Foster and Much Love volunteer extraordinaire Gina Lee sat down with us to discuss the joys or fostering an animal. Read on and if you are inspired, please fill out a foster application yourself!
Why did you start fostering for MLAR?
I’m going to start my answer with a short story:
When I was about 10 years old, I was taking a walk in my neighborhood (OC ‘burbs) and came across a Maltese that looked pretty haggard but had clearly belonged to someone and got lost. The dog was super friendly, and while I played with him/her for a while, I eventually had to go home. The dog tried following me home but ran off, and to this day I still wonder if that dog ever made it home or if something terrible might have happened to him that I could’ve prevented. I still think about it 15+ years later, and I think that experience solidified a sense of responsibility and obligation to animals as I became an adult.
To answer your question….. Emptiness, maternal instincts? I’m not even sure myself. I grew up with two dogs (Maltese) and, post college, have always been the go-to babysitter for my friends who have dogs. Eventually it got to a point where I was considering adopting, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for the commitment. I started searching online and discovered the network of animal rescues and their fostering programs, and I knew it would be ideal for me due to the temporal nature. How I found Much Love, however, is by pure fate. My office happens to be a few blocks from the home of the Much Love Coordinator, Christine, and at lunch one day I saw her driving the Much Love van with the decal brightly displayed on the side. I immediately looked up ML at the office and applied to be a foster that same day. After a few weeks of having my first foster, Neiman, I became what’s known as a “foster failure” and ended up adopting him. Post Neiman, I decided I wanted to continue fostering because I love what Much Love is doing for homeless animals and I wanted to be a part of the difference they make for animals and local families alike. Plus, I knew it would be great for Neiman to have a buddy! Not even a year has passed since I got involved with ML and my boyfriend and I have fostered 8 additional dogs, all of whom have been adopted except for our current foster, Hush Puppy.
What do you like best about fostering?
There are many benefits to fostering, but the overriding impetus for me to foster is the idea that I’m helping save a life by opening my home to a homeless dog. I love seeing the transformation the animal undergoes once they realize they are safe and that they don’t have to worry about their next meal anymore. Being in a home is a big difference from the vet, kennel, or shelter. Dogs recognize and appreciate when you save them, and they never forget the person who rescued them. Family and friends always ask me, “how long have you had your foster?”, because the foster always becomes attached and loving towards me almost immediately (or within a few hours). I always say, a little bit of food and some rubs go a long way with these animals! Fosters always become part of my family and are constantly exposed to gatherings, friends, family, holidays, etc. I also love seeing my permanent dog, Neiman, come out of his shell and socialize with fosters of various breeds, ages and sizes.
Have you ever taught your foster animal a new trick?
Does potty training count?
One of the only puppies we fostered was not housebroken and it took two months for him to get adopted. During that time, we had to potty train him and teach him how to walk on a leash. With other fosters, we’ve taught them to sit, but sometimes they come to us already knowing tricks which is a fun surprise! For us, the most important things to reinforce are good leash walking, potty training, and understanding the word “NO!” if they get out of line. If we have the foster for an extended amount of time (beyond a few weeks), we’ll try to incorporate some new tricks.
Who is a better cuddler, your foster animal or your significant other?
I would be lying if I didn’t say my boyfriend wasn’t the best cuddler! He’s my number one heat rock and teddy bear, but at the same time, nothing can beat laying in bed or on the couch with a few pups snuggling with me (sometimes, on me). I like to call that “puppy time”, but don’t tell anyone…
What was your biggest apprehension about fostering and has that come true, if not, what happened? (really 3 questions but who’s counting?!)
People usually assume that the hardest part of fostering is becoming attached to the foster and not wanting to give him or her up. Since I adopted my first foster, I don’t have that issue (duh), though there is one foster I had that I still think about regularly. Knowing that the pup is going into a great home (verified by Much Love) is enough for me to be able to let go, and happily so. Otherwise, my biggest apprehension is fostering a dog that has serious behavioral issues and would destroy my furniture. A few years ago I bought a condo and got all brand new furniture, so I was concerned that having a dog in the mix would spell disaster for my couch, rugs, etc. Thankfully the fosters have been great and haven’t chewed ANYTHING – not a single destroyed shoe, chair leg, or even a sock! I did have one foster who liked to move socks and shoes from one area to another, but he didn’t chew them up. I must say, however, that having a dog has really desensitized me from cleaning urine and poop, as new fosters tend to have an accident or two inside the first day. One particular foster (the puppy, of course) peed on my bed a few times which meant I had to dry clean the down comforter – not fun. Fortunately that’s only happened with one dog, and the vast majority of them have been so well behaved!