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

Christmas Planning

2 Nov

Do you cringe when you hear the C word even when its whispered or talked about quietly among friends. Me to, especially at this time of the year. I am talking about Christmas…what C word did you think I was talking about??

When do you start planning for the Holiday Season? I try to start about now but since I am a single mom, I have to start saving sometime about mid-year to be able to afford this time of the year. I start planning the gifts I will be buying (my family knows I will be nagging them for their list of what they would like) and the baking I will be doing so that I can keep an eye out for sales. This is also about the time of year that I plan what my wrapping theme will be for the presents. I try to pick a different theme every year. I love the brightly colored foil wrapping paper but unfortunately, it is not recyclable in our area so I always opt for paper that is recyclable as it seems wasteful to me to use so much paper for one day of the year for it to only be thrown in the garbage.

My family doesn’t expect anything fancy or expensive. In fact we prefer handmade gifts that are made from the heart with love. Eventhough my son is a teenager, I am proud to say that he doesn’t expect tons of gifts. A lot of people have the perception that the younger generation gets or expects too much. In some aspects that may be true but my son usually has a very short list and he is ok if he doesn’t get everything on his list. The older he gets the more expensive the items become it seems. I am usually nagging him for his list up until just before Christmas and even then I may get a text with a couple of ideas. It is amazing how hard it is to buy for a teenager – they are ultra picky. Clothes are completely out of the question. Heaven forbid I buy something with the wrong logo or the wrong brand. If that happened the clothes would sit in his closet like grandma’s relics in her china cabinet collecting dust.

I like to choose one or two homemade gifts. This year, I am thinking of making vanilla. It seems like a pretty simplistic recipe and it can be dressed up with pretty cool bottles and ribbons.

For baking, it has become tradition for me to make Big Batch Kris Kringle Cookies. These cookies taste awesome and the recipe makes a lot so there is plenty to share with everyone or for you to hide and eat later in peace when no one is around. For me, I tend to eat a lot of the cookie dough so my batch doesn’t bake nearly as many as it should. I know, I know you are thinking…she eats RAW cookie dough!! You bet I do, and I am more than ok with it, I am willing to take my chances.  I actually eat so much of the dough that I can hardly even eat the cookies after they are baked.  You know when you’ve eaten so much of one thing, you can’t bear to eat anymore of it.

Besides those cookies I always choose 2 to 3 other items to bake. This year I am going to make Peanut Butter Marshmallow Bars because they are pretty easy to make, Thick and Chewy M&M Cookie Bars and a simple Low Fat Pumpkin Bread. These recipes tend to take a lot of chocolate and candy and I can see you all judging my shopping cart when I have copious amounts of chocolate tucked away in the corner of my cart.  Just because I am shopping in my workout clothes doesn’t mean that eat carrot and celery sticks everyday…a person’s gotta live a little.  I know that the peanut butter marshmallow bars are a throw back to the 80’s but I bust out my Michael Jackson Thriller soundtrack and I am ok with my retro bars and I seem to still know all of the words to all of the songs like it was 1983.  I pack away the baking carefully into containers and put them in the freezer.  Last year I had tons of baking done and the time came to start putting it out for family to enjoy and the first couple of containers I chose from the freezer seemed pretty light.  I put them on the counter and opened the lids and they were empty.  No baking anywhere to be found, just some crumbs.  Now I know it wasn’t me and it wasn’t the house hippo that supposedly lives somewhere in my house, not the cats or the dogs……that only leaves one culprit….the teenager!!  He literally ate more than half of the baking at some point between me packing it away in the freezer and the three weeks leading up to Christmas.  I go to his room and ask him about it and oddly enough it seems that it wasn’t him and it is a mystery as to where the bars may have disappeared to.  Has your teenager ever done this??

I always have lists for everything. Maybe I am odd but even my lists have lists so Christmas planning is no different. I make a master list and then create smaller more manageable lists from there.  This also makes it easier for shopping as well.  I know exactly what I need to get at the various stores that I shop at.

I am the kind of person that tends to worry about the small details instead of the big picture, so I buy the stocking stuffers, the doo-dads, magazines and cards…you know the things that you are running around looking for last-minute when the stores are jam-packed, you are completely sick of shopping and you literally want to throat punch people and the weather sucks. I know it seems backwards but I can’t tell you how many times I have been so glad that I had all of those things ahead of time especially when I am completely done all of my wrapping.

For my wrapping theme, I like to choose something simple. My favorite is brown paper with natural bows and embellishments like a wooden Christmas decoration or a pinecone or something like that. A roll of brown paper is very inexpensive, can be recycled and looks really traditional against a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

One of my favorite parts about Christmas is decorating the tree, well except for dragging up the decorations from the basement. That is a big ordeal. If you have read my previous post about my craft supplies in the basement, then you will understand what an issue this is.

I pick an evening that my son and I are both free and I make hot chocolate and we have some appetizers and I put out a plate of Christmas baking. We set-up the tree (yes I have a fake tree) and we start decorating. Since I have a son, his interest in decorating isn’t really all that apparent. It is met with a lot of eye rolling and sighs but I think deep down he somewhat enjoys it. He places decorations here there and everywhere. This makes my OCD twinge a bit….ok a LOT. I like my decorations placed a certain way and with certain ones grouped together. I fight against my OCD as I don’t want him to feel like I don’t want his help. I do want his help but, I want it done my way. I wonder to myself if I am a horrible mom because I think this way or if other moms have this same issue?

I have to put all of my fancy, breakable decorations at the top of the tree and all of my non-breakable ones at the bottom of the tree. I have cats…and all of you cat people out there understand my struggle. They are ok during the day when I am there sitting by the tree however, at night as soon as I get all snuggled into my cozy bed, the cat shenanigans start. I swear that it is a cat conspiracy. It is as if they all get together and plan it out.  As I am about to nod off into sleep land, I hear it. The tree and the decorations shaking. I get out of bed and shoe them away from the tree eventhough, I know that this is really a futile attempt at getting them to stop….when have you ever known a cat to listen?? They run away and hide and honestly, I am sure they are secretly laughing to themselves.   As I get back into bed again, get all warm and ready to nod off, they are at it again. I can hear the decorations jingling and the tree limbs are being batted around. WTF, I angrily get out of bed and chase them away again, threatening to pack them all up and take them to the shelter (not that I ever would but this somehow makes me feel like I have adequately threatened them enough to get them to stop). I only put my tree up for a couple of weeks because this is a nightly ritual when you have cats and Christmas trees. Then there is always the one cat that needs to be the martyr of the group and it must climb to the top of the tree.  Sigh, we always lose a few decorations every year.  The struggle is real, who can relate to pets and Christmas trees?

We have the tradition of opening 1 gift on Christmas Eve while we sit around visiting with family and snacking on various appetizers and goodies. My two favorite things on Christmas morning are watching my son’s eyes light up with anticipation of what he is about to unwrap and opening my stocking. Seeing what is inside my stocking has always been my most memorable moments. It’s not because there was ever anything expensive or fancy in it but for some reason it was what I have always looked forward to.

We open presents slowly and enjoy the morning sipping on coffee, indulging in the chocolates that were in our stockings (surely chocolate early in the morning is allowed on Christmas mornings…Right?)

I then make a big breakfast and afterwards, the all day eating commences with anticipation of the big family feast later in the day.

What is your favorite part about Christmas?



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?