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The Next Best Thing to Owning a Pet

July 18, 2018 | By Emma Frost

About 85 million households in the U.S. have a pet or two, but for the other 32% of the population, it can be tough to be on social media if you don’t have a fur-baby of your own. It may leave you wanting a better way to get your pet fix than by filling your Facebook and Instagram with all the cuddly cuteness we can handle. But pet ownership isn’t all floppy ears and playing tug-of-war; it’s a big responsibility, not to mention all the associated costs - it’s never a decision to be made lightly.

If you’re a true animal lover, though, pet ownership isn’t your only option. Just because you can’t afford a pet long-term without the help of installment loans or conventional pet ownership doesn’t fit into your current lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t make still make some new furry, feathery, or even scaly friends, and touch the lives of animals who need it most. Who knows – you just may find some extra cash or a new career path along the way. If you need animals in your life but owning a pet isn’t in the cards right now, here are 4 alternatives to get your fuzzy fix.

Try Pet-Sitting

If you’re on the fence about whether getting a pet is right for you, pet-sitting and fostering are great trial runs for the real experience. The best part of pet-sitting, however, is that you actually get paid to do it. Through apps like Wag!, Rover or DogVaycay, you can become a dog walker or sitter, work on your terms, and make your side-hustle really count emotionally as well as financially.

Things to Consider When Pet-Sitting

Most pets experience serious separation anxiety when their owners are away, so take your caretaker role just as seriously as if this were your furry baby and consider house sitting so you can put your fuzzy clients more at ease with familiar surroundings. If you are thinking about opening up your home as a pet-sleep-away camp, however, make sure your home is prepared for your little guest and that any open windows or holes in fences are safely secured before their arrival to avoid any Homeward Bound shenanigans.

Foster a Pet

Fostering a pet is a lot like pet-sitting without the cash. If you aren’t really hurting for the extra money, but you do want a fuzzy little guy in your life, fostering a pet can be a truly rewarding experience. There are lots of animal rescues and shelters with programs dedicated to placing animals in need with loving care-givers when there is overflow, and they need animal-lovers like you to help them get used to life outside the system before they find their forever home.

Things to Consider When Fostering a Pet

Many foster programs will offer financial support when it comes to the animals they place, but not all, so be sure you know all the details ahead of time. Fostering is a rewarding and worthwhile experience, but if the cost is still a major factor, you want to make sure the situation is in the best interest of the animal. If you need an installment loan to make it work, it might not be in the cards.

On the other hand, if you’re financially stable and you fall in love with your new furry friend, most programs will allow for adoption. You can also just throw your fuzzy ward an adoption party to celebrate this milestone with their new pet-parents. So what are you waiting for? Find out how you can be a guardian angel for an animal in need near you, and reach out to an animal rescue in your community today.

Volunteer at an Animal Rescue

If pets aren’t allowed where you live, or if it’s not strictly up to you whether you can keep a pet in the house, volunteering at a local shelter or animal rescue might be just the compromise you’ve been looking for. Chances are there’s a shelter near you that could use your help giving their furry wards the exercise and affection that they need.

Things to Consider When Volunteering

If you’re sure you aren’t looking for a live-in canine, feline or other type of animal companion, but you still want to work with animals, volunteering can be a great compromise. All the love and attention you give the animals you work with will make them better candidates for a good home. Just try not to fall in love with those puppy dog eyes unless you’re financially prepared to provide them with the forever home they deserve.

Help a Service Dog In Training

We all know what those little vests mean when we see them – that’s no doggy fashion statement - that’s a dog with a job. But how do service dogs get to be service dogs? Certain traits like being intelligent and docile definitely factor in, but like most anything, it’s all about practice. That’s where dog lovers like you come in. Programs like the Indiana Canine Assistance Network need volunteers to open their homes to their heroes-in-training so they’re used to living in home environments before they’re ready to save the day for a person in need.

Things to Consider Before Fostering a Service Dog

Fostering a service animal might be a lot different than fostering a rescue, but it can be just as rewarding, and may prove less emotionally taxing for those of us with bleeding hearts. The only possible downside is getting too attached when a pup already has places to go and people to help. If you’re interested in preparing a future service dog for the outside world, look for training programs near you and find out how you can make a real difference for your fellow man and man’s best friend.