Fostering a Dog Can Save a Life

Zoey and me

Zoey and me

Fostering dogs can be a very rewarding way to help a rescue organization if you have the space and time in your life to devote to a new dog for a temporary period of time. I have worked with rescue groups over the years, fostering and adopting dogs myself. It’s a great way to acclimate a dog to family life, depending on where he or she has come from.

You can get involved with fostering by volunteering your services with a local rescue group, such as a humane society, a shelter, or the SPCA.

You may be asked to foster a dog who has been rescued from a life at the end of a chain or one who has lived in deplorable conditions at a puppy mill. Being fostered in a home will help these dogs adjust to living inside with a family, but you may need to housebreak such a dog and teach some basic obedience and manners, which will help immensely in getting her adopted.

It’s a big responsibility, especially if you have other pets and other commitments, but if you are one of those who can give up a little extra time and space to foster a dog until a forever home can be found, that is one less dog ending up in a shelter and perhaps being put down because of overcrowding.

The Story of Zoey, an Unforgettable Friend

Zoey, a 5 yr. old great Dane/lab mix, came into my life as a foster dog when her owner died of cancer. The owner had rescued Zoey from some kind of bad situation along with her brother and several other dogs.

But since this woman suffered from cancer for a few years, she didn’t spend the necessary time rehabilitating or socializing Zoey and the other dogs. She simply gave them a safe place to live where they wouldn’t be abused ever again.

I hate to think of what these dogs went through in their early years, because Zoey was literally untouchable. The day we went to pick her up, a slip leash was dropped over Zoey’s head and she had to be pulled out of the house screaming and fighting at the leash in total panic mode. I hated watching this, but it was the only way to get her out of the house as quickly as possible.

She actually wore herself out pretty quickly and kind of gave up once she was outside. We were ready with a crate to put her in. We moved slowly and although she had many chances to bite one of us as we got her in the crate, she didn’t. That was when I knew there was hope for Zoey.
Zoey in the barn kennel

At the time, I was working with a small rescue group and we had turned some horse stalls into cemented kennels that could house 2 to 3 dogs and had an outside yard with access through a dog door.

I lived on the property and took care of the dogs. We took Zoey and another dog from the same home into one of the kennels and opened her crate. She came out and ran as far away from us as she could. We left them to settle in and check out their new temporary home. I didn’t touch Zoey again for a couple of weeks.

Zoey was so afraid of humans, that I couldn’t get near her. So what I did, since it was late spring and the weather was nice, was sit outside in her yard in a chair and read a book out loud so she could get used to my voice and my presence.

I never approached her or tried to touch her. I pretty much ignored her other than talking to her from my chair.

The Big Change

As the days went on, Zoey started showing some interest in me.

She started approaching me, which made my heart soar. I could tell she wanted to trust, she wanted to belong somewhere, but she was just so afraid.

I continued the process of just waiting for her to come to me. If I stayed seated in my chair she seemed to have a little more courage. Any time I stood up, she would run away again.

So I waited, and waited, and read to her every day.

Rescued Dog Zoey and Me Bonding

A moment of bonding

Then finally it happened. She came over to me and let me touch her. I practically held my breath so as not to frighten her. It was the beginning of a friendship I will never forget.

Daily Improvements

From that day forward, Zoey took leaps and bounds in learning to trust me.

At one point I was able to hook a leash onto the old collar that she had arrived in. I just let her drag it around for awhile and then took hold of the end of it, but didn’t put any pressure on her. I just followed her around holding the end of the leash.

Any pressure put on her, any loud noise would frighten her.

I can’t even imagine what kind of life she had to have endured as a young dog.

In fact at one point, I had a fly swatter with me as I sat outside because the flies were so bad. I wasn’t so much using it to kill flies as I was to just swish them away, so there was no loud smacking sounds. But Zoey went into the kennel and literally climbed the wall, trying to find a way out or some place to hide.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I finally realized just me holding the fly swatter was causing her to panic. It brought tears to my eyes.

Anyway, once she started trusting me, Zoey improved daily.

The Moment I Never Expected

The definite day of bonding between us was when she actually climbed up onto my lap in the lawn chair – all 75 lbs of her – and pressed her body against mine as if to say “I’m finally home”.  I was so hoping the chair wouldn’t collapse with the both of us!

As I tried to push her off my lap after a few minutes, she pushed back. She was mine.

She finally got down, did it again the next day just to remind me that she had decided she wanted to be with me, and then never tried to get in my lap ever again. It was a moment of bonding that I will probably never experience with any other dog.

Zoey on Couch

Zoey on the couch

I would never give her up. She moved into my house and onto my bed. She trusted and loved me completely.

I could take her anywhere and she would let other people touch her, pet her, even walk her as long as I was near and she knew she was safe. She even worked in an after school program with young kids who helped socialize her.     But she never trusted or loved anyone else as completely as she did me.

I Wish I’d Had More Time

Zoey is no longer with me. I have lost many dogs over the years, but the one loss that still brings tears to my eyes is the loss of my Zoey.

A short two years of experiencing her gentle butterfly kisses and total devotion ended when she bloated while I was away from home.  To this day I’m not sure what caused it or if I could have somehow prevented it.

The reason for writing this story is to point out the importance of fostering dogs. If I had not taken Zoey in, she would have definitely been put down at the shelter in this town.

It turned out that I adopted her, rather than find her a new home. She had been through so much and we had bonded so strongly, that I could not put her through adjusting to another new home. She gave me a purpose and enriched my life. I gave her the love and friendship she had always longed for.

Sometimes that happens when you foster a dog.

Zoey in yard

Zoey – Finally at Peace and at Home



I’d appreciate any comments you might have about fostering or about animals you have fostered and/or adopted.

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