Try out fostering as relief volunteer

petAs summer winds down, many people are heading out of town for a quick vacation before school and holidays. Animal rescue volunteers are no different from everyone else: We like our summer vacations, too. However, for most of us there are the complications of how to tend our foster charges while we are out of town.

From the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley to ACTion Programs for Animals to the Cat’s Meow, the need for volunteer fosters increases at this time of year. When a volunteer plans a vacation, a new foster home must be found — at least temporarily — for the fostered animal.

If you have ever considered experiencing the joys of fostering an animal until it can be adopted into its forever home, this would be a good time to make a test run. Most fosters want their charges back once they return from vacation, so you will have a foster cat, kitten, dog or puppy for as short a time as a weekend or as long as a week.

After the test run, if you decide you enjoyed the experience of saving lives, then you can become a long term volunteer foster. Here’s how it works. As a foster, you take an animal into your home and keep it just as you would your own pet. You cuddle and coo to it. You feed it and spoil it. You socialize it with your friends and family and even train it. And, very likely, you also will become attached to it, even in a couple of days.

However, this wonderful companion is not yours to keep. If you’ve chosen vacation relief for another foster, then the animal will return to the its original foster family until it is adopted. On the other hand, if you enjoyed the experience, then you are welcome to join the dozens of other people who foster animals until the animal finds a forever home.

Fosters are invaluable to rescue groups. Fosters allow the rescue organizations to take more animals from ASCMV or from the public, which they socialize and turn into charming animal companions for adoption. Fosters save lives. A group cannot succeed without many fosters and other volunteers.

Of course, if you fall in love with your foster charge, you become a failed foster. That is someone who adopts her charge. Obviously, a foster can adopt her charge only a few times, then her home is filled. It is easy to love your charge and very hard to give it up for adoption. However, without caring people who can love their foster animals and still turn loose when the time comes, the animal groups cannot continue to rescue so many loving animal companions from certain death.

So if you are hanging out at home for the next month or so, consider opening your heart and your home to a furry companion. You will be saving its life, and enriching the life of its future family.

Jackye Meinecke is a freelance writer, who also rescues cats and a garden consultant and designer.