I’m not keeping my foster dog. And no, that doesn’t make me a bad person: A rant by BusyBee

16 Aug
Over the past week since my latest foster dog came home, I’ve been bombarded by eager friends, coworkers, and complete strangers who want to know if I’m keeping her.  When I tell them that no, she is just a foster and will not be staying, the tone inevitably turns from excitement to dismay.   Based on their reactions, you would think I just told them that I stomped on a kitten, not that my end goal was to find a great home for my foster.

If by the quotations you mean reality, yes. Yes, indeed.

Up until last night, I hadn’t really let it get to me.  And then…..I went to puppy playgroup with my foster.  Enter holier-than-thou crazy dog lady (I could write a whole blog entry just on her…hell…I just might) who literally said to me “Oh, I could never foster dogs like you.  I have too big of a heart to give them up.”


So apparently I’m heartless because my end goal is to send my fosters to a forever home that isn’t my own.


It seems that a lot of people don’t seem to understand the point of fostering.  As a foster, I am the gateway between the shelter and finding a forever home for dogs who need a little extra time and attention.  Do I care deeply about the dogs I care for?  Yep.   Does it hurt when they leave?  You betcha.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Sending a successful foster to a new home is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

Now, I do realize that most people who have given me a hard time about not keeping fosters are well-meaning.  They see how far the dog has come under my care and how bonded we are, and think that staying together is best.  I also think that a lot of these people would foster fail themselves and can’t fathom how others don’t.  But please don’t try to guilt/shame/beg me to keep my foster.

Just because I follow my head doesn’t mean I don’t have a heart.  I am in no place to take on a second dog right now and frankly, I’m perfectly happy just having Mr. T in my life.  I know people find that hard to believe, but one dog is plenty for me.  If I followed my heart and adopted every dog I fell in love with or bonded with at the shelter, I’d end up on the 10 o’clock news as that “crazy lady” with 200 dogs in her 1 bedroom apartment.   No one wants that, right?


Look, I am not saying there is anything wrong with foster failing (heck, some of my best friends have foster failed and got some great dogs out of it).  I just wish more people would understand that there isn’t anything wrong with NOT “failing”.

So with that, the next person who suggests I’m in any way a bad person for not keeping my deliberately temporary dog, just shut it. I foster succeeded and you’re welcome. Hopefully your next shelter dog will be fostered by someone who cares as much as I do.

You’re pretty stinking cute. But you’re not staying.

97 Responses to “I’m not keeping my foster dog. And no, that doesn’t make me a bad person: A rant by BusyBee”

  1. Roberta August 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    People can be so stupid sometimes with there comments. Luckily for me no one has ever tried to pressure me into keeping any of my fosters. I have fostered 314 cats/kittens/dogs/puppies, and I did fail a few times, but I keep doing it so someone else can adopt and enjoy the animals that I have loved.

  2. Susan Mann August 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Yep, that’s right up there with “oh, I could never go to a shelter and volunteer because I love animals too much and would want to bring them all home!” So wait, the people that DO volunteer, actually love the animals LESS? Fostering is great, and when done well prepares an animal for a new life with someone else, more power to those who do it! I have in the past, and will do so again in the future, but am not ready to right now.

    • Jacqueline Rodriguez August 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Oh, I get a similar thing ALL the time — I could never foster because I couldn’t let them go. OK, so you’d rather another dog die at the shelter bc your heart is so big and you can’t let them go? They’re amazed that I can be so “strong” that I can let them go. I tell them mine is not the only wonderful home in the world, and they’re going to excellent home to wonderful owners who will love them all their lives. And, yes, I miss them terribly, but I know I helped save another one.

    • Ann Coleman July 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      RIGHT. My response is, well, I can’t bring them all home, because that’s impossible, but at least I get to spend time with them.

    • AD February 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

      Oooh that also reminds me of “I could never step into a shelter because I love animals too much and it’s too sad and I would want to bring them all home.. So I’ll go and buy a dog”. Face plant.

  3. Shelly August 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    If you fail, then you reduce the amount of lives you can change by fostering… Thank you for NOT being a foster failure!!!

    • Toots October 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      I have foster failed and I have continued to save PLENTY of other lives. Failing isn’t a bad thing.

  4. Elaine Swarts August 20, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    As a foster mom who can not only let them go, but looks forward to the day when my foster child is ready to leave nest and no longer needs me. I totally understand. Have I foster failed, yes and will again. But I was a foster success more. The only way I can continue to foster is remembering the promise God made to me with the first one. “I will put them in your life for as long as they need you. When they no longer need you I will provide the home for them. You can’t fight me on my choices, but I promise that home will be as good as they one you gave them” That was 15 years and almost 200 fosters ago. I’ve shed a lot of tears, but the rewards have been far greater. The next one will leave soon I have no doubt, I’ll dry my tears and say “NEXT”

    • Jacqueline R. August 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      I LOVE your post.. I too dry my tears, keep their photo, and say “next!”

    • kendra August 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Good for you Elaine!…. and exactly! ….Next! 😉

  5. Marcus Hill August 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    I foster puppies because my dogs don’t do well with adults but love the puppies. I’m up to 34 fosters now and failed only once. He wasa social basket case so I decided to keep him, Good dog Rocky. I had one for six months before we found him a really good home,Romeo, he had been attacked by some bird of pey and looked pretty pathetic in his bandages. Romeo was a very good dog and loved our cat. I try to give the adopters a CD of their puppy pictures and ask them to post pictures from time to time on the HS’s FB page. Does it hurt to pass them on? Yes it does but then there is always the next puppy that needs a break. Cold hearted? No I have a warm enough heart to pass it around a bit.

  6. Anne Steinhauer August 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    You are the best because your heart is so big that you let it get ripped out every time u give one up,so u can save another fur baby, and that’s the biggest heart of them all

  7. competentgirl August 22, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I just want to say that my dog JingMen’s foster mom is amazing! She’s even coming to see him next week and take him hiking. I don’t know you, but I bet you are just as amazing. Go foster moms!

  8. Angela capes August 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Our foster puppy is getting neutered next week and on his first walk a lady biked past us, then rode back to ask us what kind of dog he was (most would label him a pit mix, I all him a mutt:)) and from there we told her his story, who we are fostering through, and when he might be available for adoption, since he technically isn’t yet. Well she called the next day, sent in her app the following, and now I actually have to deal with him leaving here. We have had him since he was four weeks old and found dumped at a bus stop, skinny and malnourished. He is now a sturdy 15 pound 12 week old and has come so far. I started crying just thinking about him going, but since he will be huge compared to our chihuahuas, it makes it easier because we simply can’t have such a big dog with our 3.5 pounders running around. So hard, but like the author and so many have said, now we can change the life of another dog who might not have a chance.

  9. Carolyn August 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I’m forever grateful to the family that fostered our dog before we adopted him. He was a great dog and lived a great life with us for 13 years. If they hadn’t fostered him when they found him running in the street, he never would have become a part of our family.

  10. RowanVT August 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    I take in surrenders at my veterinary hospital and then foster them either for rescues or on my own dime. My average surrender ends up costing me at least $500 in medical bills, often many times more (lots of parvo puppies, a dystocia chihuahua, a hydrocephalic shih-tzu-x.) This makes people boggle that I’m not keeping the foster dogs, and I too get the comments of “my heart is too big”… and all I can think is “Your heart can’t be that big, because you aren’t actually doing anything.”

    My most recent foster, a gorgeous, scary-intelligent, people-driven loon of a pibble came in for his vax boosters last saturday. He’s doing great with his owner and I couldn’t be happier.

    • seadawg September 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      “Your heart can’t be that big, because you aren’t actually doing anything.” +1

  11. Jeffrey Jensen August 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    I tell everyone I meet that we have a wonderful foster mom to thank for taking care of our three-legged Chihuahua/Min Pin mix. She did an amazing job with him socializing him to other dogs, people, kids, sights and sounds and so much more. She also took care of him while the rescue raised funds to have his leg amputated since there were really no other options. She even gave us a bag of freshly steamed broccoli when we picked him up because that was his extra special favorite treat. She loved him like one of her own and I know it hurt her to see him go to his forever home but we’ve kept in touch sending photos and letting her know about his new home and how well he’s adjusting. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t say at least a private thank-you for all of the care she gave him in his puppyhood (she had him from about 5 months old to 10 months). I have great admiration for foster families and the role they play in the shelter/rescue world. It takes a special person to be able to do this and so many do it so well. So here’s a big thank you to all of the foster families helping so many animals make the journey from rescue to their forever homes!

  12. Niro September 14, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    I fostered a Labrador and today we found him a loving family. I love my foster dog so much.
    Oh my god I feel so sad today. I cried so much.. I was so attached to him and he was always too and always following me… I’m happy that I found him a forever home. They are really a good family. But I decided to not to foster a dog again. I know fostering is a beautiful thing. But I have a very week heart and I don’t think i can ever do it again.. I just can’t bear that….
    I’m happy to see there are so many people fostering dogs. But it’s really hard to let go. You all are amazing…

  13. colleen4916colleen September 23, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Amen Sister!

  14. seadawg September 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    I actually feel really guilty for keeping (only 1 so far) or even contemplating keeping my fosters. Experienced foster homes are gold to a rescue org. One more failed foster is one less space for a dog currently in a stressful kennel situation. Not that foster homes shouldn’t adopt, but that’s just the net-net of the scenario.

  15. Amanda January 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    funny no one ever ask or accuses someone of being selfish, oh you have a dog.. or many not fair to allow someone else a chance.. its only when there are issues, someone is hording.. is not able to afford it.. then its oh well you kept too many shame on you.. funny one moment one is bad for fostering, and planning on finding a dog its own special home.. then bad when you don’t..

  16. Anni January 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Fosterers are absolute angels. Freeing up space in kennels that other dogs will fill. Also by NOT failing they can help so many other dogs in need. A dog that’s been in a foster home, socialised, shown boundaries, will adapt more readily to its permanent home than a stray re homed straight out of the pound. However, the mindset needs to be different from the start in order to foster. I know I haven’t the right mindset for that – yet. To have that teeny chink of *detachment / rationale to stop me adding another to my pack. *Not to sound negative using that word, just there has to be to some degree or foster failure will occur. All fosterers care deeply, they must just care differently for the temporary additions – that does not make it diminished. Quite the opposite, the strength to love and give up is something I hope to have one day.

    • Jeanette September 9, 2014 at 4:33 am #

      Before I got my first foster dog I knew I needed to go about it with a certain mind set to make sure my home was just the last step before the dog(s) got adopted into a forever home. So I decided to use the approach that this is my job. I said well the Shelter is my boss and they are giving me a job (the dog(s)) to accomplish (learn and return info on behavior, likes, dislikes, cute photos and videos, etc) and once the job is done (an adopter is ready) I get paid (the dog leaves to it’s forever home and I can get another one or few to do it all again! This has worked amazingly for me. I am currently dieing because I haven’t been able to foster in months, which is harder because it’s resulted from a surgery that is very tough to handle and as much as I have helped each foster dog they have helped me just as much if not more sometimes! But no need to worry I am stubborn as can be and will foster again when my health allows it!

  17. Barb January 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m so grateful to have found this article and all the wonderful replies. I currently have a foster that I’ve had with me for 9 months. She’s been through heartworm treatment with me and then another surgery that took a while to heal. We just received an application for her and I’m so torn about keeping her and letting her go. My first foster had cancer and I only had her with me for five months. That was so heartbreaking. I know in my head that I’m fostering to save lives, but in my heart it will be so hard to say farewell and be loved by someone else like I love you. I know I’ll cry for days when she leaves and I’m already in tears thinking about it. But if I keep her I won’t be able to help another dog in need. Thank you for all the Angel fosters that have the courage to keep on fostering.

  18. Rowena February 13, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I tend to hope people don’t foster-fail, because then who do the next lot of fosters go to? And the “oh, I could never foster because I have too big a heart” is the cousin of the “oh, I don’t know how you volunteer – I love dogs so much it would just make me too upset”… What it actually is, is “You actually do something? Shit, I do nothing, so I’d better try pretend that I’m not a douchebag”. When I feel mean and snarky I point out to them that if it wasn’t for us heartless monsters who can not only see dogs abandoned, neglected and abused, but then bring ourselves to do something, whether foster or volunteer, these animals that they love so much would be in an even worse state, and that I’m sure the animals thank them for loving them so much that they can do nothing.

  19. Kristen K August 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    AND, it saves another dog! You open up a spot for another dog to be fostered. The argument “I could never give them up” always wants to make me respond, “Fine, I’ll tell him that as he’s being put to sleep.” Good rant!!!

  20. ApsoRescueColorado August 10, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    I always explain that if I keep “this” dog, the “next” dog won’t get that second (or third) chance at its forever home. One must *always* keep the big picture in mind.

    Never mind that hubby has threatened to turn me into the HOA when the numbers start creeping up …

  21. Erin August 24, 2014 at 1:33 am #

    I guess because I’m 15, I use my parents as an excuse for not keeping my fosters. When, in reality, they would let me if I asked. But I don’t ask.
    I love my fosters and I’m sure they feel the same way. It is truly heartbreaking when they leave but it so worth it to see them thriving in their new homes. I have two dogs of my own and if I adopt a third, I wouldn’t be able to keep fostering. If I stop fostering, I wouldn’t be saving anymore lives.
    My decision to not fail when fostering a dog isn’t because I have no heart.. It’s because I have a large heart and can look past my own want’s and desires, to keep my foster, to help save others.
    No foster leaves my care not loving their new forever family.
    Thank you for this post.

  22. breannaannaerb March 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on Hooray for Peri.

  23. mattbl June 16, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    I was linked to this article by someone doing the opposite of what you wrote this about – shaming someone for “foster failing.” I find it frustrating that ANYBODY involved in the rescue or foster of an animal is getting criticized for EITHER choice. We fostered a 2nd dog b/c he was in desperate need after a foreign body removal, and after having him through his recovery and neutering and seeing how well he fit with our dog-selective female, we kept him. I will never feel shame for doing this, even if it did mean we couldn’t keep fostering more dogs. Maybe in a few years we can handle having a third dog in the mix, but it’s not realistic for us now. My point is that what you describe is upsetting, but the opposite just as heinous and I think we should be careful to give respect to anyone who fosters or rescues a dog, whether they do it once or a hundred times.

  24. anne June 18, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    Foster myself and shed tears often. In most cases mine are closer to the end of the road. yes you fall in love. Then in 1 or 2 years or at times 1 or 2 days they pass breaks my heart every time. But so many deserve to have a good life if only for a short time after years of neglect and they are the best dogs. When its time to pick them all up at the rainbow bridge that will be Heaven.

  25. Paula July 29, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    I always ask them “have you ever babysat for someone’s child?” When they say yes, I ask them how many have you kept?

  26. Gail August 22, 2016 at 1:01 am #

    Why do so many assume that a foster failure prevents one from fostering again? I’ve fostered over 2 dozen puppies (my 10.5 year old staffie mix is dog-selective) since failing with my foster 4 years ago.

    • AD August 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm #

      It may, it may not, I have fostered many after foster failing my cat Delilah, but eventually Delilah demanded I foster no more! (she was a huge factor in preventing me from adopting some of those special fosters and becoming a crazy cat lady). It got to the point every time I fostered, she would stop eating.

  27. Peter Herron September 12, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Your writing was just what I needed. Thank you. I have just started as a volunteer in a dog rescue shelter and I was considering fostering one of the dogs, but had my doubts about whether it was fair to the dog to take him into my home and then take him back to the shelter. I’m still not 100% sure but am more convinced now that it can be good for the dog. Thanks.

  28. Jamie Ellis November 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    I think that what your doing in fostering is wonderful and i don’t understand why people would try to shame or make what you are doing to help these dogs a negative or bad thing. It’s the complete opposite. Without people like you that can provide the time it’s needed to go through the process of finding the right home. I believe these dogs would all be destroyed without your help. So please ignore these people that are trying to make what you are going a bad thing. I think you are an savior for helping and to foster several at a time is a god send. So for those people that say all those negative comments. Why don’t they foster a dog themselves instead of judging you. I think you are great.


  1. It’s Okay Not to Keep Your Foster Dog | Foster Dogs NYC - August 21, 2013

    […] our friend Kimberly brought the following blog post to our attention: “I’m not keeping my foster dog. And no, that doesn’t make me a bad person.” This author certainly had our attention; what a perfect title for an awesome post! As avid […]

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