Foster carer’s stories – it’s a dog’s life and all the better for it! 4

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Foster carer’s stories – it’s a dog’s life and all the better for it! 4

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It had been an exciting week for the family. Bringing home a pet dog had seemed a rather distant idea to start with – nevertheless, it was certainly one we had been committed to. It had to be said that discussing all the different kinds of dogs to be considered had provided quality ‘conversation time’. But since we had had our visit – or ‘home check’ – from Vikki at the local animal charity, what had been just an idea was now a definite reality. 

My name is Mike, a Rainbow foster carer, and in my earlier blogs, I have described how our family has made the decision to add a new ‘member’ to our happy if sometimes frenetic fostering household. 

Vikki had been a great help when she visited earlier in the week. She told us how interesting it was to meet foster carers; a first for her! And from all the things she went on to tell us, it was obvious to my wife Shirley and me that things had moved on quite a lot since we last had a dog. Jake, our foster child was transfixed by her visit and what she had to say. In the beginning, he had thought getting a pet was a simple matter of going to a pet shop, handing over the money and that was it. Things, quite rightly, are very different now. And that’s because of the huge number of animals that very sadly end up abandoned. “That’s awful.” Jake had said when Vikki raised the subject of dogs being abandoned on her visit. She told us that sometimes people had no choice and there were many reasons why a dog might end up in the rescue centre:  “A lot of people can’t continue looking after a dog if they lose their job, others might move house and some dogs come to us because a couple has divorced.” She was at pains to point out that it wasn’t always because a dog was badly behaved. “Last month we had a man bring in a dog that was just too big and needed far more exercise than he was able to give it. He was very sad but there was a happy outcome as that dog is now living on a nearby farm and spends its days running around the fields.” 

Foster responsibility!

Whilst making her checks, Vikki said that everyone who wanted a dog from their center could only do so after being visited. And that was to make sure of their circumstances and that they had thought through what it meant to take on such a commitment. It also meant they could be offered a dog that would be a good match. “It’s especially important that a dog fits into the lifestyles of the people in the household”, Vikki said.

“We don’t live on a farm but we have a park very close by,” Jake said. “That’s good to hear, more than anything a dog needs to have regular exercise – that makes them happy and contented,” Vikki replied.

Vikki was with us for about half an hour. The main things she checked included making sure there would be a comfortable bed for the dog; that there wasn’t another dog already in the house that might become jealous of a new pet; and that the garden fence was secure leaving no opportunity for the dog to get out. “Dogs have no idea that they are coming to a new home to start with so if they can get out to explore they will,” Vikki told us. She was pleased we had already prepared by getting food and water bowls as well as some dog chews. They were important in keeping dogs’ teeth and gums healthy. “They can’t brush their own teeth like I’m sure you do, Jake!”

As a family, we had already decided not to get a puppy. This was because it would need to be house-trained. At first, Jake was disappointed but we told him if we had a young dog he would be able to take it for walks sooner. “You know it’s a sad thing because a lot of people want puppies which means older dogs can wait a long time to find a home.” When I said this to Jake I could see it made an impression. “I’m glad that’s what we’re doing,” he said, “We’ll be giving a home to a dog that maybe nobody else will ever want.”   

Shirley and I also knew that a slightly older dog would be likely to fit in more quickly and rescue centres were under more pressure to rehome older dogs. We told Vikki our ideal dog would be a female, a mongrel about the size of a spaniel. “Excellent choice”, Vikki said. “And, every dog we rehome can only be taken when it has had all its vaccinations – and if it’s a female, it will also have been spayed.” “I know what that means,” Jake piped up “It means our dog won’t be able to have more puppies that might need to be found homes.” “Quite right – that’s all about responsible dog ownership,” said Vikki smiling at Jake. 

“Do you have any dogs that would suit us?” I asked this hoping that we would not have to wait too long – especially as we had made all the preparations. “Actually, I can think of at least four dogs that you might be interested in and I think any one of them would fit in nicely in your fostering family.” “And are they mongrels?” I checked. “Yes, all 57 Heinz varieties.” Jake looked puzzled. Vikki laughed – “That’s our in-house joke Jake, it comes from 57 Varieties and is used to describe dogs of uncertain ancestry. It’s a playful reference to the “57 Varieties” slogan of Heinz beans. Jake was amused and then made what Shirley and myself thought was a great observation: “That means if we have a mongrel, it will be full of beans!” A good choice I thought to myself – I knew that pedigree dogs often had health problems associated with their particular breed. 

Vikki said, “We’ll see you on Saturday then.” Jake whooped with delight as we showed her out. “Looking forward to seeing you again,” Shirley said as Vikki waved from the gate. “It’s going to be a big day.”

Are you thinking of getting a family dog – it’s a big responsibility? There’s plenty of useful information about what is involved – https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/getting-a-dog

All names have been changed to protect privacy.

What makes a foster carer? A question we are frequently asked. And there isn’t a single personality type – but people who make successful foster carers share some important qualities: a strong sense of compassion, patience; optimism, and the ability to work within a team as well as keep accurate records. It’s also necessary to be resilient and pragmatic. Fostering, we always remind applicants, brings many joys and rewards – but there are challenges along the way. 

Around sixty-five percent of children who come into foster care have been traumatized by their experiences. This means they may require therapeutic foster care. This is a more specialized form of fostering. Rainbow provides support and high-quality training to enable our foster carers to provide this.

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, please give us a call on 0330 311 2845, send us an email, or arrange a call-back on our website.

Finally, you will need to have a spare room to be eligible to foster. 

Who can foster? Rainbow celebrates diversity and equality, we welcome applicants from all kinds of backgrounds: single people. couples (married or living together), same-sex couples, and families with or without children of their own. And whatever your ethnicity, religion, or cultural background you will be a valued member of our fostering family. http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/ Our website’s news page focuses on issues that impact fostering generally. Keep updated by visiting this page. At Rainbow, we believe knowledge empowers creating confidence. And confident foster carers find the challenges of fostering easier to overcome. The news is at – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/news/ And why not read another of our recent Rainbow blogs? http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-carers-christine-and-mary-reflect-on-their-experiences/

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