Kate is a fellow DC area pit bull foster mama, who also shares her home with three pit bulls (and until recently, one german shepherd) of her own. Her family’s commitment to fostering despite having a house full of dogs is inspirational to us, and Kate shows us every week how possible it is to maintain your sanity, your style, and your humor while living with three — sometimes four — pit bulls.
1. Why did you begin fostering dogs?
My husband and I accidentally rescued our first pit bull, Melanie, nine years ago when we found her running across a road only mere feet away from a busy interstate. She was skinny, missing patches of fur and obviously not well cared for. The only things we “knew” about the breed were the negative stereotypes that that the media blasted at us, but we took a gamble (what we thought was a huge gamble, actually) and brought her home.
|Melanie (on the left) with her sister and BFF, Heidi.|
Of course it turned out to be an extremely low-risk gamble, because Mel is an awesome dog. In a way, she was our first foster because our original intent was to privately foster her and find a home for her. After a horrible experience with one potential adopter, we decided to keep her ourselves because we loved her already and knew how great she was. We also knew that we didn’t have the resources to properly screen people who were interested in taking her home, and we didn’t want to risk her ending up in a bad place. We didn’t start “officially” fostering until several years later when we were both out of school and no longer renting, but I knew then that I wanted to be more involved.
2. Tell us about your first fostering experience. Who was your first foster dog? What was fostering him/her like?
My first official foster dog was Winky. She was a one-eyed pit mix puppy.
Fostering her was crazy! It was a fun experience, but it was a ton of work because she was still so young. We were used to our older, calm dogs and weren’t quite prepared for the amount of energy such a young dog would have. Still, it was a lot of fun, and fostering her made us realize how important it is to know our own limitations. We learned that puppies just aren’t our thing and that’s okay.
3. What has kept you going with it?
Now that I’ve gotten involved with rescue, I really feel like I’m part of a bigger community. I’ve met some insanely great people and it feels good to know I’m part of the community that they’re involved in. I honestly have a fun time volunteering and enjoy the time I get to spend with the different dogs and people.
4. Why do you think fostering is important/what role does it play in the bigger animal rescue picture?
Fostering is truly a lifeline for many dogs, especially for the breeds that are harder to adopt out (like pit bulls). A rescue friend of mine once told me that there’s someone out there for every dog, it just takes time to find them. Fostering gives dogs that time. Foster homes free up space in shelters, so it not only saves the dog that’s being fostered, but it also saves the life of the dog that can be in the shelter for a little longer. It’s a vitally important part of animal rescue.
On a personal level, if it weren’t for someone fostering him, I never would have been able to adopt my dog Nemo. His foster mom practically hand picked Nemo for us out of all the dogs in the rescue, and for that I’ll always be grateful to her. The foster experience really does work to put the right dogs in the right homes.
5. What is the most rewarding part of fostering to you?
I love to watch a dog leave the shelter and start to feel relaxed in a home. While shelters do the best they can for animals, they are still very stressful places to be. Each of our dogs has started out unsure and nervous when we brought them home, and watching them turn into happy, confident dogs is so rewarding. I love knowing that I made it possible for them to express their true “dogness.”
6. What is the hardest part?
Obviously giving the dog up is the hardest part. So hard that we’ve even failed at it (jump down to question #9 to read about that). Still, it’s completely worth it. However much it hurts to part with a foster dog, it hurts even more to know that if I hadn’t come along that dog might not have made it out of the shelter.
7. Have you experienced any benefits that you hadn’t expected before you began?
The friends I’ve made. The people that I’ve met through my rescue group are just all-around awesome. They really enjoy what they do and care about the dogs, and while it isn’t always easy, it’s always worthwhile.
8. Any advice do you have for individuals considering fostering for the first time?
Find a good rescue organization, and do it. I always tell people to start volunteering with an organization in other ways before they start fostering. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about a rescue group’s policies with fosters. You can talk to the people that currently foster, and get a feel for how supported they are by the group. It’s also a great way to pick up tips on how to integrate a foster dog into your home and how to choose a foster dog that will thrive in your home. A good group will be open to telling you about their foster program (they should be eager to have you!) and provide you with the support that you need to take on a foster pet.
9. Who was your most memorable foster and why?
Haha, Heidi is definitely my most memorable foster – because I see her everyday! We foster failed with Heidi very quickly and as much as you’re not supposed to do that, I’m so glad we did. Heidi had been in the shelter for months before we pulled her. She was skinny, and the tops of her paws were stained and sore from excessive licking (from the stress of being in the shelter). She had obviously been bred a few times too. The poor girl didn’t have it easy, but she clearly had loads of potential and even more love to give.
I had been keeping track of Heidi since I first saw her in the shelter, and when I found out that the shelter was full and her time might be up, I knew we had to get her out of there. While we originally intended to only foster her, we quickly realized that she was our dog (or rather that we were her humans) and we adopted her. Since her adoption, Heidi’s become a canine good citizen and is working towards becoming a therapy dog. She’s such a great ambassadog for the breed that we still bring her to events just to show off how great pit bulls can be. She’s so amazing that I don’t know how anyone ever gave her up.
10. What is your favorite foster adoption story?
It’s so hard to choose! I love it every time I find out that a foster dog has found their forever home! I have to admit though, I love my own dogs’ stories. Melanie went from a scrawny stray to changing countless people’s minds about the breed, Heidi became a canine good citizen just a couple months after leaving the shelter, and Nemo has shown people that even the “mean looking” pitties with cropped ears and dark coloring can be a joy to have around.
|Heidi (left) with her brother, Nemo (center), and sister, Melanie (right).|