Many of us want to help dogs in need of adoption. Even when providing life-saving services to dogs, shelters can be stressful to dogs who want more time to socialize, need to learn to trust and bond with humans, or need extra medical attention.
In order to help shelters and rescue groups save more pups, and in order to help those pups already in a shelter environment thrive, there is an immediate solution: fostering.
Fostering a dog can feel daunting. Potential foster parents might wonder what they have to do up front to be matched with a foster pup. Another common question is how and whether a rescue organization will provide support during the fostering experience. And, the gut-wrenching question: what will it feel like if I have to eventually part with this dog when s/he finds an adopter?
Foster Dogs NYC, an organization started by Sarah Brasky in 2009, has established creative ways to address these concerns, increase fostering in the NYC area, and save more dogs’ lives. Here they share their lessons, which can be applied no matter where you are.
1. Make it easy to understand a dog’s story.
Each of the dogs available for foster and adoption on Foster Dogs NYC’s website has a story included with their name. Instead of posting a profile for “Rikki,” her page reads “Meet Rikki the Wiggly Pittie.” Instead of “Moose,” it’s “Meet Moose the Goofy Boxer Mix.” And so on.
Founder Sarah Brasky told PupJournal, “This is a unique website in which every single post (over 3,000 dogs, mind you) is hand-written by the dog’s rescue advocate.”
Brasky goes on to explain the thinking behind the unique titles they give to dogs: “From the first-ever post on FosterDogsNYC.com six years ago, the dogs’ titles include their name, adjective, and breed or mix…We aim to keep the adjectives positive, or the very least, matter-of-fact, rather than heart-wrenching.”
“For example, Sasha dances with her rescuer in her YouTube video, so [we added] some humor to her title: ‘Sasha the Dancing Hound.’ Milo the big orange Pit Bull might appear intimidating (for those who are not familiar with the sweetness of Pit Bulls) based on his photo, so we chose the word ‘gentle’ since it describes him well and softens peoples’ initial reaction to his size or breed.”
2. Show off the beauty in pups who have the hardest time finding a foster or adoptive parent.
Foster Dogs NYC is creative in showing off the beauty of pups who have a harder time getting adopted. From their Roses and Rescues photo shoot, to their New Yorkers Foster Dogs series, using props and pairing dogs with humans in a photo shoot can really show off a dog’s personality.
Foster Dogs NYC’s newest program, Operation Foster Bound, focuses on finding foster homes for pups who stay longer in shelters through no fault of their own. Perhaps their age, breed, or health issues make potential adopters hesitate; Operation Foster Bound is meant to find foster homes for these pups so that the dog can decompress and so that the human can learn more about the dog’s personality.
Brasky says, “The seven dogs we chose for Operation Foster Bound have been on FosterDogsNYC.com for quite a while, some of them waiting years for a home. A boarding kennel is not a permanent solution for a rescued dog. Yes, the dog is safe from euthanasia, but this is not a quality existence.”
One early example of success through Operation Foster Bound is Bernie. According to Brasky, “Bernie has been on our website since May 2013; that’s no bueno. Now, he’s been lucky enough to find a foster home through our program and will receive formal training, plus a dog bed and other great perks. The best reward will come when Bernie finally gets adopted. His best chance of finding an adopter is through improved training skills, learning how to be a typical dog again, and getting out in public to meet new people.”
The organization also has a Fospice program, which combines the ideas of fostering and hospice. The Fospice program supports dogs who are in the final stages of their life by giving them the love and care of a foster home in their last days, weeks, or months.
Both Operation Foster Bound and the Fospice program recognize the financial barriers to fostering these pups. Operation Foster Bound provides supplies, food, training, and even a photo shoot for these special pups; all of these supports are meant to help find the dogs a forever home.
3. Keep potential and experienced foster parents on deck.
Part of the challenge in finding adoptive homes for pups is finding the right match–both for the humans and dogs. Their website is designed to make it easy for potential foster or adoptive parents. Brasky explains, “By splitting the posts into two categories: “Foster Me” and “Adopt Me,” readers can narrow down their search.”
Through its Foster Roster, Foster Dogs NYC accepts applications from potential foster parents and uses the application to match pups with potential foster families.
This dedicated matching builds on Brasky’s passion for matching adoptable dogs and humans. Like dating, a good match may not always be what you expect. Through the Dog Matchmaker, Brasky leads people toward better matches and makes the process of choosing a pup less overwhelming.
In addition to providing pups with an opportunity to bond with and learn with humans, fostering can help an organization get to know a dog better, making him or her much more adoptable.
Of course, there are often “foster failures“–those who decide that they can’t give up the pup after all, and instead adopt the lucky dog into their family. That’s a failure we can all live with!
Editor’s note: PupJournal’s Head Dog in Charge, Meli, is a Foster Dogs NYC alum!