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Foster Friends
Shelter dogs find comfort with Congressman
Harder dogs
Pam and Josh Harder may be too busy for a full-time pet, but the couple spent 2021 caring for and fostering a number of dogs in need of a home (Photo contributed).

When Congressman Josh Harder isn’t in his office working on legislation, the Turlock native and his wife Pam are kept busy with their love of dogs — a passion which inspired the couple to foster a variety of pups throughout 2021.

Photos shared on Harder’s official Facebook page last week showed 10 happy pooches that the pair cared for during the course of the last year, some of which were fostered and others they cared for while their owners were away. Their busy travel schedule makes it hard to have a permanent pet, but multiple dogs who had no home found temporary solace with the Harders in 2021 and in years prior before being adopted into loving families. 

“We’ve tried to set an example, really, because the more exposure we can get for foster dogs, the better,” Harder said. “A lot of them come from challenging backgrounds or they’re not very well socialized. I think a lot of people want dogs, but there’s a barrier of knowledge and understanding.”

Pet fostering provides temporary care to shelter animals who need to live in a home environment prior to adoption. Some of the dogs lucky enough to be fostered by the Harders have even accompanied the Congressman on the campaign trail not just because he says “people are happier to talk with you when you’re with a dog,” but also to help them find potential owners. 

“We've actually gotten a bunch of our dogs adopted by campaign volunteers and people we see on the street…I think it's a really good way for the dogs to get socialized and maybe even find a permanent home,” Harder said.

Foster dogs come from all kinds of backgrounds, with many suffering from past abuse and an overall fear of the world. Most of the dogs the Harders foster tend to gravitate towards Pam, he said, but a mix named Sammie was the one pup who took a liking to the elected official, and it turns out the feeling was mutual. 

“Sammie never left my side and it was interesting because sometimes dogs, and especially fosters, have had negative experiences with men, which is something we've noticed and it's very sad to see,” Harder said. “That's something that I have to be very conscious about to not make the dog feel uncomfortable or scared, but for whatever reason Sammie had a very different experience and was very, very infatuated. And, you know, I guess it's just human nature to love creatures who love you.”

Those who have fostered a pet before know that it can be hard to say goodbye, which is something the Harder’s have had to deal with time and time again as their temporary pals find their forever homes. 

“It is a little bittersweet, but I do think there's no substitute for when a dog actually finds a permanent home — especially when the dog finds the permanent home and you feel like you actually did a little bit to maybe get that dog socialized,” Harder said. “...I really do think fostering is a terrific way to make sure that a dog actually understands what a loving home looks like…Having even a small piece of that and making sure they go to a good home is a really good feeling.” 

Although millions of pets are adopted in America each year, the need for fostering is ever present. Pam routinely volunteers at the Stanislaus animal shelter, which is now classified as a no-kill shelter, and Harder believes there’s still more work to be done in terms of legislation when it comes to spaying and neutering, as well as budget support for animal shelters. 

Fostering doesn’t have to mean a dog lives with you, Harder added. Locals can stop by the shelter and play with a dog for even just 30 minutes to help make a difference in the animal's life. While the Harders are expecting their first child and may have to put fostering dogs on hold for now, the Congressman encouraged animal lovers to help pets in need. 

“You can maybe make a difference and really help a dog out, and maybe even find the perfect fit for you,” Harder said. 

The Stanislaus animal shelter is always in need of fosters. To sign up, visit