Happy Book Birthday to Operation Rescue Dog, illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by Little Bee Books!
Today Kid Lit Frenzy is celebrating the book’s release with a guest post from author, Maria Gianferrari on the Top Five Reasons to Foster + a bonus Interview Maria did with dog foster mother & middle grade author of the Babysitting Nightmares series, Kat Shepherd + an Operation Rescue Dog GIVEAWAY!!
TOP FIVE REASONS TO FOSTER:
1. Home is Where the Heart is: Fostering Saves Lives!
More than 7 million animals enter shelters every year! Many others are taken in by rescue organizations that don’t have a dedicated facility—they rely on foster homes to care for animals until they can be adopted. Fostering lessens shelter overcrowding, and when you foster a pet, you give space for another pet to be taken in by a rescue organization, and the shelter to take in another homeless pet.
2. A Home Away From Home!
Many rescued pets may never have lived in a home. Some may be strays; others were tethered to a doghouse, and still others may have lived in a kennel, or cage, or puppy mill situation. They will likely not be house-trained or familiar with stairs or noises from ordinary household appliances like vacuums or hair dryers which may frighten them. They may even be afraid of grass, and going outdoors. Living in a home can help them to acclimate and ease their fears, readying them for adoption.
3. Safe House!
Shelter living can be extremely stressful for an animal. Some display destructive or self-destructive behaviors, or develop fear aggression, making them less likely candidates for adoption. Foster homes can provide interaction and a more relaxing environment, helping pets to trust people and become less timid, less fearful and more confident. Socialization with people and other pets as well as basic obedience training can also help them better find their “furever” homes.
4. Close to Home: Foster-To-Adopt!
If you’re considering getting your own furry friend, fostering can help you determine what kind of dog best fits your family’s lifestyle and energy level. You will learn about dogs of different sizes, breeds, and temperaments. This will help you make an educated and informed decision before adopting a dog as full-time family member.
5. Home Sweet Home: Fostering Saves Lives!!!
It bears repeating: each and every pet you foster is a new life saved! If you’re hesitant to foster because you’re afraid of getting too attached, remember, by bringing a pet home, you are saving a life and practicing the art of selflessness. Celebrate the fact that you changed this pet’s life and helped in their journey to finding a “furever” home sweet home.
ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FOSTERING!
And now it’s time for an in-depth interview with foster dog mother/animal lover, Kat Shepherd, author of the Babysitting Nightmares series (Imprint) and the upcoming mystery series, The Gemini Mysteries, coming from Bonnier/Yellow Jacket in 2019.
Q: How and why did you start fostering? Are you fostering any dogs at the moment?
A: Although I did a bit of fostering in my twenties, my husband and I began fostering in earnest in 2012. I've always loved animals, particularly dogs, and the dogs already in my home were from rescue situations (one was from a greyhound rescue; the other was a former street dog). I worked mostly from home, and we had the space and time to devote to fostering, so we really wanted to work actively to help save dogs' lives. The beautiful thing about fostering is that each time you foster you save two dogs' lives: the life of the dog you bring into your home, and the life of the dog that gets to take its space at the shelter. Most of the dogs we foster stay with us until they find their new forever homes, but we also do hospice fostering, where a terminally ill dog spends its last days surrounded by comfort and love instead of alone in a shelter. That can be emotionally tough, but it's something we love to do, because we get to spoil those dogs rotten and give them the best life possible in their final days. Our current foster dog, Nurse Jane Fuzzywuzzy, is our twenty-third foster, and she is a hospice foster. However, she has decided that she is no longer terminally ill, so she's been with us for about 15 months now. She is mostly blind and deaf and she's got bum kidneys, but she has a strong personality and a will to keep living her best life no matter what. She loves us, loves to cuddle, and she even plays. We're glad she's still kickin' it!
Q: Do you have a favorite or an unusual fostering story?
A: We've enjoyed most (but not all!) of the dogs we've fostered, but our favorite dogs to foster have always been the seniors. In fact, we pretty much only foster seniors now, and we also foster only small dogs. There is just something about the seniors that really resonates with me, and small dogs are just more practical when you're dealing with seniors, since it's easy to carry them if they can't make it down the stairs or things like that. We get a lot of toothless little fluffs with bald patches or snaggletooth chihuahuas with appalling breath, and they're all female, for some reason. We love the little old ladies!
I think my favorite part of fostering is when you find that family or that person that says, "That's it. That's my dog." They just know that they have found the dog they've been waiting for. We keep in touch with some of the folks that have adopted our fosters, and that's really fun to see. There was this amazing miniature poodle we found in the park. He was really skittish, and it took hours to catch him. We tried and tried to find his owner, but nobody claimed him. We named him Sigmund, and he ended up being one of the best foster dogs we've ever had. He was absolutely perfect in every way. We were SO close to keeping him, but we found this amazing home for him. His family takes him on all kinds of adventures, they have gotten tattoos of him, and he is absolutely living the best life possible. I don't think there's any better feeling than seeing that.
Q: An important part of the fostering process is letting go, which can be difficult when you become emotionally attached to your foster dog. Do you have any pointers or coping strategies for those who may be interested in fostering for the first time?
A: We have a three dog rule; we can never have more than three dogs in our care at any one time. We have two dogs of our own, so I know that if I choose to keep a foster instead of letting go, it means I won't be able to foster anymore. I'm a pretty pragmatic person, so when I am tempted to keep a foster, I ask myself, "Do I love this dog enough that I'm willing to let other dogs die in order to keep it?" Because we foster continuously, making that choice to keep a foster would mean giving up that space that could help save other dogs' lives. So that helps a lot. I also make sure that any adoptive home we find for a dog has to be as good or better than what we have to offer, and I would say at least 90% of the time, they are headed somewhere that it so much cooler and more fun than they have in my house. Knowing that they're going to love their new home makes it easier, too.
A couple of reminders and pointers: Your foster dog will probably bond super fast and super hard with you. It's what most of them do. That can make it emotionally difficult, because you feel like you have this bond and you're tearing that apart by sending them to their new home. You're not. Remember how fast and hard that dog bonded with you even though you just met it? It will do the same thing with its new owner. We had this amazing little foster, Mimsy. She was a five pound maltese with no teeth, a lazy tongue, and zero housebreaking. I LOVED her. Every night she had this weird ritual where she would hump my leg before bed. No one else's leg, just mine, and she did it every night without fail. I told her new owner, Pooja, about it, and during Mimsy's first night in her new home, Pooja excitedly texted me SHE'S DOING IT! It took less than a day for Mimsy to bond with Pooja just as strongly as she had bonded with me.
The biggest tip I have is when for it's time for your dog to go to its new home. I always make the adopters come to my house and collect their new dog. I learned this the hard way, because once I went to drop a dog off at its new home, and when it was time for me to leave the dog cried and struggled in the new owner's arms to follow me. It was wrenching and difficult, and I cried a lot and felt terrible. However, if someone comes to collect the foster from my house, the dog thinks it's going on a fun car ride or an adventure with a new friend, and not one dog has ever even looked back at me as they drove away. They're just super-psyched to see what's next. And then I'm excited to meet the next foster dog that's going to come into my life, too.
Q: Are any of your current pups so-called “foster failures,” ones who you knew belonged in your family?
There was a period of time when one of our own dogs died, and we just had one dog at home. We always have two dogs in the "permanent collection," and that spot stayed open for a year as fosters rotated through on their way to forever homes. There were a lot of great dogs that year, but I didn't want to adopt any of them. Partly because I still missed my old dog so much, and partly because I just didn't feel a particular pull to any one dog. Then on my birthday in 2014, as a birthday gift to myself I decided I wanted to find a red-listed dog (red-listed means the dog is set to be euthanized, usually because it's been at the shelter too long) and save its life. I would bring it home as an independent foster until I found a home for it. I found a blurry photo of this little chihuahua spaniel mix with a crooked leg and a feathery tail, and I drove out to a shelter in the middle of the desert to get her. We named her Miss Moneypenny, and after two weeks of fostering her, my husband said, "I think she's our dog. I think we need to keep her." I agreed, and she's been prancing through our lives ever since.
Q: Is there anything else interested folks should know about fostering or animal rescue?
A: I feel really passionate about dog rescue, because I believe it is our duty to care for our pets the same way we care for other loved ones in our lives. Dogs were the world's first domesticated animals, and they are one of the few animals that can accurately read human facial expressions. That is how closely linked we are. And since we did this: we created dogs and made them dependent on us, we are responsible for them. And when humans fail the animals in their care, the animals can't save themselves. We are their voice and their advocates and their caretakers.
For anyone who has even considered fostering, please do it. Animal rescue organizations desperately need foster homes, because we can't save lives without them. People think it will be too painful to love a dog and say goodbye, but the pain is temporary and tinged with joy. And if you are thinking of adopting a dog, please, please, please look to shelters and rescues first. There are so many deserving dogs sitting alone in shelters right now, just waiting to love and be loved. And always spay and neuter your pet. It's better for your pet's health and better for the planet!
If you can't bring a pet into your home, consider helping in other ways. I particularly love shelter intervention programs, which are gaining ground in major cities. Many pets end up in shelters not because they are unwanted, but because their owners are unable to keep them for financial or other reasons. Shelter intervention programs help keep pets home with the families that love them by intervening before pets are turned in. They offer low-cost vet care, free obedience training, legal help with landlord issues, and even free pet food. I love that they help both people and animals by addressing the root of the problem and working to fix it. I also love supporting prison dog programs, where incarcerated people foster, train, and rehabilitate shelter dogs to be adopted by forever families. It is a life-changing experience for everyone involved, and the positive impact of the work continues to ripple outward. I would love to see dog programs in every prison in America.
I can't state enough how rewarding it is to foster pets, and how beautiful it is to see a life saved or a broken dog healed. It's such a part of who I am, and every dog teaches me something new. It is powerful and often difficult work, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks Kat for all of the fantastic fostering tips! You are an inspiration to us all! Learn more about Kat and her books here.
And hearty thanks, Alyson, for allowing me to celebrate dog rescue and Operation Rescue Dog!
You’re going to love Luisa Uribe’s illustrations! The publisher, Little Bee Books, has generously donated a copy for one lucky winner (US residents only—sorry!), and I would be delighted to sign and dedicate it to you or your loved one(s).
And remember, adopt—don’t shop!!
About the author: Maria Gianferrari loves dogs, especially her rescue dog, Becca. She loves them so much that all of her fiction picture books published thus far contain a dog main character! As an animal lover, Maria has been rescuing creatures unofficially all her life. Her most recent rescue was a five-lined skink stranded in her cellar. She lives in Leesburg, Virginia with Becca, her scientist husband and artist daughter.
Enter the Giveaway here…