Saying Goodbye to a Foster Pet

Fostering a needy pet is one of the most important things an animal lover can do. It's also an emotional, often life-changing experience that isn't for everyone—even for those who can do it, saying goodbye is never easy. But, it also signifies one of the happiest events in the pet foster care system—a new family being created. Here are a few tips to help you with the transition of letting go:

It gets easier with time. For many people, the first time you say goodbye to a foster pet is the hardest—the second time is easier, the third, even more so. While you never stop caring for the foster animals that come into your home, you will soon realize that the sadness is often replaced with the satisfaction of knowing you were instrumental in saving a life. 

Become active in the adoption process. Many foster parents enjoy taking an active role in the adoption process and find that it helps with the transition of saying goodbye. While every shelter has a different policy on how involved a foster pet parent can be, most shelters would be delighted to get as much information on your foster pet as possible. Is he very active or a couch potato? Is he socialized with other animals? This information may be invaluable to ensuring that your foster pet is matched with the right family.

Focus on the ultimate goal. It's only natural to find you have a stronger bond with certain animals and may even question whether or not to adopt your foster pet. At these times it's important to remember why you became a foster parent—it's about helping save a life. Shelters across the country are overflowing with adoptable animals, but in the absence of available foster homes, many have no choice but to turn to euthanasia. As a foster parent, it's vital to keep your original goals in mind and remain committed to helping foster pets find loving, forever homes.

Learn to celebrate. One simple action you can take to help alleviate the "letting go blues" is to celebrate the occasion. From throwing a little goodbye party to treating yourself to a special dinner, it's good to commemorate the fact that your foster pet has found a new forever home. It's also important to acknowledge your hard work. So go ahead, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and celebrate!

Don't feel guilty. After days, weeks or even months of bonding, it can be painful to say goodbye to a foster pet. You may even experience strong feelings of guilt for not adopting the animal yourself—this is to be expected. However, it's important to understand that while these feelings are natural for you, animals are incredibly resilient and adaptable—your foster pet will become part of his new family and be living happily ever after in no time!

Start or join a foster support network. It's very important for pet foster parents to communicate with like-minded folk. By joining a foster support network you'll be able to share advice and experiences, give support and even provide a shoulder to cry on.

Take a break. With the constant demands of foster work, you may begin to feel a bit burned out—and that's completely understandable. You may also simply need time to process your feelings in between fosters. It is important to recognize these feelings and follow through with the break. While you may feel guilty or pressured to immediately open your home to another foster pet, if you burn out completely, there will be one less foster home available—so take time!

Cherish the memories. Consider saving memories of your furry foster friends in a scrapbook. From photos, to reminiscent stories and other memorabilia—a foster scrapbook is a great way to capture the memories of your foster pets, while honoring the many animals whose lives you have directly helped.