Fostering a Shelter Animal

10 Apr

What is fostering? Fostering is when you bring a shelter animal into your home and provide care for the animal until such a time that the animal can be placed up for adoption to find it’s forever home. There are many reasons why a shelter animal may have to go to a foster home but it is generally for healing after a surgery, socialization, they are too young to be up for adoption and would do best starting off their early days in a home environment versus the shelter, a nursing animal with their litter, orphaned/abandoned animals and sometimes to make space for incoming animals if a shelter is at capacity.

Nursing Mother and Kittens

Fostering is a very rewarding experience but in reality it can also come with heartbreak. Saying good-bye to an animal that you have cared for, for several weeks is difficult. Does it get any easier with each foster animal? Maybe for some, but not for me. I think I cried for a week after I said good-bye to my first foster. I will never forget him. He was a handsome ginger tabby cat that needed a place to heal after his front leg was amputated. His name was Colonel Meow. He fit right into our household and he loved my big black lab the most. They would chill out on the couch together. For the first couple of weeks, his mobility was limited until he got used to having only 3 legs but it wasn’t long before he adjusted. I will never forget the day that I had to put him into the carrier to bring him back to the shelter. He and I had a good conversation along the way. I told him he was so special that there were many families that would love him and that his forever family would be searching for a guy just like him. I also told him that the local newspaper dedicated an entire article about him and that he was seeking a new home. As we drove up to the door of the shelter, I knew that it would only be moments before he was no longer safe with me. I often wonder if all foster families have the same thoughts I do. We rarely get to hear their complete life story and how it ends and I think that is what makes it hard. Do they end up with a good family, will they end up abandoned or worse abused or killed on the street by a car or do they end up lost, lonely, hungry and suffering? Being a foster home is really just a stepping stone to a better life for the animal. For me personally, the older cats are the hardest for me to foster. Many of them have already had a rough start in life and finally they are safe at their foster home only to possibly end up in another bad situation. Then it seems that there are just some animals that really never get a chance and are perpetually in the shelter system because no one invests the time needed and humans have really failed them as owners.

Colonel Meow

Kittens, I find are the easiest to foster because they are so full of life and energy and they have their whole future ahead of them. Fostering has its ups and downs. I have sadly lost a few kittens along the way, they either died shortly after being born or just were not strong enough to survive and die a week or so later. I will never forget them and I hold them in a special place in my heart. I take some comfort in knowing that at least they were with a person that cared and tried their very best to save them and that they didn’t die out in the cold somewhere in an unsafe place. They had the very best chance but for whatever reason, they were just not meant to be. 

Forever in my Heart

Most shelters or rescues will provide:

  • food and food dishes
  • litter and litterbox
  • toys
  • bedding
  • leash and collar
  • any vet care that is required

You just need to provide the care, love, socialization and a safe indoor home environment.

Some things to consider before making the decision to foster:

  • the length of time that your foster animal may stay with you can vary depending on the circumstances.  It can range from just a few days to several weeks.
  • recording of daily care of the animal(s) such as general health, eating habits, bathroom habits, any other applicable notes.
  • you may also have to take the animal to vet appointments, weigh-ins or to meet a new potential adopter.

There is nothing more rewarding when you hear that your foster animal has been adopted. You always hope that they end up with the best family ever and you have to believe that they do or you would end up with a lot of animals. I however, have been a victim and have been a foster failure a couple of times. Sometimes I also adopt the very old, almost a palliative care type adoption. The old guys break my heart and I can’t bare to leave them in the shelter to live out their remaining days when they only have a few months or a year left at the most.

When you agree to bring a foster animal into your home, there is a transition time. Sometimes the animal has had very little human interaction or very little to no training. It takes them time to adjust to a routine and to get fully settled in. If you are expecting anything more than that, perhaps fostering is not the best route for you and it is also not fair to the well being of the animal.

Fostering is a great way to “test drive” what it is like to have a pet if you have never had one or maybe you don’t have the time to committ to have a full time pet but can offer periods of time where you are able to offer a greater portion of your time.

While fostering is temporary, many foster families fall in love with the animal in their care and decide to adopt them.

There are many animals that are currently in your local animal shelter that would greatly benefit from a foster home.
If you are interested, consider contacting your nearest animal shelter to complete an application form so that they can add you to their foster list.

Foster Kittens

Euthanasia: How Do You Know When It Is The Right Time To Say Good-Bye?

27 Aug

How do you know when the time is right to euthanize your pet? This is something that I get asked quite a bit along with what is the process really like? I tend to adopt the old, broken animals so, I have had to make this decision more than I would like and although this is ultimately a personal decision based on the circumstances at the time, I can offer some insight in how I make the final decision and how I feel during the process.

For anyone that truly loves their pet, this will be the most difficult decision that you will have to make. The circumstances in which you will have to make the decision will always vary but will probably be the result of terminal illness where there is no cure and you don’t want to prolong the suffering, sudden life threatening injuries such as being hit by a car and the injuries are too grave for the animal to survive, old age, severe behavioral issues such as: aggression in dogs that is not able to be rehabilitated and euthanasia is recommended by a vet and/or professional trainer, are just some of the reasons. My experiences are only based on terminal illness and old age as I have not had to deal with severe aggression or sudden life threatening injuries.

The one very important lesson that I have learned over the years, is that I would rather be a day too early rather than 5 minutes too late when euthanizing a pet. I have learned this the hard way and when my heart is clouding my judgement during those hard moments of, “is this the right time or can it wait a few days”, I remind myself of this lesson and it quickly puts reality back into my mind and helps me make the decision. Being 5 minutes too late was unfair to my kitty friend and it made the euthanasia process difficult and it will always be ingrained in my mind wishing that I would have brought her in the day before.

I think that no matter what the circumstance you are in that is making you make this decision, most people feel as though they are killing their friend. Even when there is no doubt with it being the right decision, we all feel some sort of guilt in being the one that makes that final decision, signs the euthanasia order and gives the final ok to the vet. I don’t think that deep down inside, we as pet owners are ok with having the power to end the life of our friend.

I always find that making the final call to the vet to schedule the appointment is difficult but overtime, I have also come to learn that it is a way to prepare yourself for the next few days. I view it as a special time. I take a day or two off of work and I make the appointment for the next day and always for the last appointment of the day. I have called and hung up many times, I have called in tears, I have called blubbering and sobbing but it is ok, your vet clinic is used to all of this and is very understanding in how hard this is. Don’t be embarrassed at all.

When the appointment is finally made, I make the remaining hours as special as I can. Going to favorite places and doing lots of fun things with my friend. Sometimes they are quieter animals and we just spend the day cuddling and relaxing. I give them their favorite foods and buy them a special toy. They get lots of extra love and pets.

When I say that a planned euthanasia is a special time, it is a way to prepare yourself to say good-bye in your own way and in your own time but this sometimes is not an opportunity afforded to us. I have had a planned euthanasia and at 2 am, I have been on the phone to the vet because my pet’s health crashes quickly during the night and there is no time to wait and I am rushing to the vet in my pj’s with no make-up and I haven’t been able to say good-bye the way that I wanted. But that is just it, our heart takes over and it shouldn’t be about what we want but what is right and humane for our furry friend at the time.

After I have made the appointment and spend the final hours with my pet, I choose a special blanket to wrap them in and they ride on my front seat so that I can talk to them and hold their paw on the way to the clinic. It seems that no matter how slow I drive, the trip to the vet clinic goes by so fast. Where are you red lights when I need you? The drive is all but a blur as I cry all the way to the vet. As I walk into the vet clinic, they put me into an exam room right as soon as I walk in so that I don’t have to sit in the waiting room crying with everyone staring at me and my dying pet.

The vet tech comes in and I sign euthanasia order while tears drip onto the page smearing my newly inked signature. She asks if I need some time and I always say yes. They leave my friend and I to spend our final moments together in peace. This is when I wished that time would stand still and that I could take my friend home and that all would be ok.

We wait and I talk softly to my friend, telling them how much I love them and thank them for being my friend. Then I see the shadow of the vet’s shoes under the door and I hear her pull the file out from the holder on the wall. Time pauses as she is momentarily reads the file and then she turns the door knob and that is when panic and a sick feeling set in like a huge pit in my stomach. I know this is the last few moments I will have with my pet. The vet comes in with the vet tech and they put the tissue box beside me and I lay my friend on the exam table on the special blanket. They shave the paw with the clippers and the smell of rubbing alcohol fills the air as they clean the newly shaved area. All the while I am whispering in my pet’s ear that they will be ok, they will no longer be sick and that of course I love them. I tell them to run free and to have a safe trip over the Rainbow Bridge. The vet says are you ready? I breathe in deeply to try to clear the shear panic I feel. Every single time at that very moment, I wish that I had a magic wand that I could wave to make them better, to make them a kitten or puppy again, bounding around happy and free but I know that is not possible and I give a final nod to the vet and she sticks the needle in, injects the solution and within moments, it is over. I want to yell and say no wait just a few more minutes but the solution works so quickly that there is no turning back. Just like that your friend is gone and the vet will check to make sure there is no longer a heart beat. Your vet will let you know when your pet is gone. She or he will leave the room to allow you time to say your final good-byes.

I drive home with an empty blanket and I usually spend the week crying on and off. As odd as it may sound, and as sad as you feel, there is a feeling of relief in that you know deep down that it was time. You may feel it right away or you may not feel it for several days but there will come a time when you know that you did the right thing and you take some comfort in that feeling.

Sometimes I swear I catch a glimpse of my Ricki out of the corner of my eye. I had him for 19 years and I adopted him from a local shelter as a flea infested kitten. He was with me through everything from my 20’s and most of my 30’s, marriage, having a child, divorce and all the things in between. I have had many furry friends throughout my life and people ask me if it gets easier. I find this to be an odd question. Every animal is special and comes into your life at a certain time for a reason.


Last year, I adopted a 19 year old cat named Gus. I knew it was a palliative adoption and that his time with me would be short. I ended up only having him for 3 months but in those 3 months he took a big piece of my heart and although each one takes a piece of your heart, they deserve a second chance and as hard as it was to say good-bye to Gus and I wish everyday that I had more time with him, I am also thankful that he had a home that loved him for his final months and that he knew love, compassion, a full belly and vet care and that he didn’t have to die in a cold shelter all alone.


As hard as it is to say good-bye, it is at that moment when you need to put that aside and be the very best friend that you can be. Be with them and comfort them in their last moments. Be the last person they see and the last voice that they hear. Please don’t just drop them off at the vet clinic to be euthanized without being at their side. I personally cannot understand people that do this. The process is hard but it is peaceful.

Honestly, I am not sure that we ever really know when the time is right and that is what makes the decision so difficult but a few things that help me decide are:

1. Quality of Life: Is your pet still interested in eating and drinking and can they go to the bathroom on their own? If they no longer want to eat or drink, consult your veterinarian right away.

2. Do they have a terminal disease and are you only prolonging their life for a couple of weeks or months? This is a hard one but you need to ask yourself if you are just keeping them alive for your benefit? If there is no chance of recovery or cure for the disease, it is ultimately up to you if you want to see them suffer needlessly and you run the risk of being five minutes too late.

3. Old age: Everyone will have varying thoughts on this. For me this is when I whole heartedly believe in nature. If your pet is simply old but otherwise ok (they may be slow, partially sighted or blind, deaf and all of the other things that are associated with old age), I feel that letting them go naturally is ok as dying is part of the entire living process. They may die peacefully in their sleep, it may happen quickly or it has been my experience that the dying process can take place over a day. If you choose this decision, try not to be scared of the process. I will admit, it is not easy to watch and it can be scary but only because you know that you cannot help them at that point and the end is near. This is when YOU must be brave for your friend. Be comforting and help them feel safe. This process may be hard for some to watch but you have to follow it through to the end. At this point, you are more than five minutes too late and you need to deal with the the fear and the helplessness that you will feel. They may cry out, breathe heavy, want to be alone, they may be scared or confused but keep assuring them in a soft voice and they will know that you are by their side until the end.

If you have never been through the euthanasia process, don’t be afraid to ask your vet. They will sit down with you and go through all of the steps of the process so that you know what to expect. They will also ask if you would like your pet cremated or if you are planning on burying your pet. I always opt for private cremation and I get the ashes returned back to me in a pine box with a nice engraved plaque with their name. There are many options for urns or maybe you have a nice place under a favorite tree where you would like to bury your pet.

Saying good-bye is never easy but having the option of euthanasia to help end the suffering of a terminally or gravely ill pet is the most humane, caring decision that you can make. Trust in your decision. Take time to grieve the loss of your pet, it is ok.

Do you have a special furry friend that you have had to say good-bye to?

Always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s health and well-being or have any questions about the euthanasia process.

Pet ID – Helping Them Get Home Safe

13 Aug

Do you have a pet? Great! Does it have at least one form of identification? If not, why? Is your contact information up to date?

Have you thought to double-check?

Go check right now………. I mean seriously go and check!!

Life gets busy, we move, phone numbers and addresses change, divorces happen and updating your pet’s identification may get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. One form of ID is better than none but personally, I prefer 3. This may seem overkill to some but bear with me as to my reasoning.

I feel like this is an important topic and something that can trip up long time pet owners. I also feel it is important because it has been my experience that when my pet gets a tattoo or microchip or both, it is never really fully explained by the vet that the microchip needs to be registered to be of any use and that the tattoo is specific to their vet clinic and that if you ever move or contact information changes, it needs to updated at the vet clinic where the tattoo was done. I have had pets for many years and I did not know this until several years ago. I was shocked at how little I actually knew about the process so I thought that maybe others would want to know this information as well.

The one thing that I do know is that animals cannot talk (eventhough I wish they could sometimes) but they cannot say…I am lost and my house is just around the corner, please take me home. Pet ID is their only way of communicating to the finder where they live and who their owner is.

Many times I have come across an animal wandering and they have no id….do you have any idea how hard it is to even begin searching for the owner?

The three forms of ID I use are the following:
1. Collar with ID tag
2. Tattoo
3. Microchip

With any form of ID, there are of course pros and cons to all.

Collar with ID Tag
A good sturdy collar with a durable ring to attach the ID tag to is an inexpensive simplistic way for your pet to always have ID. Collars come in all kinds of colors, sizes and styles and tags can be ordered online or most local pet supply stores have a small selection of engraveable tags. When ordering the tags, I always include the area code with my phone number, my address as well as the city and province. I include this information because, there have been several instances where I have found a dog with a tag and all it has is the dog’s name (which is great) and a phone number with no area code and no city. More often than not the phone number is from the same area code where the dog is found but what if it isn’t? That could be quite an issue and it can become nearly impossible to figure out the correct area code.

• Simplistic easy way for the finder to determine that the dog is owned
• Contact information of the owner is readily available providing that it is up to date

• Collars can fall off or maybe you don’t always have your collar on your pet. Cats are famous for losing their collars
• Collars can be easily removed by someone that wants to steal your pet
• When contact information needs to be updated, it can take a bit of time to receive the updated tag if you order it online

Tattoos are another common method for ID’ing your pet. Generally, the placement of the tattoo is in the right ear however, sometimes they can also be on the inside of the thigh. The procedure is performed under anesthetic and can be done when your pet is being spayed or neutered. This procedure heals very quickly and your pet won’t even notice. The tattoo is specific to that individual animal as well as the vet clinic that tattooed your animal.

The pros and cons associated with this type of identification are:

• Permanent form of identification
• Simplistic way for the finder to determine that the pet is owned

• Tattoos can fade and become unreadable over time
• Some finders may not know to check other areas on the pet’s body other than the ear
• The owners contact information is not readily available to the finder

Thirdly, there is microchipping
Microchipping involves the implanting of a microchip under the pet’s skin and the information can be read by a scanner. A needle is used and the procedure is relatively painless. It can either be done at the time of spaying or neutering or at a regular vet visit. No anesthetic is required. The microchip number is specific to the individual animal.

• Permanent form of identification

• The finder has no way of knowing that your pet is microchipped unless it is wearing a tag that says it is microchipped
• The finder may not know to take your pet to a local vet clinic to have it scanned for a chip as this is not general knowledge to everyone
• A microchip is useless unless it is registered and the contact information is up to date
• Currently there is no microchip scanner that is universal that reads all microchips
• Microchips can migrate from the area where they are placed and can be difficult for the person scanning to locate the chip

My dogs have all three forms of ID however, my cats only have 2 (tattoo and microchip). They are indoor only cats but accidents can happen, doors get left open or someone lets them outside by accident. I don’t put collars or ID tags on my cats because, I am worried that the collar may get hooked on something when I am not home and that they could strangle themselves.

If your pet does manage to get lost, a couple of tips that could help reunite you with your pet quickly are:
• Put a missing pet sign up in your front yard with a picture of your pet…often they are just a few blocks down the road. A lot of times when people find a wandering animal, they will drive around the neighborhood to see if anyone is looking for their missing pet.
• If your cat is missing, put their litterbox outside so that they can smell it.
• If your dog is missing, put one of your shirts or sweaters outside. Their sense of smell could lead them right back home.

Check local shelters and animal control in person and bring a picture of your pet. Often times when pets have been missing for a long time, they can be dirty and have matted fur and may not look quite the same so looking in person can ensure that your pet is not overlooked by staff.

Many strays come into shelters with no ID and it is heartbreaking to know that they may have a family out there somewhere but because they don’t have ID, there is no possible way for them to be reunited unless their family is actively looking for them.

What is your preferable way to ID your pets?