BENGALURU: Love animals and birds but your present circumstances won’t allow you to adopt one? Fostering is the solution. The number of rescued and abandoned animals is escalating every day, leaving shelters overcrowded. This is where you can step in. It’s a win-win situation for all those involved. The animal gets a safe place to stay, you get to enjoy the company of a furry friend, and the shelter gets time to re-home and rehabilitate other animals. Fostering can also give you that much-needed practical experience of having a pet with you 24/7, and can be a stepping stone for a permanent adoption.
While the desire to help animals is admirable, it doesn’t automatically come with an understanding of what you can handle and what you can’t. Use the following as guidelines to help an animal in distress.
Have a clear understanding of your limits and what kind of animal you can foster successfully. A pup or a kitten might seem easier to foster than a big dog/cat, but please note that pups, unlike adult animals, require 24/7 supervision, and cannot be left alone for a moment. On the other hand, an adult animal is comparatively easier to take care of once he settles and adapts easily to your lifestyle.
Nitasha Sridhar, a veteran foster who has opened her home to more than 10 abandoned dogs over the last two years, says family support is crucial, and her husband and five-year-old retriever Rufus are partners in this when she brings scared dogs into her home. Time and patience are the two pillars of fostering, but as Nitasha says, the joy of seeing her wards going to their forever homes makes this a truly rewarding experience.
The foster period can be indefinite, so be prepared. Long-term fosters are preferred till adoption so that the animal is not traumatized with constant change. Be in touch with experienced welfare workers who can guide you through this step by step.
Do you have the expertise to handle animals with behavioral or medical issues? Medical issues can range from a simple skin infection to a post surgery care. In such cases, proximity to a vet is necessary. Talk to the rescuer or the shelter from whom you are taking on the responsibility and have a clear understanding of what this entails – financially and medically.
Foster animals often require a little more patience. The first day might not be perfect.Peeing on the floor, whining at night, barking at every new sound, acting wary of strangers - the list goes on. But these are things that can certainly improve greatly with time. Keep in mind that this behaviour may be due to past trauma, and that with a little love and time, you can be the animal a great deal.
Lalita Iyer, a highly experienced fosterer, compares fostering to being a surrogate mother. Rookie Rajesh has opened his home to many such injured birds, hamsters, guinea pigs and turtles that have been rescued from unscrupulous illegal traders. Once healed, they are released safely into the wild or handed over to wildlife authorities
You’ll get a better sense of this after your first few fosters. It’s also a good idea to take breaks between fosters so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
With a little bit of love and patience, you can be responsible for helping an animal find its forever home. The feeling when you see your ward in a safe, happy home or healthy and healed is priceless. Remember, you are the one who made that possible with a bit of space in your home and in your heart.