Smartphone Ethnography: A Foster Family

Firstly, it sucks to have a happy adoption, and then it not work out in the end. Nemo and Dory were returned yesterday due to unknown severe allergies in the house. This might’ve been particularly embarrassing too, if it’d been announced as a “Happy Tail” adoption online.

Anyway, my next stop for ethnography was the home of a colleague.

We both foster for a breed specific cat rescue, but while I primarily worked with  a Humane Society, she primarily volunteers for a Pit Bull Rescue. All of her pets are rescue: 4 cats, 3 dogs, and 1 bird. Remember my first ethnographic post when I mentioned that a lot of us who foster have several pets of our own? Her Maine Coon foster, Nala, had just recently been adopted.

It makes sense then why rescues want to post requests for more foster families. The ones they have are starting to fill up, and shelters need relief from overcrowding. In cases where the shelter is a kill facility, having available foster homes can be literally life or death.

We talked about differences between the rescues we work with, why she decided to adopt the animals she has, and why work with the groups that she does. One way she acquired some of her pets was through what many of us in rescue refer to as “foster failing.” It’s not really a fail per se; it’s when one decides to keep an animal they’re fostering instead of adopting them out. It means that one more animal has found a good home. Some rescues will even allow foster to adopt programs, where the family fosters a pet for a trial period with the intent to hopefully adopt.

The only downside to foster failing, is that it makes fostering in the future for that family tricky. More personal pets mean fewer foster pets, at least in theory. Not to mention, apartments and housing associations will frequently have pet limits.

Don’t get us confused with animal hoarders though! Any dedicated rescue foster will show you that all of their pets are vetted and spoiled. My colleague’s dogs are Canine Good Citizen dogs.


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