By Carol Jones
MEETING YOUR DOG
Many foster kids will say they love animals when they don’t, or are afraid of animals, or have never really been around animals. Keep in mind they are saying what they think you want to hear.
They may also have a fantasy that the dog or cat will be like a baby doll.
With that in mind, be careful how you introduce your animals to your new foster child. If you can, crate the animals or put them outside when you bring the child into your home for the first time.
When the child has moved his things into his room and is familiar with the rest of the house, have him go see the dog from a distance through the crate or through a window to the outside. If he seems nervous or afraid, slow down the meeting. Let him talk to the dog for a while or simply wait until later.
When you do introduce the child to the animal, make sure the child is in your arms or on a chair when the dog/cat approaches. That gives the child a way to get away, especially from a large animal.
If the child is afraid or the animal is large and overwhelming, just spend a few minutes at a time. Some dogs are sweet and friendly, but just too much for someone not familiar with the dog. They will make friends, it just takes time.
Keep in mind that animals can sometimes be afraid too. This child might not act like other children they have been around. An animal that is afraid of the foster child should not be forced to be held or even petted until they are comfortable.
Don’t assume that since the animal and child have had one good interaction that is the end of your job. Many children don’t know how to treat animals. Pulling tails and poking animals with a stick looks like fun until the animal has enough and retaliates. We have to teach all of our children how to interact with animals, which includes how to approach animals they don’t know.