Before we tell you about the greatest low-commitment trend, we should mention the myriad of ways that you or someone you know can help homeless animals whenever you have the opportunity. We have several local options to give your time, your love, or even your home, to help the homeless pet population. You could volunteer at your local Alexandria, Arlington, or Fairfax County animal shelter, work with a rescue organization to drive pets to our area from other states or to staff their adoption events, or visit a rescue organization facility like King Street Cats or Tails High to socialize with cats who need human contact. All of the local organizations also welcome charitable donations, or donations of supplies (but check with them first to see exactly what supplies they need.)
Now, have you ever thought to yourself: “I don’t really have the time to commit to a full-time dog, but I’m in puppy withdrawal and really wish I could just hang out with a dog for a day”?
Well you’re in luck! Did you know that several of the regional animal shelters in the DC metro area allow you to do just that? As a part of a new wave of dog fostering, animal shelters are now offering short-term fostering options, ranging from just a few hours to an overnight sleepover with a shelter pup!
For those who are unfamiliar with a shelter environment – these scenarios can be quite stressful for dogs. Sheltering is not intended to be a long-term living situation for a dog, but merely a temporary way station while they await a new family. Shelter environments are loud, smelly, and full of unfamiliar sights and people. Dogs living in shelters are typically kenneled about 23 hours of the day, and while staff and volunteers do everything in their power to provide mental and physical enrichment for these pups, there is still the reality that kennel living is not nearly as comfortable or relaxing as living in a home.
A growing trend in the animal welfare industry is short-term fostering. Studies released by leading subject experts such as Maddie’s Fund have shown that giving a dog a break from the shelter environment for even a few hours significantly reduces that dog’s cortisol levels, similarly to how humans use their weekends as a temporary relief from work stress.
The majority of shelter dogs in the DC metro area were found as strays, or were brought to regional shelters as part of a transfer from a more rural shelter in Virginia or another part of the country. What this means is that staff often doesn’t have a whole lot of information on these dogs, other than what they’ve seen with their own two eyes. For example, a dog that was surrendered to the shelter by their owner comes with a medical history and a whole host of owner notes regarding house training, likes, dislikes, etc. However, a stray dog is essentially a blank slate!
Therein lies another major benefit of short-term fostering. Putting a dog in a home, even for 1 night, gives the shelter staff significant and important information about that dog’s behavior. It tells them if the dog is house trained, if they’re crate trained, if they’re good with kids or other animals, if they bark at the mailman, etc. Fosters provide an amazing wealth of knowledge every single time they take an animal into their home!
Lastly, what is our favorite thing to look at on the internet… animal pictures! Short term fosters can provide those priceless pictures or videos of a shelter pup passed out on the couch for the first time, enjoying his first puppuccino, and the like! Potential adopters can use these ridiculously cute images, and their accompanying information to picture that dog in their own home.
Are you convinced yet? Hop on the website of your local animal shelter to read about their fostering options! Most foster programs require a short orientation or information session, and then you’ll be able to take home a dog THAT DAY! Even better, most local foster programs provide all the materials you’ll need to care for your temporary pup… and who knows, you may not want to bring fido back and you could end up with a new family member… wouldn’t that be something?!