By Janet McAfee

Foster homes are desperately needed this summer for our four-legged friends who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own. Everyone knows there is a foster care system for children. You may or may not know that many animal welfare organizations have formal foster care programs that effectively “expand the walls of the shelters” and provide loving care and socialization to pets in need.

Our local public animal shelters are usually filled to capacity, and they can only put so many animals in a kennel. Fostering allows an animal who may be frightened and uncertain in a shelter setting to thrive in a loving home environment. Fostering makes shelter animals more adoptable, and fostering provides valuable information for the animal’s forever family. Foster homes are a key component to helping the Coachella Valley become a “No Kill” community.

Sharon Wren is pictured here with one of the 12 dogs she has fostered for Loving All Animals, a Palm Desert based group. Sharon became familiar with the world of rescue when Loving All Animals found her a beautiful Pomeranian dog at a local animal shelter when her dog passed away. Even though she now had two dogs of her own, Sharon is an ardent animal lover who wanted to help save other dogs.

Sharon explains why she became a foster parent, “I’m so glad I was introduced to Loving All Animals because of all they do for animals. It is so rewarding for me and my grandchildren as they learn how each animal is so different, but all have the need for love. I make sure they are socialized with humans and animals, so when we find them forever homes the new family will be delighted in their new friend. It is hard to say goodbye to any of the animals I have fostered, but knowing they are going to have a wonderful life with their new family is a joy and a blessing to me. I say a little prayer for each of my foster babies that they will be blessed in their new life.”

Sharon’s grandson, Deegan, lives nearby and enjoys meeting each of the temporary little residents. He has a great definition for a pet foster parent, “Grandma heals the dogs so they can get adopted.”

In the world of rescue “failed foster” is the term jokingly referred to those fosters who end up adopting their foster animal. Some fosters do end up adopting. It is a term of endearment as these foster parents are wonderful people who make wonderful adopters. However, this means new homes must be recruited because the animals keep coming.

The need for more foster homes is critical in the summer months as many of our snowbird fosters are gone until the late fall. This is the time when full time residents plan frequent trips away to cooler locations. But the animals keep coming….

Folks often say they cannot foster because they would feel too sad when the animal gets adopted. Please consider how sad the animal feels living in a shelter. Please consider that an available foster home can be a matter of life and death for animals in some public shelters. Fostering is an enriching experience for folks who get to see the dog or cat’s personality unfold. You get to hear the happy stories of how well they are doing in their forever homes. And you are part of that happy ending.

How long do you foster? There’s no specific time frame. Local resident Joy Diffendal fostered a dog for about half an hour when a neighbor spotted her getting out of her car with the newcomer and adopted him. Typically, an animal is in a foster home between three weeks to three months until it gets adopted. If you can only foster for one week, that time is appreciated and is critical to getting an animal out of a shelter.

If you can find a place in your heart and some room in your home for a homeless dog or cat, there are several local organizations you can contact. These groups provide food, supplies and veterinary care. You can contact Loving All Animals in Palm Desert at (760) 834-7000. Loving All Animals plans to augment their existing foster program with Seniors Offering Shelter (SOS), that will include a series of expert speakers on animal care. Fosters parents in all age groups are wanted. You can contact Judy Crotts at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter at (760) 416-5719 to foster one of their shelter animals. Animals Samaritans also needs foster homes and provides a training orientation, with Leslie Cyphers at (760) 601-3758 being the contact person. The animals thank you!!