Furry Fostering

By Debbie Dargan

Many people dismiss the idea of adopting a dog as they feel they cannot take on such a commitment. But there is something you can do instead: you can become a foster carer.

So often, I hear people say, “We’d love to have a dog, but we can’t afford it,” or, “We go travelling a lot so can’t make a permanent commitment”. Rescue centres are full of abandoned animals but, unfortunately, many do not have the facilities for raising very young kittens and puppies. Yet it is at this stage of their lives when so much development takes place, so it is imperative that they have the input they need early on. This is why foster carers are vital to care for them and work with them until they are adopted or are old enough to return to a shelter.

Established carer Beccy McMahon regularly fosters dogs for Lagos and Portimão kennels. Two years ago she saw an advert for someone to look after a puppy until it was old enough to travel to its new home and as she said, “I was hooked from therein”. She is currently fostering puppy Millie from Lagos kennel.

Another local carer is Yulin Sun, who got into fostering after joining the Friends and Volunteers of Lagos Canil (Kennel) FaceBook page. Her first fostering experience was back in 2019 when she cared for two cats, then she took on dogs too. Her latest foster pup was Gus, who recently moved to his new home in London. She hopes she will get to see him when she can travel to the UK.

Ina Teysch, blessed with parents who are animal lovers, has been looking after waifs and strays since she was a kid and has cared for over 30 dogs and 10 cats. She now fosters for the Pata Ativa Associação.

Not all foster parents live permanently in Portugal. Cecilia and Carman Penner are Canadians who were in Portugal for the winter. “We wanted to do something meaningful with our time away,” they explain. “When we heard the canil (in Lagos) needed some foster homes, we thought it was the perfect opportunity.” They first fostered two puppies, then took on Sable who was struggling with living in a canil environment. They worked with her until she went to her new home with Amy and Kristian Geiger.

Amy believes that for timid little Sable going into a foster home was crucial: “Otherwise, she may have been in the canil so much longer, adding to her timidity. Fostering gave her more opportunity to interact with humans on a one on one basis. For Sable I believe that was critical for her to be fostered.”

Beccy McMahon
Yulin Sun and Gus

Similarly, part-time residents and Lagos canil volunteers Annika and Poppe fostered puppy Ilsa, who was eventually adopted by Carol Jackson in England. By the time she got to England, “Ilsa was socialised, used to being in a home, knew basic commands, was confident and just a really lovely puppy”.

At Lagos canil, potential fosterers are asked to complete a questionnaire which includes questions about what they are willing and able to offer. Some are not permanent residents but can offer help from time to time. After that, someone from the volunteer group will visit you at home to talk you through things. There are also follow up visits. Finally there is a foster contract which provides the foster carers with clear guidelines of the responsibilities of the fosterer and the canil.

Animal associations are always looking for responsible, caring people who can take on a fostering role. Whilst it may be hard to say goodbye, the foster carers clearly get immeasurable satisfaction from what they do, knowing they can give an animal a good start to the rest of their lives. So, even if you can only spare a few weeks now and again, please consider fostering.

Some common concerns:

Will I have to pay for the animal out of my own pocket? No. All vets’ bills and food are paid by the caníl/volunteer group.

What support will I have as a foster carer? There is a volunteers’ message group for fosterers so help is always at hand.

What contact do fosterers usually have with new owners? Through a variety of ways: via messaging, texts, videos, etc each week. You may even get a visit from your foster dog’s siblings like Beccy McMahon did with puppy Millie when her sister Coco came on a playdate before going to her new home (organised by Fiona Gallagher from the volunteers’group).

What happens if the date I gave for availability is approaching but the new owner can’t take them until later? Another foster carer would take over.



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