Safe Passage for Foster Dogs

The owners of 2 well-loved terriers give care and affection to canine visitors to prepare them for their forever homes
By Brenna Malmberg Houzz, July 2017
The joys of dog fostering

This household of four — a couple and their two dogs — welcomes in new faces all the time. These new faces are local foster dogs who need a temporary place to stay until they find a forever home.

Pets at a Glance
Pets: Chloe, a Jack Russell terrier; Tucker, a toy fox terrier; and their foster roommates
Ages: 6 (Chloe) and 5 (Tucker)
Location: Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 
Owners: Drew and Jenna Kutcher

Meet Chloe: She was Drew and Jenna Kutcher’s first dog, as well as their first interaction with the foster dog system. Chloe had been staying with a foster family until the couple could pick her up. Jenna could see how well loved Chloe had been, and that positive experience made her decide to keep in touch with the rescue shelter and get on its email list.

Meet Tucker: Soon, Jenna found herself signed up to foster a dog. “I committed us to our first foster experience, which ended up being a failure in that we kept him — that’s our dog Tucker,” she says. 

Foster family: A year and a half later, a friend of Jenna’s started her own pet rescue. Jenna got involved and that’s when she started actually fostering dogs on a regular basis. Together, Drew, Jenna, Chloe and Tucker have become a temporary family to many young pups.

 

Welcome home: The Kutchers’ goal is to make every foster feel comfortable and safe in their home. To do this, Drew and Jenna carry around the pup in what they call a puppy sling. “We literally wear the dog on our bodies so they learn to trust us first, and it gives our two territorial pups a chance to adjust to the new family member,” Jenna says. They also keep the foster dog separate from Chloe and Tucker initially to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the new situation. 

Short but sweet: Each foster dog stays with the Kutchers for anywhere from a week to a month. This foster dog, Frito, stayed for two weeks.

 

Office space: The foster dogs, such as Emma here, call Jenna’s office home. “It’s a warm, sunny spot in the house, and it’s more removed from our bedroom where our two dogs sleep,” she says. “Our dogs are pretty feisty and used to ruling the home, so it’s always a shock to them when a new dog arrives. Keeping the fosters in my warm office with the French doors closed allows us to bond with the new pup and give our dogs time to adjust to the new friend.”

Plus, the room has hardwood floors, which makes it easier to clean up any accidents.

On the job: Both Jenna and Drew work from home. She’s a photographer, podcaster and educator and he’s a personal health coach. Because they work from home, the dogs spend almost every minute with them and not much time in a crate. The dogs get to explore the couple’s 105-year-old Craftsman home; for Miguel, that meant climbing up on a chair.

 

“Most of the time we will spoil the fosters and let them snuggle in our laps while we type at our computers, but we try to make sure our two dogs don’t feel left out,” Jenna says. Here, Max rests a paw on the laptop, which might be more distracting than helpful, but that’s OK.

Favorite part of the workday:Walk (or run) time! Both the humans and the dogs eagerly step outside to stretch their legs. Jenna and Drew also love to listen to podcasts while they walk the dogs around the neighborhood.

Break time: “You’d be amazed at how much puppies sleep,” Jenna says. Emma takes a snooze in the middle of the carpet; she needs a long nap after her jog with Drew.

Jenna says they also have lots of little beds around the house for the dogs to sleep in.

Occasionally, the foster dogs hop into the couple’s bed and snuggle under the covers.

Off-limits: To keep everyone safe and the carpet clean, the Kutchers use child gates to block off stairs and any carpeted rooms. This also means that big puppy eyes are never too far out of sight.

Picture-perfect: Jenna captures these cute pet moments by making the dogs comfortable and offering lots of treats and love. Catching the puppies, such as Finn and Belvedere here, when they’re sleepy also helps. 

Payment method: Treats, and especially rawhides, occupy the pups while they’re being photographed. Puppies have sharp teeth, and rawhides also help keep them away from furniture and shoes. “Luckily we haven’t lost any items,” Jenna says.

 

Sharing photos: Whenever a foster dog stays with the Kutchers, Jenna takes lots of photos and posts them online. “It helps them get adopted faster, which sometimes makes us sad,” she says. Jenna shed a few tears when this pup named Ruby left, but she knew she was going to a great family.

The joys of fostering: “It’s so fun to get to love on a pup and wait until they find their forever home,” Jenna says. “So many dogs are saved through fostering because it gives them that in-between space between getting rescued and being adopted. It also gives them the chance to live a normal life and get acclimated to what life with their forever family might be like! It’s always a zoo and a little crazy at first but it’s always, always worth it.”

Home, sweet temporary home: People often tell Jenna that they could never foster dogs because they would want to keep every one. Which Jenna understands, because she also wants to keep every one. “But when you foster you start to recognize the role that you play as a temporary mom or dad to the pup and you can love on them until they find the right family,” Jenna says. Watching that gratifying transition over and over has made it possible to keep fostering without keeping every pup that walks into the house. The couple enjoy the dogs while they can and then send them off to their next loving family. 

Your turn: Have you fostered a pet? Did you make any special accommodations in your house for it? Share your story with us in the Comments. 

When Brenna is not writing about cool homes and the talented people behind them (and their pets), you can find her crafting, practicing calligraphy, taking photos, watching gymnastics and sending lots of snail mail (see: @brennamedia on Instagram).