The local animal shelter in Kent – part of the Regional Animal Services of King County – has one of the most successful pet fostering programs in existence. Because of this program, the sick, injured, and/or too young animals that are abandoned or rescued can convalesce in a warm, quiet, loving environment, rather than languish in a cold shelter with other sick and scared animals. Once nursed back to health and socialized a bit – as well as getting spayed/neutered and up on all their shots, these animals go on to wonderful forever homes – and make better pets because of the loving care they received when they needed it most.
I am honored to be one of these pet fosters, and had the privilege of fostering Emily and Essie (left) until we placed them in their forever homes a few weeks ago. They went with a lovely couple that also happen to be our dear friends. I knew we had made the right decision when they each had pictures of the kittens as their profile photo on Facebook the next day!
Sometimes, it’s not so easy being a foster. You want to care for every single baby that comes in – but you just can’t. It does sometimes happen that, no matter how hard you work to “fix” a critter, they just don’t make it. It breaks your heart. I’ve bottle fed kittens to weaning age, only to lose them to an illness the next week. Most recently, we lost little Bartholomew – a darling little boy cat who was so determined to make it and so smitten with Abigail (my Golden Retriever) that we had toyed with the idea of keeping him ourselves. He was only five weeks old and barely off the bottle when we found his lifeless little body after being gone for only two hours. I cried for days. Just the day before, he had helped us hand out Halloween candy and looked as healthy as ever. The “what-if’s” and the pure grief were almost overwhelming. Yes, he was just a tiny kitten, but he had so much SPUNK and personality wrapped up in that little body. I envisioned him growing into a big, fluffy cat with all the quirks and foibles that make cats so endearing and entertaining. He will forever be our little Halloween kitty.
In these times, it is so easy to blame yourself, hate yourself, get angry, and fall into a rut. I thought I’d never be able to foster another animal again, but then the call came the very next day – a 4-week old brother and sister pair with kitty colds so bad that their infected eyes were swollen shut. The idea of helping these kitties began healing my heart. When I texted Jim that I had decided to go get them, he replied with the most perfect thing he could have said, “I’m glad we’re doing this. Barty would have wanted it that way.” Even the vet techs at the shelter, who have seen so many terrible things, found themselves moved by those words.
It’s took me two days of force feeding them with a syringe to get these two eating on their own, but they’ve already gained quite a bit of weight and are on the way to recovery. The little boy kitty (Max) is beginning to play with toys and his eyes are almost clear. The little girl (Maggie) is a snuggler with a purr that you can hear all over the house. I’m madly in love – but I do tend to fall in love with fur babies quite quickly. Watching them get stronger and more playful every day is the best!
Today, November 7, is my birthday. If I only get one wish, it is that people are more responsible with their pets and stop treating animals as property or garbage but with the love and care they deserve. If you are looking for a new pet, visit the shelter. If you have a lot of love to give (and some extra time), consider being a foster. Call your local shelter to find out if they have a program. If they don’t have a program – start one! It is a great way to give back, yet get so much in return. Plus, you, personally, have a hand at saving these precious little lives.
While feeding Max and Maggie this morning, I came up with this list – I hope my fellow fosters will get a laugh!
You know you’re a pet foster when:
- You’ve become adept at opening cans and filling syringes with one hand
- You are on constant “he’s by your foot” alert
- Your dog regularly babysits random critters
- You swear you hear mewing or whimpering whenever it’s quiet – even when not at home
- When it actually IS quiet, you panic and go looking to see who’s into something
- You never potty alone
- You unapologetically smell like sour milk and Alpo
- Your permanent pets have actually learned the English phrase, “Not again!”
- You set your alarm for 3 am feedings
- You have three different kinds of leftover food in the fridge – none of it for humans
- Your spouse no longer looks up or asks what it is when you say, “Hold this”
- You excitedly announce things such as, “We have a turd!” and the other house members rejoice with you
- You have two sets of towels – yours and the pets’
- You name critters you have no intention of keeping and have an endless supply of names that do NOT include Smoky, Snowball, Shadow, or Mittens
- You cry bitter-sweet tears over critters when they go to their forever homes
- No matter how much it hurts, you’d do it again in a heartbeat