In the know: doggy fostering

Spring 2016
Jess Blank ’11 and Adam Weisbarth ’10 with a foster dog

Jess Blank ’11 and Adam Weisbarth ’10 producer/editor Jess Blank ’11 and her boyfriend, Adam Weisbarth ’10, volunteer as foster “parents” for Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, a four-year-old group that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the South. Without its own facility, the rescue relies on foster care until dogs are adopted, which can take anywhere from one week to several months. So far, the couple has fostered four dogs: Ezra Klein, Ellen Page, Tara Chambler, and Sally Finkelstein (Badass dogs are named after celebrities and characters). Blank tells us what they’ve learned along the way:

1. Manage your expectations. You generally don’t get too much info about the dog, and not knowing what you are getting yourself into is the hardest part. Each dog has its own background, obedience level, fears, and triggers. Our first dog, Ezra, was terrified of being outside. We had to sit outside for an hour before he would even lie down on the grass. Ellen Page had a prey drive, and we had to keep her on a very short leash near small dogs. Tara Chambler ran nervous circles around the dining room. But, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue has volunteer dog trainers who help foster parents manage challenging situations. Ellen Page didn’t go to the bathroom for three straight days. Ohhh, the number of hysterical text messages we sent to the trainer that weekend! But he coached us through it, and Ellen eventually did her business. Making sure that we have all the knowledge and tools to handle issues makes us more confident about welcoming a rescue into our home.

2. Give up your sense of shame. Fostering requires a ton of patience — and little to no fear of shame. Adam and I had to sit outside, admiring the sunset and talking encouragingly (like lunatics) to agoraphobic Ezra Klein, while he — all 12 pounds of him — attempted to pull us back inside. I’ve sat outside my apartment door reading a book, just to make sure Tara Chambler didn’t have separation anxiety and bark when we left. There have been many times when I have thrown a personal party on the sidewalk because a dog had done its business on the concrete for the first time. “OH MY GOODNESS! YOU PEED! GOOD DOG!”

3. Fostering is a 24-hour job. You have to be around every few hours, all the time. When I foster, I’m tied to my apartment and my clock. This is exactly why I decided to foster, and not adopt. I’m not ready to be a full-time dog owner. Adam and I can decide when we want to take in a foster dog, or when we need a break.

4. Prepare yourself for the goodbye. Watching our foster pups walk away with their new adopters is the most heartbreaking, amazing, beautiful, and overwhelming mix of feelings. To try to deal with this, Adam and I decided to make doggy paw prints. The night before an adoption event, we break out the nontoxic paint and do some paw-painting. One day, we hope to have a wall full of little paw prints from all the foster dogs we’ve had. Imagining that wall reminds me that it’s not about me; it’s about all the animals who are about to be euthanized because they don’t have a home. Seeing that wall fill up with paws — that’ll make it all worth it.

What do you know? If you’re an expert in an area of your field or avocation and would like to share your sage advice, e-mail or write to the Colgate Scene, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, NY 13346.