There are all kinds of ways that you can get the benefits of being around and taking care of animals without necessarily committing to getting a pet.
I mean, hey, we have a dog; I am all for getting a pet to share your home and to help you feel love, get out of your own head, experience mindfulness, and practice compassion. BUT, I get that it is a big commitment and that there’s a time and a place for everything and maybe now is not the right time for you to officially become a pet parent.
There are still ways that you can interact with animals regularly and in ways that benefit you and them.
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You can become a foster parent for animals
Unless you’ve looked into adopting a dog at some point you may have no idea of the vast networks of animal rescues out there, the majority of which are dependent on volunteers to house and care for animals while they look for their forever home. An animal that has been living in a home is going to be more socialized and better behaved, generally, than a dog or cat in a shelter, which makes them more adoptable and less likely to be euthanized.
Fostering animals is how you get to be a pet parent without the long-term commitment–animals are typically in a foster situation somewhere between two and eight weeks. You can find organizations who need people to foster by searching for “foster” “dog” (or cat, or other breed) and then your city, town, or state. I think you will be amazed at the network that already exists that you can tap into. As an added bonus, you’ll also meet other people who care about animals, too.
Or, perhaps it doesn’t need to be as formal as all that. Maybe the class hamster or rabbit needs a place to live over the summer. Or a friend or friend of a friend is planning to be away for the summer and needs someone to care for their pet while they’re away.
Another idea is to volunteer at a local animal shelter
Those animals need to be walked, and socialized, and held. And you can get all that good hands-on animal contact without needing to bring them into your home.
Maybe you could pet sit for a friend
My daughter has been cat sitting this past weekend and developing relationships with those cats. Now when she’s walking to or from school she’ll see those cats and can have an interaction with them. It’s like making new friends in the neighborhood. It could even be a little revenue stream for you, and/or a little vacation if you go stay in their home.
Another opportunity is to volunteer to take dogs who are in a service animal training program for a weekend
You can take them out to different places to help them acclimate to different environments. You can learn more about volunteering with service dogs in training at canine.org.
Really, there’s a level of commitment that’s good for just about every situation if you have a heart for animals, and if you’ve listened this far to this episode, I think it’s clear that you do.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to check in with yourself and see if making a shorter-term commitment to animals is right for you. That’s the most important question. And if the answer is yes, what’s one thing you can do to make that a reality? Do you want to post on Nextdoor that you’re available for pet sitting? Or investigate fostering opportunities near you? Or contact your local shelter about volunteering?
Of course, there are other ways to support animals, and I’ll be sharing more of them in the rest of this week’s episodes–talking about ways to help pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds on Thursday, and ways to make your outdoor spaces friendlier to birds, on Friday. And be sure to come back tomorrow when I’m interviewing Jodi Helmer of the Naughty Donkey Farm Sanctuary outside Charlotte, North Carolina, about how her love for animals has changed her life–and the lives of so many animals who would otherwise have nowhere else to go.