New Foster Expectations
Fostering is all about helping our animals get through the bumpy "in between" phases- not quite ready for adoption, they have a couple steps before they're ready for happily ever after.
Your job is to navigate this tricky space and help them put their best paw forward towards their forever home.
If you've never fostered before, or even if you're a seasoned pro, this guide can help you know what to expect when you're expecting (a new pet friend).
Before and after
Everyone loves a good before and after story. The tricky thing about fostering is that you're expected to be the one to connect the dots between the "before" and the "after", and the way to do that isn't always clear.
Before: The animals that come through our rescue come for a number of sources, some happier than others. Underdogs come from one of 3 places: an owner surrender (someone choosing to give their pet up), a transfer from a shelter, or from a stray background.
All 3 of these paths are extremely stressful and scary, and we don't always know their past histories. Our job is to give them time and space to relax, decompress, then address their needs.
Mellow is now a happy go lucky girl who makes friends easily, loves wearing jammies, and is feeling SO much better. All because of one amazing foster!
Mellow came to us fearful, malnourished, and with rampant skin infections. Her path forward will take months of concerted care. Luckily, her foster mom is a pro and is eager to take on this challenge!
After: A happy, better adjusted pet, spayed/neutered, recent medical care, ready for adoption. While we hope that they come and go quickly and without complication, sometimes they need to stick around a bit more while we figure out what that needs. That includes, but isn't limited to:
-letting them get the stress out of their system
-getting them medical care
-getting spayed or neutered
-learning what upsets them, what they like
-finding what food they'll eat
-figuring out what kind of home they'd like
-finding the right adopter
-making sure that it's a perfect fit.
Not all fosters will be as complicated as Mellow's case. but she's a perfect example of the best kind of before and after:
A deserving, sweet dog in need of our help, given the time, space, medical care, and behavioral assistance to live her best life. Everyone loves a good before and after- hell, there's an entire facebook video genre dedicated to shelter animal befores and after. But foster is the how and the why. With your help, effort, and time, we can get to the after.
Our expectations of you
We can't express enough how grateful we are that you are volunteering your home, time, and energy to an Underdog.
To ensure the best chance of success, here's what we need from you:
Regular communication: You are our eyes and ears on the animals in your care. While we'll do our best to check in regularly, sometimes we assume no news is good news. It's up to you to let us know if your foster kitty isn't feeling good, or if you're noticing your foster dog getting more nervous around new people.
Attentiveness: As mentioned, we're counting on you to let us know how your foster is doing. That means you need to know how they're doing! Please make sure you have the time to attend to their needs. Try to notice the little things: how's their appetite? Are they clearing their plate, or just barely nibbling? Are they hiding more? Or are they starting to blossom and get more courageous? Are they itchy? Is their stool a bit loose? It's the little details that help us build a bigger picture of health.
Care: While we understand everyone has their limits, we hope that if a medical need arises for your foster, you'll help us take care of them. This could mean administering medication, collecting a fecal sample for testing, helping them get used to things that scare them, and more. We'll always help you if you don't know how to do something, and we always try to have backup fosters if you're no longer able to care for them. But we're hoping that since your foster has already acclimated to your home, we can avoid destabilizing them again; we always appreciate you taking on their medical and behavior needs too. In sickness and in health!
Compliance: As the animals are technically in the ownership of Underdog, all medical and care decisions must be made by an Underdog team member. We ask that you follow the instructions given to you, and trust that we are making decisions in the best interest of the pet as informed by medical and rescue professionals. Please follow all medical, behavioral, and care decisions as directed, and ask questions if you don't understand the directives.
Availability: When the time comes for them to get adopted (yay!) your foster pet will need you to be their ambassador. No one knows them better than you, so we hope you'll be open and available to help us discuss their needs with a potential adopter.
Your expectations of us
It's only fair that if we expect things of you, you can expect things from us!
Regular communication: We will always work to make sure we're keeping tabs on you. We want you to feel engaged, supported, and like we're here for you. You're doing us the favor! So we need to make sure you have what you need to keep doing your good work.
Attentiveness: We always try to respond in a timely manner to concerns, supply requests, and more. We are all volunteers with full time day jobs, so just know that we're working on it! But we always care about your experience, your feelings, and your foster animals.
Care: We work hard to ensure that if you bring a concern to our attention that it is being addressed in a timely manner. This includes arranging vet care, transportation, supply drop offs, medications, behavioral guidance and more. All you need to do is ask!
Availability: We're here to support you and your foster. You can always let us know if you need us.
In more concrete terms, we will provide guidance, direction, and supplies. Whenever possible, we ask you to provide things that get used up (ie: cat litter, food, etc) as you'll be more likely to notice when you need these items and can get them faster than we can get them to you. You'll also be more likely to know what brands they like and how much you'll need. If you have pets already, feel However, we never want cost to be a prohibitive factor to fostering, so if you need us to supply these items, just let us know!
Medical care and decisions will always be made by our team in conjunction with our partner vets and spay/neuter teams. We will provide for all their medical expenses and medications. If in case of an emergency you end up paying out of pocket, we will be sure to reimburse you for the expense.
Great! Now that you have a big picture understanding of what we're asking of you, here's a more delineated timeline of what to expect when an animal enters your care. We'll use an Underdog Alum, Monty, as an example.
First, Underdog will hear of an animal in need, whether it's someone requesting to surrender their pet, a shelter that's got too many animals, or someone who found a pet with no owner. As soon as we get wind that there's an animal in need, we put out feelers to see what our foster availability looks like.
Monty was in an overcrowded shelter, and was not doing well. So once we knew we had an available foster, we were able to pull him from that stressful environment and put him in a loving home!
Monty's foster let us know in advance that he was available, so we were able to plan a transfer. If we get an owner surrender request, then we have to look and find a good match. We always try to make sure there's a backup foster lined up too, in case something falls through. Once we know that we have a foster lined up, we arrange to bring the animal into our care.
Once the animal is in our care, we do a basic assessment to establish their needs, basic condition, and make a plan for next steps. We will then schedule the foster pick up to coincide with the end of that intake appointment, and will relay any relevant info if we find anything.
At the intake appointment, we give them a basic deworming treatment regimen. This is harmless if they don't have parasites, but lifesaving if they do. They will often need a second dose of these treatments, which we will send home with you. Please make sure they get these and let us know when you have given them.
Bumps in the road
Unfortunately, it's during this waiting time that problems can start to pop up. Monty started to get sick and his appetite dropped off. He was dehydrated and not healthy enough for surgery. We canceled his surgery appointment, and his foster dad started giving him medication, reporting on his health regularly, helping coordinate vet trips, and checking his weight gain. A sick animal can be a lot of work, and unfortunately, is very common in rescuing. These animals are stressed, exposed to lots of other animals, and are tired. It's common to hit these detours on the path forward.
But thanks to his amazing foster dad, Monty recovered swiftly and was able to get one step closer to being adopted!
Bringing them home
Now, you get to bring your foster home! Follow our instructions to help them get settled and start developing that trust. At this point, the name of the game is just decompression; letting them relax, learn they're safe, and let them begin to trust you. Monty went from a stressy, hissy kitten to a goofy snugglebug!
The waiting game
At this point, the Underdog team is working behind the scenes to get them whatever they need to become available for adoption. Usually this is spay/neuter appointments, which are hard to come by right now during this pandemic. This usually means you get to just sit tight with your foster, and keep us posted as you learn more about them.
Before we were able to get Monty neutered, he fell very ill. His foster perfectly reported his symptoms, followed Monty's treatment plan, and supported him every step of the way.
Surgery and recovery
Once we're able to get them into surgery, things move quickly! When they're all healed up from their spay or neuter, we'll post them for adoption, using the information we've learned from you to help them find the best fit.
When they're listed for adoption, we begin screening applicants, looking for people with the best qualities that fit the needs of your foster. Underdog adoptions are not first come-first served, meaning we will deny an applicant if someone is a better fit. We look at things like experience, other pets in the home, if they have any kids, etc. to make sure that we're picking a home that will ensure the best chances of success. We're not snobby or elitist and work hard to check our biases at the door- but we always want to make sure that we're picking someone who will love this pet for a lifetime, and who has a home in which this animal will thrive.
Once we've found a candidate that could be good fit, we'll put them in contact with you, often for a Zoom call to "meet" the pet first, or an in-home visit when appropriate. If all parties are on board, we finalize the adoption, give resources and counseling, and send them on their way!
Monty is all grown up- and he's now the spoiled big brother of another Underdog alum, Camellia!