Adventures in Pet Fostering: The Ups and Downs of Part-time Animal Ownership

Dr. Patty Khuly and Lulu the Bulldog
Courtesy of Dr. Patty Khuly
Dr. Patty Khuly hugs her foster dog, Lulu.

Last week I suffered a setback in my side job as a foster mom. After placing an adorable, 8-year-old English Bulldog in what I hoped would prove her forever home, she came back. Lulu’s rehoming had lasted all of seven days. It simply wasn't a good fit.

Owner-pet incongruence ranks high among the common pitfalls of being a foster owner, which makes sense: Misjudging the match is easy when so many variables are involved.

  • Will there be getting-to-know-you mishaps the husband/wife/housemate(s) won’t abide? For example, temporary blips in housebreaking can be a deal breaker for many.
  • Will the kids play nice? Or will they poke their new pet mercilessly until she acts out?
  • Will the other dogs accept her? Or will they pounce on the perceived interloper?

These mis-fit factors can trash an otherwise made-in-heaven adoption placement. But finding a perfect forever home is just one of the challenges of fostering. As I can attest from my 20-plus years of experience, there are plenty more pitfalls besides mismatches.

Fortunately, however, there are more pluses than minuses in the fostering formula. Fostering is among the more worthwhile endeavors an animal lover can undertake, which is why I urge everyone with the desire, space, energy, attitude and means to consider the occasional shift as a foster owner. After all, how better to find a pet the perfect home than to play one-on-one matchmaker?

A Few Words of Advice

Before you begin, here’s a rundown of the issues foster owners can encounter on their adventures:

1. Falling in love. It’s as easy as you might expect. Prepare yourself for learning to love your foster — and to let her go. As someone who’s done it scores of times, I can tell you that it’s never easy. It may smart, but the good news is that a forever placement is a worthy reward for your temporary suffering.

2. The expense. It takes more than love to keep a foster animal. Because all of my foster pets show up as medical “disasters” best suited for a veterinarian to take on, they’re especially expensive. I do, however, have a knack for soliciting donations of special diets from pet food manufacturers, low-cost surgeries from local specialists and high-end meds from drug distributors. Even so, it can be pricey.


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