What exactly does fostering mean? It means bringing a homeless dog or cat into your home, caring for them, providing them with affection and socialization, until a permanent family comes along who will love them forever.
Many times rescues who have no central facility, rely solely on foster homes to determine how many dogs/cats they can pull from county shelters, who may be long term residents and/or at risk of euthanasia due to overcrowding. Shelters also rely on fosters to provide a change of environment for long term residents or those dogs/cats who may be having a hard time adjusting to a kennel atmosphere. Fosters are crucial to shelters and rescues ability to help expectant female dogs/cats, by affording them a quiet and comfortable atmosphere to deliver puppies/kittens and care for them in those first weeks of crucial development.
Often times, certain animals may not "show" well in a kennel environment due to excess energy, or jockeying for attention as potential adopters walk by. While fostering a animal, you are able to provide exercise and stimulation, which in turn creates a calmer animal in the kennel which in many cases may be closer to what their behavior will look like in a home environment. In addition, you can work with the animal on leash training, house training, or other basic command training, that potential adopters will find attractive when looking for the perfect animal for their family.
Shelters and rescues often look to fosters for those dogs/cats who may have endured a difficult past such as abuse, cruelty, neglect, under socialization, etc. As a foster, you have the chance and opportunity to gain a dogs/cats trust, show them human touch and love perhaps for the first time, provide an environment for them to feel safe, and watch them transform before your eyes.
If you have existing pets, introducing a dog/cat can be a great experience for them as an additional companion, additional socialization, and an additional playmate! Children can benefit from fostering as a way to introduce responsibility, selflessness, a way to educate about animals, and is also a great way to "test" the idea of a permanent dog/cat into the home in the future.
Fellow fosters from the same shelter or rescue will help guide you through the experience, give ideas, answer any questions, and may even become your friends! There is nothing quite like sharing experiences with those who do the same and being part of a community of people who have like passions.
When the day comes, that your foster finds that perfect home, the rewarding feeling you will experience is something very special. You will feel a sense of pride, in knowing what you helped that dog/cat accomplish in their time with you. You will feel overjoyed, that they have found their forever family and their happy ending that all homeless dogs/cats so desire. And while certainly, some goodbyes can be tough, knowing that a dog/cat has found their happy ending and that another precious life awaits to be afforded your gifts, is as good of a feeling as there is!