Five years ago Christine L. wanted a dog in her life, but she wasn’t quite ready to adopt. While perusing online pet listings, she came across a post from Wonder Dog Rescue seeking a temporary home for a dog that had just been rescued from a local shelter. A fostering situation appealed to Christine because she could help a dog in need without the long-term commitment.
A few days later, Christine met Marley, a self-confident but mellow Shih Tzu. Wonder Dog founder Linda Beenau provided Christine with everything she would need to foster Marley, including food and bedding. Most importantly, Beenau gave Christine reassurance: reassurance that WDR would cover any medical expenses Marley might have, reassurance that Christine could reach out to Beenau at any time with questions or concerns, and reassurance that Wonder Dog would always take care of Marley, so Christine could bring him back at any time if things weren’t working out.
“Fostering gives people a chance to live with a dog with the full support of the rescue. We set them up to succeed,” said Beenau.
Foster homes are vital to rescue organizations like WDR because they buy a dog time. Not only do they keep a dog out of a shelter, they also provide a comfortable environment where a dog can adjust to family living. Fosterers also get to know a dog’s personality, so a good permanent home match can be made.
After having Marley for a week, Christine brought him to a WDR event so he could be introduced to potential adopters. Christine found herself hoping that no one would want him. Another week passed before Christine knew they were meant to stay together. She got in touch with Beenau and made the adoption official.
Marley’s story might be perceived as an undesirable outcome because there’s such a critical need for temporary homes, and adoption likely means Christine would no longer be interested in fostering.
“About half our volunteers and donors have adopted one of their foster dogs. Some organizations call this a foster failure—it’s an inside joke in animal welfare,” said Joe O’Donnell, Wonder Dog’s director of community engagement. “But here at Wonder Dog, we prefer to call it a Forever Foster, though we do have you sign the adoption papers at that point,” O’Donnell said with a smile.
A forever foster means a permanent home and it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of fostering. Like other WDR adopters, Christine has continued to foster. In fact, Christine said Marley’s calm presence is comforting to her foster dogs.
Founded in 1990, Wonder Dog Rescue is a community of volunteers committed to finding adopters for vulnerable small dogs throughout Northern California. Wonder Dog embraces the Power of Foster, giving every dog the time to grow into the loving dog they were meant to be before finding their permanent home. Wonder Dog invites new volunteers to come and share this commitment with them.
Corrie Goldman is a volunteer public relations manager for Wonder Dog Rescue, has also fostered for Wonder Dog, and can attest to the joys of providing a home for a dog in need, even if it’s just for the weekend.
Shelter Zone features different shelter and rescue folks each month. To contribute, contact Judy@AlamedaMagazine.com.