Dudley; Photo provided by Lou Hurst

Being a Dog Foster Parent

The Hursts adopted their first dog while at their cabin. Just over ten years ago, around 2009, a Beagle would regularly greet them in their driveway every Friday, and would often stay the weekend with them. According to Lou Hurst, Dudley actually belonged to another resident at the lake who let him run loose. After a year or so, the owner approached the Hursts, asking them if they’d take the dog, as the owner was unable to care for him any longer. Since that time, the Hursts have also become dog foster parents.

ALLISON: Tell me about your background with animals.

LOU: Both Camilla’s and my background with animals is similar. We both grew up with dogs. Camilla also had a rabbit for a few years. Soon after we married we got a Weimaraner. Then kids came along. Our first Weim passed away, we got another from the same breeder within a year.

ALLISON: Why did you decide to become a dog foster?

Elly; Photo provided by Lou Hurst
Elly; Photo provided by Lou Hurst

LOU: About four years ago I saw on the Husker Weim Rescue Facebook page a post about a Weim in Missouri in dire need of a foster family. The poor dog looked like it had been in a battle zone. In checking the page over the next few hours it appeared that no one in the group at was able to help. So I asked my wife if we could take this poor dog. She said let’s do it.

I contacted the group and after a very hurried vetting process for us, we were approved to take the dog. We were told she was already on the way to Omaha so the transport driver was “detoured” three miles to drop her off at our cabin later that night. Making a short story of her condition, we were told it was somewhat of a surprise she survived the trip.

We brought her in and oh my did that dog drink a bunch of water! The driver said that was a good sign; he hadn’t been able to get her to eat or drink for several days. We tried a bit of Dudley’s food. She snarfed it right down! We gave her some more, she snarfed that right down too! Dudley acted his usual indifferent self, outside of acting excited to see another dog for the first couple minutes, he pretty much left her alone. She made it through the night and acted much better the next day. We were subsequently able to get her back to decent health and saw her off to her new forever home here in Lincoln. We got to “babysit” Ellie a couple times while her parents went on vacation so that was very touching.

Another experience fostering a dog was with a German Shorthair Pointer that showed up at the lake one July 4th. Like our first foster, this gal had been through a war zone. No collar, no chip, and thoroughly terrified of fireworks. We took her in that night, did all the usual calls to the county Sheriff, vets, etc. but were unsuccessful at locating an owner. We wound up calling the GSP Rescue group since we didn’t want the dog to go a kill shelter. The GSP Rescue group was full at the time so we kept her close to a month until they could get her into their group. We understand the dog was subsequently placed in a good home.

Our current dog, Elly, came to us as what we call a rescue bypass. She is a Weimaraner who belonged to a couple in their early 80s. Her dad had hunted Weims all his life, he got Elly to do the same. Sadly, he developed an aggressive case of dementia. His wife, a petite lady, was knocked down the stairs by Elly and broke her arm. The mom and two daughters decided that given the circumstances, it was best to place her for adoption. They had filled out the online form for surrender with a rescue but then they decided to sleep on it for a short time. One of the daughters worked with Camilla and she mentioned the situation to her. We had lost our dear Dudley a few months prior, so the short of it being we wound up with Elly without her going through the rescue.

Elly; Photo provided by Lou Hurst
Elly; Photo provided by Lou Hurst

ALLISON: Share some memorable or touching moments.

LOU: I can’t say as there are any moments that stand out as particularly memorable in our adventures with fostering. I would say that in a general sense all have been memorable in that we nursed two dogs back to health and they were able to go on to good, loving homes. Likewise we “failed” as fosters and wound up with Dudley. Similarly, Elly’s mom was thrilled to see our fenced back yard and her dog romping and running around like she felt a dog should do. She’s also visited a couple times and it thrills us that she is happy with Elly’s home.

ALLISON: How have you grown in your foster abilities?

LOU: Some things we’ve learned about dogs throughout this is that dogs are fairly resilient creatures, given a safe, loving environment. Old dogs can learn new tricks. It may take longer and more patience, but the effort is so worth it.

We’ve also become more aware that we as humans need to “read” the dog. That is, become more aware of how dogs communicate with one another and use that in our responses with them. While each dog is a unique individual, there are certain common traits in their communication with us. For instance, an intermittent habit of Elly’s would have annoyed us previously. If we’re both gone, she will forage in the laundry for one of our socks or underwear. We’ll find it in the middle of our bedroom. Likewise, if we’re both downstairs, the same thing will occasionally happen. While we haven’t researched this in any way, it appears she’s getting something familiar and lying down with it in her most secure area, our bedroom. Rather than get annoyed, we just pick up whatever she dragged out and put it back in the laundry basket.

ALLISON: Have you been involved with helping the dogs find adopters? If so, how?

LOU: For our two main foster adventures, we didn’t help with placing the dog. The organization took care of that end of the deal. In Ellie’s case, we were able to meet the family that the rescue sent. It was a two-step approach. They came for a “meet and greet” and decide if Ellie was for them. It was a match so they came back the next day to pick her up. While it was a bit emotional for us, we felt we were part of the dog’s overall journey in life. A necessary step if you will. So while parting was a bit emotional, it is so thrilling to see the new parents with their new dog. That’s an honor and a privilege neither one of us would trade for anything and makes the goodbye very tolerable.

Photo provided by Lou Hurst
Photo provided by Lou Hurst

ALLISON: Why foster instead of adopt?

LOU: One thing we like about fostering is foster parents are to a degree able to pick and choose when they have a dog. It’s a full time commitment while in our care but we also know it isn’t forever. We also get to avoid end of life issues. We’ve now had to do that three times and while letting our furry family member go is the kindest thing we can do for them, it’s also the very hardest. It’s a necessary part of the commitment. With fostering, saying goodbye is a joyful thing, a cause for celebration. We know we’re a part of the total journey. We get to meet a new dog, care for them for a time and then usher them into what is hopefully a good rest of their life. So yes, we are able to get emotionally attached but I would liken it to what we consider to be a good teacher in a student’s life. They care, they allow them to get attached to their students, and then they usher them along to the next step.

ALLISON: Give a tip to future fosters.

LOU: If we were to give one tip for fostering it would be to approach it as project of sorts. You have this life in your care and, for the time being, you’re the most important thing in that animal’s life. You’re preparing this animal for its next step in life, a forever, loving home. I can’t elaborate a lot beyond that because we all approach projects in our own way. Each situation is a little different and, so knowing the end goal, we can be flexible in the manner we get there.

ALLISON: Why should others foster dogs?

LOU: I think others should consider fostering because the need is always there for the temporary care of the too many animals that for whatever reason find themselves without a home. Animal shelters and veterinarians can house only so many of those animals. A foster home gives the much needed element of time to the equation of placement. There is much to be said for the positive impact you will have in the life of our furry friends.

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