Saturday, June 28, 2008

Foster Joy and Sorrow

Though I'm dying to share more about Australia and the wildlife we saw there, first I have to fill you in on some fosters we acquired. When we'd been back seven days I realized in that time I'd taken in seven additional animals. The Humane Society is running full. It's not only kitten season, but with people giving up pets in the bad economy (which I don't get at all, but can't deny happens) and with the usual Fourth of July glut in dog giveups (which I also don't get, but it's the busy time for dogs), there is not enough space. Foster parents are desperately needed if animals are going to avoid being put down. I'm sure local rescue groups face the same challenge.

First, I took on a mom and give newborns. The mom is super sweet, the nicest mom I have ever fostered, and I've seen a lot! She is gentle and outgoing and as nice as could be. Unfortunately, she was turned in pregnant and with an upper respiratory infection. She lost one kitten before they came to me. They need a long time, seven or eight weeks of care, enough to get the kids socialized, spayed and neutered and ready for adoption.

Sadly, I lost one of the kittens on Thursday - the first one ever, in over a hundred fosters. He had an eye that wouldn't open. You can see him in this photo, little Magellan the explorer. He was my favorite, very outgoing and strong. I took him in to the clinic and got some eye ointment and was treating him several times a day. He developed a tiny runny nose and a cough and then all of a sudden took a dramatic dive for the worst. The vet said nothing could be done and that it was fading kitten syndrome. I tried - kept him warm, gave medications, fluids, etc. But he had trouble breathing, I think pneumonia. His lips went blue, then pink, then blue. He struggled but in a matter of hours I could tell he probably wouldn't make it - which was just very hard to accept. His mom and I did all we could to make him comfortable, and in the end, he went peacefully, just way too early. For me, it was very tragic.

There are four left...and they are healthy. Mom and babies will need homes in a few weeks. I'm trying to make sure the kittens get off to a good start. Kittens usually get homes; people love kittens.

There were several dogs scheduled to be put down for lack of space, so I took one of those home too. Reggie is a big lovable goofy puppy, about a year old. He knows several commands but isn't great on a leash, I don't think he has any experience with it. He learns fast and he LOVES to play fetch. He's a bright dog and I think a bird dog mix. (Pointer? Chocolate lab? Border Collie? Spaniel?) Dogs are hardest to foster - I have to integrate them into the pack of existing dogs without a fight, ensure they don't hurt the cats, horses or goats, and adjust all daily routines. I don't like fostering dogs too much because it is sooooo much work, but I just can't say no when the alternative is execution. This guy is a sweet dog with a great personality and he deserves a chance. You can see him listed on the Humane Society Website if you know anyone who is interested.

This week I've been reflecting on why I foster, since it is so hard - not just inconvenience but emotionally hard. I hate to see my favorites go, and the death of the first one was extra hard. But in the end, I always feel like its worthwhile. The animals need the favor, and I like watching them develop, whether the dogs get more secure, the puppies learn commands for the first time, or the kittens' personalities emerge. I'm never sorry I did it. There are heartbreaking moments but also a lot of good ones. It seems everyone says "That's so nice, but I could never do it" when fostering comes up. Sort of a crock. Anyone CAN do it, just for some reason, a lot of people aren't willing to do it. And really, why not? Weigh the save a life thing against the rest and I come down on the side of foster every time.

I can see setting boundaries - even just foster one animal per year if you have to set limits. But none? If you have animals and you love them, can't you make room for one more that's in a bad spot, just for awhile? It is so sad to see them in cages or kennels, or on Craigslist. I don't get the whole "I'm moving and can't take the pet." (Why the hell move there then?) or "We had a baby and dog has to go" (Why can't you have both, or stick with the dog instead of feeling compelled to procreate?) or the plethora of six month or one year old animals, now out of the puppy/kitten stage, untrained, and being abandoned. It's sick. Animals are not disposable, but it seems huge swaths of humanity feel they are.

I think I understand humans less than any other animal.

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