I have always had a soft spot for critters of all sizes. Maybe it's because my parents have always had (and still have) multiple cats and dogs. Maybe it's because my grandfather was a farmer who took me with him to feed the hogs and the horses and even the baby raccoon that he kept as a pet after accidentally catching it in a squirrel trap. Or maybe it isn't my upbringing at all, but rather an inner desire to treat all others (not just people) the way I want to be treated.
Regardless of why I love those furry little guys, I do. When I was in college, I volunteered to spend some time socializing the animals at the local SPCA. It was a very large shelter and there was rarely an empty cage. If you have ever walked through an over-crowded shelter, you know it's a sorry sight. I have seen makeshift cages in the yard at our shelter because they didn't want to euthanize anyone and didn't want to turn away an animal either.
My boyfriend and I would take the animals out and hold them and pet them, sometimes even going outside to exercise and play with them. We ended up adopting a dog that came in with cigarette burns. She had recently had puppies but the pups were not found. She was so afraid and pitiful and because she was older and scared of people her chances of adoption were small. Missy kept a nervous disorder all of the years we had her but we gave her the best life we could.
Later, we also adopted a kitten from a litter that we had handled since they were born in the shelter. As soon as they were old enough to be adopted out, we decided we couldn't resist the really long-haired lazy one. She is 15 now and lying beside me as I type. Jewel is soft and beautiful and sweet and gloriously fat.
And when my daughter wanted a pet of her own, guess where we headed to look for one? She found a crazy kitty that I advised her not to adopt. She reminded me that I told her she could have any one she wanted as long as it came from the shelter. So... the crazy thing is running around here somewhere right now. Sugar doesn't like us to hold her and rarely lets us pet her but she eats well and is quite active. When she does get friendly, we are happy to oblige her demands for affection.
Wanting to get involved with the shelter again, and not feeling able to take on another family member (that's what they become), I talked with my daughter about the idea of fostering. Foster families for pets are much like foster families for children, offering a temporary home until a pet can be placed in a permanent home. Fostering is sometimes needed for less than a week, or sometimes it may be for months.
Our first foster pet was a sweet little puppy named Clemson, which also happens to be the name of my daughter's fave football team. The two of them really bonded in the short time Clemson was with us, and Clemson left our home for a permanent family with much better social skills than when she came to us.
This week I heard about an adult dog named Ruby, who had come to the shelter very frightened and after several days had still not settled in. A foster home would be a much better place for her and may help her to overcome some of her intense paralyzing fear. We brought her home yesterday. She has been hiding from us since she got here and has only come out to eat when we are not looking. It may take a while, but I hope that we can teach Ruby that not all people are scary.
And the moral of the story is: If you have room in your home or yard, talk to your local shelter about fostering. If you have the desire and means to add a pet to your family, please adopt from a shelter or rescue organization. If you have pets that are not spayed or neutered, get it done.
Do you have a shelter pet? Have you adopted or fostered or both? Tell me about your babies by leaving a comment below!