Being in your early-to-mid 20s is a real in-between time: You’re old enough to live on your own, but you might still need a little help from your parents. You can cook more than just ramen, but you’re not a master chef. And you aren’t quite ready to commit to pet ownership, but damn, you definitely miss kitten cuddles and puppy kisses. Well, I can’t give you rent money or turn you into Julia Child, but I can help with the whole “missing my childhood pooch so hard I’m starting to contemplate stealing doggos on the streets” thing. Fostering a pet is a great way to get some quality animal time without committing to a lifelong adoption. Because hey, you’re young, and things are changing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cuddle with a four-legged bestie. Plus, it feels really good to help save a shelter animal, and volunteering is good for your health. That’s just science!
How I did it
I first looked into fostering when I’d just graduated college. I was a little lost in many areas of my life, as is often the case after you’ve exited the sweet womb of your alma mater and been tossed out into the cold, hard reality of adulthood. I’d moved into my first apartment — a cheap, dank three-bedroom I shared with my best friend and a really sweet dude we met on Craigslist — that (thankfully) allowed pets. The problem: I wasn’t quite ready to commit the next 15 to 20 years to one animal. I mean, who know when I’d be moving across country for a dream job, or heading off to Brazil for a few years just because I fell in love? (Spoiler: Neither of those things actually happened, but hey! They could have!)
The first thing I did was Google “foster dog San Francisco” and came up with a variety of places looking for people just like me. I settled on Rocket Dog Rescue because, well, I liked their website the most, and loved their mission to leave no animal behind. I filled out the foster paperwork on the site — it asked basic questions, like, where did I live, what my experience with animals was, and if I was legally allowed to have a pet in my apartment — and waited for my call. Little did I know that it would happen that night.
I was told that they had a puppy named Rudy who needed a temporary foster and asked if I come pick up this cuddly, wuddly ball of scrumptiousness (I’m using creative license with my memories right now!) that night. I said yes, and ran out to stock up on food, toys, and a bed.
Picking up your pooch
When I went to pick up Rudy, I was a little surprised that he wasn’t in fact a tiny pup but rather a nine-month-old blind, emaciated pit bull with a head that seemed twice the size of his body. While I was initially a bit disappointed (I’m only human! I was expecting a puppy! Puppies are the cutest), it ended up being for the best because OMG, puppies look like a LOT of work, and since Rudy was older, he was a bit more chill and easier to handle.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine and puppy kisses
I’m not gonna lie: Fostering for the first time was tough. I had to get used to Rudy and he had to get used to me. The first few days were filled with accidents, power struggles, and just general learning to live together stuff. For instance, Rudy had never lived in a home and thought that the entire world was his bathroom. However, training was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Challenges that seemed insurmountable at first became easy peasy to deal with once I had some basic dog skills. For instance, I became well versed on how to establish outdoor bathroom times by keeping myself and Rudy on a strict schedule.
You’re not in it alone
My number piece of advice would be to totally use the help that the rescue groups offer. They are SO thankful to have you as a foster and they want you to be happy. Luckily, Rocket Dog was able to provide me with most of the answers and assistance that I needed. If you’re having problems or issues with your dog, let them know immediately, rather than when it’s too late.
Adoption days are RUFF
The day of Rudy’s adoption, I was a MESS. The hardest thing about fostering isn’t house training or teaching your dog which things are toys and which things are shoes, but rather letting go. However, meeting Rudy’s rad adoptive dad helped a lot. I knew he could give Rudy a better life than I ever could; one with stability, expensive treats, and a huge backyard. Watching Rudy gallop into his new life was one of the best feelings in the world. I saved a dog and now he was living large. I did that, and it felt good. Lots of people say your 20s are a totally selfish time, but I didn’t find that to be true; many of the other foster families I met were filled with young people like me. It convinced me that the future might be alright!?
So, if you’re thinking about dipping your toes in pet adoption, you might consider fostering first. I tried it and I loved it. And if you’re wondering if I still foster, well, no. Hazel was my last foster dog and she was a “foster failure” — meaning I loved her so much I kept her. And that’s OK, because I now have a backyard, my own fancy treats, and a chill, stable life. But more and more lately, I’ve been thinking Hazel needs a friend? Perhaps I should get back into fostering for dog #2? BRB, off to cruise some rescue sites.