Ask the Fosters: Should I adopt my foster dog?

Emily and foster Morgan, now "Ramona". Credit: Leslie Leda

Emily and foster Morgan, now "Ramona". Credit: Leslie Leda

"Dear Fellow Fosters: I am currently fostering a pup (Pit Bull mix) and having trouble deciding whether or not to adopt her. She has amazing potential adopters with a yard, though. I would love to keep her; I just want to make the best decision for her.

I am a law student in the city. I live walking distance from school and am able to be with her for most of the day, every day. Right now, I don’t leave her for more than two hours at a time because she is still crate training. She is very mellow and usually sleeps the entire time that I am home. 

She is my first foster and I feel very attached. Please give any advice on working with a dog at home in the city.” 

– Emily

(Read article all the way through for thoughtful comments, advice, stories, and an UPDATE!)


TARA SAYS: “First of all, thank you for being a foster caretaker – you rock for being such a giving and loving person who is willing to open up your home to a pup in need! Many, many fosters (including myself) have gone through the agony of ‘to keep or not to keep,’ especially when there is a special bond between pup and person. When the pup has a potential adopter(s) who seem awesome, this dilemma can even be harder. Now I can’t tell you whether or not to keep the pup, but I can tell you to make sure that you think through all of the particularities of owning a dog forever. Aside from the time issue which you’ve mentioned, the financial side is something to thoughtfully consider. It can be a lot! From monthly worm/flea & tick preventatives and food/treats, to monthly pet healthcare (if you go that route) and other dog essentials, to those inevitable (and sometimes costly) dog heath issues or medical emergencies, there are many costs in owning a dog that, until I adopted myself, wasn’t fully aware even existed. There’s also the issue of a support system – do you have a support system in place to help you take care of the pup when need be (family, significant other, reliable/dog-friendly friends)? This isn’t just during vacations or weekend trips, but thinking through unforeseen circumstances like health matters or job obligations; it’s also just day-to-day: people to emotionally and physically support you during the everyday stresses of owning a dog. It’s important to have a reliable, meaningful support system in your life in general, but this need is heightened when having a dog. I’ve read/heard that you should hire a dog walker if you are going to leave a pup alone consistently for more than 5-6 hours a day. The time issue with dogs also involves the time you spend with your pup – consistent exercise, playtime with other dogs, quality time with the pup, etc… You also need to consider whether you will be able to work through possible behavioral issues. Dogs go through a number of different developmental stages, and with those stages can sometimes come hiccups. Will you be able to work through these issues – be it spending one-on-one time training, hiring a trainer, or other avenues people take when addressing a behavioral issue with their pups?

Mind you, I’m not trying to dissuade you from adopting! Ever since my boyfriend and I adopted our pup a little over a year ago my life has felt so much more enriched and happy. However, my life has also changed tremendously since adopting her. I don’t go out as much (mostly because we like spending time with my pup haha), many daily decisions of what to do are influenced by her, sometimes I don’t see friends as often, and sometimes during little health or behavioral issues my stress level has significantly increased. All of that being said, I wouldn’t change a thing! I’m a student like yourself – trying to balance a dog with PhD dissertation writing with life – so I totally understand a lot of what you are going through. I hope all of this helps at least a little!”

JENNY SAYS: “I just went through this! I still don’t know if we made the right decision letting an amazing couple adopt our wonderful pup. He is so happy, but we miss him desperately and feel like we lost ‘The One.’ But we weren’t quite ready to commit for the next 15 years, and we figured better to harm ourselves than to potentially harm him. Now I wish we’d kept him, but also know we’ll find another delight when the time is right. I would say as long as you’re sure you’re ready, keep it! But if not, like us, you’ll find your ‘perfect’ dog; when it’s ‘perfect’ timing for you!”

MEGAN SAYS: “Another thing that has to be considered is owning a pit or pit mix in the city and finding housing if you ever moved. I spent a very long time of constant disappointment before finding an apartment complex that allowed larger dogs, let along a bully breed. It should not be an issue but unfortunately it can be.”

Foster mom Camilla, photo by Hilary Benas

Foster mom Camilla, photo by Hilary Benas

CAMILLA SAYS: “I totally get what you’re going through. I’ve had 12 fosters so far, and every one had it’s own unique personality, and I became attached to every single one. My first foster was the ‘worst’ in the sense that I got so bonded with her that I cried like a baby when I handed her over to her new perfect family in upstate NY. They had a daughter, a backyard, out of the city, and they were absolutely perfect for her. Even though I felt so attached, I could see how they would give her a great home and that it would free me up to help another foster dog in need. I’m not saying don’t adopt – not at all! Just know that you will feel attached to every dog that enters your life. For me, keeping in touch with my fosters and their new family has helped me feel like I’m still a part of their lives. Maybe you could ask the potential adoptive family if they would be willing to share a couple pictures now and then or if they plan on posting doggie pics on Instagram so you can follow them. I follow a couple of my old fosters on Instagram, and I have 3 who still send me emails with pictures (including my very first foster puppy). It’s a nice way to let go – without completely letting go. Thanks for helping a doggie in need and good luck whatever your decision might be!”

JESS SAYS: “I’ve had about 20 fosters and trust me some I didn’t think I could live without. It’s never easy. If this is your first foster, I will tell you they will be the hardest one to forget (just like your first kiss) but once you welcome your next foster, the pain goes away. Having a dog (as a single person) is like being a single parent. There’s a lot to consider. I’m fortunate to have a fiancé and parents that help me. When you see the adopted family with her, your heart will glow and you’ll feel proud that you help saved that particular dog. On behalf of all rescues thank you for fostering!”

Emily and her now-adopted pup Ramona!

Emily and her now-adopted pup Ramona!

After reading all these thoughtful responses from the past two days, foster mom Emily wrote:

An update for all my advisors: I couldn’t bear it… I adopted her!” Now named Ramona, this Pit mix is one lucky pup!

emily scott ramona.jpg

Three years after Emily fostered and adopted Ramona, she and her boyfriend Scott were married in New York City, and encouraged all their friends and family to donate to Foster Dogs in their honor. This rescue tale is one for the history books, and we couldn't be happier for this family!


Note: The original version of this blog post was published on our website in April 2014