My husband, our 7-year-old son, our two teenage daughters, and I had reached a consensus: We were ready to start our search for a pandemic puppy. What next?
We had agreed to try the “foster-to-adopt” route, which means volunteering to host an unadopted dog in your home as an alternative to having that dog live in a shelter. Many dogs struggle with shelter life and seem to transform when afforded the opportunity to live in a home environment. In a best-case scenario, from my standpoint, I could ultimately adopt the dog I foster. These foster-to-adopt arrangements make sense in theory. However, the logistics are more difficult to navigate.
I began by visiting the websites of local dog adoption facilities where fostering was an option. In reading up on requirements for fostering a dog, I realized there were a few complications.
First, when you foster, the organization usually covers your veterinary care. However, you, in turn, are required to visit the veterinarian of the organization’s choosing. Many of these veterinarians work on a pro bono arrangement with the shelter, which means you can get great vets, but you need to work within their schedules. Friends who have been through the ‘foster-to-adopt’ process have advised against using the veterinarian with whom the organization has such an arrangement. They advise working with a vet whom you know and trust to examine the dog thoroughly, before making that dog a permanent family member.
Second, when you foster, you may be expected to bring your pandemic pup to adoption events, so I realized that finding an organization within driving distance of my home in Peekskill was important.
Finally, I learned that fostering a dog requires a thick skin. It is not for the faint of heart because it does not guarantee first place in the adoption line in the event that you bond with your pandemic pup while fostering him.
We live in Westchester, so we started by reaching out to Recycled Paws, out of Mohegan Lake, not far from where we live in Peekskill. I started following them on Facebook and soon found a few pups I liked. Puppies as well as older dogs were given centerstage and each had a story that would make your heart melt. I was able to fill out an application for fostering and adoption. It took a few weeks and several references to be approved. The final step was to meet a board member in person at an adoption event—a final round of vetting (stay tuned for my next piece).
Feeling I may want to go another route, I asked a friend for a recommendation. I remembered a dog I had liked that her daughter had adopted, and that we had watched over a weekend while she was away a few years ago. The organization was Muddy Paws.
Muddy Paws made me feel comfortable. Its website and social media had lots of information and helpful folks. I applied to be a foster and soon received a response that prompted me to watch an online video about the fostering process. At the conclusion of the video, I was asked to take a “foster quiz,” which I could take multiple times. However, Muddy Paws required applicants to achieve a perfect score on this quiz to be approved to foster a dog.
Put simply, I failed the Muddy Paws “foster quiz” repeatedly. Four times, to be precise. When you foster, you are assigned a “foster buddy” to answer questions and advise you. The quiz asked when one should contact one’s “foster buddy.”
I was at a loss. And, to be clear, I am paraphrasing the following: Was I supposed to reach out if the dog were to nip? What about if the dog became lethargic? What if the dog was crying in its crate? Should I call immediately if Fido pooped as opposed to peed on the dining room rug? Since it was “check all that apply”, I tried several different combinations. Every combination I tried, I failed. And, of course, since a perfect score is required, I remained no closer to the pandemic puppy of my dreams.
In addition, there was a message in the video that bothered me: “When you foster, the goal is goodbye.” I realized that a “goodbye” goal for a dog I would be spending significant time and emotional energy on did not work for me.
And maybe I stopped taking the quiz because I could not answer it correctly. Maybe the logistics of driving back and forth to Brooklyn (from Westchester! Nightmare!) to go to a foster event once or twice a week felt like too much (another requirement). But what really bothered me was, “the goal is goodbye.”
Maybe fostering would not be the right route for me if it meant saying farewell instead of keeping that dog forever.
This Saturday, I head to Mohegan Lake with the whole family to be interviewed by Recycled Paws. We fully understand all that is involved now and what we are getting into.
Here is hoping we make the cut. And to finding a way to forever instead of goodbye.