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Becoming a Foster Home

By: Gary Wynn Kelly

The Arctic Dog Rescue and Training Center, ADRTC, can not exist without foster homes. Currently, there are too few foster homes, as we only have one primary facility., Optimally, it is better if we only have 3 dogs being fostered in our home. This is a small number, and certainly not likely to be enough for the entire ABQ area.

Additional foster homes are highly desirable as new members helping in the fostering process make it possible for existing homes to “take a break”, and tend to other necessities of life. Our numerous volunteers also contribute to the easing of responsibility on foster home members, and volunteers are highly valued for this support. If you can volunteer even a few hours a month, your efforts are appreciated at ADRTC.

Since ADRTC is a small organization, just beginning its first year of existence, the process for becoming a foster home is relatively uncomplicated. We naturally prefer families who have a stable living situation and a fenced yard. Because we do handle a wide variety of northern dogs, we can selectively assign dogs to accommodate a range of housing/neighborhood situations.

Previous experience with northern dogs is highly desirable, but not essential if a love of dogs motivates the home to learn the breed habits and behaviors of the northern breeds. A desire to learn is as important as the desire to have dogs around all the time. A prospective member(s) should be prepared to always be learning and expanding their knowledge along with their experience.

Generally, the process of becoming a foster home comes about with the interested family calling ADRTC and expressing an interest. A telephone interview helps to establish an understanding of expectations on the part of the family, and ADRTC. While ADRTC is new to New Mexico and Albuquerque, we, the founders, have more than 10 years of experience with more than 400 dogs that we have personally rescued, fostered in our home, and trained before placing them in good homes.

We plan for a current foster home member to visit the new prospective foster home to survey the home and yard, and make any notes or recommendations which might prove helpful, or even essential in fostering a northern breed dog. At this visit, the visiting member can determine the needs and requirements that the foster home may have for equipment, training, or support. We believe in assisting each volunteer in learning as much as they can about these wonderful dogs.

The visiting member of ADRTC makes recommendations back to our Fostering Committee, which currently consists of 3 people. These recommendations help us to plan as to how to meet the needs of the prospective foster home. Provided we can meet all needs, and we feel that the foster home is equal to the challenges imposed in fostering northern breed dogs, we discuss participation with the family members of the new home, and determine the type of dogs that will best help them to begin the fostering experience.

At ADRTC, we consider it vital that all new foster homes receive *extensive* mentoring and training. We never leave the fostering of a dog to chance. Foster home members must be willing to communicate frequently and openly about all aspects of the fostering process. The fostering of a northern breed dog in ADRTC is not for the self-contained individualist, as it is a team effort with an emphasis on shared interdependence at all stages of the process.

At ADRTC, we believe the strength of the organization, and the success of the fostering experience requires sharing our strengths whenever, and wherever possible. This philosophy has in the past, enabled us to recruit numerous volunteers who assist the fostering process through their efforts, though they themselves do not foster dogs in their homes. This integration of abilities and talents requires an ability on the part of all members to function in a climate of mutual respect, open communication, and a sense of excellence in what we do together–the rescuing, fostering, training, and successful adoption of dogs to qualified families.

Since the organization of ADRTC depends on shared values rather than set regulations and rules, we mutually agree on the participation of members, and we are all used to working with considerable flexibility. New members who wish to foster will have the opportunity to have “easy” fosters while they learn more about what they themselves can and cannot contribute, and while they expand their knowledge of the northern breeds by having a variety of four pawed instructors marching through their homes. Instructors will vary from the older strong silent type, to young and brash firebrands who think they know everything about life, and who have enthusiasm far in excess of their judgment or socialization.

All foster homes start with only one dog at a time, and only take on an additional dog when they volunteer to do so, which may be never. Some foster homes will already have their own dogs, and find that they can only take in a limited number or type of dog and keep harmony in their home and neighborhood.

While a dog is being fostered, a foster home has the responsibility of increasing the dog’s assets. This may meaning additional training for the dog, improving the health status, or the emotional status of a dog. At ADRTC, dogs will not be simply “kept” until they are placed. Our ability to know the dog thoroughly, and enhance the value of each dog is what establishes ADRTC as a viable rescue organization.

All foster homes are expected to contribute to “marketing” of the dogs they foster, and act as the primary avenue of placement and follow up for the dogs placed by them. This requires a willingness and an ability to work well with many kinds of people with diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. All foster homes and volunteers must adhere to the ADRTC mission statement: To rescue, foster, train and successfully adopt out northern breed dogs to qualified families in a climate of mutual respect, open communication, and a sense of excellence.