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Fostering a dog is an unforgettable experience

By: Peggy Swager Special to The Gazette
May 19, 2013
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photo - Grant Bunchkowski of Oconomowoc, Wis. and his dog, Champagne, take in the view near the city's Lac LaBelle, Wis., as an impending storm approaches, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart)
Grant Bunchkowski of Oconomowoc, Wis. and his dog, Champagne, take in the view near the city's Lac LaBelle, Wis., as an impending storm approaches, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart) 

The idea of fostering a dog sounds simple - you give a dog a temporary home until it has the opportunity to find a permanent home. But, the experience is far from simple.

I look back now at dogs I have homed until they found their forever home, and I will admit the past three from mill dog rescue are the most memorable.

Pam Arfsten, the foster coordinator at National Mill Dog Rescue in Peyton, can offer a multitude of reasons why adoption agencies need foster homes. They include dogs that feel too stressed in the kennel, dogs that need medical help, dogs that were rescued when the kennel is full and sometimes mothers that are going to whelp puppies.

My reason for taking on the three dogs was to train some of the more challenged dogs. Take Albert, a Chihuahua. He had biting issues and loved to mark in the house. Both of those problems were solved with the right kind of training. And soon I began to see who Albert really was - a professional heart stealer.

When I talked to his forever owner, she said, "He's on my lap right now and I think he knows it's you calling." Albert probably did; he is that kind of "special" dog.

Another mill dog rescue I worked with was Otis, a poodle. After some work, Otis was happy to join his owner at the tennis court, where he sat on the sideline watching as his owner played tennis, then followed her back to her van. Not many dogs would do this, but Otis and his owner made good partners.

My third mill dog rescue was 6 years old. Jewel, a German Shepherd, was not all that difficult to reform and only needed the right guidance to become like any other dog. Since she'd already been returned once, I watched carefully when the potential owners came to meet her.

When Jewel went over to the one woman to meet her, I knew Jewel had found her home. Jewel and I had great hikes together and I miss these dogs much like a school teacher misses favorite students.

The need for foster care is diverse. Any dog can benefit by staying in a home rather than a kennel when awaiting a permanent home. Should you have an inclination to fill this role, consider checking out my website to find some of the agencies who are looking for help.

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Swager is a behaviorist and dog trainer. For more information on where to foster, look online under links at peggyswager.com.

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