One of the most rewarding things you can do is foster a dog. Fostering is a great way to help evaluate, socialize, and train a German Shepherd Dog to go to his/her's "furever" home. You have the reward of knowing you helped save a dog, and the dog is rewarded by being a good canine citizen. Don't let the idea that "Oh, I'll become too attached to give it up" stop you! It may be difficult, but there's the next dog that needs your help.
There are, unfortunately, always dogs that need rescuing; the majority of which come through county animal shelters. The people at the shelters work very hard to get dogs adopted out, but all the shelters are operating at full capacity and with very limited resources. As a result, older dogs, "high risk" dogs, and dogs with medical issues are on the "short list". Puppies and young dogs have a much better chance of finding a home than those on the short list. "Short list" is a euphemism for kill. There are some county shelters that are no-kill facilities, but these are fairly few and far between.
Animals are turned in for a variety of reasons: Some are by owners who legitimately can no longer take reasonable care of the dog and have no other alternative. Many are dumped by uncaring individuals who don't believe that pets are family members, and the pet has become inconvenient. Some are because of owners who don't have the finances to care for the animal. Yet other dogs arrive because they're found running loose and either the owner can't be located (no tags, no microchip) or the owner doesn't want them. It's an unhappy story that's occurring in every county in every state.
Most shelters have a list of people or groups they call for specific breeds. For example, when a German Shepherd Dog arrives in a shelter in DeKalb, Cobb, Hall, Gwinnett, and several others counties, Canine Pet Rescue is the first group they call. They call first because CPR *knows* Germans Shepherds.
Like the shelters, CPR has to be selective about the dogs we take in. We'd love to take them all, but we only have so much kennel space, and a limited budget. As much as we can, we take in the older dogs, dogs with medical issues, or special case dogs, because we believe that you don't have to have a puppy to establish a long, loving and lasting relationship between dog and human. Some of our best results were from the most unlikely of dogs (we'll be adding some of our success stories soon).
THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. While we have limited kennel space, every dog we can foster is a dog we can save. Fostering means taking a dog into your care and your home, making the dog a part of your family (while still understanding they won't be a permanent member), and help him or her over any rough spots (training or trust issues, for example), and then, when the time comes that someone who will be their "furever" home comes along, letting go with the knowledge and reward of having saved that dog and making them a loved companion.
Many people are initially hesitant to become a foster family. They fear they'll become too attached to the dog and be unable or unwilling to let go when the time comes. While this does happen, it's best to think of the dog going to its new home as an opportunity to save another dog, and begin the process anew!
Fostering has a number of rewards and advantages: First and foremost, you're helping save a dog that was most likely on the "short list". You have the unconditional love of an animal that knows you're on its side in life (some people don't believe this, but CPR *knows* that dogs know. We don't know how they know, but we know they do).
Perhaps you're trying to find that perfect dog, the one you just somehow know was meant to be with you. Whether you find that dog on the first one you foster or the tenth, you'll have gained experience with the breed, and perhaps discover that you actually wanted a senior female instead of a young male.
Fostering also helps the dog -- while the dogs at the farm have interaction with volunteers and visitors, they rarely get to take a ride to Petsmart or Home Depot (yes, many Home Depots allow dogs), go hiking, or get off the farm. When you make the dog a part of your activities, you're helping him or her become a better canine citizen, and greatly increase their adoptability.
If you're concerned that a dog you take in for fostering isn't going to work out with other pets, children, etc, CPR will *always* take the dog back. Since we use the same qualifications for fostering as we do adoption, we strive to make sure that it's a good fit from the beginning. Should it not work out, there's no blame or ill feelings. Any person who has spent time around animals appreciates that not all combinations work.
Expenses for fostering are largely covered by CPR. All medical costs, along with heartworm and flea & tick medications, are covered. All dogs are already spayed or neutered when they go to foster families (there are special case exceptions, but CPR requires all adopted animals to be altered). Usually the single expense the foster family covers is food, and CPR has provisions to cover even that. Also, thanks to a June, 2011 ruling by a U.S. Tax Court judge, fostering costs are tax deductible! (article)
For all that we'd like you to become a foster family, and for all the rewards fostering provides, it's not always all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes a dog we take in has unknown issues, such as a penchant for chewing up shoes, or perhaps is the next Houdini, or barks incessantly at birds in the yard. There are no guarantees your guest will be a model citizen at all times. If you're willing to work through issues (and this is an aspect many fosterers find rewarding), CPR will always be there for you. Should it just not work out, the dog will come back to the farm, and hopefully, you're willing to try again.
Remember, YOU can be a dog's champion! Saving them from a shelter, helping them to become someone's best friend and protector, discovering a hero dog... The possibilities and rewards are virtually endless.
"We do it for the dogs." -- Carla Brown