with them. Make sure you are prepared for that commitment.

volunteer dog walkerIf you are not prepared to foster a pet, now may not be the best time for you. That does not, however, mean you cannot foster in the future. Remember, if it’s not a good situation for the foster parent, it won’t be a good situation for the animal. The last thing you want to do is move them from house to house because the fostering situation isn’t working. If you don’t have time, there are other options too. You can start by volunteering at your local shelter. They always need people to help at pet drives, walking dogs, grooming them, petting cats, and giving them all a little T.L.C.

Warnings aside, if you do qualify, and you are ready to foster a pet, than fantastic! You are ready to take part in a very rewarding and growth engendering experience. While there will be challenges, the benefits to all involved make fostering worth every trial and success. If you are ready to foster a pet, call a shelter and get on board!

What if I fail as a foster parent?

foster a dogThere is no shame in failing as a foster parent. I have fostered three pets, a cat and two dogs, and failed once. When you fail as a foster parent, it means you have become so attached to the pet you just cannot bear to let him/her go. This tends to happen to all regular foster parents at one time or another. If it does, you have just gained yourself a new family member who will love you absolutely for the rest of her life. Foster parents are generally softhearted animal lovers, and be weary it is always a possibility you may fall in love with the pet.

Final thoughts and a Happy Ending

I am writing this post because last night I brought foster dog number three to his new home. We partnered with a local rescue, Loving Heart Animal Shelter to foster Oskar who we began to call Kenai.  As mentioned earlier, it was a very rewarding and heart wrenching experience. It is always hard to give up a pet you have come to love and enjoy in your home. However, this emotion is very small compared to the joy and satisfaction derived from finding the perfect home for your foster animal.

When I visited Kenai’s future abode, they had purchased him a fancy new kennel to sleep in at night. It was modeled on child playpens and offered the perfect little cuddle hole for Kenai. Their four year-old daughter was bubbling over with excitement, their six-year-old boxer was sprinting up and down the halls with glee over her new playmate, and the parents were simply gushing with love.

How did Kenai feel? It was clear he had finally found his forever home. I reserve the opinion that dogs smile, and Kenai’s smile spread from ear to ear, split by a lolling wagging tongue. He is the happiest of dogs. He has found a home where he will be treasured, and he in turn will make them very happy.

Foster a Pet

Kenai with his new family

As foster parents, Joe and I were a part of that happiness. We had the opportunity to give Kenai a resting place, and because of our role he was discovered and adopted by a family who lived right across the street. If I hadn’t volunteered, they probably would never have found him. This is the essence of fostering – making a difference not only in the life of the dog, but the family who will love him. The more people who foster, the more lives we can save, and the greater difference we will make in this world.

If you are not ready to foster right now, it’s ok. You may be some time down the road. If you are ready to foster, please seriously consider it. You will never regret your role in the dog’s life and the future happiness you will create.

Foster a Dog Today!

Foster a Dog Today!

So many ways to celebrate Earth Day

Photo from geni.com

by Heather Kallevig

Earth day this year falls on a Wednesday, which for some people may mean more time for celebrating, while for others it may be more difficult. Either way, it’s important to commemorate this special day and all that it represents – unity for a cause, history and environmental wellness, caring for animals, and leaving a healthy planet for future generations.

Today’s post offers a list of ideas to celebrate Earth Day. You may choose one or several. Either way, I hope it encourages you to get out and participate!

Home

  • Go through the house and look for things you no longer need, give them to good will for those who may need it more.
  • Make your own, toxin-free household cleaners. Here’s a link to some great recipes.
  • Purchase compostable or recycled material garbage bags.
  • Thermostat impact – if it’s hot outside let your house be a few degrees warmer, it’s if it’s cold turn it down and put on a sweater.
  • Check for energy suckers – make sure unnecessary appliances are unplugged.
  • Rethink your fridge – are you overpurchasing each week? How much food is going to waste? Take an inventory of the amount of food you own and eat, determine if you’re purchasing the right amount.

Yard

  • Choose plants for your garden that are indigenous to the area.
  • If you live in a dry environment avoid high-water plants. Choose ornate grasses requiring less care.
  • Let parts of your yard grow long, the birds and wildlife in the area will appreciate it. IMG_7593This also means you’ll have far less to mow and keep up.
  • Feed a hungry bee. Bees are at risk today, so if you come across a bee that looks like it’s sleepy or near death – it may be in need of sugar water, bring it a spoon with water and sugar and send it on its way.
  • Put up a bird feeder and bath. Whether the squirrels or the birds love it more, you’ll have some appreciative wildlife to enjoy and observe.
  • Consider bird houses and bat boxes for your yard – this will keep the birds around longer, and the bats are great for maintaining the insect population.

Community

  • Most communities have Earth day events including educational fairs, spring clean ups, etc. Check your community calendar and get involved.
  • Volunteer at a local school, teachers are often in need of assistance with fun Earth day projects. Help out and make this day memorable for future generations.
  • Start your own Earth day celebration. Get a group together to pick up garbage in an area you know is in need, plant trees or flowers, or hang up bird feeders, bird houses, or bat boxes in your local area.

Global

  • If you have a long workday ahead of you and won’t be able to schedule time to get outside, you can still celebrate Earth day. There are people all over the world who work to make our planet a better place every day. Offer your long-distance support, starting on Earth day.
  • Donate to a favorite charity.
  • Find a new charity and offer your financial aid.
  • Let each member of your family research their own organization, explain why they chose it, and donate $10 each.
  • Donate to an Indiegogo or Grommet campaign .
  • Sign a petition – there are many organizations trying to change public policy and petitions are very important. Check your favorite organizations or try web-based sites like Care2.

There are many different ways to celebrate Earth day, and no contribution is too small. By making a concerted effort this one day, it raises the chance that small habits begun will continue. So pick an activity that interests you, get outdoors, and

Happy Earth Day!!

IMG_7590

Five Ways to Make a Difference Today

@HeatherKallevig

by Heather Kallevig

In the modern world, the average person is constantly bombarded with 24-hour news. Whether it’s on TV, social media, websites, and radio, a large portion of what we’re hearing and seeing is negative. In this environment of seemingly endless drama, difficulties, and sadness it is easy to become disillusioned.

The truth, however, is these news sources are offering a disproportionate frame of reality. The world is not becoming sadder… It’s become better! Through education, we are seeing an increase in activism, peace, and prosperity. In Be the Solution: How entrepreneurs and conscious capitalists can solve all the world’s problems, Michael Strong offers new and invigorating insights about our generation’s potential to change the world. The best part is, we are doing so in a society that is already in the upward scale.

It’s true, we are plagued by concerns with pollution, loss of biodiversity, and terrorism, to name a few, but we are also witnessing the regrowth of hardwood forests, a dramatic decrease in violent conflict, and a rise of conscious consumers and capitalists. We are coming of age in a world with growing potential.

Tibetan Buddhists, in spite of their heartrending history, hold dear to the future. According to strong “they are committed to a 500-year plan to making a better world.” The goal of each individual is to make the best of their world with the opportunities they receive in their lifetime. This is their contribution to the better world.

We can all benefit from this principle, and the best way to focus on making a difference in your lifetime is to focus on the difference you can make today. Below are five simple things you can do today to move us forward into a better world.

  1. Smile

This is perhaps the simplest contribution you can make, and the easiest way to quickly improve a person’s day. By smiling you change the mood of a moment, end an altercation, or instantly help another. After all, it’s very hard to see a smile without giving one in return.

  1. Make contact

Take the time to make contact with those people in your life you may have been neglecting. No matter how busy your world is, there is always time to get in touch with old friends, family members, or even coworkers. By doing so, you are letting someone else know you are thinking about them and that they are important to you.

  1. Show your gratitude

Showing your gratitude includes saying thank you, but it so much more. Take the time to show genuine appreciation for the people in your life, the skills you possess, and the blessings you’ve been granted.

  1. Get outside

Make time every day to get outside. You will increase your overall health, making you stronger for tomorrow. You will disconnect from technology and the distractions of the modern world. Finally, you will enhance your appreciation for the world beyond your own sphere. Better yet, when you do go outside, take someone with you!

  1. Be happy

This the most important way to impact change in your surrounding environment. Nothing else matters if you are not genuinely joyful. Make happiness a priority, and it will become a habit. Even on those days when your car breaks down, you fought with your significant other, and your daily work is drudgery finding the little reasons to be happy will dramatically change your overall gladness and your contentment will lastingly impact others.