Skip to main content

Saying goodbye to your foster dog…

So you fostered a dog – and saved a life. You took a chance on an unfamiliar pup, gave him time to decompress, learned his quirks, and helped him land his forever home. And now, it’s time to say goodbye. It should be a joyous occasion – a fresh start for him, and a great accomplishment for you. Right?!

Many times it is just that — one big, happy celebration. But other times, you might find yourself curled in a ball, weeping into your second pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Saying goodbye to a foster dog can sometimes be surprisingly difficult! If you’re new to fostering especially, you might be caught off-guard by your feelings.

Here are some of our favorite tips, as told by veteran One Tail at a Time foster parents, for getting through those difficult goodbyes!

One Tail at a Time Saying Goodbye Foster Dog


1.Take a deep breath. This is totally normal.

First of all, know that you’re not alone. “I basically cried for a week when I said goodbye to my first foster dog – honestly it was worse than some of my breakups,” recalls OTAT foster Sarah. It’s totally normal to be sad. While it might not feel like it at the time, the sadness will fade. In the meantime, be nice to yourself. Foster Rebekah recommends, “Feel it. Ugly cry. Keep framed photos and drink wine and fondly remember how you saved a life.”

2. Talk to other foster parents.

Again, this is totally normal! Share your foster stories with other foster parents and relish in the fact that you both “get it.” You’ve both been through the same emotions, so talk them out and laugh, cry, and remember every moment, together.

3. If possible, meet the new fam!

Depending on your foster dog, you may actually get the chance to meet their new family! When that happens, picture all the happy times your foster pup will have with them. “I tell my pup (but really myself) all the wonderful things about their new life,” says OTAT foster Monica.

4. Take advantage of meeting the new fam. Keep in touch!

If you’re one of those lucky foster parents that gets to meet your foster dog’s new family, take the opportunity to exchange contact information! Goodbye doesn’t have to mean never seeing each other again. Let them know how much you would love to keep in touch, and take advantage of social media. If your new pup’s family is on Facebook or Instagram, ask if you can follow them so you can watch the dog blossom in his new home! If you’re open to it, you could even offer to dogsit the next time they go out of town. “I got to play fun auntie recently and watched a former foster for the day while parents went out of town,”foster mom Saya says. “So lovely!”

5. Pass on your foster pup’s favorite things.

Sending a little piece of yourself and your time with your foster dog is a simple way to stay part of their new life. Plus, your foster pup’s favorite toy or a familiar-smelling blanket could make their new home feel homier from the start.

6. Remember all those not-so-perfect moments.

Remember how Brutus destroyed your shoes or liked to wake you up for 3 a.m. pee breaks? Remember how your foster coordinator asked you to be patient and focus on the good things? Now do the opposite! 🙂 “Thinking about the little things that drove you nuts could help you over the goodbye hurdle,” suggests foster mom Emily.

7. Do it again.

If you ask a seasoned dog foster parent the trick to healing a broken heart, you’re likely to hear one answer above all the rest: do it again. “Get another foster pup – best medicine!” says One Tail foster Katelyn. We all know it, but it bears repeating: without patient, loving foster homes like yours, animal rescues wouldn’t be able to save nearly as many lives. By saying goodbye to one foster dog – and dealing with all the feelings that come with it — you’re making space to save another.

And if all else fails, there’s always OTAT foster Chris’s way. “Find a country with no extradition, book two one-way tickets and don’t look back.” Okay, don’t do this. Really, please 🙂 Try one of the other ways instead, and foster again when you’re up for it!

Interested in becoming a One Tail at a Time foster parent? Take our survey and save a life! Fostering is completely free and comes with a world of support from One Tail at a Time volunteers and staff. Apply today!

-Sarah, One Tail at a Time volunteer

Victoria and her OTAT foster puppy, Goose

One Tail at a Time Saying Goodbye to Foster Dog