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Homeless Pets Need Foster Families

Want to help pets but can't find the time to volunteer at a shelter? Becoming a foster parent is a rewarding experience full of love and wet kisses.

Last week's column discussed the pros of . Today we'll look at what it's like to be a foster parent.

I interviewed Cuyahoga Falls resident Anne Caston, who has been fostering dogs for Rose's Rescue for four years. Rose's Rescue is based in Rootstown, but doesn't really have a shelter; they mainly care for pets in foster homes.

One of those foster homes is actually . The doggy day care houses dogs for Rose's Rescue as well as another rescue, Paws & Prayers of Akron. People interested in adopting a well-socialized dog can visit Camp Bow Wow any time to take a meet their fostered dogs.

Rescues that rely on foster homes, like Rose's and Paws & Prayers, pull a lot of dogs from death row at shelters with high euthanization rates, such as Animal Control in Akron. The more foster homes they have, the more animals are saved from being put to sleep.

Becoming a Pet Foster Parent

Anne found Rose's Rescue in 2006 when she was looking to adopt a dog. She adopted Sofie and became friends with his foster mom. This friendship eventually turned her on to the prospect of becoming a foster parent herself; partly for her, partly for the dogs in need, and partly for her new furry family member.

"Sofie was a shy dog and I felt that having other dogs around would help draw her out a bit more, which it did," said Anne.

In the past four years, Anne has fostered 24 dogs in her home, some of which were pregnant and had puppies in her care. In all, Anne has assisted in the whelping of 31 puppies for a grand total of 55 foster dogs in her home.

When Anne takes on a new foster, she might have the dog for a few days or a few months. During that time, Rose's Rescue takes care of all costs, including food, which is donated, and medical care.

The rescue gets potential adopters in contact with Anne to meet her foster dogs. Anne decides how best to introduce her fosters to potential adopters. The fact that she owns a home in Cuyahoga Falls as well as her own massage business, Caston Massage Therapy in Munroe Falls, gives her plenty of options.

"Approved prospective adopters either come to my home to meet the foster dog, or sometimes I have them meet me at my office as it's quieter and a less chaotic environment without my dogs barking and making a ruckus," said Anne. "A few times I have taken the foster to the new parent's home when that seemed most appropriate."

Adopting Fostered Pets: "Failed Fosters"

Sometimes, foster families' good intentions take a turn for the better, although when this happens it's referred to as a "failed foster." This means the foster parent loved the pet so much, they decided to adopt it themselvs.

Amazingly, this has only happened to Anne twice. Her permanent pack now consists of Sofie, the first dog she adopted from Rose's, Darby, a Dalmatian mix, and Mia, who she fostered last year. Anne fell in love with Darby while he was being treated for heartworm. Mia was almost adopted out a few times, but each time the adoption fell through at the last minute.

"After several months and seeing how much a part of my 'pack' she had become, I realized that she, too, had already found her forever home right here with me," said Anne.

Anne's three dogs and current foster dog share her with an Amazon parrot named Pilgrim.

Health Care for Fostered Pets

Anne's current foster is a black Lab mix named Lydia. Lydia was very pregnant when she found herself behind bars at the Portage pound in Ravenna. Since Anne was experienced in fostering pregnant dogs, the rescue called her to see if she was available. Although the timing was terrible, Lydia was due at any moment and needed a safe place to give birth comfortably.

Lydia showed up at Anne's house undernourished, having been living outside a roller rink for a while before the dog warden was able to catch her.

"She had many scars and sores on her, including one around her muzzle where someone may have tried to tie her mouth shut at some point previous," said Anne.

After one day in Anne's home, Lydia gave birth to nine healthy puppies. All the puppies found homes as soon as they were old enough to.

After the puppies were weened off of Lydia's milk, Rose's Rescue paid for Anne to have her spayed at Boston Heights Veterinary Hospital in Hudson, the rescue's "go-to" vet practice. Lucky Lydia, being fostered, was able to recover from her spay surgery in a loving home rather than a cold cage. Even luckier, because she was part of a small pack rather than one of hundreds, Anne noticed right away when she didn't seem to be healing from her spay very well. Back to Boston Heights she went, and again Rose's Rescue was able to pay for life-saving surgery after Lydia had torn some tissue and was bleeding internally.

"They almost lost her twice on the table and one of the staff volunteered her dog to donate blood to Lydia for a transfusion," said Anne. Now healthy again, Lydia has been living with Anne since April, waiting for her forever family to find her.

The Bittersweet Joy of Fostering Pets

Obviously, having fostered dozens and dozens of dogs in her home, Anne gets a lot of joy out of what she does for these animals. The love she offers them doesn't go unnoticed by them or others.

One of her rescues was a small yellow Lab mix who was suffering from emaciation at the Stark pound in Canton. Her name was Maeve.

"Petting her along her sides was like running a stick across a picket fence, her ribs stuck out so much," said Anne. Maeve also had kennel cough and stopped eating. Anne had to cook chicken for her and it was the only thing she would eat. Then, just as Maeve was starting to come around, she pulled a ligament in her knee and had to have surgery.

Following a successful recovery in Anne's warm, capable and loving hands, Maeve was adopted by a couple who operate a small motel on Lake Erie in update NY.  They changed Maeve's name to Annie in honor of her amazing foster mom.

Rescues are always in need of more foster homes like Anne's. If you think you have what it takes to give a homeless pet a temporary place in your heart and family, contact one of these rescues for more information. Some ask that you become a volunteer and some do not. If you know of another rescue that needs fosters, please leave the name in a comment!

Michelle Lionetti October 03, 2011 at 06:30 PM
I have lost count of the motherless kittens I have taken in, many survived some didn't. It is almost as rewarding as fostering a human child which unfortunately I can't do because of health issues. I would reccomend animal fostering to any animal lover who has the time and resources. It's bittersweet when they leave to be adopted, but its great to love and care for them while you can.
R. Helms October 03, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Great article. Rescue dogs make great members of the family. Before looking for a breeder, check rescues and shelters, you will be surprised who you will find.
Anne Caston October 10, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Great news - Lydia was adopted to a wonderful family in Kent. She has found her forever home!
Leigh Peterson October 10, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Yay for Lydia!!! I hear she has canine, feline AND human siblings now! What a lucky dog :-)
TABATHA August 14, 2012 at 08:28 PM
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