Everyone, Go Foster a Pet: I Just Did—And It’s the Best Decision I Ever Made

People are stepping up by the thousands to provide temporary homes as animal shelters are forced to close its doors due to the novel coronavirus.

An estimated 6.5 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, says Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. With fewer volunteers in the shelters and an unprecedented number of people working from home during the coronavirus, fostering is a win-win for shelter animals and animal lovers. Cats and dogs get a respite from the shelter and foster parents get furry companionship without a long-term commitment. Pandemic or not, “foster homes are the backbone of many rescue groups—without a strong network of foster providers, rescue groups simply could not take in as many animals,” Block says. Find out 18 things animal shelters desperately need right now.

Read on as one woman recounts her experience with fostering two dogs.

A perfect time to help

I follow far too many rescue organizations on Instagram and saw there was a huge need for fosters in the Los Angeles area where I live. The shelters were closing and rescuers were trying to pull as many dogs as possible. The HIT Living Foundation, for one, was posting pictures of dogs they needed fosters for and it seemed like the perfect way to help in this crazy time when I’m working from home for a while.

A package deal

foster pets foster dogsCourtesy Amy Solomon

Before I headed out on March 16 to meet the folks at HIT Living Foundation, I promised my boyfriend, Greg, I would only come home with one dog. However, when I arrived, I found out a prospective foster had dropped out of taking Wolf and Bear, a bonded pair. A bonded pair means the dogs have been strongly attached, and separating them would bring anxiety to one or both dogs so they must be adopted or fostered together. I know how hard it is to place a bonded pair, and when I saw Wolf and Bear’s sweet faces, I knew I had to take them. They were getting baths next to each other when I walked in, and they were so happy, chill and truly scrumptious. My boyfriend wasn’t thrilled to see two dogs come home with me but he fell in love with them pretty quickly. Now, I’m his hero.

Unexpected dividends

My intentions were to provide a nurturing and comfortable respite from the shelter, expecting nothing in return. Yet caring for these lovebugs has been really grounding in a time when everything feels like it’s spinning out of control. It’s way harder to be in your own head when you’re focused on another creature’s needs. Wolf and Bear have inadvertently established a new work-from-home lifestyle for me with the daily tasks of walking, feeding, and playtime. The long walks help me stay active (and sane!) during the workday. Plus, Wolf doubles as a weighted anti-anxiety blanket that I’ve been thinking about buying. It might not be immediate, but there are definitely some surprising benefits of adopting shelter dogs.

Adjust expectations

foster dogs foster petsCourtesy Amy Solomon

Foster dogs may need a while to decompress after getting out of the shelter, so it requires patience and understanding; it’s not a responsibility to take lightly. I was ready for it to take a while for them to come out of their shell, but almost immediately, they just exuded this gratitude to be safe, warm and out of the shelter. And, oh my goodness, it’s so worth it. Whether you’re thinking about fostering or adopting a dog, here’s what shelter dogs want you to know first.

Double the fun

If one goes to drink water, the other has to follow. They squat to pee in parallel and when one is further ahead on a walk, they turn around and wait for the other to catch up. Wolf gets so excited to go for a walk. She lies down on her back for belly rubs, which makes it almost impossible to put her harness on. And Bear does an incredible army crawl whenever she sees nice grass, I think it feels good on her belly. People walking by always laugh really hard. She’ll do it for soooo long. They’re also constant comic relief—they both snort a lot to express their happiness so it’s like having a couple of pigs around! Finally, the reasons behind your dog’s weird behavior are explained.

It feels insanely good

foster pets foster dogsCourtesy Amy Solomon

Getting to give a dog a nice, warm, safe place after their shelter stay feels so insanely good! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a dog slowly open up and become their goofy self once they feel safe and loved. My boyfriend is in love with them, too. We’ve been putting a scrambled egg in their kibble, and we fight over who gets to make it. He gives them their walk right before bedtime. I once asked to come on it and he refused, explaining it’s his special time with them. HIT Living Foundation and so many other rescues deserve so much credit for how hard they’re working right now. They’re doing amazing work and I owe them forever for connecting me with Bear and Wolf! I think the likelihood of foster failure is very high, but there’s also a chance you will find a new furry friend. No pet lover will want to miss these before-and-after dog-adoption photos that will melt your heart.

Interested in fostering a dog? Contact your local branch of the Humane Society, ASPCA, or animal control.