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2013-09-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The word “foster” comes from the Old English “fostrian” which means “to nourish or support.” By the 13th Century the definition had expanded to mean “to encourage or help grow.” Foster homes are essential to animal rescue. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider fostering a dog or cat for your town shelter or a private humane organization:

1. Fostering saves lives. Orphan kittens and puppies are too young to survive on their own at a shelter because the staff is not there 24/7. Bottle babies need frequent feedings and constant monitoring until they are weaned and can eat on their own. Many groups and town shelters (including Hempstead and Babylon) reach out to experienced bottle feeders.

2. Fostering frees up precious space in shelters and kennels. Kitten season lasts from April through November with the influx peaking at the end of summer. Foster programs put kittens in a holding pattern so they don’t all descend on shelters at once. Babylon asks those on the waiting list who’ve found kittens to hold them until they are at least two pounds. This way they can be spay/neutered and put up for adoption right away rather than grow up at the shelter. Last Hope puts some long-time or special needs dogs in foster care which opens up runs for new dogs in need. At times the newbies have been adopted before the foster dogs come back.

A joyful Kirstie goes to her foster home. A joyful Kirstie goes to her foster home. 3. Some organizations do not have physical shelters. These groups depend on foster homes to care for their dogs and cats until permanent homes are found. Last Hope partners with several rescues in West Virginia that do not have shelters, instead only an animal control officer who puts dogs down right away unless the rescues take them. Their precious few foster homes are spread throughout their counties. The only alternative is boarding which is very expensive. It is also difficult to show pets to prospective adopters when they are in boarding.

4. Fostering helps rescues to know more about the animals in their care. Since strays come to rescues without histories, it is useful to know how a dog will act in a home before that dog is placed. Is the dog housebroken and house-worthy (not a chewer)? At times we are pleasantly surprised to find out that a dog that had trouble relaxing in a kennel settles right into a home routine. The more we know about a dog; the better we can match him up with an appropriate home.

5. Fostering can aid in socializing homeless animals. Shelter pets come from varying degrees of deprivation. Trapped kittens need plenty of handling to enhance their friendliness. Rescue groups take in dogs that endured hoarder nightmares or spent their lives outdoors. Foster care can help accustom them to “normal” people, other pets plus all the sights and sounds that are part of a home routine. Training is reinforced during their foster stay.

6. Fostering relieves the stress of long-time confinement. The behavior of some pets deteriorates after a prolonged shelter stay. Dogs may start pacing or circling, become withdrawn or uncooperative or even refuse return to their kennels. Cats may become ornery or begin over-grooming, causing their fur to fall out. Time out at a foster home gives these pets the opportunity to experience a comfortable, nurturing home life which may help remedy confinementinduced issues before they escalate.

7. Foster care is beneficial to pets recovering from surgery or illness. Homeless pets in the midst of medical turmoil do well in foster care especially when showered with TLC. Last Hope’s Husky “Kirstie” from Babylon Shelter is presently in the middle of her heartworm treatment. This gorgeous young dog had extreme complications after her first dose of immiticide, the arsenic compound that cures heartworm. We really thought we were going to lose her. Although her vet grilled her chicken each day while she was hospitalized, Kirstie still had no appetite. For the last month she has been in foster care with an incredible Last Hope volunteer family. She loves her people, her walks along Eatons Neck and home cooking especially if Stella Dora “S” cookies are added to the menu. Next week is Kirstie’s heartworm treatment part 2 and we are all holding our breath.

8. Fostering helps to limit the spread of upper respiratory (URI) and other infections at shelters. Even with vet care, antibiotics and isolation areas, it is difficult to contain contagious infections in crowded shelters. Foster parents without pets of their own are a rarity and priceless. A dog with kennel cough and a cat with a URI can recover in foster care without infecting others.

9. Short-term foster care is a nice alternative for animal lovers who cannot own a fulltime pet. A busy, seasonal work schedule or family circumstances may preclude adopting a pet, but sometimes people have months free when they can take a foster pet for a limited period of time.

10. Fostering is a wonderful thing to do. It’s rewarding to open your heart and home to pets in need, knowing that you facilitated their journey to their forever home. If fostering is for you, contact a rescue group or shelter to fill out a foster application. Once approved, the group will work with you to find a pet that will fit your situation.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Ginger” 13-362 is the wonderful, agreeable mother of the seven adorable pups recently adopted from the shelter. She showed up in June ready to deliver, and did a fabulous job of raising her litter. Now it should be Ginger’s turn for happily ever after. “Bentley” 13-527 is a young Shih tzu mix found severely matted and neglected. He is relishing the attention he is getting now.

Cats: “Snickers” 3-446- shy but sweet older longhaired calico; lots of adorable kittens.

More Dogs: “Tiny” 13-512- Smooth Fox Terrier; from the patient Pit patrol-“Hazel” 13-482 & “Parker” 13-352.

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