How to save a pet’s life in your spare time

Toni Stevens fostered Harper for only two weeks before she discovered she was in love.

(ROCKWALL, TX – September 29, 2015) It’s all the rage these days! But first, a word of caution. You won’t be reading about Technicolor hair dyes, fitness bands, i-dosing (look it up) or Ariana Grande. And trust me, we won’t be going anywhere near the Kardashians. The lastest fad that’s developed during the past couple of years here in the cozylandofBlue Ribbon Newsis pet fostering.

Yes, providing a temporary home for a homeless pet has become a “thing.”

Unlike many of the current crazes, there’s nothing particularly fancy, expensive or complicated about fostering. “You can help in small ways and you can help in big ways,” said Toni Stevens of Rockwall, who fosters and transports pets for Oak Hill Animal Rescue.

What is fostering and why is it needed? Area animal shelters, the ones that have abandoned the old discredited method of killing animals for space, sometimes need temporary homes for its shelter pets. Since they’re in the business of holding the pet until he or she finds a new home, the shelters could need temporary space if their kennels are full. Or a pet may need a quiet place to recuperate from an injury or illness. Or a pet may have an infectious disease that requires isolation.

Fostering is a great way for volunteers to get involved. That’s because fostering requires very little structured time commitment, but it’s something that can literally save a pet’s life.

In fact, it’s the thrill of giving a brighter future to a homeless pet that attracts fosters like Toni. “There’s a real feeling of busting them out of jail,” Toni explains. “When I go to the shelter, and when they hand that leash to me, I feel like I’m about to take them on their freedom ride.”

Our first foster failure, Mister K, loves to sleep in paper bags. Read more about him at

A word of warning: There is a major occupational hazard with pet fostering. It’s called foster failing, and it’s happened to nearly everyone. Toni fostered a little dog named Harper after rescuing her from the Dallas shelter. Harper needed a temporary home because she had developed kennel cough. After only two weeks, Toni was hopelessly in love. Needless to say, Harper is now an official member of the Stevens family. “Harper really bonded with my daughter,” Toni offered as an excuse. Another foster failure in the books. (Full disclosure: Pam and I have foster failed twice with our cats Mister K and Lewis. And we’re all living happily ever after.)

The fostering craze is spreading nationwide. I’ve run into many foster advocates like Jennifer Warner of at No Kill conferences across the country. Jennifer has a great list of the top five benefits of pet fostering:

1. Test the Waters. Fostering is an opportunity to “sample” different kinds of pets, and what it’s like to have one if you’re not yet ready to commit forever.

2. Entertainment. You’ll never be bored! There is always something to do with your foster from cuddling to playing fetch.

3. Be Proud. Getting a homeless pet ready for adoption by giving your love, time and friendship is such a rewarding feeling.

4. Community. Make new friends by fostering! It’s a great way to meet new people who care about animals.

5. Life Saved. Opening your heart and home is an important part of saving a life. Fostering a pet is one of the most direct ways you can help an animal.

Pam and I foster failed with Lewis because he was too frightened to meet new people. (How’s that for an excuse?)

And, as Jennifer likes to point out, the Internal Revenue Service recently ruled that foster-related expenses are usually tax-deductible. In other words, you can have fun, get inspired, meet new friends, take pride in yourself and save money at the same time. What’s not to like?

Or flip the equation around: What’s not to like for a dog or cat? Harper was homeless and stricken with kennel cough. Before she knew it, she was recuperating at the Stevens house in Rockwall. And two weeks later, she became a full-fledged member of the family.

So I’ll add one more item to Jennifer’s list, and I think it’s the best thing of all. Fostering homeless pets puts you front and center inside your own fairy tale. It’s another happy ending, and you made it happen. Maybe that’s why fostering is the newest craze.

Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Michael Kitkoski, co-founder of Rockwall Pets and No Kill Solutions.