The art of fostering and letting go

Submitted photo Beagle Chesty is happy in his foster home with his friend Haven.

Oddly enough, when I ask dog-loving folks with the means and opportunity to be a short-term foster for the Aiken County Animal Shelter and they refuse, it’s generally not because of the inconvenience of baby-sitting a canine guest or the costs (there are none – FOTAS pays if necessary) or the uncertainty of introducing an unknown dog into the family.

What worries them the most about being a foster is how they will feel about letting them go when the time comes. How can I, the thinking goes, care for this dog in my home and then send him back into the shelter system – it breaks my heart!

OK, I understand, but here’s the flaw in that thinking: it’s not about you – it’s about the dog, and for that dog, the couple of days he spends with your family means the world.

And here’s the other thing: you have to let them go; they are already spoken for.

A foster’s job is to simply help that dog transition from the hectic pace of a public shelter to their ultimate forever homes.

“When we clear a dog for transfer, we move it as quickly as possible to a foster home where they can decompress from shelter life with lots of attention, exercise and rest,” said Jennifer Miller, president of FOTAS. “In addition, that frees up space for another dog to be moved to the adoption floor. So you see, fostering helps two dogs find their home.”

Hunter and Albert were surrendered to the shelter by their owner. The dogs were so bonded we believe they must have been together for most of their lives.

Despite their unfortunate circumstances – having a home one day and being abandoned the next at a crowded public shelter with a chance of being euthanized – they were well mannered and quiet. Still, no one adopted them locally.

So FOTAS networked Hunter and Albert to one of its terrific transfer partners in New Hampshire, who were delighted to take them. In the meantime, FOTAS arranged for the two dogs to leave the shelter and stay with one of its experienced foster families, the Urbens.

“Hunter and Albert were true gentlemen, affectionate, willing and attentive – the perfect guests,” said Toni. They are poster children for forgiveness, hope and the dream of a grand future. I prayed some kind soul would spare them the pain of separation and adopt them both.”

Someone did. Four days ago, a big-hearted family in Rhode Island adopted them both, describing them as “big loves” and the “sun and moon” of their lives. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Hunter and Albert are finally home.

There you have it; that’s how you let them go – right into the arms of the people who will love them forever, freeing you up to foster one more hopeful canine soul on their way to dog bliss.

Be a foster. They need you. We need you. Call the shelter at 803-642-1537 or call FOTAS at 803-514-4313 and join the FOTAS foster team.

Their lives are in our hands.

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 333 Wire Road. For more information, email or visit

By the Numbers

October 2015

FOTAS organized and paid for the spay/neuter surgeries of 50 citizens’ pets and community cats.