8 things we learned from fostering dogs

In 2017 and 2019 we said goodbye to our beloved pups Cozmo and Kaia.  Both were pit mixes that we’d adopted from shelters and for 15 years they were the center of our world.  It was strange and heartbreaking and a relief all at the same time when we found ourselves without dogs.  While Mark and I both love dogs of all kinds, Cozmo and Kaia were pretty high-maintenance and so we were ready for a break.  Not to mention, living on the road full-time with a dog requires extra diligence, we didn’t want to jump back in to that situation impulsively.

Fostering dogs was always in the back of my mind.  I figured it could be a way to satiate my desire to have a dog around without making the 15 year commitment.  However, it’s popular opinion that fostering means you’re going to end up with a dog you never planned on having because it’s too hard to say goodbye.  So for years we decided to steer clear of fostering.  

That was until last spring when I decided that my desire to help a dog in need was stronger than my impulsivity to keep a dog when I knew the timing wasn’t right.  Shortly after, I applied to be a foster for Underdog Animal Rescue in Moab, UT.  A week later we were responsible for two 3 month old puppies.

In the weeks that followed I learned a lot about what it means to be a foster and the role it plays in the success of a dog rescue.  And now I want to shout those reasons from a rooftop in an effort to change the popular dialogue that fostering means you’re going to accidentally end up with a dog.  

Here’s what we learned about fostering dogs:

Fostering a dog saves two lives

The life of the dog you foster and the life of the dog who is able to take that open spot in the shelter.

Fostering makes a dog more adoptable

While these pups were in our care, we taught them basic commands, how to walk on a leash, and completed potty-training.  They became accustomed to being with people, being in a home, and were able to learn a routine that they wouldn’t otherwise experience at the shelter.  

The shelter wants to set you up for success

Underdog Rescue was extremely thoughtful in pairing us with dogs that best fit our living situation.  They asked if we wanted one or multiple dogs, if we wanted an adult or a puppy, and so forth.  I really appreciated the conversations that were had prior to picking up our foster pups to make sure they were the right fit for us.  That’s when I learned that our success is their success and so a shelter is going to make sure you get started on the right foot.

Photographs are priceless

Underdog kindly asked that we take photos of the dogs that we fostered so that they had a means of promoting them on their website and social media.  Being a professional photographer, I was delighted at this request.  I cannot tell you happy it made me when our contact at the rescue texted to tell me that our photos were causing applications to come in fast and that these pups would be finding homes in no time.  This was when I learned how much dog shelters value good photos.  It has led me to the opinion that every professional and amateur photographer alike should get involved in fostering dogs.

The shelter will provide the supplies

Underdog Rescue provided us with all the food, beds, leashes, bowls, toys, and meds that our pups needed.  There was no money out of pocket for us.  Of course I still bought treats and more toys but it was a non-issue that we didn’t have a bunch of dog supplies on hand.   (The rescue will also cover any and all veterinary needs.)

Foster failing limits further fostering opportunities

I learned that if I were to “foster fail” (adopt the dog I was fostering) I likely wouldn’t want or be able to foster more dogs which means I’m no longer a resource for helping the shelter move dogs through the adoption cycle. That helped keep me from impulsively deciding to keep a dog that I wasn’t ready for.  Though I’d like to counter this by saying, if you are interested in adopting a dog and fostering turns in to you finding your new family member, that’s amazing and should hardly be referred to as any kind of fail.

Fostering is an amazing way to have dogs in your life without the 15 year commitment

Oh how Mark & I love dogs. But we’re far more aware now of the commitment that comes with adopting a puppy than we were when we were in our 20s picking out our first dog. Fostering feels like such a wonderful way to have a dog in your life on a temporary basis if you’re not ready for the commitment.

Saying goodbye is hard but worth it 

I won’t sugarcoat it and act as though saying goodbye isn’t heartbreaking.  It was and I cried a lot.  But I decided that was not enough of a reason to not foster again.  Going in to it I had a well-defined reason why I’m currently not ready to adopt a dog.  Knowing my Why kept me from making an impulse decision based on emotion.  I knew it would be hard and I accepted that going in.  But knowing we had found these dogs homes made the pain entirely worth it.

It has now been almost a year since we first fostered and I can tell you that the reward of helping pups find homes has far outweighed the pain of saying goodbye.  Because we live on the road full-time we’re not able to foster dogs regularly but we most definitely would be if we lived in a house.  Instead I’m here to advocate for the dogs and encourage anyone who has ever considered fostering to please give it a shot.  If you’re dog lovers like us, chances are high it will be a great experience.

Underdog Animal Rescue & Rehab in Moab, UT is “dedicated to caring for the estimated 500,000 stray dogs from Native American reservations”. They are an incredible organization that works tirelessly to provide vet care, spay and neuter clinics, and adoption services to the dogs of the Four Corners area of the Southwest. If you’re inclined and able to support their efforts, head over to their website and read about the many ways you can contribute to their mission.

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We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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