Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Being A Foster Parent Isn't Easy, But It's Worth Every Second

The first time we fostered was back in 2014. One kitten. She was from a feral litter. She had resided at the pound for a while, however, fostering was necessary to get her acclimated to home life, human touch and everything between. We named her Emmy. For almost a week, we spent lots of time with her. The first day she hid from us. Within a couple of days, while laying on my tummy, Emmy would sit on the upper part of my back and play with my hair. It didn't take long for her to warm up to human touch. She loved it.

We brought her back to the pound. She had been adopted. When I put her in the kitty crate, my eyes welled up with tears. Even though Emmy had been with us for a short period of time, I had bonded with her. It's natural. When you're a part of their journey from rescue to adoption, there's always a level of bonding.

Emmy was adopted by wonderful humans. 

Since then, we've fostered occasionally for a couple of our local animal shelters. Last spring we fostered 4 kittens who were about 3 weeks old. I work at home and sleep only a few hours a day. Fostering kittens requiring bottle feeding isn't a problem. We set up a large gated area in the home office. Feeding times were every few hours. At least once a day we had to bathe them because they had pooped in their bed. It was kitten mania here. We loved every minute of it.

After a week or so, the kittens were introduced to soft food. Once they were able to eat on their own, poop in the litter box and drink water, they were ready to go back to the shelter so people could visit them and, after they reached 8 weeks old, could adopt.

Fostering has been such a unique and rewarding experience. To be a part of their journey from rescue to adoption is an honor. It's an integral part of these little nuggets of love getting adopted. A lot of times, they're not used to human touch. To witness the progress each day is remarkable. On the first day, they scatter and hide when we walk into the room. By day three, we walk into the room and they're climbing up our legs for attention. That's great stuff.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it, fostering tugs at the heartstrings. You form a tight bond. They become part of your daily routine. I remember working on the overnights in the office, I'd peek over my monitor and watch the kittens nestled together in their bed sleeping. They'd wake up at the same time ready to be fed. When they were getting used to using the litter box, they'd all poop at the same time. The smell! And, of course, they all thought the litter box was a playground. There were many nights of 2 a.m. warm baths to wash the poop off their fur.

Sometimes I'd grab my Chromebook and work while laying on the floor on my tummy. The kittens would crawl all over me. Curious. Playing with my hair. Swatting at my fingers as I typed columns.

Eventually, that day comes when they're transported back to the pound. Their journey continues. They're ready to visit with potential adopters. Our hand in their journey has ended. It's never easy, but it's always worth it. Every second of it.

I encourage people to become foster parents if they're able to. I know it's difficult for some because of the whole bonding issue. I get that. I do. It's not for everyone. I used to feel that way too and that's why I was hesitant at first. However, once you start opening your home to fostering, you learn that it's a natural part of the process. Whether you've fostered 50 animals or 2, having to part with them tugs on the heartstrings. Your cheeks will have tear stains. No one is immune to this.

But, I do guarantee, it's worth it. 

Foster parents are much needed for local rescue groups and local shelters. Reach out. Learn. Volunteer.

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