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Foster Feature: Sam Cheirif

Introducing our brand new blog series, “Foster Feature,” sharing 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!

Want to nominate an experienced foster caretaker for us to interview? Email: info [at], 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.

Meet Samantha Cheirif, contributor to, volunteer for Foster Dogs, and foster volunteer for several local rescue groups. She and her boyfriend Eric have fostered 50+ dogs over the years. Oh, and did we mention she has a full time job? We interviewed Sam about her experience and advice, and hope this helps inspire you to help more dogs in need!


How many dogs have you fostered?

I had about 5 foster dogs on my own before my boyfriend and I moved in together, and we’ve had probably about 50 in the two years since.

For which rescue groups did you foster?

I’ve fostered for a few different groups, but my favorites are definitely Muddy Paws (follow their instagram, @MuddyPawsRescueNYC, I run the account!) who pull all ages, sizes, and breeds, and Mr. Bones and Co. who are almost exclusively bully breeds – this group is awesome, too!

Who was your first foster dog?

My first foster dog was a 7-year-old Rottweiler named Phoebe; I loved her so much. My longest fosters were two pitbulls: Zeus, and Penny. Zeus found an amazing home in North Carolina after five months with us. Penelope Pig, well, she’s still living with us – and helping foster other dogs! We foster failed (meaning, adopted our foster dog!) with her after give months. She has played host to about 45 foster siblings. Follow her journey @PigPenthePittie

Favorite leash and collar:

I don’t necessarily have a favorite leash, anything that’s 4 feet is great- the shorter the better! I do have one double handled one that I love that I got at The Salty Paw, I wish I could remember the brand, it’s a nice, soft braided one but it’s really strong. The second handle gives you better control in crowds or traffic.

For collars, it depends on the dog and the use. I love Found My Animal collars, that’s my dog’s fancy flat collar that holds her tags. Doggystyle also has adorable collars, and you can find cute patterns in their sale bin.

For all my fosters, tags go on a flat collar, then I walk the dog on a martingale or other head collar/harness backed up to the martingale or flat collar.

My pittie Penny walks on a head halti, which I have found to be the best way to control her- she is a PULLER. This is my collar of choice for big dogs and pullers, I think it’s sturdier than a gentle leader. Freedom harnesses and easy walks are also good, but I find I have less control if the dog really wants something.

Favorite dog food:

My Penny has stomach issues, so I feed her Canidae grain free food and it has been great. Any limited ingredient food is going to be good- Wellness, Merrick, etc. If your foster dog has diarrhea (which is common with the stress of moving around and changing food) I find giving rice or sweet potato or canned pumpkin – plain, not pie filling – and plain steamed or boiled chicken and then transitioning onto food almost always clears it up. Pro tip: canned chicken is super easy to buy a bunch of and keep in the house for an emergency- it’s exactly like tuna, but chicken. in a can.

Favorite dog toys: 

My number one is probably a Kong– you can fill it with food, a little bit of cream cheese, peanut butter, treats and stick it in the freezer. Then leave the pup with it in the crate when you leave to keep them entertained.

I also like food puzzles/mazes to slow down fast eaters and entertain them. Elk or moose antlers are also good (deer are supposedly too hard and can break teeth), as are Benebones, and safe to leave most pups with.

Best “foster hack”:

Probably that tip above with the canned chicken!

The other one is a pet corrector. It’s not for every dog, but it’s basically like pennies in a can. It makes a sharp, negative noise that will startle the dog and then you can reward when the dog stops the behavior. Best for correcting behaviors like jumping or barking that can’t be distracted with simply calling the dog. But, this can also become desensitized easily, so be careful not to overuse it!

If you can, consult a trainer or someone with experience before using this item.

Fave dog-friendly local shop:

When we lived downtown in the South Street Seaport we loved visiting The Salty Paw, and Doggystyle is one of my favorite stores in the city!

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

The crate is great. The crate seems punitive when you haven’t used one before, but it’s by far the safest, best place to leave your dog. Having the dog hang out in there while you’re home will help the pup get used to it, and they can sleep there at night too. Giving special rewards or treats (like Kongs, Benebones, etc.) in there will also make it a safe, happy space.

One thing that surprised you about fostering:

I’m surprised by how negatively some people react to fostering – they get challenging, like: “But don’t you get too sad? Doesn’t your dog get sad when the other dogs leave?” I explain that I do get sad, but it’s worth it.

My dog misses some foster dogs more than others, but she’s used to it by now. Also, she was a “foster fail,” so I think she gets it! Fostering is actually sort of addicting; my last foster got adopted on Wednesday, so I’ve been without a foster for six days and I’m itching for another one! It’s such a bittersweet feeling when they go, but it definitely gets easier over time.

Anything other tips to share?

Follow your heart- if you want to try fostering, do it! It’s not easy, but it’s definitely manageable. Take dogs who will work with your schedule, for example puppies are adorable but if you work all day maybe try a senior or a pee pad trained dog. In fact, I’d definitely recommend starting with an older dog- they’re way easier than puppies! And utilize the Foster Dogs foster forum on Facebook, they’re a wealth of knowledge!



Want to nominate an experienced foster caretaker for us to interview? Email: info [at], 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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