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A hand for paws – the invaluable philanthropy that is dog fostering

image by Cottonbro Studios on pexels

The dog is the epitomised best friend of the human. Notwithstanding, about 11,000 dogs are abandoned in Ireland annually – an average of 30 dogs per day. A doleful fact and a negative addition to one’s knowledge. But once it permeates the edges of the conscious, it is a reluctant piece of information that seemingly lingers perpetually. The silver lining to this? There is a way to counteract those emotions to essentially promote both one’s beatitude as well as animal welfare.

A certain disparity in the awareness of pet care can distort the general perception of pet-owning. Consequently, a reluctant demeanour towards pet adoption is not a rarity. The introduction of different models of pet-owning resulted in certain proclivities towards pet-owning alternatives and their benefits for all parties involved.

Think like a Dog on Spotify

Bronagh Fleming is a Volunteer Ireland Ambassador from County Clare. For a few years now, she is active as a dog fosterer and would not have it any other way. She started to foster following the sudden death of her beloved Cairn Terrier Scruffy at the beginning of 2020.

photo by Laura-Marie Butenhoff for The Circular

“He was a rescue and had been brought into a vet’s to be put down at 3 years old as his owner had died. We adopted him and he lived with us until the grand old age of 17. Without a rescue group stepping in, he would have been put down. After he died, we decided to start fostering dogs to help us through our own loneliness. Having a dog is a great focus and for me, it takes my mind off any troubles,” Fleming tells the Circular.

While for some the thought of owning a dog may present itself as a tantalising idea, others may represent a different view. It is an undeniable actuality, however, that there is still a perceptible lack of people that are affirmative towards adopting or fostering dogs. This is a topic that has evoked a plethora of different opinions.

“For me, dog fostering is a great way to take care of animals that don’t have any help. But I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to let them go when the time comes,” Annalena Bischoff expounds.

“I’m not a pet person at all. I have a very busy life and work a lot. Fostering a dog would not fit into my lifestyle and wouldn’t be something for me to consider,” Tom Winter shares.

“I, personally love dogs, but my brother is allergic to them, so dog fostering is a bit difficult in our house. I do walk my friend’s dog from time to time. I guess that is my own version of dog fostering,” Alessia Bonori explains.

“I am more of a cat person, to be honest. I would definitely foster a cat, or even two or three, sign me up,” Elif Ipek Demir reflects.

Even though it is difficult to estimate the exact number of dogs that are adopted annually, the Department of Rural and Community Development of Ireland disclosed that in 2021, 201,146 licenses were issued in all 31 states. Nonetheless, Ireland’s rescue shelters continue bursting at the seams, forcing them to look for, certainly unethical, ways to minimise the numbers. In 2002 the rates for euthanasia were as high as one dog every 6 hours. In 2018 those numbers have gone back to 778 dogs a year. These significant advancements can be attributed to the rapid expansion of neutering campaigns, dog-fostering organisations, and rescue shelters sponsored by volunteers.

photo by Laura-Marie Butenhoff for The Circular

However those improvements, four core problems remain an inhibition when it comes to adopting a dog permanently. Childish innocence is the most stagnant cause and often leads to impulse purchases from parents. Those purchases are often made without sufficient research of the breed or knowledge about the required care. Factors, inter alia lack of research, sudden changes in one’s lifestyle, and the underestimation of a host’s responsibilities can cause irresponsible ownership. In those cases, dogs are prone to experience neglect or, in other cases, total abandonment.

Regardless if it is a permanent adoption or temporary fostering, one must be certain that the responsibilities attached to a dog are understood and can be managed. Bronagh herself admits that she is not constantly fostering.

“I try and make sure that I only offer to foster when I know I am at home a bit more when I have the time to invest in getting to know the dogs and what their needs and wants are. Summertime is a really good time for us to foster, so we can be out in the garden more with them, they all love pottering around,” Fleming shares.

photo by Laura-Marie Butenhoff for The Circular

According to an article published by the Independent, pets can improve a host’s mental health issues and can help alleviate the effects caused by diagnosed depression. The positivity can stem from a variety of actions and can be experienced differently in every household. This can be the wet nose grazing the side of your leg when it is time for a walk, the cuddle time at movie night, or the impatient tale waggling demanding a treat. The puppy’s power is real, and the love is tangible.

“From the minute our first foster dog Rodney came into our house, we laughed non-stop. It changed everything. I wasn’t as lonely, and I had something else to focus on. And a dog gets you out walking, and you get chatting with people when you’re out. (…) My mental health improved completely through the experience,” Fleming told Volunteer Ireland.

However positive the closeness of a dog, some people simply cannot facilitate a lifestyle that involves taking care of a four-legged friend – without the need for justification.

I’m absolutely dog mad, I’ve always been like that, so I am blind to any negatives to be fair! It’s such a positive experience, getting to know the little personalities. The hard part is letting them go, it’s very lonely when they go

Bronagh Fleming, Ambassador with Volunteer Ireland

Alternatively, to adopt a pet permanently, there is the possibility to only foster an animal for a short time. The foster period can vary however long it takes for an adoption request to be made and finalised.

Dog fostering is the golden middle between adopting a dog permanently and not giving dogs a chance at all. “I’d highly recommend it, it’s all the fun of owning a pet without any of the long-term commitment. The food, bedding, and vet bills are all covered by the rescue group, plus they are always on hand to give advice,” the Ambassador expounds.

photo by Laura-Marie Butenhoff for The Circular

As an ambassador with Volunteer Ireland, Fleming volunteers as a dog foster with Molly Moos Dog Rescue. The fostering process started with home visits and interviews, ensuring a good home for the foster dog.

“Once we passed, we were only waiting a couple of weeks and we got our first foster, the gorgeous Rodney the Bichon. We weren’t asked which dog we wanted to foster, but he was a surrender to the pound and needed to get into foster care ASAP so we took him, and he was an absolute dote,” Bronagh adds.

Even though fostering is a temporary solution its effects are experienced forever and are never an exercise of futility. Bronagh shares the highs of dog fostering but also reflects on the despondency that comes when the foster dog has been adopted and is moving on to his forever home.

“Have the tissues ready when it’s time to say goodbye, it’s the hardest day! The rest of it is pure fun,” she concludes.

In case you ever wondered what fostering a dog feels like in a nutshell, now you know. Dog fostering has led to an ineffable joy for Bronagh, she hopes that her story encourages other dog enthusiasts to also jump on the wagon of endless cuddles.

What its really like fostering a rescue dog on YouTube
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