By Chris Norman
I’ve been fostering collies for MWCR since 2009. I am so glad I finally took that first step. I had been thinking about it for a while, probably over a year. I live in a townhouse and was under the false assumption that I had to have a fenced yard. I wasn’t a member of MWCR (you do need to be a member to foster). I was more of a lurker. Pulling up the website and looking at available collies. I currently had my own collie, Thor, and an Aussie mix, Brett. I don’t know why I was drawn to the available dogs (probably just to see the pictures), as I knew two was my limit in my limited space. But I still had that desire to foster. I started mulling it over constantly and I finally landed on the fact that I love the breed and realistically was only going to have a few more of my own. Fostering was a way to come in contact with so many more collies! I filled out the online application, had the home visit, and was fully on board. My first foster was Janis. A stray who was found in Joplin, Mo., thus the name. She was such an easy foster. A collie mix. Such a sweet girl. Sneaky, too! An expert at slipping out of her collar, I almost lost her on a walk, when she saw a rabbit and went backward, instead of lunging forward toward the rabbit, as my dogs have always done. She dipped, and was very close to being successful, but I managed to realize what she was doing quickly, and backed up, too, grabbing onto her before she was able to slip the collar. I had her about a month and a half, when she was adopted by a woman just south of Minneapolis. Leaving this first foster was the hardest for me. I can still see her and her new owner standing at the gate beside the house as I walked out to my car. Janis was standing there, just looking at me. I cried all the way home.
But, I knew she was going to be loved and well cared for. I was very comforted by that knowledge. I was also very happy for Janis and even more happy for her new owner. This was my first experience of helping someone else find a great dog.
Last December my 21st foster was adopted. They have all been special in their own ways. I’ve learned what I’m good at (housebreaking), and that I can’t have older dogs, as I have three sets of stairs. I have a crazy schedule, so the dogs that are in need of extra vet care, are better with other people. MWCR has a wonderful adoption team, so most fosters get adopted within a month. The longest foster I’ve had was about three or four months, I think. I’ve learned I don’t want to foster in the winter, because not having a fenced yard, is not good for my mood . . . to be house training and walking when it’s cold outside.
I’ve learned that my own dogs are really good at helping a foster learn how to be a house dog, but not necessary. What a foster dog needs most is love. Even the shy ones come around with a little patience. My second foster, Baron, wouldn’t even get out of my car. My son had to push him while I pulled him close enough, to where I could pick him up and carry him into the house.
Fergus was so afraid of storms, he tried to go through a mirror thinking it was another room farther into the house. My heart went out to him thinking of where he came from. He lived in a fenced area away from the house with just a dog house.
I’ve had potential adopters pass on what I thought was a great dog, and I’ve learned to be patient with that. Of course, I want the adopter to get the right dog for them. I respect their decision making.
I’ve also learned what is meant by the phrase, dogs live in the moment. They truly do adjust quickly to their current situation. And while I’m understanding of each foster’s particular issues and history, I don’t feel sorry for them. I’m patient, but I want them to move out of those issues without ‘fostering’ the imbalance. I have what I’d call a patient ‘get over it’ kind of attitude. It works for me. Living in the moment also helps when they move on to their forever families. The same way they adjusted to my family, they will settle into their new family.
I can truly say, this journey has by far been the most rewarding adventure I have had and am looking forward to continuing it as soon as the weather starts to warm up, even though it feels like that’s never going to happen (the warming up). I’ve been able to keep in touch with many of the adopters, too, which is very cool.
So please, if you have been thinking of fostering, please look into it. You won’t regret it. You may even wish you had started sooner, as I did. I’ve been able to have all colors of collies in my house! Please contact MWCR, even if you’re just thinking of it. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or I’d be happy to personally answer any questions you may have. Email me at email@example.com.
Full disclosure: I did fail once. Thor was diagnosed with Lymphoma in the fall of 2011, and went quickly. I decided I would continue to foster, having just Brett and a foster. Desi came in about a month after I put Thor down. She was a good foster to have as the first one after Thor. While she was a very sweet dog, I knew she wasn’t right for me, so no danger of failing with her. Just when I was getting used to the idea of having one dog of my own and one foster, Bruno (now Woodson), hopped out of Terry’s car, as my next foster, and I knew immediately he would be staying. There have been other fosters I would have kept, but again, I know my limits. And I want to keep fostering, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I adopted a third dog.