From Foster Animals to Emotional First Responders
By Lena Hart, Director of Marketing, PR & Media, Suncoast Humane Society
On April 1, 2020 Suncoast Humane Society sent out an urgent plea to our community to help get all animals out of the shelter before the stay-at-home order went into effect. Our community did what it does best, and 48 hours later our staff and volunteers felt a new sense of accomplishment and pride. We sent our “kids” off on an adventure, while keeping all fingers and toes crossed, and looking forward to every update. Now, more than a month later, our “kids” are still adventuring! MANY decided not to come “home” and are living their best life with their forever families who “failed” at fostering. And most are still enjoying life in foster while waiting for their forever homes.
Don and Evelyn Jackson got to foster more than 25 animals in just 3 years after losing the dog they had for 15 years. Having just retired and with plans to travel, they weren’t ready to commit, but wanted to help. “They bring us great joy and it is so rewarding to see them improve and move on to forever homes” Evelyn said. When asked if it’s difficult to watch the animals move on, Evelyn shared: “The first foster, Fancy, was the most difficult. Fancy was heartworm positive and the most frightened little dog. We had her for several months until she was heathy enough for adoption. Since then we have helped many animals get to good health and adoption, and the separation is less difficult.”
Kathy Damewood had been fostering underage or sick kittens and cats for years for Suncoast Humane Society, and is currently fostering two of our cats, Ivan and Reba. “As soon as I saw the email saying that SHS needed to get all of the animals into foster homes within the next 48 hours, I volunteered to help. Their health is so vulnerable, they really need to be out of the shelter and in a less stressful environment. I had one cat who had his rear leg removed due to repetitive injury. He needed to be out of the cage so he could learn to move about again. It’s most rewarding to know that the kittens and cats are going to get good homes, and that they adapted to being around other animals. The most challenging and still heartbreaking, even after doing this for 20 years, is that they don’t all make it, no matter what effort the vet and I give.”
Lyssa Foster shares her first fostering experience with a 12 year old cat, Ginger: “We met her at Petco while looking for a ‘little sister’ for our 7 year old tortie. We wanted to make sure Ginger was a good fit and wanted to ‘spring her from Petco jail’ so she wasn’t alone for the quarantine! She is 12 years old and was surrendered after her primary care taker passed away. I didn’t know if she would be willing to love again, but she opens her heart to us more and more every single day. Despite her age, she is still just as lovable and playful as any kitten I’ve ever met. She knew the moment the adoption was finalized; she sat on a pile of clean clothes with a smug look that read ‘What? You can’t bring me back now!’”
Repeat foster fail, Erin Kuhns shares her experience with a dog named Jaxon: “He was the only dog we met because they felt he would be the best fit for our family, and boy were they right. It was not my first time fostering, just my first for SHS. I used to live in PA and volunteered and fostered at our local Humane Society. I guess I sort of foster failed once there. Fostering is always important, not just during crazy times like this pandemic. I am a teacher so once I knew I was going to be home with my girls for a while I thought we we’d be a good foster home. I already had 3 dogs and a guinea pig, what’s one more? Jaxon was absolutely perfect and fit right; he was a cuddler and a lover, which won us over even quicker. We were prepared to keep him however long was necessary due to the pandemic, but we weren’t expecting to adopt. What sealed it was when one of my senior dogs, Katie, passed away unexpectedly. We were all devastated, and Jaxon was there to pick up the pieces. Part of Katie seems to live on through him. Some of Katie’s quirks suddenly appeared in Jaxon after she passed: trying to eat guinea pig bedding and always running to get an ice cube when we use the dispenser.”
First time foster, Scott Geezil, shared his experience: “I am currently fostering a dog named Henly. I officially became a foster parent on March 20th when I saw a post on Facebook asking for help. I first fostered a dog named Buddy, and also helped another foster parent, Nancy, walk her foster dog, Duke, three times a week. We were going to swap Buddy and Duke, but then Duke went to his foster-to-adopt home. I suggested that Nancy still take Buddy, and I would take Henly who was still at the shelter. Fostering is important because everyone deserves a home. This past year I’ve been going through a divorce, stayed with friends and had to move a few times. But I’m finally getting settled in, just like Henly.”
If you’re thinking about fostering, here are a few words of advice from Suncoast Humane Society’s fosters:
“Fostering is the most rewarding experience, we have helped so many animals move to their forever homes. Seeing them blossom and move forward is uplifting. Getting them ready to become part of a new family is heartwarming. If you have the time and patience I recommend it for anyone.” – Evelyn Jackson
“If you are afraid you would just want to keep them, here’s how I look at it: instead of being able to adopt just one or two myself and provide them a good home for their lifetime, in that same time frame, I can help literally HUNDREDS of cats/kittens. Each one has its own personality. Some are harder to bring back than others, but in the end, I am happy to help them on their journey.” –Kathy Damewood
“Take a chance. It gives a better quality of life to those who may not otherwise in a shelter. Newborns, seniors, and those with health concerns stand a chance to find their forever home while being cared for with the one-on-one attention they may not get in a shelter. Even the oldest animal still has so much love to give.” –Lyssa Foster
“Do it! Be honest about what you can provide, and what your house is like. It’s important to find the right fit for both, you and the animal. Listen to the experts, they know the animals best. I wouldn’t have picked Jaxon mainly because of his age and size, but I would have missed out on an amazing dog. Give them time to adjust, and don’t give up on them too easily. Try to put yourself in their shoes, give them a chance. And being a foster “failure” is the best kind of failure.” –Erin Kuhns
“I can’t give anyone advice because as I write this I decided I was going to become a foster failure and adopt Henly. When I separated on May 1 of last year, I stayed with a family that was fostering Henly and a few other animals including my labradoodle, Indy. I stayed with them for 8 months. My ex took custody of Indy and did not give him back. But Henly came back into my life, how’s that for a story?” –Scott Geezil
If you would like to join Suncoast Humane Society’s amazing Foster Family Network, please contact our Foster Coordinator, Fatime Duka, at FDuka@humane.org. To learn more about Suncoast Humane Society, please visit us online at www.humane.org.