Why I can't "just keep them."

Summit, who has been adopted, was the 81st foster dog for Amy and Bryon Brockel.

Summit, who has been adopted, was the 81st foster dog for Amy and Bryon Brockel.

Don’t take this personally if you are one of the offenders that has told a foster home to "just keep them".

I’ve been working with Black Dog Animal Rescue for nearly 4 years. We almost always have foster dogs in our home and I have a pretty strong opposition to those words, possibly for reasons you might not have thought. Don't get me wrong, I know I shamelessly promote (possibly overshare) all the dogs we foster on my Instagram and Facebook page, but I do this hoping their picture and adoptable information reaches the person who needs them. I know I often elaborate on how sweet, funny, smart or loving they are but this is to convince someone looking for a new companion that they need to give this dog a chance. 

Foster homes are the people who know these sweet souls deserve another chance at life and are willing to do something to make it happen. Foster homes know that irresponsible breeders, the people who buy from them and irresponsible pet owners (who don't hold up their commitment to their pets) continue to make our efforts an uphill battle. Foster homes know that the local shelters are overpopulated and that most shelter staff are under-paid, over-worked and that many (if not most) shelters do not have the resources or time to work with these animals to give them the basic skills they need to become more adoptable. Foster homes understand the reality of these animals who likely landed in the shelter with no manners, no social skills and are often terrified at the new living arrangements. The foster home knows the hopelessness that comes with the mundane days (often without positive interaction of any kind) these animals face inside a concrete cell. It is depressing just typing about it and foster homes know there are more animals needing us to help them out than people willing to dive in.

As I am exposed to more and more of the practices of rural shelters who have a very small budget, no (or very few) workers to handle the animals and no ability/time to offer these pets for adoption it has convinced me that fostering truly saves lives! Many times a dog in a rural shelter has only seven short days to be reclaimed by the original owner and if that does not happen (and a rescue group doesn't tag the dog for transport in time) that the dog is euthanized and the shelter is "cleaned out" once a week regardless of the adoptability of the dogs in that shelter. Puppies like Summit (our 81st foster dog) would have had their lives ended at eight weeks old simply because no one spoke up for them. We keep fostering because someone needs to be a voice for these creatures who had no say in where they landed and now they found themselves homeless and hopeless. Not all shelters operate like this (we do have some great Shelters in our state) but more shelters than you would want to believe do.

Here is the second part to this post, I have so many folks say, "they could never foster, it would be too hard, their current dogs wouldn't allow it, they are too busy", I know we are all busy and I realize not everyone can foster but everyone can be an advocate for positive change. If this speaks to you please stop in to the local shelter or a reputable rescue group in your community and ask if they could use help getting donations/supplies or maybe offer a helping hand if they allow volunteers. At the very least ask if you can take a dog for a walk and get them outdoors for a few minutes, it may be their only time outside in days/months! Try to become a partner in your community towards positive change, the animals need your voice and help.

 If you are in Cheyenne, Laramie or Casper reach out to BDAR, we are always looking for more volunteers (and foster homes) and you can attend our orientation and find out all the ways you can get involved and become an advocate for positive change for homeless animals.

Also I think I'd be remiss to not mention the positives we've seen since I started this adventure in rescue work. Many shelters are improving their live release rates (decreasing their euthanasia rate), more animals are returned to their owners because of microchips, many more adopters are realizing shelter animals are not damaged goods and many more rural shelters are trying to reach out to rescue groups (like BDAR) to get those dogs out alive. Even with all these things moving in the right direction there are still MANY animals that won’t get their second chance and knowing that is WHY WE MUST KEEP FOSTERING and why we can't "just keep them". 

Think of it this way, if we adopt another dog, that is one less spot in our home that can be used to save these lives. Yes, typically we as a family can only save one or two at a time and that may not be a huge impact right away but I know after doing this awhile that the lives we save add up and that saving even one means the world to the family that adopts them, loves them and can't imagine life without them. As a foster home we do sacrifice a bit of time, some space in our home, a few extra chores and a piece of our heart to love them, care for them and then send them on their way when the right family comes along to be their “forever home.” But it's totally worth all of the trouble to know we were the reason they got a second chance. 

Look at these statistics from the ASPCA, the reality is about a third of the dogs that enter the shelter will not get out alive. http://www.aspca.org/animal-homeles...

·  Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.

·  Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).

·  Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).

·  Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.

I know people mean well when they tell a foster home “just keep them” or “they look like they are already home” but I wanted to share the perspective of why that is not an option for us. Black Dog Animal Rescue always has dogs on the waiting list needing an open foster home and without me (and all the great BDAR foster homes) stepping up these dogs may not live to see another day! I think the most important point is that we do not foster dogs because we want to add them all to our family, we do this because we think they all deserve a second chance!

I challenge you the next time you want to tell a foster home to keep a pet they are fostering, instead thank them for doing a really tough job and think about donating to the organization they work with or maybe look into volunteering in your community in a way that works for you. Even if it is not working with animals our world could use more positive do-good folks taking action. Even if it were only a few folks giving up their $5 they were going to spend on a coffee/or junk food it adds up for organization that relies primarily on donations. Plus a foster home hearing that you donated to a good cause on their behalf would make their hearts SING, we don't do this for money or recognition we do it because we feel a passion for it and knowing we made a difference, like saving Summit here, means the world to us. <3

By: Amy Brockel, BDAR Top Dogs leadership team volunteer