A few weeks ago, I decided to foster a dog. I’ve had dogs my entire life and since my Lab passed away about a year ago, I’ve missed having a dog around. I’ve never fostered a dog before and had no idea what I was in for. Turns out, fostering was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I can’t wait until I can save another life.
Weaver’s Foster Dog Story
When I first got Weaver, he was a nervous wreck. He was a career shelter dog who had never lived in a city, let alone an apartment, before. On top of that, I’m a single, 25-year-old man living with a dog who was terrified of men. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, the first week was really hard and I felt trapped. I thought I had made a huge mistake.
Weaver completely lacked confidence and was easily spooked. Our first five days together were spent building confidence, learning commands, and, most importantly, burning up his nervous energy. Early on, we would have to turn around or cross the street when we passed a man, because Weaver was so afraid of them. All the loud noises of city life also made him skittish, which is a real challenge living in East Austin where there is construction on every corner. We were walking so much to burn up all of his nervous energy that by the time 9pm rolled around, I was ready for bed.
When most people think about training a dog, the first thing that comes to mind is basic commands like sit, stay, and ok. Weaver didn’t need that kind of training, he needed to be trained to stay calm and be confident. Shelter dogs have lived a rough life and for many of them, you’re the first human they have lived with. Weaver relied heavily on my body language and energy to figure out how he was supposed to act. It was a challenge exuding calm and assertive energy at all times, but it helped us both out.
About five days into our time together, Weaver woke up on the right side of the bed and was out of his shell. All it took was five days of hard work, love, and affection to turn Weaver into a brand-new dog. He was no longer afraid of men and wanted to greet everyone we met on the street. He became very interested in other dogs and wanted to play. In the house, all he wanted to do was play fetch, nap, or sit on my lap while I was trying to work. All it took to transform Weaver from a nervous dog no one wanted to adopt into the sweetest most outgoing boy was 5 days of affection.
After we had our breakthrough, Weaver was the most popular dog at every bar we went to and was now “adoptable.” It took just under three weeks for us to find Weaver a forever home. He’s now living with a nice family with three acres of land, two kids, and a dog.
Why You Should Foster a Dog
A dog like Weaver likely would have been euthanized in his shelter before his second birthday if I didn’t remove him from a very bad situation. When I contacted the shelter about Weaver, they told me he was going to be put down because they had run out of space. There was nothing “defective” about Weaver, he wasn’t aggressive, he had no history of biting, he wasn’t terminally ill or old… they just ran out of space. When you foster a dog, you’re taking a dog out of a really bad situation and giving them a second chance at life. Weaver went two years in his shelter before he got adopted, because the high stress environment was not conducive to him being himself.
When you foster a dog, you’re not only saving them from being euthanized, but you’re also giving them an opportunity to get proper socialization, love, and affection, which they need to become the best version of themselves. Think of all the “unadoptable” dogs out there who just need a calm and loving environment to break out of their shell.
The other benefit of fostering is it teaches you to be responsible. As a single guy, I’m on my own schedule and don’t have any real commitments. Having a dog is a ton of work and teaches you a lot about responsibility. Whenever someone in a similar life situation says they’re going to adopt a dog, I encourage them to foster first. You’re still saving a life, but you get to “test drive a dog” to see if it works with your lifestyle. If you realize you’re not ready for a dog, you don’t have to keep them; you can find them a new home!
My advice for anyone who’s interested in fostering is to go in with the mindset that you’re not going to keep the dog. If you’re ready for a dog, you can always adopt them yourself. When I gave up Weaver, I cried, but once his new family sent me a video of how happy he was playing with their children and dog, I was no longer sad. I miss him a lot, but I did a great thing. I saved a dog no one wanted, broke him out of his shell, and found him a loving family.
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