Wayside Waifs is always looking for volunteers who wish to foster animals. Our foster program is a way for volunteers to help animals who are not quite ready for adoption. There are numerous reasons an animal may not be ready to find his forever home. They may be sick or injured and need time to recover in a kind and loving setting. They may be puppies or kittens who are too young and need those extra weeks of nurturing to thrive. We also send animals to foster homes for training issues and behavior modification. One of the most common reasons we send animals to foster is shelter stress. These are animals that desperately need some time out of the shelter to feel good again and regain their footing! Another reason we send animals to foster homes is the need for socialization. These are the animals that haven’t had any experience with people. Most are shy and fearful. Today I’d like to share my own experience fostering under-socialized, shy, and fearful puppies. This should give you an inside look at our foster program and how fostering can make a tremendous difference in the life of an animal.
I have been a volunteer at Wayside Waifs for 3 years, and an employee for 4 months. I have fostered puppies and adult dogs. Last August I was asked to foster 3 puppies, aged 8-10 weeks. They were technically old enough for adoption, however, their circumstances warranted foster care for a minimum of 2-3 weeks. These puppies had been found under the porch of an abandoned house. It took Animal Control two days to maneuver these puppies out from under that porch. They were so terrified by the time they arrived at Wayside that the Veterinarian was unable to examine them. I happened to be volunteering that day and Tyler, the Foster Program Manager, caught me and asked if I would be interested in fostering these puppies. I took one look at them and it was obvious that they needed help if they were to ever become adoptable. None of them would come near me. They were quite literally frozen with fear, all three lying on top of each other trembling…a sad sight indeed!
My husband and I brought these puppies home the next day. They had to be examined first by the vet and cleared to come to a home with another dog. We have a 2 year old Waif named Zoe. She is a Belgian Malinois mix who came to us as a medical foster the year before, but that’s a story for another time. We knew that Zoe would be helpful with these under socialized and very fearful puppies. We had everything set up. The puppies had an entire room in our house with outdoor access. We are lucky to have such a convenient set up in our home. Most of our foster families have a set up that works for them. You work with what you have!
For the first week we were only able to touch one of the puppies. We named her Juno because she was clearly the “Goddess” of the three. She wasn’t quite as shy as her sisters and had clearly eaten the lion’s share of whatever food they’d been able to scrounge up. The other two wanted nothing to do with us and were very closely bonded with each other. We named them Annabel, from the Edgar Allan Poe poem ‘Annabel Lee’, and Shya, for obvious reasons. These two were going to be tough! We had our work cut out for us.
Our biggest asset turned out to be our dog, Zoe. Slowly but surely she was able to show these puppies that we were to be trusted. At first, whenever they ventured near, we offered them a treat. We would toss them to them at a fair distance. Then slowly but surely we began tossing them closer and closer to us. Of course this meant Zoe got a few more treats than we would have liked, but her help was invaluable and she deserved her reward. After two weeks we were able to touch Juno and Annabel with relative ease. In fact, our “Goddess” had started coming to us on her own asking for treats. She eventually got so bold that she’d hop in the chair next to us and look at us expectantly. Oh how we laughed at her! We continued a slow progression with the other two. Shya would not let us touch her but instead would sneak up to us and muzzle punch us very lightly. We started to refer to her as “Bump” and she proved to be an endless source of amusement. Annabel decided she liked the baby pool and became quite the water puppy. She would lounge in there for a solid fifteen minutes. I think half of the photos on my phone are of these three puppies and their antics!
As the days went by, they all progressed at their own pace. We used every technique we could find for shy and fearful puppies. Wayside Waifs has some terrific information and a wonderful staff to answer any of your questions and point you in the right direction. Our girl Zoe, most of all, showed them something that no human can teach; what it is like to be a beloved member of a family. Before we knew it, they were ready for adoption. Some volunteers bring their animals back to the shelter at that time. We opted to keep them in our home but make them available. The first day they were listed we were bombarded with calls from Wayside Waifs with interested adopters. In addition to Wayside’s very thorough interview, we did an interview of our own with each adopter. It gave us comfort to know that these girls were going to good homes and that we had given them what we could. We wanted nothing but the best for them now that they had come so far!
Saying goodbye to them was indeed very difficult. We had several days of missing them, but one of the perks of Fostering is that more often than not, adopters will send you updates. It is now 3 months later and we still receive updates and photos. They are all doing beautifully and we are as thrilled with their progress as their adopters! In a nutshell, this is what makes volunteering as a Foster a wonderful and rewarding experience. A Foster Parent’s responsibilities may vary depending on the circumstances, but whether you foster a shy and fearful animal, an animal suffering from shelter stress, a sick or injured animal, or puppies and kittens, there really isn’t anything better than knowing you are making all of the difference in the world for that animal. Though volunteering as a foster might seem like a selfless act, it is actually a truly enriching experience for the foster parent as well. Fostering is good for the soul!
I encourage anyone who is interested to please refer to the Foster Program on our website. We offer a Foster Orientation Class at the end of every month. We’d love to see you there!
Written by: Julie Hamilton-Paz, Wayside Waifs Foster Program Assistant