By Alisa Johnson, President Dogs on Deployment
I've always been a dog-lover. I've had three dogs my whole life (short so far, I'm only 25… I mean 24…). My childhood dog, Tasha, was my best friend as a kid. She recently passed away and her passing broke my heart. As an adult, I got my first puppy JD, he's my "soul puppy" and the inspiration behind all my animal and rescue work. Then I got Jersey, my little evil puppy from a rescue in Alabama. Then I have all my fosters…
My first three foster dogs were strays I found on the streets in my old neighborhood in San Diego. I'd find these skinny, scared or abused dogs on the street and knew if I did nothing, no one would do anything, and their futures would be uncertain, or possibly, non-existent. If I didn't help them, who would?
I invested into these three dogs both time and money. I wasn't connected to any rescue group, and as just another stray on the street, I couldn't find anyone willing to help. On a college-budget working part-time at Petco, I had to save to get them all vetted and neutered/spayed. I spent a lot of time networking them to find them homes; this was all before I had such an amazing network in Dogs on Deployment. It took time, patience and love, an it paid off, because all three of them were adopted and are living with amazing owners.
I had the time, I had the drive, I had the little bit of extra money and I had the space to help those dogs. So I did. It was inconvenient at times. It was hard to let them go. But in the end, if I didn't help, who would? No one. That was all the reason I needed to stop traffic, to jump out of my car, and pick up those stray dogs covered in fleas and bring them under my care.
I did the same for Dillard. He was a stray pitbull-shar pei mix I found abandoned in the mall parking lot in Corpus Christi, TX, where stray animals are a dime-a-dozen. I was in the middle of flight school, spending 12-hours a day flying, or studying for flying. I was living on my own, and had my two dogs with me in my house on base, which has a two-pet limit and bans pitbulls.
I could have left Dillard in that parking lot. I could have left him to face the busy traffic, and the nearby freeway, and the hordes of cars and people who would hurt him. But he rolled over onto his back with his tail between his legs as I approached him, and I couldn't. I could not possibly leave him there with a clean conscience. So I put him in my car, and took him home.
I was scared to death he may attack my own dogs; dog fighting is prevalent in this area. But I took the chance to see what his initial behavior towards other dogs was; and it was good. After a long journey through several foster homes, failed adoptions and denials from rescue groups to help, perseverance paid off and Dillard was adopted to a military family in San Diego, CA.
He could have died on the streets of Corpus Christi as many other strays do. Instead he is a part loving family.
I have recently started to foster with a local rescue group, For the Love of Strays. Networking, vetting and adopting a dog on your own can be exhausting and many people don't have the capability to do it. It was exhausting, and I admitted to myself I needed the help, but I didn't want to stop fostering. After all, I have an open home (my two dogs are living with their "dad") and a little extra time to spend on a dog's life.
My fifth foster, Maggie, was recently adopted to a loving home in San Diego, CA as well (my dogs are popular in CA!). She was a difficult placement because she had some special requirements for a new home.
My sixth foster is Shadow. After a few months of fostering, and local networking, she was adopted to a family in Corpus. If she did not have my home, who knows where she would end up. Shelters everywhere are full, and forced to euthanize perfectly adoptable dogs and cats for no other reason than lack of space. Rescues are lacking foster homes; if there are no foster homes for the animals to go to, they can't enter the rescue.
So why do I foster? Because if not me, then who? If you have the time, space and commitment to foster an animal – dog, cat, bird, rabbit, horse or any other – do it. Whether it is a military pet found through Dogs on Deployment, or a homeless dog through your local rescue, FOSTERING SAVES LIVES. Foster on your own (ensure any stray you find, you sufficiently attempt to locate the original owners), or foster for an organization, Dogs on Deployment or local rescue. Foster short term, or foster long term. Every day an animal spends in your home is an extra chance at a long life. If you can, why would you not give them this?
Can't foster? Then please consider supporting foster-organizations in any other way you can – share pets in need on Facebook/Twitter, donate, promote adoption, etc. Every bit of education and outreach you do, helps that group.