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Cost of Fostering a Dog

Stray foster dog

Could you leave him?

If you’re unsure if getting a dog is a good idea or if you don’t have the money to spend on costs of pet care, fostering is a great way to have a dog without all the responsibilities or expenses. However, there are costs, monetary and otherwise, of fostering a dog. Since we’ve had a few fosters over the years and I just picked up a new one  last week, here’s the real stuff you need to know if you are considering being a foster dog parent.

Why Did You Get a Foster?

You probably know that we are loving family travel at the moment. We just got back from San Diego, my daughter and I are going to Kentucky for Memorial Weekend, our family is heading to Hawaii in a couple of months, and we just planned a trip to Yellowstone National Park for Labor Day, why on earth did I bring home a new dog right now?

Well, I think you can see from the picture that this was one I just couldn’t leave behind. I work on a reservation once or twice a week and stray dogs are as common as air. I am usually pretty good at looking the other way, but sometimes I can’t. I brought two puppies home last year. They ended up in good homes, and I see them from time to time. It makes me happy beyond belief that I helped them escape.

This guy was out in the parking lot at lunch. I was making a phone call and he came up to me, very tentatively, to see what I was up to. After some coaxing, he let me pet him. I promised that if he was there when it was time to leave , I’d take him with me. I texted Jim asking him to please not divorce me.

Rez Dogs Are Smart

I looked out a few times after that and didn’t see him. Then about an hour before quitting time, there he was. I told him to hold out for one more hour. I finished a little early and went out to the car, but no doggie. Now, I normally don’t drive around on the rez. The clinic area is pretty safe, but lone, white girls just don’t spend time cruising around the neighborhoods.  I still decided to make a lap to see if I could find my new friend.

When I had just about given up, I made one more pass by the parking lot, and there he was, right at 4:30, just like I’d told him. Shame on me for being early! Sadly, he also brought his brother or sister. Both of them were skin and bones and filthy. I know dogs don’t talk, but in my head I can just see my buddy telling his sibling that a nice lady was coming at 4:30 and he/she needed to come too.

My friend let me pick him up and put him in the car, but his sibling wouldn’t let me get very close. He or she eventually let me pet it a little, but ran off when I tried to pick it up. It’s amazing these dogs like humans at all with all they go through, so I can’t blame this one for not trusting me.  I’m really sad he got away, but I can’t save them all.

Foster Dog Blake

On my way into town, I called our vet and set up an appointment for next week. I called the humane society, who agreed to take the dog on as a foster. Normally, you should ask  them if they have fosters, not pick one up yourself, but I was on their board for 10 years, so I have a little street cred when it comes to dog rescue. Jim isn’t going to divorce me.

We decided to call him Blake after the country music singer. It was as good a name as any and will probably get changed at some point when he gets adopted. Blake was starved, but we only gave him a little food to make sure he didn’t throw up. He also drank about a gallon of water.

Next step was a bath. I could tell he was a white dog, but he looked more like reservation red from all the dirt. We also pulled 18 ticks off the poor fellow. He didn’t like the bath or delousing, but took it like a trooper. After some more food, and lots of whining when we put him in a kennel, he fell asleep. He has since taking a liking to my pillow, and I’ll probably let him have it.

foster dog napping

Waking up from a nap

What’s This Foster Going to Cost?

Even though the humane society covers all costs associated with foster dogs, I felt bad because it wasn’t their choice to foster this one. I knew I would pay all his vet bills. I just wanted the exposure of the organization to help get this dog adopted when he’s ready. That means I’ll be paying for shots, neuter, flea and worm treatment, dog food, and probably some toys. I’ll let them technically pay for all this and then make a donation to cover it. That way I’ll at least get a tax deduction!

We will probably also have costs associated with anything he chews up, cleaning up when he pees on the floor, and for a new pillow for me. This will also take up lots of time I really don’t have, but I don’t care. It’s worth it to me.

It will also probably break my heart a little bit when we have to let him go. I think with most fosters, you always consider keeping them. I know we don’t need another dog with all the travel coming up. We have a great friend who loves to keep our dog right now, but we can’t add another. It’s not the right time.

My Heart is Happy

Like Shannon at the Heavy Purse says, spending money should make your heart happy. I don’t know what my ultimate legacy will be. I hope I raise a child who is a productive member of society. Maybe someone will remember that I helped them with their eyes. The only thing I really know for sure is that there are going to be many dogs that lived to have a warm bed and full belly because I scooped them up. I’m not sure why I can walk away from most of them and why certain ones just seem to call my name, but it’s a fact. Leaving this dog would have been as likely as sprouting wings and flying away. It wasn’t possible. As I am watching him nap by the fireplace right now, I know whatever this dog ends up costing in money or emotions is worth every penny.

cost to foster dogs

Clean, full, and happy

Do you need a good dog? Would you consider fostering?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. What a beautiful dog! I’ve definitely considered fostering, though we plan on adopting first (which is opposite the advice you gave haha). Our friend is moving to Japan and she need someone to take her dog, so if we take any dog it’ll be hers. I would consider fostering a second one, though, as I feel like it would be easy to add a second dog if I’m already taking care of one.

    • Two dogs are great until you go on a trip, then it’s either twice the expense of boarding or twice the goodwill needed from friends and family. When we had 3 dogs, we had to scramble and split them up between whoever we could find. It’s so much easier with one! Kind of like an only child.

  2. Dogs are great. I have springer spaniels. I would be a bit leery of a dog I didn’t know what the upbringing was. Or one with mixed in with dangerous bloodlines.

    But it is nice that dogs can have a decent home too. They give back quite a bit in emotional support when you need them.

    • It is kind of a grab bag when you pick one up out of the blue, but somehow, I’ve always chosen pretty well. Dogs off the reservation are generally pretty amazing unless they stay there too long and become feral. I believe someone probably dumped this dog and his brother/sister not too long ago. People have puppies, keep them while they are cute, then dump them around the clinic when they start to get big. It’s really sad because they do free spay/neuter clinics down there all the time.

  3. Oh, I just want to hug that little guy!!!! Thank you so much for going with your gut and taking this adorable little guy home. Amazing how he knew exactly what time to be at the parking lot, Kim. I believe people are called to certain “ministries” so to speak, and yours is one with animals, and you do an awesome job at saving the babes that others have abandoned. We’d do fostering in a heartbeat once we’re out of debt.

    • It was just too surreal to be coincidence. He was right on time with his litter mate. Our dog Ralph, who passed about a year ago, also made sure he got himself into our vehicle at the right time to go with us. They are smart or someone guides them for sure.

  4. What a good looking dog! I would think it would be pretty difficult to see a dog like this and take him in. We haven’t fostered before and would likely be some time before we could. Our four year old is insanely afraid of dogs for some reason even though he loves them so I imagine he’d go nuts if we brought one home. 🙂

  5. We recently had a great experience with the humane society when putting one of our dogs up for adoption. I was really impressed with the effort they took to match our dog up with a new family. Now that I know how the system works, I’d consider fostering a dog for them.

  6. I love fostering pets. We used to do it all the time, but our city actually has a law against fostering so we had to stop 🙁

    We do have two dogs that we adopted and love them.

  7. Aw, what a cutie! This warmed my heart. I used to work at an animal shelter, and I saw some stray dogs come in that were in horrendous shape. Thankfully, there was a great staff there that made a world of difference. Fostering is definitely something I am interested in once we have a place of our own. Being able to help animals find forever homes is a great feeling.

  8. Awwww….Kim, reading this brings a tear to my eye. You have a huge heart and that dog will find a great home with lots of love, attention and food because of you. I absolutely believe that money is gift and you should use on what makes your heart happy. We so often think what makes us happy are things and to an extent they do, but once we really start working that heart muscle and figuring out what makes us happy and what we our money to do for us – it’s rarely things that truly make us happy – it’s helping others, including a dog find a forever home. Sounds like money well-spent to me.

  9. Awe that’s so sweet and he looks so happy! Good for you Kim! I probably wouldn’t take on a foster but only because I have a cat so I’m not sure how they would get along. And I think I would have a hard time parting ways, but who knows in the future if my situation will change. Hope you find Blake a good home!

    • I have limited my fostering because of that reason. I don’t ever want them to leave, but we have too many travel plans to take another dog, so I’m pretty sure this one will go when the right person comes along.

  10. I actually have 3 dogs. 2 of them were pitbulls that some idiot starved. The other is a 6 month old border collie from a ranch here in Oregon. I love them all. Of course, dogs are much smarter than we take them for as you learned at 4:30 that day. Also, I’m sorry to hear that the brother and sister didn’t seem to be as well taken care of. I think everyone needs a dog and the best way to start is by fostering. There are few things that feel better than taking in a dog that you knew didn’t have the love it needed and loving it because you quickly learn that the feeling is mutual!

    • This is the 5th dog I’ve picked up from the reservation, and they are all eternally grateful. Much more so than the one dog I had from the time she was a puppy.

  11. Interesting point. I wonder if the adoption organization would cover property damage like chewed up pillows from their animals?

  12. I”ve known too many people who insisted on buying their pets as puppies because shelter dogs have “too many issues”. Both of my dogs were strays before they ended up in a shelter and both are totally awesome people loving pets. Thank you for giving that stray a chance to find a home and a family.

    • I’ve only had one purebred dog ever and it had way more issues than the mutts. I love them all, but the Jack Russell was neurotic to the bone, had allergies, and skin issues, and was know to pick fights with really big dogs!

  13. My brother and law and his wife have fostered a few dogs. Well, one of them did actually go back to their owner (it was a military foster dog), the others they just ended up adopting. 🙂

    • That is really great to foster for someone serving in the military. That would be awful to not be able to keep your dog while on duty.

  14. Nice job Kim! My wife and I considered fostering for some time, but my wife gets a serious attachment to dogs. We probably would end up with 10 dogs and then keep them all. That would be bad for the wallet. I think you did a noble thing taking him in.

  15. Such a great story and I’m so glad you were able to save him! It’s unfortunate when animal control is unable to control animal populations in certain areas like Reservations because they don’t have their own and don’t allow outside agencies in.

    We recently adopted a street cat and her one baby and unbeknownst to us, the mom was pregnant! So after having the babies, we’re waiting to get the four kitties adopted as we can’t have 6 cats! but it’s so sad because there are so many un-spayed and un-neutered pets out there. I’m glad you’re able to foster. 🙂

    • They actually do have an animal control officer who sometimes just shoots the dogs if he doesn’t feel like picking them up. They also have a shelter, but sometimes they forget to go in and feed and water the animals over the weekends. I’m not making that up. The local humane society has spent years building enough good will with the tribe so that they allow a non-profit from Denver to go in every couple of months to do a free spay/neuter clinic. This organization also paid to have a heating system put into the shelter because they had no heat in the winter. It’s two steps forward and one step back, but believe it or not there are fewer strays than there were years ago down there. It’s very hard to change cultural attitudes. That’s cool about your cat. You never know what you’ll get when you adopt a pet!

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