Pawsitively Impactful: Fosters!

Casey and Kevin

Tried and true fosters for Asheville Humane Society, Casey and Kevin are on their 28th foster pet. They demonstrate unwavering compassion and commitment to caring for elderly and medically compromised dogs. Hear Casey speak about her time as a foster parent and the impact it has had on her.

How long have you been a foster and what inspired you to first become a foster?

We first became fosters with Asheville Humane Society because I desperately wanted a kitten-the only problem is that I am allergic to cats.  I was determined that I had outgrown this allergy, and my husband was determined that I hadn’t, so he suggested we foster a kitten to see how it went.  Unfortunately, he was right and we were not able to foster the kitten for very long.  Shortly after that COVID hit and the shelters were closing to the public and in desperate need of fosters.  We have a high-energy Australian Shepherd who was going crazy with me stuck in the house all of the time so we decided to foster a friend for him!

What are your favorite kinds of animals to foster and why?

I find it to be incredibly rewarding to foster dogs with medical issues and older dogs.  Asheville Humane Society is amazing to work with for medical cases!  They cover all of the meds, vet appointments, treatments, medicated shampoos, etc., and have always been extremely responsive to any concerns that I have about health or behavior.  Seeing these dogs transform from sick and pitiful to healthy and ready for their new home gives me all the happy feelings.  All of the older dogs we have gotten have been so chill and just happy to be in a home with a couch and some pets, they tend to be very low maintenance.  Almost all of them have already been trained and socialized, so a walk once or twice a week is all that they need!

How did you decide that fostering an animal(s) would be a good fit for your family? What is some advice you would give to someone who is looking to become a foster?

Honestly, I was pretty sure they were going to fire us as foster parents at first because it wasn’t appearing to be a good fit!  I had to return our first foster kitten because of my allergies and when our first foster dog was returned from adoption due to some behavior problems, I had to tell them that we were unable to bring her back because of our landlord’s policies.  The need was so great (and the foster team was so patient and understanding) that I kept finding myself looking at pictures of animals needing fostering and emailing the team for more information.  

My first advice would be to do it!  It has been an amazing experience for us, and my husband even added it to our wedding vows last year that he would always allow us to foster dogs.  My second part would be to be very honest with yourself and the foster team about what you are able to do.  If your schedule, living situation, other pets, etc. will be factors in the kind of animals you can care for, let them know!

What is the most rewarding part about fostering for you?

We have been able to keep in touch with many of the people who have adopted dogs we have cared for, and they send us updates about how the dogs are doing and how they have added to their family!  

What is the most challenging part about fostering for you?

We have volunteered ourselves to be available for hospice dogs or dogs that AHS is trying to determine the quality of life for. Not all of these end up with happy endings.  I would always rather know that these dogs’ last days were spent in a home full of love and snuggles and we have made a ritual of getting drive-through cheeseburgers on the last day- it is gutting every time one of them passes, though.  On a lighter note, my clothes will never be free of dog hair, regardless of how many lint rollers I purchase. 

Can you share specifics about your favorite success story?

I have about 10 favorites!  One of the many, though was a dog named Marvel who, when we got her, was very skinny and scared.  She would not let us pet her for the first week she was in our home and spent her time hiding in corners.  We quickly learned that she had an advanced heart murmur, and the foster team let us know she would probably only make it a few more weeks.  We took her off of her heart meds and waited for her to pass; we waited and waited and waited. To everyone’s surprise, she turned into a happy bouncy old lady and lived with us for almost an entire year!  She became a part of our family, and her collar and paw print are still on the mantle of our home.

As far as tricky to manage, I have been very honest with the foster team that I have no idea how to handle or train dogs with challenging behaviors.  They are very upfront with all of the information they have about whether a dog might show aggression in certain situations, but sometimes you just don’t know until a dog has settled in somewhere.  They have always offered resources and have been supportive if I found myself in a situation that I didn’t think was best for my household or the dog. 

Do you have your own pets? If so, how do you manage to care for your own pets while also fostering?

We do! We have a six-year-old Australian shepherd and recently added a 10-year-old dachshund.   The foster team is really good when I inquire about dogs.  I always ask if the dogs have been in a playgroup or if they know if the dog has been in a home with other dogs, which helps us to decide which dogs would be a good fit.  Slow introductions, feeding separately, and managing expectations while a dog is adjusting to your home all help contribute to success there.

Do you do anything specific to intentionally prepare the animal you are caring for to become available for adoption? (i.e. socialization, exposure, training) and how do you manage that?

I wouldn’t say we do a lot to train or change the dog, but we do try to expose the dogs to different situations in order to find out what kind of family would be the best fit for them.  We take them on hikes or to breweries to see if they are comfortable out and about with new people or if they prefer to stay home and be a couch potato.  We essentially live our lives normally and bring them along for the ride! We have had to do some housetraining reminders for a few dogs, but that is about all of the training I know how to do!

What do you want the public to know about what it means to be a foster parent and work with Asheville Humane Society?

I have fostered with a couple of other organizations and I have found the staff at Asheville Humane Society to be simply amazing to work with.  I have never felt unsupported or unclear on how to handle a situation.  They do everything in their power to make the fostering experience fun, easy, and rewarding.  We are currently fostering our 28th animal and Erin, Ash, Mallory, Evie and everyone else make it so that we want to keep coming back for more!

Have you ever had a foster “fail” yourself? And how did you know that animal belonged in your family permanently?

We have come close several times but my husband reminds me that if we decide to keep another dog we would need to give up fostering and I just can’t bring myself to do it.  We have cared for so many great dogs at this point that I know that if we are ever ready, it won’t take long until we will find a perfect addition.