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Foster Feature: Asa Shibuya

Foster caretakers are a special “breed” of volunteers: people who can bring home a homeless dog, knowing very little about the animal, treat the animal as their own, and say goodbye when a “forever” family comes along. And repeat.

Our new Foster Feature series shares the wisdom of these dedicated and experienced doggy foster parents in NYC. These all-stars deserve some recognition for their incredible work, and we hope their tips inspire you to foster a dog in need! For all of you who have fostered before and want to learn from “the pros,” follow our blog!

Meet Asa Shibuya, contributor to FosterDogsNYC.com, volunteer for Foster Dogs, and foster volunteer for several local rescue groups. She and her boyfriend Jon have fostered nearly 60 dogs in just a couple years time!

We interviewed Asa about her experience and advice, and hope this helps inspire you to help more dogs in need!

How many dogs have you fostered, and for which rescue groups?

We’ve fostered close to 60 dogs with multiple rescues including Muddy Paws Rescue, Pupstarz Rescue, and Waggytail Rescue.

Who was your first foster dog?

Our very first foster dog was Marley with In Our Hands Rescue — he was a 1 year old chihuahua mix who was surrendered by his owner just an hour before I picked him up! He was probably one of the most difficult dogs that we’ve ever fostered and I definitely questioned if I was cut out for this – but hey, we’re still fostering two years later!

Favorite leash and collar:

I don’t have a favorite leash per say but I always use a standard leash (no retractables!); I personally like the 4′ long ones since it’s easier to control the dog that way. Also make sure that it’s not slippery so it’s easy to grip! As for the collar, I like to use a martingale collar, especially for dogs that can be leash reactive or aggressive. It makes it easier to snap the dog out of his/her reactivity by doing a quick tug on the leash. A front clip harness is also a staple in our home. We’ve had a good amount of leash pullers but they all walked so well once the front clip was used! The PetSafe Easy Walk harness has been my favorite brand thus far; it’s worked amazing for every dog I used it on, as well as my own dog who can be a leash puller too. What I also sometimes do for the first few days and / or when the dog is skittish is use two leashes; one attached to the martingale collar and one attached to the front clip harness. I’m sure I look silly walking a small dog with two leashes but better safe than sorry!

Favorite dog food:

I switch out brands pretty frequently as I look for the best recipes for our dogs (never ending process btw!), but my current favorites are Canidae PURE and Acana. This is definitely an area you want to be flexible about though since every dog is different!

Favorite dog toys: 

Kongs (stuffed with treats or peanut butter) are great for fosters to stay entertained during the day while I’m away at work, especially the first few days when they’re prone to having separation anxiety. —- When I’m home, squeaky tennis balls seem to be the only toys that are a constant hit (despite having 40+ toys in their toy chest!). Whether they’re playing fetch, just casually squeaking, or ripping the ball to shreds, they’re all somehow always attracted to the squeaky balls.

Best “foster hack”

Shop online!! When you compare it to how much you would spend in a local pet store here, it really helps cut down on cost, especially in the long run. That just means you have to know what you’re shopping for so make sure to have the foster checklist handy!

Chewy.com is my go-to; not only are they very well priced, but they delivery really quickly (my order was at my doorsteps in two days tops every time from my experience!), carry most of what you would be needing for your foster, and have a wide array of brands to choose from.

Favorite dog-friendly local shop

My guilty pleasure is visiting Dog & Co. in Turnstyle! They have super cute dog clothes all the time and it’s good exercise for the dogs too since it’s about a 30 minute walk from my home.

One bit of advice you wish someone told you before you fostered a dog for the first time?

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to other fosters, the rescuers, the Foster Dogs forum, etc. whenever you feel overwhelmed with your foster(s). When I first started, I googled literally everything (from how to pad train them, how to make them walk well on leash, to how to get over the sadness of saying goodbye) because I didn’t want to reach out to people and have them think of me as the “newbie”. —- Now I wish I had because everyone is so nice and helpful! We’re all in this together with the same goal of saving lives, and no one’s going to judge you. I know it can become stressful at times so whenever someone reaches out to me, I always make sure to respond and help in any way I can! Trust me, it really helps to know that you have people you can talk to. Feel free to reach out to me any time too, just shoot over a direct message to @shibuyarollcall or email me at asa.fosterohana@gmail.com

One thing that surprised you about fostering:

I’m honestly surprised at myself that I’ve been able to let go of so many animals (only two foster fails out of eighty fosters… not bad right?). I’m the type of person who gets really emotional when it’s about dogs; I cry hearing about someone’s dog passing away, even if it’s a complete stranger’s, and I cry watching any dog-related movie; I actually cried watching Beethoven for crying out loud! Despite this, I’m still fostering 2 years later and I’ll do it for as long as I’m able! Non-foster parents always make comments about how they could never foster because it’d be too hard to let go but if someone as emotional as me can do it, anyone can.

Believe me, you’d surprise yourself with how much emotional pain you can endure when you know that you’re saving a life.

Other tips to share?

Start off slowly so you get to know your own limits — don’t take on more than you can handle! For example if you’re a first time foster, don’t foster a dog with known behavioral issues, or a litter of puppies. You don’t want to start fostering them only to realize that it’s too much, because it’s not always easy for a rescue to coordinate a foster takeover and it’s better for the dogs not to be bounced around.

Make sure to send the rescuers good photos and an honest profile of your foster pooch! The majority of adopters find their new dog online, so it’s important to include as much details as possible, even the quirks. Whether the dog’s having trouble being housebroken, isn’t so great walking on leash, or needs a lot of exercise, mention it. We want our foster dog to go to a home that best fits their needs and want to make sure that the adopter knows as much as possible up-front to minimize the possibility of the dog getting returned.

Photo: Robert Stoetzel, at BarkFest 2016


Want to nominate a seasoned foster caretaker for us to feature?

Email: info [at] fosterdogsnyc.com, with the subject line “Foster Feature Nomination,” and include: Nominee’s name, a couple lines about why you think they should be recognized, and their email address.

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