Some years ago, as I was coming home from work, I heard a very soft meow; barely audible. I had just entered the portico. I looked around to see where the sound was coming from & saw three bundles of fur, left behind by their mother who had obviously gone hunting for food .In two minds, I left them alone. As the evening wore on, my mind was wavering towards bringing them home. It didn’t take long before I decided to bring them up for a saucer of warm milk thinking that I would leave them back before their mother returned from her hunt. On closer inspection, I found that they were burning with fever. However, I left them back in case the mother returned. Hours later, when I went to check on them, they were still alone. The mother was nowhere in sight & they were most definitely abandoned.
Living in a 1 BHK apartment in Mumbai, I despaired over where to keep them. An animal shelter meant having to risk their health further by exposing them to other diseased animals in the shelter. Finally I decided to take them into my home and foster them. As time passed by, an otherwise dreary life was filled with joy and happiness. Gradually they grew bigger and stronger. A month later, three more kittens were brought to me. I couldn’t turn them away as they had barely opened their eyes and so I took them in also. Difficult to manage, I was forced to look for other homes that would care for them. Luckily, a friend agreed and between the two of us, we started fostering 6 kittens. In the meantime I got calls about abandoned puppies and again the search began. Calls kept coming and out of a desperate need I began to furiously hunt for other foster homes.
Many told me that it was impossible to expect people to come forward to foster animals and permanent homes were difficult to find .Fortunately I found both .But it involved a lot of work. While fostering them, I had to simultaneously look for permanent homes so I took pictures of the kittens & puppies; I posted the pictures on adoption sites online; I sent mass emails to my friends & colleagues; I took printouts & distributed them to people at pet food shops. As a last ditch effort, I travelled to Lonavala, met people who owned farms & told them why adopting puppies would be both useful to them & personally gratifying. After a fruitless search all day, universe bounty came in the form of the owner of A1 chikki.I managed to tell him about the puppies in broken hindi & handed a print out to him. He agreed to adopt all the puppies. A week later, some of the kittens found new homes while some remained with me.
Our cities are full of stray animals. Every now and then, an animal is hurt. Every other day, an animal is found abandoned. Over the years I have been involved with an animal shelter house called Karunashram which is a unit of People for Animals & located at Pipri in Vidharba but It never occurred to me to take the easy way out & send them there. Shelters are filled to the rim. They cannot take in anymore. Where do these animals go? Into our homes? Yes, I believe they can if we have the space in our hearts. Fostering animals and finding homes for them can be a daunting task if you do it all by yourself. The need of the hour is more rescue groups, more foster homes, more leaflets & above all a willingness to do your bit to help change the lives of these animals. The entire process can take time. It is tiring but fulfilling.
What is fostering?
Fostering simply means taking care of an injured or abandoned animal until it finds a permanent home.
How does fostering help?
1. It reduces the burden on overcrowded shelters.
2. It reduces risk of infection that can spread in a shelter that houses both diseased animals and abandoned animals.
3. It creates space in the shelter for animals that might need shelter on emergency basis.
4. It provides a stress free, healthy, loving environment for the animal.
5. It helps the foster family in training the animal to be ready for adoption into a good home.
6. The foster family understands the behavior of the animal and provides appropriate feedback for the kind of family that would best suit the animal.
7. Fostering provides a chance to abused animals to reclaim their lives.
8. Fostering is personally gratifying.
Important points to consider before volunteering to foster-
1. Do you have the time and the space?
Fostering is time consuming and it requires a certain commitment that one must be prepared for. It is very emotionally grueling if you are an exam going student or have a busy work schedule. Not having enough space in your home is not so important as having space in your heart. A puppy or a kitten requires constant attention. They need to be fed at regular intervals. They may need medication & have to be taken to the vet. Can you bear the expenses involved? They have to be toilet trained so you would have to spend a considerable amount of time observing their behavior and following them around just as you would follow your child. It requires patience & dedication.
2. Can you let go?
Letting go of an animal you have fostered can be heartbreaking. You have loved and cared for them for so long and you cannot do that without some attachment so it's very difficult to let go when you care for them like your own. Don’t deny an animal the chance to get adopted into a good home unless you are prepared to let them into your home permanently. If not, then your role is over. Other animals might need you to foster them.
People for Animals, Wardha, provides sanctuary to many unfortunate animals & although we try, we cannot provide them the love & care they would get in a home setting. So many animals fight a losing battle merely because shelters can only do so much. Fostering and Adoption go hand in hand. A dedicated rescue team and foster homes together can more effectively get animals adopted into good homes. All we need is strength in numbers. One person & one more. Do you have what it takes?
About the Author
Manisha Hariharan is a businesswoman,corporate trainer,image consultant & writer.She is also a member of People for Animals,Wardha & most importantly a vegan.