Andrea McLean: Becoming dog foster parents
PUBLISHED: 11:52 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:08 08 September 2020
Andrea explains why she and Nick chose to become dog foster parents with Battersea Dogs Home
Nick and I are volunteers for Battersea Dogs Home, where we act as foster parents for dogs who need a little break. The reasons they come to us are varied; some are poorly and need some TLC but mostly they are puppies who have been handed in and are best kept in a home environment rather than in kennels.
How does it all work? Well, once we had registered and were officially part of the Battersea team it was a matter of waiting until the phone rang. The first time it did, we were excited and scared – what would we be picking up? It turned out we were picking up a tiny little scrap of a thing, who sat shivering on my lap all the way home.
Foster parents are encouraged to re-name the dogs, so once home, we sat on the floor with the kids, coo-ing over the tiny little ‘Chorkie’ (Chihuahua mixed with Yorkshire terrier) and threw around some names. Finally it was decided that she would henceforth be known as Miley, after Ms Cyrus. She may have looked very different, but she definitely had the same bounce and confidence as her namesake. She settled in within hours, racing round the kitchen like tan-and-black streaked lightning.
We had Miley for a few weeks before she was sent off to her forever home. She made a huge difference to our lives; she was the first dog we had after the death of my beloved Labradoodle Jackson, who had died the year before. I didn’t think I could bear to have a dog in the house again after he passed, I was so heartbroken, but Miley changed all that. After crying all over her, we gathered up her things, said our goodbyes, and life went back to normal. For a while.
Since Miley, a number of dogs have passed through our doors. Each time it’s the same but different; we excitedly head into London to collect the dog, bring him, her or them (yes, we have had three at once!) home and then gently help them to settle in. It’s pretty chaotic for a few days, there can be sleepless nights, messy floors and chewed furniture but knowing that we are helping them get a great start in life makes it all worthwhile.
Dog fostering does come with one drawback. When it comes to them being re-homes, sometimes you just don’t want to give them up. The fact that we now own a one-year-old Cavapoo called Teddy is evidence of that! He came to us as a foster dog, a tiny little nine-week-old puppy who had arrived at the charity that very afternoon, and once we got him home, he never left. When we got the call to say a possible forever home had been found for him, Nick and I looked at each other in horror. Another person wanted our dog?! After weighing up the pros and cons we made the decision – Teddy was staying right where he was.
Since he has become an official member of our family, Teddy has added more love and happiness than any of his temporary visitors. It hasn’t stopped us being foster parents and while COVID-19 has prevented us from having any four-legged visitors for a while, I’m sure we will soon have the pitter-patter of nervous little feet in our kitchen once again.
Why do we do it? Because we are animal lovers, dogs in particular, and we want to do our bit to give them a second chance in life to find love and happiness. That’s all any of us want in life, isn’t it?
If you’d like to get involved with Battersea Dogs Home, you can find details at: battersea.org.uk/about-us/visit-us
If you’ve already got a dog who is giving you the run-around, we can’t recommend dog training highly enough! We took Teddy to Dogs Trust training in Leatherhead for some valuable lessons in obedience that really helped us.
The best bit about having a dog is taking them for long walks in the fresh air (of course, this can also be the worst bit when it’s pouring with sideways rain in January!). Our favourite walks are Epsom Racecourse, Box Hill and Headley Heath – all great for letting your dog off their lead for a good run.