The prerequisites

May your walls know joy; may every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.

Maryanne Radmacher Hershey

Before a potential foster for the Humane Society of Huron Valley can be eligible to actually bring a shelter animal home, there are a few hurdles to clear. 

First, the foster orientation, where I was asked about why I was interested in fostering (among other reasons, for me it was a way to help out animals that was not limited to my daughter’s preschool hours) and told not to expect perfect, well-adjusted animals to need foster (those animals are ready for adoption right away!). 

Next, after the training, potential foster families with resident pets needed to obtain veterinary records demonstrating that their pets were sterilized and up to date on vaccinations.  We had Razor, a bearded dragon who was exempt from needing these clearances, and Livie, a two year old Lab mix.  I went to our vet and requested the records and told her for what purpose. 

“Don’t do it,” our veterinarian said with 100% certainty.  She told me that animals that pass through a shelter are almost always sick with something.  She warned me that if I brought home a foster dog, we would need to change clothes after interacting with him/her and make sure that the dog eliminated in the same spot each time, a spot far from where Livie visited.  She provided several cautionary tales about colleagues that had hosted foster dogs.  She kindly informed me about other ways that I could help with animals.  I took the records, my enthusiasm only slightly dampened.

The third, and final, obstacle between me and the first foster request email I would receive was the home visit.  THE HOME VISIT.  A volunteer would come to my home and determine if we had the appropriate space and set up to receive fosters.  The impending visit made me wonder what the perfect set up looked like and if we fit the bill.  I cleaned excessively, froze peanut butter (xylitol free of course!) in a Kong to (probably!) keep Livie on her best behavior during the visit, and hoped for the best.

When John arrived, Livie greeted him enthusiastically but didn’t maul him with jumps and kisses, so we were off to a good start.  We sat at the table and chatted, John telling me about the variety of spaces he had visited, from studio apartments to mansions, which were all a good fit for foster animals.  He told me about an older gentlemen who had various rooms in his home dedicated to fostering different ages of kittens.  The man had a room for bottle babies (those kittens too young to eat solid food), kittens just weaning and beginning to eat on their own, and kittens with medical needs.  Wow!  I was just hoping to bring home and offer love and shelter to one animal!

I showed John the master bathroom, the space where I intended to keep any foster cats or kittens.  It has a couple windows, stays warm, and is easily cleaned.  Then I showed him the dining room, which I thought could be used to separate new foster dogs from Livie as they got adjusted.  He said that we were well set up and approved, but I insisted on showing him the basement (because we had cleaned it!) as an alternative place for dogs. 

As John left he said he had me pegged as a foster failure by foster number three.  I chuckled, but was eager to prove him wrong.  I wasn’t interested in another pet, only in helping the vulnerable population of shelter animals.  The home visit was probably more about checking to make sure we weren’t a family who hoarded animals or lived in squalor, so I don’t know why I was so anxious awaiting it or so relieved when it was over.  I think I knew then that we were teetering on the brink of something that would become important to me and we could now, finally, get started. 

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