Fostering a Dog: It's Good for Your Heart and Your Wallet

  • Smiling man petting dog on sofa
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Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money. It could be a down payment on a home. It could pay off the lion's share of an average college graduate's student loan debt. Or it could buy you a whole lot of cute.

According to the folks at Veterinary Pet Insurance, $20,000 is also the average cost of raising a dog from puppy through, well, the end. Granted, Veterinary Pet Insurance (a subsidiary of insurance-giant Nationwide) is trying to sell you its product, and plenty of people manage to raise a dog for less. But you do have to feed them, cover medical expenses, pay for dog-sitters or walkers if you travel, and buy the occasional bone or tennis ball.

But if you'd like some furry companionship for a lot less, one alternative is to become a dog foster home.

Lots of Love, but Very Little Space

Lillian Madrigal, a public health consultant in Atlanta, knew she wanted a dog in her life but was unsure if her life was ready for a dog. "My roommate and I are pretty puppy-crazy, always looking at adoption websites and wanting to get all of the dogs, but we live in a small apartment with no yard, so we weren't sure if we could commit to keeping a dog long term," said Madrigal.

Fostering a dog through Angels Among Us Pet Rescue let them see if their lives as young professionals were conducive to caring for a pet. They went through a home visit and car check to ensure they were providing a safe space for Truly, their foster-dog-to-be.

Truly, a Wheaton terrier mix, came only with a leash and an "adopt me" vest to be worn during adoption events and walks. "Truly was a small dog so she didn't eat that much food, and we had an old comforter to make a bed for her," said Madrigal who estimates she and her roommate spent about $60 in food, treats and toys. The rescue organization covered veterinary costs.

Aside from subsidizing the cost of a pet, foster programs provide dog-lovers a chance to be sure they're ready to own an animal. "I would highly recommend fostering" said Madrigal. "It's a great way to have a pet, but with a get out of jail free card if you're not ready to make the commitment."

Help Mistreated Animals

Fostering can also fulfill those with an altruistic nature. "We rescued our first two dogs, and I've always had a big place in my heart for animals," said Michelle Schroeder, freelancer and founder of Making Sense of Cents.

Schroeder lives in Missouri, a state reported as one of the worst when it comes to puppy mills. "There are so many animals out there that need a home, and I knew that I wanted to help out," she explained.

Schroeder and her fiancé applied to be a dog foster home through a local organization. They had background checks, a home visit and a compatibility test between Schroeder's dogs and the prospective foster dog before being given an Olde English Bulldogge in need of a loving home.

The dog came with supplies for the first few weeks. Schroeder estimates the two paid a few hundred dollars to help keep the dog healthy.

Those looking to foster without added expense should explore humane societies. The ASPCA "provides our foster caregivers with all the food and supplies they need to take care of their foster animals, and we cover all medical expenses for foster animals, including medication."

Saying Goodbye

Shortly after welcoming a foster dog into their home, Schroeder and her fiancé had an unpleasant surprise. "We found out that our city doesn't allow for fostering pets," she said. "Our next-door neighbor was actually caught fostering a dog as well and had to give it up."

The two have been unable to continue fostering dogs, but hope to move to a city that doesn't have such restrictive laws.

The potential heartache of saying goodbye to pet may cause some to be reluctant to open their homes -- and more importantly hearts -- to a foster pet program. While it may hurt at first, the good karma of saving a dog's life and helping get the dog into a permanent home may help dull the ache.

"It was very hard when we gave her to a new family," Schroeder said. "Luckily, my parents-in-law wanted her, but I was extremely sad and, I could tell that our other two dogs were as well."

While Madrigal and her roommate miss their furry friend, the two were happy to place Truly with a loving couple who had two young girls. "The girls love her so much, and the adoptive family has a big fenced yard for Truly to run around in," she said. "Everything clicked, and we were happy to see her get adopted into such a loving home."

Erin Lowry writes for DailyFinance on issues relating to millennials, money and personal finance. She's also the blogger behind Broke Millennial, where her sarcastic sense of humor entertains and educates her peers. Popular posts include:

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Fostering is wonderful, you see the dog l get better for whatever medical issues he may have. Watching him/her learning commands, sharing with the other dogs and as usual I love the foster as much as I love my own dogs. But as long as they are going to a loving FURever home, the reward is worth the fostering. I have fostered many and all of them found wonderful homes. I volunteer for the Miniature Schnauzer Rescue of Houston []. And of course I have fostered and rescued other breeds as well, again each one found a loving and FURever home. Again, the reward of saving at least one animal at the time is worth it. Give a try.

May 09 2014 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd like to know the city/town they lived in that actually didn't allow fostering pets. I've never heard of such a thing!! What possible harm could fostering an abused or neglected pet and teaching them to love and trust humans be detrimental to the community??? I can only think it's ignorant community leaders who believe certain breeds like pitbulls are dangerous so to cover all bases have now decided even a 2 lb. Yorkie doesn't deserve to be rehabilitated :) Shame on them for pulling the trigger on a stupid law without doing any research on the benefits of fostering and rehoming one of God's best creations!!!

April 17 2014 at 12:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

* causes innocent,precious animals suffering.

April 16 2014 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I couldn't do it because of the simple fact that I'd get too attached the dog and it would be heartbreaking to let it go. I've had a beautiful Ragdoll cat that someone gave me 2 years ago and had a dog in the past so I know of the unconditional love animals bring.
I also have rabbits.
There are so many pet shops,puppy mills, and irresponsible owners who breed pets they can't care for. It's a mess that causes so many inoocen,.precious animals suffering.

April 16 2014 at 4:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I've always have had a dog...can't imagine my life without one. They give you their love without asking anything in return from you...They don't want you money and they are ready at the door when you come home...they never argue with you or you.

April 16 2014 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I could not even imagine a world without dogs in my home. I currently have 5 and they are the greatest companion's I could ever have ben blessed with however it does come with added expenses to your pocket book so don't take the decision lightly of should you or should you not if even for a second you question having one don't get one you must be all in or not. Feeding, toys, vet bills, free time these are a few of what to expect while caring for a pet. There's also what do you do if you travel a lot can you take it with you or find a good babysitter and if no other choice a good boarding facility make sure you tour the boarding place first. In the end they are expensive so don't plan on exposing a dog to your selfish desire to have a dog cause there may be very little options available once your pup is older and you find out you made a mistake.

April 16 2014 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

$200 for her needle and blood work.. She will need more shots in a few weeks.Food is $22.00 a 3lb bag. Many cannot afford that, plus coats and sweaters, toys. But, the love they give is priceless, esp to the elderly,, so Bob, please think of that. If they cannot afford an animal how will they send a child to college?

April 16 2014 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gstripodi's comment

tax payers dime its the go to for everything

April 16 2014 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People must learn too respond to the article, not to what they wish to. This is not about fostering a child, which of course is a wonderful idea, but, about fostering an animal. I think it is great. Especially for people who cannot afford the cost, and yes, it does get very pricey with an animal. I have a 5lb Yorkie and just spent

April 16 2014 at 11:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gstripodi's comment

I have 5 dogs and you got it right that they are expensive but I wouldn't have it any other way. As to the fostering of pets when you cant afford them is an ok thing because what I usually find out the whole process is that the foster family will keep the dog continually telling the agency to who the dog belongs that they are trying to place the pet but are running into problems. Most of the agencies don't over see the fostering process so the fostering family has adopted the dog yet doesn't admit it to the org that way the expensive part of the ownership is covered by the org not the foster. Its welfare introduced into the process of adopting a dog who would have guessed welfare fraud on puppy adoption

April 16 2014 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you want a loyal friend, get a dog. Much better choice than a human.

April 16 2014 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pvmeter's comment

I wish I could be the person my Beagle thinks I am. Every morning when I wake up I look at my Beagle and whisper that to my self as a motivation to do the best I can in a messed up world he's one of 5 dogs I share my life with

April 16 2014 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brother Bob


April 16 2014 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brother Bob's comment

you are meaning baby or child are you not

April 16 2014 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply