adopters, Destruction, dog rescue, foster cats, foster dogs, fostering

Fostering Animals Is…

It’s all coming back to me now.

Fostering is unpredictable, rewarding, frustrating, entertaining, and so worth it, but nearly always stresses my marriage.

It’s been nearly two years since we were fostering regularly, and somehow, like the rosy memory of childbirth, I’d forgotten.

As we jump back into this passion of ours mine, I was reminded of how unpredictable fostering is….

The yes-I-can-foster-five-cats-at-a-time plan was going so smoothly (more or less, if you don’t count the destruction of two sets of blinds, the AC unit sides, and the carpet we had hoped not to have to replace).

We’d had ‘the ladies’ for about a month and right when I’d begun to stress the fact that they were still here and we needed to renovate the porch that the cats were living on to prepare for our move (we saved it for last), they were scheduled for a transport north—all five! What complete good karma.

See? Fostering cats isn’t so bad, Nicholas! They’re leaving, ALL of them!

And then about six hours after they left on a transport, I got the news that Shadow was returned for reasons mentioned in my previous post.

So we pivoted, moving Bonnie and Abby out of their bedroom in the foster cottage, and setting them up in my future office. Next, we dug the litter box and supplies back out (I’d already cleaned and packed them!) and secured the bedroom so Shadow couldn’t possibly escape. (She hasn’t. In fact, she seems to like living without roommates).

Problem solved.

(For now. Cottage renovation is coming up right after the porch rehab and a bathroom reconstruction.)

On Saturday, it was a delight to be reminded of how rewarding it is to foster. Bonnie went home with an adorable rescue-oriented family who are already in love with her. They’ve taken her to puppy classes and report that she learns quickly and is very smart. I’ve also heard that she enjoys carrying around (NOT hurting or eating) their chickens. And this sweet pup who had been roaming around Saving Webster Dogs property loose for the last few months, has been renamed, Duchess (her foster fur-brother is Duke) and no doubt will now live the royal life she deserves.

Fostering, however, is nothing if not occasionally frustrating. In the absence of Bonnie, Abby who had done so beautifully in her crate for three weeks, suddenly changed her mind.

She broke out of one of my older crates by wiggling the door until the lower latch undid itself and then squeezed out the bottom, joyfully barging out of the unlatched screen door of the cottage to join me outside. I was surprised, but actually somewhat impressed. I took her back inside and moved her to my brand new crate I’d gotten to house Bonnie, who was now gone. It had two entrances, both of which had latches with hooks that prevent a dog from doing exactly what Abby had done (which none of my previous 200 foster dogs had done!).

Problem solved.


The next time I went out to check on Abby, she was happily enjoying free roam of the cottage (I’d closed and latched the door even though I was certain there would be no more escapes.) My brand new crate was effectively destroyed. When the latch hadn’t jiggled loose, Abby had pried the flimsy wires apart (they don’t make crates like they used to), until she could get her mouth on the latch (smarty that she is) and pried it mostly off, or enough to push the bottom of the door out and squeeze herself through.

I yelled at the sight of the wreckage, while Abby cowered in confusion. What? Aren’t you happy to see me? Aren’t I so clever?

As I dragged the ruined crate out of the cottage, Abby retreated to Bonnie’s bed. She lay there, averting her eyes and shaking at the sound of my angry tone. But as soon as I returned without the crate, she greeted me with her trademark nonstop kisses.

The ruined crate is headed for the dump, and I have just ordered an indestructible, unescapable superstrong crate. It weighs a ton and costs a fortune, but over 1000 reviews say a dog can’t get out of it.

We shall see. It’s supposed to arrive on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Abby is helping me loose-dog proof the cottage. She’s opened crates, snuffled through bags, and eaten pretty much everything edible. She’s proven to have quite a sturdy constitution–no ill effects after eating half a bag of cat food (for cats with urinary issues), an entire jar of treats, and multiple plastic containers of one-serving wet cat food.

At some point last night she somehow turned on the hot water faucet in her search efforts (probably sniffing the grunge in the sink strainer). The water was still running when I went out this morning – good that we are no longer on public water). She has been sleeping on Bonnie’s bed, which she dragged across the floor to the door to her old bedroom/Shadow’s room and sleeps there. She loves Shadow, but Shadow does not love her.

Fostering is entertaining, that’s for sure. I wonder every time I approach the cottage door, just what Abby has gotten into this time. On Wednesday, I couldn’t open the door, something was blocking it. I thought, “Oh my lord, what has she done now,” and squeezed my way in to discover that the door was blocked by sheet of drywall that had fallen out of the ceiling.

I’ve mentioned that we plan to renovate this cottage, right? Not only is it smelly and filthy, it was badly renovated by the previous owners who didn’t bother to attach the ceiling drywall with screws, but instead set the drywall on boards to ‘frame’ it in and hold it in place. Over the years, and likely accelerated by all the rain we’ve had this summer, the boards have slowly drooped and one finally gave way.

I’m sure it was pretty startling to have the ceiling fall in. Poor Abby. Although she didn’t seem worse for wear and the drywall did block the cabinets and half the cottage, so she didn’t get into anything that night. I like to imagine she was wiggling a drawer open or chewing at the fridge door when the drywall came crashing down and she learned a lesson.

Because I’ve fostered so many, despite this week of adventures, I know that fostering is always worth it. Someday Abby will find her person. She is such a smart, loving, forgiving, and funny girl; she will make the absolute best friend for some lucky soul. And while I don’t know as much about cat adopters (or rescues), I do know that Shadow is a charming girl who swirls around my legs purring whenever I visit and will forgo breakfast if I just sit with her a little longer and rub under her ears. She too will eventually find a home.

As for my marriage? I haven’t told Nick that there’s a chance I might have to drive a transport of Husky’s next week if we find rescue for them, or admitted the price of the mega-crate (it came out of my writing money anyway). But I have a feeling that if I did, he’d just shake his head and sigh, before offering to ride shotgun on the transport and asking how much Abby gets to eat so he can take care of her in my absence, before heading off to assemble the new crate.

I’m a lucky woman.

I do know that.

(Abby and Shadow are both available for adoption through the Humane Society of Shenandoah County. Click here to learn more.)

Until Each One Has a Home,


For information on me, my writing, and books, visit

If you’d like regular updates of all our foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips, and occasional foster cat updates (!) be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit and subscribe to our blog where we share stories of our travels to shelters, rescues, and dog pounds. Our online auction is live September 6-16 and is our biggest fundraiser of the year – please take a moment to check it out. CLICK HERE FOR AUCTION.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. Or its follow up that takes you to the shelters in the south One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at

5 thoughts on “Fostering Animals Is…”

  1. I think Abby misses Bonnie. I crated trained most of my dogs, but Bear wasn’t having it. “Are you out of your MIND, Martha?” she asked the first night. “I’m supposed to roam freely and protect you, Dusty and Mindy from cougars, bears, wolves and coyotes! How am I supposed to do that in THAT?” Teddy would probably love it (“one more cool trick for me to do!”) but I don’t have any crates any more. 🐾


  2. Hi Cara, thank you so much for all you do. When I first started thinking about fostering, I was convinced I couldn’t do it. After all, my husband and I work full time out of the house, we have two kids and two dogs…it felt like it would possibly be too much.

    I really wanted to do it anyway and wondered if I could find proof that someone out there had a bunch of other obligations too but made it work, and then I found your blog. I read every single post and teared up many times.

    Our first foster was adopted last week by a lovely family after three weeks with us. Sometimes it WAS too much when she was here (she hurt her paw and needed a vet appointment, she had a diarrhea accident one of the first few days, she locked the kids outside and chewed up a fake plant) but it was also wonderful, fun, educational…seeing the first photo of her sleeping in the 8 year old’s bed with him hugging her made me cry and miss her but it also made me so happy that I was part of the process that helped her get there.

    Anyway thank you so much for all you’ve done for these animals, and for sharing your experiences so that others see that fostering with a busy life can be attainable.


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