Downeast Dog News

Fostering: Open Your Home to a Pet in Need

By Susan Spisak | Oct 01, 2021
Roofus - Catahoula Rescue of New England

Dog fostering is the backbone of many animal nonprofits, especially rescue organizations who don’t have brick-and-mortar facilities. Fostering is a wonderful way for pet-lovers to instill trust and confidence back into an animal’s life, especially if that’s been lacking. And it’s a terrific to give back to your community and help those who have made rescuing and rehoming animals their mission.

I got on board with the rescue I’m involved in, and it made us feel good when each dog found their perfect family. It gave the misplaced souls a chance to relearn how to play, enjoy being doted on, and begin basic obedience training. (Not all dogs in rescues and shelters are “rough.” We just had a few who needed schooling.)

Truthfully, it wasn’t always easy for all the canines, but the rescue’s fostering team considered our specific family before placements. Overall, each did well and blossomed. The nonprofit provided monthly preventatives, guidance, encouragement, and ongoing calls to check on progress, as most do.

Shannon L. Nachajko, Director of Catahoula Rescue of New England: Houlas & Heelers Inc., said these homes are essential. Besides the fact that they do not have a facility, Catahoula and Australian cattle dogs don’t do well in confined kennels. “They do not present well to adopters in these small spaces, as they are working dogs and really need to be doing a job.”

There’s more to this story. “They start to fail mentally, and in many situations, they shut down. So as a rescue we find the greatest success for these dogs is to have them in foster homes where they learn to be dogs again and we also learn where they will succeed,” explained Nachajko. They educate themselves on the pet’s personality, and work on their pros and cons to set them up for success in their future home. They have four foster homes and need more – the more they have, the more dogs they can help. (For their guidelines and application,

The 501 (c) 3 Fetching Hope Rescue (FHR) also relies on dog-savvy, all-volunteer foster homes who provide socialization, exercise, and to remind the one-time southern pets that that they're a loved family member. They need more homes as many of their fourteen fosters are inactive due to lifestyle changes and other commitments. “Fosters play a crucial role in our rescue. Without foster homes, we would have no rescue,” said FHR’s Rescue Program Director, Alissa Laitres.

It costs nothing to be a foster volunteer, and they provide the supplies needed, as well as incredible support from the Foster Coordinator. “Fostering is a fun and rewarding experience. It's an opportunity to save a dog's life while contributing to the efforts of ending pet homelessness,” she said.

Their dogs are typically in foster homes for one to three weeks. “We never rush an adoption just to place a dog, so the time a dog stays at their foster home is determined by when we find a suitable adopter for that dog,” Laitres emphasized. They carefully examine the needs of the canine and the family before placement to insure a successful match.

FHR also utilizes volunteer transport drivers who meet the incoming professional truck from the south in Shapleigh, ME. These drivers are responsible for safely transporting their rescued dogs to their foster homes. (If you would like to join FHR’s "Foster Pack" in one of these capacities, contact Foster Coordinator Justine at

Rescues aren’t the only animal welfare organizations who lean on loving fosters – various humane societies and shelters count on them. “We use our foster care system to send puppies, seniors, and many other dogs into volunteer homes while they await adoption,” said Jeana Roth, Director of Community Engagement at Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

Midcoast Humane in Brunswick has a Foster Program as well. While the animals are usually cats and kittens, from time to time they use fosters for dogs, puppies, rabbits, and other small animals. They provide all training – and they know it’s a family friendly, enriching experience. Others who will fare better in a foster home are abused dogs who require gentle care and pets recovering from surgery.

The rescue or humane societies pay for all the pet’s needs and ongoing expenses. (In some instances, you’ll be asked to cover food.) So, if you adore animals and have room in your home, talk to staffers at a local rescue or humane society, check out their requirements, fill out an application, and try it on for size.