A nyone who has ever owned a dog knows the special feeling of love that you can only receive from your canine companion. There’s nothing quite like coming home after a long day and having your best friend eagerly waiting by the door ready to shower you with love and affection.
Unfortunately, I travel quite often for work and am unable to properly care for a dog during my particularly busy travel times, though I am home for a good bit during the late spring and summer. Enter fostering programs. Pet fostering provides temporary care to shelter animals until the animal finds its forever home through adoption. As soon as a friend mentioned the idea, I knew it was right for me.
I began the process with a quick Google search, where I learned about the Grand Strand Humane Society’s fostering program. I filled out the application (conveniently located online) and after submitting it, quickly heard back from the Foster Care Coordinator. We made plans to meet at the shelter that Saturday where I would be able to meet some potential foster animals.
I met with numerous dogs who were all wonderful: there was Zoey, the beautiful Shepard Mix with one blue and one brown eye; Elizabeth, the happy and energetic Terrier Mix puppy; and then, there was Cooper. I instantly fell in love with Cooper, an older Cocker Spaniel. He was a perfect dog—affectionate, intelligent, friendly, good with other animals, and adorable. I took him home, and he quickly adjusted to my cat and house. As an older dog, Cooper was mostly great at cuddling and not as great at long walks, but we did manage to spend many evenings at the local park where we would eventually meet his forever family.
After about a month with Cooper, we met his future family members during one of our outings. We exchanged information and agreed to meet the next week at the shelter (standard procedure) in order for them to fill out the necessary paperwork to adopt Cooper. Letting go of Cooper was bittersweet; I was sad to see him go but so happy he would be loved for the rest of his life by a wonderful, caring family. Cooper now has two children to play with, a new best dog friend, and a mom who loves him very much. I miss him every day, but I know he’s in the best possible place he can be.
If you enjoy being around animals but don’t want to be a full-time owner, fostering may be right for you. Fostering is also a great way to “test drive” a dog to see if he is a good fit for you and your family. This act of kindness benefits everyone, as there is no greater feeling than knowing you have helped saved an animal’s life. Additionally, fostering also creates space in the shelter to accommodate other homeless animals. Dogs make ordinary things extraordinary—your goodwill is repaid in rewards that are beyond words.
The Humane Society offers a guide for foster dog parents, which includes pertinent information like Doggy Dos and Don’ts, How to Dog Proof Your Home and Items You May Need. There are some things you should know before you begin your foster experience:
■ The shelter generally pays for medical expenses; all other expenses are the foster parent’s responsibility. This includes food, toys, leashes and (if you’re like me) a pet bed that matches your home.
■ The average stay in a foster home is about two months.
■ Foster animals are promoted by the shelter through websites, social media and shelter events. Shelters generally ask foster parents to do their own promotion through personal social media outlets and talking to friends and family. Even a walk in the park may lead to adoption, as it did for Cooper.
■ As a foster parent, it is your responsibility to make the dog more adoptable—through basic training, exercise and special love and attention—which will all increase adoptability.
■ Fostering works. The Grand Strand Humane Society has never had a case of an animal being fostered and not adopted.
Fostering an animal is an experience you’ll never forget. Dogs and cats have so much love to give, and it is so nice to be on the receiving end of that love even if you’re not ready or able to have an animal forever. For the brief time I had him, Cooper showed me an infinite amount of love and affection. He was there for me if I needed to cuddle, never angry if I was (a little) grumpy, and he was always excited to see me. Cooper was the epitome of unconditional love, which is something I believe everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing. Additionally, there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve literally saved a life, positively changed a family and helped other homeless animals all with one act of kindness.
If you’re interested in fostering an animal, the following shelters and rescue organizations offer fostering programs throughout the Grand Strand:
Grand Strand Humane Society
3241 Mr. Joe White Ave.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Alan Hill, (603) 707-0091
The Humane Society
of North Myrtle Beach
409 Bay St., North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
All 4 Paws
708 Petigru Road, Pawleys Island, SC 29585
Friends of the Horry County
Animal Care Center
Coastal Animal Rescue
1288 Limestone Street, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576