Consider Fostering an Animal During this Time
Note: taking care of an animal is not for everyone. Make sure you are ready to take on the responsibility to a pet before fostering or adopting one. This article is inspired by shelters I have talked to that need help during this time.
A few weeks before planes started flying with just a few passengers, and before I started waking up in the mornings wondering if my parents were okay, my boyfriend and I adopted a puppy.
We hadn’t planned on getting a puppy, because they are a lot of work. They are:
- Active. As puppies, they wake up in the morning at 1:30 a.m. and again at 6:00 a.m. because even though they haven’t had any more water, they still need to pee and want your company. Over the next few months you’ll find you can’t relax in the house for more than an hour or two without having to take them out.
- Mischievous. You’ll never able to relax in a room if you can’t see them, because omg they’re definitely eating something they shouldn’t.
- Expensive. Dogs are expensive. You can’t go to a store without thinking how much they’ll love this fiftieth toy you’re getting from them, and if you’re like me you’ll go through a period of time where you try to cook your own dog food.
- Intrusive. My puppy has tried to sit on my laptop twice while I’ve written this. Say goodbye to the level of intimacy you had with your partner, if you had a partner before getting a dog. They want to be in your bed. They hate closed doors. They disrupt you when you’re eating Thai food and watching your favorite show. Those little luxuries are gone.
- Dirty. My dog picked up a dead mouse and swallowed it before I could snatch it out of her mouth with a plastic bag. In two seconds she’d devoured a dead animal. When she plays with her friend, they get so covered in the red clay of Oklahoma that our bathtub stays tinted in burnt sienna for days. When she was little, she pooped in the house a few times.
The blissful smiles my boyfriend and I had in the above photo are naive of what was to come with our puppy, who we named Suttie. But at the same time, we were unaware of just how much she’d help us.
I suffer from severe anxiety that is at times debilitating. With Suttie by my side it’s become more manageable — not perfect, but better. There is a tiny, adorable creature who relies on me, who gives me kisses even when I don’t want them, and who will fall asleep on my chest in dim mornings before my boyfriend wakes up.
She gets us out of the house, too — not to the store, but to walk around our place. When I lived on my own in Koreatown, Los Angeles, there were days where if I didn’t have anywhere to go, I wouldn’t leave my studio apartment until sundown. You don’t have a choice with a dog. You are required by puppy law to take your dog outside. It’s such a small thing, but it’s a game changer in times like these. It keeps us somewhat active and helps us see the sun from time to time.
You might be able to see some clear reasons for the basis of this article. Self-isolating and, like many of us are doing, staying in our homes with our loved ones, can feel very lonely. Despite warm spring weather, this is giving many people the feeling of seasonal depression. The U.S. has a 32% unemployment rate. Lives are falling apart. We’re scared.
Through all of this, my puppy keeps me sane. She doesn’t know what’s going on in the world, and for her this is just more time with Mom & Dad. Looking into her eyes almost tells me that we can get through this, and that one day things will return to normal.
But if not for yourself, fostering a dog or any pet is incredibly helpful during this time. Because of social distancing, shelters no longer have volunteers to help them take care of their animals. Many, including the shelter we adopted Suttie from, are talking about temporary closure. They can’t take in any more animals, for one, but they’re also having a hard time with the animals they do have.
One of the biggest things our shelter recommended when we asked how to help during COVID-19 is to find foster families for their pets. Many shelters agree that expanding their foster network is vital in this time. Without imagining the worst, I don’t know what will happen if a shelter has to shut down and pets are inside. The people who care most, those who run the shelter, are likely taking more animals into their homes than anyone can imagine.
Not only that, but we are likely going to see pets being relinquished at higher rates in families where members are too sick to care for their pets. The CDC has issued several advisories that there is no evidence companion animals can spread the virus, so that is not a concern. But already-understaffed animal shelters can’t handle this intake. The first step in the Humane Society’s tool kit for shelters is making sure they have a proper foster network in place.
If you can’t foster, and want to help the pets, consider donating to your local shelter.
I’m not going to sugar-coat things. It has not been easy or cheap to take on a pet. If you don’t think you can handle it, do not do it. If you don’t think you can afford it, but would like to take on the responsibility of an animal, talk to your shelter about what they do for foster families. Some will give you everything you need (food, toys, a bed, etc.) and can make the foster experience incredibly affordable.
What I mean to say is, if you’ve been thinking about fostering or adopting a pet for some time, and feel as though you are ready, you might save a life. I know a lot of us are trying to think of ways to help our community, and with all the love a pet brings to a home it might be the best time to foster.
We don’t know how long this is going to last, and if you only feel comfortable fostering for a few weeks or even just a weekend, talk to your shelter about if that is possible. If you know someone who’s interested in fostering, connect them to your local shelter.
The biggest objection I’ve heard about getting a dog is not having a house with a yard for the dog to run in. If you feel like you’re ready but have an apartment, know that your dog does not care. Suttie is mainly Labrador retriever, and while she loves running around outside, she’s endlessly happy in our one bedroom apartment. As long as she has a place to nap, she is content.
And of course, a cat will be happy no matter what size your space is. While cats might not encourage you to leave the house, they will still provide cuddles and entertainment when needed.
So if it feels right, please consider fostering an animal. You just might find your new best friend.