TRICIA Fox felt a big hole in her life following the death of her beloved dog Rasta, but didn't feel ready to adopt another.
Through RSPCA WA's Foster Carer program, she found a way to enjoy the company of animals while also helping dogs that have been subjected to cruelty and neglect.
The 66-year-old Connolly resident and her husband Stuart decided to become animal foster carers about 18 months ago.
"We'd had him (Rasta) 12 years and weren't ready to replace him, so we thought the next best thing would be to foster," she said.
Tricia said the experience had proven just as rewarding for her as it was for the furry companions she has helped.
"I love showing them how a real home can be and giving them love, daily walks and lots of belly rubs," she said.
"It's very rewarding.
"Fostering definitely helps me stay fit and is great for my mental health too. I walk every day but enjoy it so much more when I do it with a furry friend for company."
Tricia has fostered about nine dogs since signing up for the program.
She and Stuart like to travel, but she said if they met a dog who would be comfortable with their lifestyle, she would love to adopt again in the future.
She urges anyone thinking about fostering to "just do it".
"You have nothing to lose, and you will not regret it."
RSPCA WA foster care co-ordinator Kealy Hardman said retirees make great carers because of the quiet, calm environment they were able to provide for animals that had often been subjected to cruelty and neglect.
"It's a win-win arrangement - sometimes older people feel they can't commit to owning a dog for the 15 or 16 years it may live, but they desperately want the companionship of a dog..."
Kealy said sometimes the expense of caring for a pet could also be a deterrent.
"When you foster through the RSPCA, everything is taken care of for you, from food and bedding to medication and vet care.
"Fostering also gives you flexibility if you still want to be free to travel."
Animals may require foster care for a number of reasons. Their owner may be subject to an animal cruelty case, with temporary care needed pending the outcome.
The animal may be fostered through the Pets in Crisis program, which provides temporary care for animals whose owners have been victims of domestic violence and need time to find stable accommodation.
Other animals may not be ready to be adopted by a new family due to medical or behavioural issues.
The care relationship can last for days, or in some cases years, depending on the needs of the animal and circumstances of the carer.
To learn more about fostering, or express your interest, click here.
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