News Item | PAWS Chicago

First Time Foster

by Alena Nicholson | Sep 08, 2016

By fostering, you allow PAWS to take in and treat more animals.

Deciding to Foster

As I continued to work as a volunteer intern at PAWS Chicago, I came up with a project idea. I had been doing some research about what fostering is like because being surrounded by dogs daily sparked an interest. Then I thought, why not make a project out it?! Why don’t I try out fostering and document the experience?

I thought a lot about my eligibility and if I was going to be capable of doing this.In order to foster, you must be 21 years or older and have reliable transportation so that you pick up your animal, drop off your animal, and be able to transport your animal in case of an emergency during any time of the day.

Beyond those requirements, you will then have to figure out what category you fit in as a foster. If you have never fostered before, but feel comfortable in doing so, you fit into the basic level of fostering. If you are capable of giving medications to sick or injured pets and have had experience with animals, you are considered a core foster. Advanced fosters look after animals who require special skills and time commitments. Some advanced foster duties include bottle-feeding, helping pregnant moms give birth and wean their litters, supporting behavior modification and enrichment, and providing comfortable and loving hospice care. After deciding

I was eligible for the basic and core foster categories, I had to sit down and think about the logistics of fostering a pet. I checked with my apartment buildings regulations to make sure having a dog live with me was allowed, what the fees were and if they could be waived for volunteer/short term purposes, and if my physical living space could accommodate an animal. Another commitment to consider is time. Since I work at PAWS for about 4 hours a day during the weekdays, I knew I’d be able to have time to take care of an animal. PAWS recommends spending at least 2 quality hours with your foster pet each day. If you can provide time and have the appropriate space, you’re a great candidate. PAWS will then provide you with a lot of support during your foster period.

Once I made the personal decision to sign up as a foster, the next step I took was applying. The online application is very easy to fill out and doesn’t take much time. Submitted applications are then reviewed and you’ll receive an email regarding your approval. Then PAWS’ foster department will begin sending you emails regarding animals they believe will best fit with you as a foster parent. You may also email them if you see an animal available for foster that you are interested in. When you and the adoption center have found the right match, they will set up a pickup time and location for your foster animal.

As you pick up your foster animal, you will receive the food and medical supplies your foster pet well need as well as a collar, leash, and crate. They will also educate you on feeding portions and medical care skills that you’ll need during the foster period. Beyond the physical support, you’ll also receive support from PAWS via email and by phone. If you have any questions or comments before, during or after fostering, you can email If you have an emergency with your pet while fostering, PAWS gives you a phone number you can call as well as a backup number in case the first one fails.

In the end, the deciding to foster should be done with much thought and consideration. PAWS Chicago wants you to have to have a wonderful experience, so make sure you’re ready. If you are, know that you’re about to play an important role in PAWS Chicago’s rescue work.

By fostering, you allow PAWS to take in and treat more animals. Unlike the shelter, you give these animals a personable, comfortable, and loving environment so that they can recover and grow alongside you. Best-case scenario? You might not let them go.

A Reflection on Fostering

After two weeks of foster care, I dropped off Elantra for her spay surgery. Two weeks have gone by fast. In other words, 3 and a half rolls of paper towel kind of fast. Pee pads and chew toys made their way on to my shopping lists. I also purchased not one, but two different types of infant containment devices. All foster experiences are unique, and in my case, I learned about how much work it takes to care for a puppy. I say work lightly because this kind of work is so rewarding.

The first day is always the hardest. You’re pet is unsure of it’s new environment, so prepare to spend lots of quality time with your pet to keep them comfortable. My advice to assist in keeping your pet comfortable is to keep a pretty consistent routine since having a few constants in their daily routine can assure them that things are going to be ok.

If I could write a note to myself in the past, I would have advised myself to prepare my home ahead of time to the best of my ability. Before picking up Elantra, I did attempt to be prepared by picking up two dog bowls, and a pack of potty training pads. Though I wish I had better prepared my home. Since I was fostering a puppy, I could have benefited from making sure all of my shoes, cords, and personal items were out of reach before picking her up. Instead I had put her in a cage to pick up such items when I got home, and she was not happy with me putting her away at first. I made a huge effort to play and get to know her better after puppy-proofing my space so that she didn’t feel neglected.

Coming home to Elantra was always my favorite part of the day, even if Iwas only gone for an hour. She’d great me with a million kisses while her tail wagged endlessly. It was her way of saying thank you. We both enjoyed each other’s company. So much so, I’ve made a pretty huge decision.

I’m now joining what is known as the failed fosters club. It’s the highest ranked failure in my book. It’s a failure that saves a life, assures a forever home, and makes room for more at the shelter. Instead of sending Elantra off to surgery, to recover, and then be transported to the adoption center, I’ll be picking her up the day after her surgery and bringing her home. I always knew in my heart that when she’d arrive at the adoption center, she’d be quickly snatched up by a kind loving individual, family, or couple. However, the bond I formed with Elantra was too strong. It was so strong, that by the end of week one I began thinking of names. I found it extremely difficult to call her Elantra when, deep down, I knew that she was never going back to the shelter. So after getting to know her bright and spirited personality, I decided to call her Poppy.