Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fostering Dogs: Kristi and Glenn Austin Q and A

Jingle was found as a stray with her two 8 month old puppies by animal control in Christiansburg, VA.  No one claimed this little family.  The puppies were adopted, but beautiful mama hound, Jingle, remained homeless.

That's when a Virginia couple, Kristi and Glenn Austin, stepped up and agreed to foster Jingle while she underwent spay surgery.  

That's Jingle (left) at the shelter, sporting a new collar, and loaded in the Austin vehicle getting ready for her roadtrip to foster care with Kristi and Glenn.

I can't say I was surprised.  Kristi and Glenn have been fostering for awhile and they especially love hounds!  Well, truthfully, they simply love dogs.  In fact, they have seven dogs of their own.  Yes, some of them are "failed fosters."
Glenn and Kristi Austin
Because fostering is such an important part of saving shelter dogs, I thought I should take advantage of my friendship with the Austin's and ask some questions.

Tell us about your first fostering experience. Why did you decide to foster?
How long did you foster that first dog? How did that dog fit in your

Kristi: Our first foster was in July 2010. 

We adopted a Dalmatian mix from the Dalmatian Rescue of Southwest Virginia ( in January 2010 and I started volunteering with them later in the spring.  They were in need of emergency fosters for three puppies coming up from North Carolina. I was able to help find fosters for two of the puppies and I talked my husband into fostering the third. 

So Max came into our lives on July 4, 2010. He was about 4 months old and full of clumsy puppy energy. Max is the reason why some people say they can’t foster – because they would get too attached and want to keep them. Well I only had Max a few days and I was completely in love with him. He became our first foster as well as our first failed foster.

Glenn: Ask her to tell you about the “cannon”

How many dogs have your fostered?

Kristi: We’ve fostered dogs anywhere from a few days to several months. There’s been a total of 9 since 2010. Max, (Dalmatian mix), Chester (Dalmatian/Setter mix), Haven (American Bulldog mix), Yuma (Dalmatian mix), Belvedere (English/Bluetick Coonhound), Louis (Long haired Dalmatian), Maggie (Redtick Coonhound), Jazzi (Jack Russell/Hound mix), and Jingle (Redbone Coonhound). 

Our latest foster, Jingle, came from a shelter in southwest Virginia. We are working with City Dogs Rescue in Washington, DC to temp foster her, coordinate her vetting and getting her transported to DC.

How do you introduce a new foster dog to your current pets?

Kristi: Introducing a new dog to our pack can upset the pack dynamic that’s been established by our own 7 dogs. So much so we’ve gone back and forth about continuing to foster. 

Our younger dogs, Boof and Luna are usually more welcoming. Max, our “middle child”, thinks “Yay! Someone I can dominate!”. Mia and Ash, our alpha female and male are quick to let the newbies know they are in charge. Emme is typically indifferent, as is Belvie, unless it’s a puppy and he becomes a drooling goof! 

What’s easiest to do is to introduce the new foster gradually. We’ll put the foster with one or two of ours at a time so they can do the meet and greet with each other and get familiar with all the new smells. By the time the foster has met all of ours, they look at you like “That’s all of them right?”


Glenn: We bring them in, let check out the house and just introduce them to the less alpha dogs first and then one by one introduce them all in
limited numbers.


Tell us about your set-up. Crates? Yard/exercise.

Kristi: All of our own dogs are crate trained so we do have several crates set up in 2-3 rooms in the house. We rotate who gets crated at night and there’s a couple that are crated when we’re at work because they like to pilfer in the house. So we do/have used crates with all of our fosters. We have a fenced in area for our dogs so fosters get to go out and play and interact with our dogs.

Of course, you feed them, but what about basic training, behavior
modification, socialization, and medical care?


Louis the Longhair
Kristi: we do work with fosters on house training and crate training. Basic manners are always useful. Socialization is usually needed. 

I’ve taken fosters on short weekend trips or trips to dog friendly places in town to allow them to interact with people and see how they ride in a car. We have dealt with behavior modification issues in the past. 

One of our fosters, Haven, was becoming crate and dog aggressive after she’d been at the rescue for a few weeks. I had spent some time with Haven at the rescue and knew she was a great dog, just not happy in a crate environment. My husband let me bring her home to foster so I could work with her. 

We kept her outside in a kennel during the day and crated at night. I worked with her one on one for about a month, slowly introducing her to our dogs and letting them interact. I also had a behaviorist work with her. This dog had an amazing, goofy personality. 

Haven was with us for about 8 months before she was adopted. We’d had several applications on her, but I was very protective of her. My husband has referred to me as the “adoption mafia” because I was so militant about her applications. I had worked with Haven for so long and she’d come such a long way, I couldn’t just let her go to anyone. She ended up getting adopted by a family friend so I get regular updates! 

Rescue/shelter dogs come to their foster homes with a past. People who are thinking about fostering should understand that. These dogs have been dumped at shelters, abused and neglected by their former owners, or picked up as strays These dogs have often lived hard lives by the time they go to a foster home so they are nervous, afraid, unsure. Foster parents have to be ready and willing to deal with that.

How do you find the time?

Kristi: We have a pretty good system down with our own dogs and they are on a routine for feeding, bedtime, etc. It takes a couple of days for the new foster to figure it out, but once they do they settle into it pretty well. 

Feeding time is like an assembly line of dog bowls. We rotate who’s inside and who’s outside on days we’re off so they all get time inside and outside. Don’t get me wrong; it can be stressful and chaotic. My husband vacuums everyday as soon as he gets home from work. Thank God for hardwood! 

We’re constantly picking up gutted dog toys or taking shoes away from Boof. Glenn and I both work full time, but we love our dogs so we make time. Fostering from time to time is very important to me. There are just so many dogs in shelters and you realize you can’t save them all even though you want to. I don’t know who this quote is attributed to, but I love it: “Saving one dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog.”

Any “horror” stories?

Kristi: Not really horror stories. There are things that you sometimes have to watch out for when you bring a foster in, especially if you have other dogs. If you bring in a male that hasn’t been neutered yet, they tend to mark which cause your male dogs to mark over it. 

Strong willed female fosters can cause an issue if you have a dominant female in the house. A battle of wills so to speak. You often have to be prepared to work on them with basic manners, housetraining, socialization, or just being in a house for the first time.

Are you actively involved in finding the foster dogs forever homes? How do you give them up?

Kristi: Yes, I volunteer with the Dalmatian Rescue of Southwest Virginia as the Foster and Event Coordinator. I often work with the applications for any dog I am fostering for them. I also network with several groups via Facebook and email to spread awareness of dogs available for adoption or needing rescues. I create flyers for my fosters that have pictures and bios of our fosters to post on Facebook.

As much as I would love to keep them all, I know realistically it’s not possible so I like to play a role in where the foster goes if I can. 

Another group I work with is in my home state of West Virginia. One of the volunteers I work with I call my “coonhound partner in crime” and she works endlessly with other volunteers to save the dogs at the shelter in Charleston. The group is called Dog Bless and your can check them out here:

Tell us about your “failed” fosters. Why did you decide to keep them?

Belvedere aka Belvie
Kristi: Our first foster, Max, was a puppy and that probably had a little
to do with us keeping him. You do get attached to them, especially your first couple fosters. Max was just an adorable clumsy puppy. He and his brother were picked up as strays in North Carolina when they were just about 3-4 months old. 

He will be forever known to us by the “ass cannon” incident on his first night with us. He’d been on a transport all day so he was a little stressed and settling in. I caught him just finishing up a round of diarrhea in our dining room (thank goodness for hardwood floors!).

Anyway, I went to clean it up and thought I got it all, but could still smell it. We discovered he’d also managed to poop down into the AC register! He sat by my side watching me in my rubber gloves as I cleaned it all up!  

Max as a puppy used to play really hard with our larger dogs. When he’d get tired he’d come over to me and I’d pick him up and he’d go to sleep in my arms. My husband looked at me and goes “That dog isn’t leaving here is he?” Well now 3 years later, Max is close to 70 lbs and still climbs into my lap on occasion. He’s a total mama’s boy!

Glenn: Kristi brought Belvie in and already “had” a Coon Hound rescue group up in Massachusetts for him. Well Massachusetts has strict rules for bringing in outside animals. We had to arrange to have a Health Certificate for him prior to transport. We arranged transport and a vet visit but the health Certificate expired before we could get him transported so we had to arrange for another Vet check. 

So we’re ready to get him on a transport and we find out that he has to be tested for Lyme Disease.  He’s tested on Thursday, the transport is on Friday. Of course he tests positive for Lyme Disease, though he has no symptoms. Treatment is antibiotics for several weeks. At this point after our failed attempts to get him transported we just decided it was meant to be for him to be with us, so we adopted him!

Why should dog lovers foster?

Kristi: Fostering is an amazingly rewarding experience. Our latest foster, Jingle, is a senior redbone coonhound that was picked up as a stray in southwest Virginia with her two pups. The pups were adopted but Jingle was left. I convinced City Dogs Rescue in Washington, DC to take her in and we became her foster while she's vetted. 

For anyone who thinks they can’t foster because they would want to keep him/her, that's okay because you will want to keep them. BUT, know you are saving the life of an unwanted dog that would have stayed in a shelter and perhaps been euthanized for to make room for more dogs to be brought in. When you foster and let that dog go to a forever home, it opens your home to save yet another life.  

I'll cry like an idiot when Jingle moves on but I'll know that she's spending her golden years in a warm home with a family who will love and spoil her crazy. 

If you foster for a rescue, vetting expenses are generally paid for or reimbursed by the rescue. A foster family provides love, attention, help with housebreaking (if needed), socialization. I am the foster coordinator for Dalmatian Rescue of Southwest Virginia and we adopt Dalmatians and Dalmatian mixes throughout US and in Canada. Foster homes are always needed.

If you can’t foster, I would encourage anyone to volunteer with their local shelter or rescue. Help with transporting a dog, walking a dog, donating a bag of dog food or a little money to help pay for vaccinations or heartworm preventatives.
Austin pups sunning on the deck.
If you are interested in fostering, Kristi and Glenn suggest you check out these sites: 
Dalmatian Rescue of Southwest Virginia 
Dog Bless   (affiliated with the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association in West Virginia)
City Dogs Rescue, Washington, DC
Logan County WV Adoptable Animals – volunteer group working with a rural county pound in Logan, WV. They just received their non-profit status This is where our former foster Yuma was pulled from this pound.
Some of the Austin pack watching Glenn plow snow!


  1. Thanks, Sue! I love it!

  2. This is my dream retirement life! 5 years to go!
    I especially love the older Dal's. Rosie/Mattapoisett MA


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