The phrase “foster failure” might sound ominous, but it is actually often the prelude to something wonderful. With animal shelters always at full capacity, homeless dogs often find themselves without many options—which is where foster pet parents come in. Fortunately for many foster dogs and cats, their temporary homes can become permanent ones as their families fall in love with them and decide to make the adoption official.
Here are a few happy “tails” of foster fails that will brighten your day.
Lisa Demmi and Gus
Lisa Demmi was introduced to Gus as part of a Boston Terrier pet rescue in 2012. “It’s a group that moves dogs from shelter to shelter to make sure that they don’t get euthanized,” says Demmi. “He had come from Nashville to Tallahassee and then to us.”
Gus was about 3 years old in 2012, but very little else is known about his background or why he was taken to an animal shelter in the first place. “I can’t believe that someone would surrender this guy,” says Demmi. “He’s been the best dog!”
While the original idea was to foster him for a little while until he found a good home, Demmi says they knew the minute he stepped one paw in their home that he was never leaving. “We have a thing for Bostons,” says Demmi. “And we did fall in love with him right away; he was in our home for 2 weeks and we started the formal adoption process.”
Gus’ life has been pretty amazing the past 5 years. “He works for our company, a residential renovation business, and he goes to work with Mommy so that he can perform his Customer Satisfaction and Quality Control duties,” says Demmi. “It’s pretty funny because everyone knows Gus, and most times they’re looking for him when we’re on a job site.”
Cristy Raposo and Sampson
Sampson is a Boston Terrier mix who ended up in Raposo’s home for what was supposed to be a very short time. “When we lost Bruin, a Boston Terrier, earlier that year, I was grief-stricken,” says Raposo. “I missed so desperately hearing the jingle of his collar and the sounds of his paws pattering around the house—but although the silence was a deafening, constant reminder of our loss, we weren’t ready to get another dog.”
So a friend who volunteered for Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), reached out to Raposo and suggested that the family volunteer to foster a dog until they were ready to adopt. “This non-profit volunteer organization rescues Boston Terriers, mixes and other small dogs from kill shelters near and far,” Raposo says. And that’s how in May of 2014, Sampson wagged his way into Raposo’s home. Although she was set on having him adopted, people kept commenting on what a great dog he was and how they couldn’t believe Raposo’s family wasn’t keeping him—so, in the end, she did just that. “He went from a very timid, sweet dog to a happy dog eager to give kisses and roll over for belly rubs,” says Raposo. “He loves walks, playing fetch, learning tricks and chasing squirrels.”
James Stefiuk and Ruby
Ruby was one day away from being put down by the Jersey City Animal Control when James Stefiuk got her in March of 2013. “I was working for an animal shelter in New Jersey, mainly as a foster, but also as a handler/trainer for adoption fairs held every weekend,” says Stefiuk.
“Ruby had been found completely emaciated and was recovering from a wound she sustained wandering around for 8 weeks on a full fractured right rear leg,” says Stefiuk. “She was a mess, but still the happiest dog I had ever met.”
Ruby actually went to a different foster home first, but she was bullied by the other dogs in that household, so she was returned. James then took her in. “I knew the situation was going to be pretty long-term—when I took her, the shelter I worked with warned me that it was very rare for Pit Bulls with cropped ears and a broken leg to find forever homes,” Stefiuk says. Then again, that didn’t matter, since Ruby seemed like she was meant for him, and James put in adoption papers after 3 months. “My family knew I was going to keep her before I did,” says Stefiuk.
Life is definitely great for Ruby these days. “We now live in Charleston, SC where she has a bunch of friendly neighborhood dogs she can run around with,” says Stefiuk. “She’s at a healthy weight, and although the metal rod they grafted to her previously broken leg makes her run funny, she’s not in any pain whatsoever. It has been an absolute joy owning an American Staffordshire Terrier, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tobi Kosanke and Zeus + Apollo
Zeus and Apollo are affectionately referred to collectively as “The Greek Gods”—as in, “Have the Greek Gods been fed yet?”—in the Kosanke household. The 2-year-old brothers are mixed Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) breeds: half Great Pyrenees, half Anatolian Shepard. And they are big boys—both well over 100 pounds.
In February of this year, a call went out for an emergency foster who could acclimate the two dogs to humans, and Tobi Kosanke, who rescues livestock and takes in LGDs who need a job to do, answered it. At this time, the dogs were in a kill facility.
“The owner had purchased them to guard chickens, and did not neuter them,” says Kosanke. As they became too much to handle, the owner called different pet rescues to see which ones would take them. “She thought she had contacted the rescue I foster for, which specializes in placing working LGDs, but had called a rescue that only works with house/lap dogs. They showed up and pushed Zeus into a cage in the back of a small van, causing the dog to display aggressive behavior.
At that point, the rescue team took the dogs to a county kill shelter and labeled them as being unadoptable.
“We tracked them down, and they released Apollo immediately to the rescue I foster for, but Zeus, by Texas law, had to remain for a full 10 days of observation,” Kosanke explains.
When Kosanke took them, both dogs were mentally and emotionally unstable. “They were very, very aggressive,” says Kosanke. “They put one of my dogs in the hospital and were frightened of humans.”
It took Kosanke about 8 months before he could approach Zeus with a brush in his hand to groom him. But it took only 3 months before Kosanke decided there was no way he could give the brothers up. “I had to put a lot of time and effort into these dogs, and when they finally started to respect me, I realized they had the potential to be incredible family members,” says Kosanke. “I also knew that because of their treatment in the county shelter, they had trust issues with all new people, so I wasn’t sure whether the effects of my training would transfer to another person.”
Zeus and Apollo have gone from being fearful, aggressive and not trusting of people to loving, playful and affectionate dogs who take great pride in “guarding” their people and animal friends. “Apollo runs like a gazelle, and when he hears the guineas make an alarm cry, he immediately runs to them, and Zeus runs to stand between the humans and whatever is frightening the guinea fowl,” says Kosanke. “Both dogs love to get kisses on their huge noses, enjoy belly rubs, and tap us with their paws when they want a head scratch. It’s just amazing how much love can transform a dog.”
At some point in your life you may meet a furry friend and get this undeniable, nagging feeling in your gut that this pooch was meant to be yours. When this happens, there’s very little that will stop you from adopting her into your family for good. And although these dogs were only fosters, there was something their pet parent’s saw in them that made these pets irreplaceable. These foster programs may have failed, but adding a new furry member to the family was a huge success—a win that both pup and their adoring pet parent will benefit from for years to come.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.