PETS: Borrowing A Best Friend

Not ready to commit or love having a pet for a short time? Foster homes are sorely needed for all kinds of pets

Let’s face it, having a pet can be one of the biggest investments we make.

It’s not that a pooch is quite as pricey as that four-door sedan in the driveway — though some owners of aging hounds may feel like they spent close to that over the course of Fido’s run.

Funny portrait of a cute chihuahua dog at a blue background

And while the emotional investment is huge, it may not compare to other life-changing moves.

Still, when you add up the emotional, financial and time commitments a pet requires, it ranks right up there.

So it’s understandable that many pet lovers — be it because of constraints on their time or trepidation about making that emotional leap with a furry friend — can’t quite clear that gulf from pet lover to pet owner.

But there’s a middle ground between living life pet-free and going whole hog on the joys and challenges of pet ownership: fostering.

Last year, the Denver Dumb Friends League’s Homes With Hearts foster program saw more than 2,800 pets spend some time with one of the group’s almost 400 volunteers.

Joan Thielen, a spokeswoman for the League, says many of those “Foster Parents,” as DDFL calls them, are people itching to have a pet but, because of work travel, time constraints or some other reason, they just can’t do it.

“We have some people who are maybe not ready for the responsibility of owning an animal,” she said.

But for a few weeks, they can take a dog or cat — or even a guinea pig or hamster — into their home and give it the kind of love and attention that it needs.

Those volunteers are crucial for the shelter, too, Thielen says.

Not every pet that gets dropped off at the shelter in east Denver is ready for adoption. For kittens, the shelter can’t send them to a permanent home until they crack the 2-pound mark. And some pooches and other pets are often recovering from a surgery or other medical procedure that means they have a few weeks recovery before they can traipse some mud into that forever home.

For others, the shelter isn’t quite sure if they are ready to be successfully adopted. That can mean they aren’t potty trained or they have some behavioral issue that they need to work out before their adoption.

That’s where the foster parents come in.

Once they pass a pretty simple home inspection — essentially a staffer from the shelter making sure their home would be a good fit for the pet — they can take in an animal for a few weeks.

And yes, Thielen says, that few weeks can turn into forever when a foster parent’s bond proves too strong to break. Those “Foster Flunkies” are pretty common: Even Thielen has had a couple happy failures on that front, cattle dog mixes named Sydney and O’Malley.

For more on fostering pets — and to download the application form — visit ddfl.org/foster.  You can also call the Denver Dumb Friends League at 303-751-5772. You can also foster pets through the Max Fund shelter in Denver. For more on their programs, visit maxfund.org/foster-care-information or email fostering@maxfund.org.