5 Things No One Warns You About When Fostering Shelter Pets

POPSUGAR Photography | Lisa Peterson
POPSUGAR Photography | Lisa Peterson

My entry into the world of foster animals came in October of last year, after my puppy fever hit a record high. Several months spent religiously stalking my neighborhood shelters led to a strange little face popping up on my screen — it was a Pekingese with bulgy eyes that weren't quite right and a wild fur coat that made a dog somehow look more like a lion with growth issues. And what do you know, he needed a foster home. I quickly fired off a "Can we foster this guy?" text to my boyfriend, and without waiting for a response, I was hurrying out of my office to pick him up from the shelter.

Swooping that pup up from Social Tees animal rescue turned our home into a revolving door for foster pets, welcoming a new four-legged friend each time the last found his forever family. The laughter, joy, and occasional chaos these animals have brought into our cramped one-bedroom apartment in New York has been the absolute best experience.

If you're at all considering joining the foster community, here's just a small dose of what you can expect.


You'll Get a Lesson in Forgiveness

Still harboring a grudge against that girl who was totally mean to you in high school? Maybe it's time to let that go. Fostering animals is a lesson in the value of quick forgiveness. It would be reasonable for these animals who have experienced abandonment and neglect to cling to the past and live in fear of humans, but it's been my experience that foster pets eagerly place trust in their caretakers. Their consistent choice to not let past negative experiences detract from the desire to be loyal and loving companions in the present is a lesson we can all keep in mind.


You'll Become Somebody's Hero

On my way out the door to pick up my first foster pup, I shrugged off the commitment I was signing up for, insisting to my boyfriend that we were "just giving a dog a place to crash for a while." I couldn't have been more wrong. Not only does the act of fostering save an animal from dwelling in a cage somewhere, but it also opens up the opportunity for another animal to be rescued from a kill shelter or similarly dire situation. Fostering saves more than one life at a time, and to the animals whose lives you touch, you're a superhero.


You'll Gain a Deeper Understanding of Unconditional Love

No, the animals you foster aren't really "yours," but you'll still find yourself showing them off with the same pride as if they were your own. You likely won't get to watch your foster pet grow old and he won't be included in your holiday cards, but while he's in your care, you'll love him just the same. It's too rare that we humans serve another without much at stake to gain for ourselves. Caring for an animal for the sole purpose of showing him love instead of a cage is one of those exceptional chances.


You'll Get Your Heart Broken

I won't lie, I've shed more tears than I care to count after saying my goodbyes to foster pets. Caring for an animal and then watching it move on without you to a permanent family isn't easy, and it doesn't get easier. No matter what I do, a little piece of my heart lodges itself in the back of my mind and I start to daydream that we'll be together forever. But these foster animals, they're not mine. And that's for the best, because I always want to keep a space open in my home to bring in the next animal that's been dealt a rough hand in life. Fostering will likely bring you a brief bit of heartache, but it's nothing compared to the love and happiness that comes with the package, too.


You Won't Stop Shouting #AdoptDontShop From the Rooftops

Once you get involved with the fostering community, the notion that any animals are purchased or bred merely for consumption while so many spend their lives waiting to be rescued is that much more devastating. You'll witness firsthand the massive daily influx of animals desperate for foster homes like yours, and you'll wish you could personally save each one. You'll know the only way to make the situation better is to spread the word about the loyalty and gratitude of rescue animals. So you'll spread it high and low, telling everyone who will listen to consider fostering and adoption.