4 Things not to say to someone who’s fostering an animal

/ Published in the TRIPPIN’ Issue

by Karen Camerlengo

 

Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog—or parrot, horse, baby pig, or any other homeless pet—with the goal of nurturing them for a while until a permanent home can be found. Foster parents are an amazing and integral part of a system that saves lives.

Sometimes people unwittingly say things that aren’t supportive to the end goal of fostering. Here are a couple of things I (and other foster parents) routinely hear that are just not helpful:

You can’t give him up, he LOVES you!
Of course he does. I’m totally awesome. But you know what? He’s gonna love the person who adopts him even more.

She thinks she is HOME.
Yup. She does. And yes she looks happy. Considering where she just came from, she thinks she’s in Heaven. But she’s not home—yet. We’re working on it.

You HAVE to keep him!
No I don’t. Listen, every single animal that comes in my house is in danger of being kept by me; the lucky ones get adopted out. Truly, anyone who fosters is aware that they are going to fall in love, but we don’t take them in to keep them—we take them to help the transition to a better life. No amount of pressure from friends can make us want to keep an animal that does not fit into the family or the plan. Pet ownership and increasing the numbers is a serious consideration and one we don’t take lightly. If I were to make a foster a permanent family member, that would mean one less foster family in the system, because I can have only so many dogs in my home.

They LOVE each other!
(Said in reference to seeing the foster animal and resident dog/cat playing together or snuggling). Ummmm—yeah not so much. I took this picture so you would find my foster totally adorable. I can’t tell you about the baby gates or the crates or the fighting or the infighting in my own animals because you would think it’s the foster dog causing the problem. My dogs are being jerks but I can’t tell you any of it because the foster dog is super sweet and that’s what you need to know.

Helpful things you CAN say:
• She’s adorable—tell me more about her so I can share!
• Oh I have a friend looking for a dog, let me share!
• I’ll share!
• Thank you for fostering.

A note about social media
Foster parents post their furry temporary house guests on social media because we need your help finding them a forever home. We also want to show them off because, let’s face it, they are the cutest animals eve—but we really are hoping you will be so moved that you will share.
Foster animals are some of the best animals to share, as potential adopters can learn how they are with other animals, kids, etc. They can learn about the quirks and the skills. Foster dogs are so awesome—I hope you will feel inspired to share. •

Would YOU like to foster? All expenses are taken care of—you just need to provide love and a safe space. Please reach out to Animal Care and Protective Services, The Jacksonville Humane Society, or a reputable local rescue group!

Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there.

I could feel your eyes on me, humbly begging for my attention in the quietest way possible—with the stare. But like every morning, I was busy and preoccupied—and I was scrolling. Seeing things that made me desperately sad and wondering who would do these things—who would cut off a dog’s nose, or chain them to a tree in a blizzard, or surrender them as a senior, or bring them to boarding and never come back? WHO are these monsterpeople? What happened to them to make them this way?

I set the phone down and knelt down next to you. I focused on only you. I loved this moment with an audible sighhhhh. I thought about how much I love your face and the smell of your body—well, the front half smells pretty nice. You feel safe with me and nuzzle my neck to get cozy. I teared up into your fur for just a minute, praying for all the animals who’ve been hurt and those hurting even as we cuddled in bliss. I pulled you into me to the max of your threshold, an apology for all the things that you remember from your early years but aren’t allowed to tell me about. You’ve been sentenced to silence by some unfair law of nature. You can only give me little glimpses when I raise my hand too fast, or clap too loud while dancing around the kitchen, or walk toward you when you feel too vulnerable. You know what it’s like to be abused. You remember, but have cautiously moved on. All has been forgiven.

I ask you for answers—how do we fix this? How do we stop it from happening? How do we change people? You tell me give you more treats and to stop being distracted when you want me. You mention under your breath that a subscription to Bark Box would be nice. And you tell me to write.

Well, if you want me to write, I’m going to need better answers from you, I said, because I don’t know what to do, and giving you more treats isn’t going to help them. You cocked your head and burrowed into my neck as if trying to become part of me. Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there. And! Give yourself extra scoops of food. We will change the world, mama.

Well, okay then. That’s what you get when you ask a hound.