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Published: Thursday, May 27, 2004

Caring for animals
Fostering offers another chance

By ANN CLAYCOMBE, STAFF WRITER

Teresa Buchholz walks in to the Second Chance Pet Adoptions cat care facility on N.C. 54, and sets a blue pet carrier on the floor. It's squeaking. Loudly.

She unlatches the lid and reveals three tiny, two-week-old kittens. Buchholz fishes out a gray ball of fur and holds up a tiny bottle. The kitten latches on and starts gulping milk.

"He's a real pig," Buchholz says fondly.

Buchholz has been bottle-feeding the kittens named Yakko, Wakko and Dot, for the Animaniacs cartoon characters around the clock for a week. The microbiology analyst takes them to work with her in the morning, and brings them to Second Chance on her lunch break so she can feed them in a quiet spot.

Buchholz is just one of an army of local volunteers who bring stray animals into their homes. Pet foster parents raise kittens and puppies, look after sick animals, teach problem pets to behave and finally help their charges find their "forever homes."

Looking after strays can be tough just ask Buchholz, who won't sleep through the night until her foster kittens do. But many pet foster parents keep at it for years, taking in a new animal as soon as they've found a home for the old one.

Why do they heal, train, house and cuddle with pets that will go to live with someone else? Because they love animals, of course.

But more than that, foster parents believe in their charges. Most dogs and cats just need a chance, they say, to get healthy and to learn to trust people. Give them that, and you can find them a loving home.

"I will always have two dogs, because I will always have a foster," said Jennifer Baldock, a Cary resident who volunteers with N.C. Rottweiler Rescue.

"That's one dog you saved from a potentially horrible situation," she added. "That's one dog you know is safe."

The SPCA

Pet fostering got started as a way for independent animal rescue groups to keep animals out of shelters where euthanasia was practiced. The programs became so popular, and so successful, that they paved the way for a change of philosophy at some of the shelters themselves.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County, for example, opened a new "no-kill" pet adoption facility in Raleigh in March. And that change was made possible by the SPCA's own foster program, which was expanded in 2001.

"It's crucial," said Mondy Lamb, the SPCA's public information officer. "It gives the animals the time they need to become adoptable."

The SPCA mostly fosters out to homes puppies and kittens that are too young to be spayed or neutered, Lamb explained. Anyone who has a spare room with a door can take in a mother cat and a litter of kittens, for example.

"All you need is a bathroom," she said, "and you can save seven lives."

Volunteers also care for animals that are temporarily weak from surgery, illness or injury, or need to be trained out of problem behaviors before they can go to a permanent home, Lamb said. But as soon as an SPCA animal is adoptable, it returns to the shelter.

"We don't want them to languish in foster care when they could get adopted the next day," Lamb said. And the SPCA discourages its foster parents from adopting their charges, she said, for two reasons.

First, the group wants its volunteers to stay available for fostering, she said. Second, it doesn't want the foster program to turn into an audition process for potential adopters.

As a result, most SPCA foster pets stay in private homes for a month or less, Lamb said. That makes it easy for volunteers to fit pet care around their own schedules.

"People love it," she said. "Most of our foster parents will foster continuously with some breaks."

The independents

Pet fostering is just one of many options for the SPCA. But home-stays for strays remain the bread and butter of the smaller rescue groups in the area.

One of the groups Second Chance Pet Adoptions is big enough to have its own shelter, a cat-care facility on N.C. 54 between Cary and Raleigh. The group gets more cats than dogs, and has a hard time finding foster homes for them, explained board member Patti Dobyns.

But volunteers still do all of the non-veterinary work at the shelter cleaning cages, administering medicine, and getting the cats accustomed to being brushed and cuddled regularly.

Still, the shelter doesn't have room for outdoor runs, which means it can't take dogs.

"All of our dogs and puppies are in foster care, period," said Melissa Llewellyn, the Second Chance dog coordinator.

So are animals for the smaller rescue groups in Cary: Best Friend Pet Adoption and New Beginnings. New Beginnings also keeps some of its pets at a local kennel, Camp Canine, at 333 James Jackson Ave.

And there are a number of local and regional groups dedicated to specific breeds N.C. Rottweiler Rescue, Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue, and even Raleigh Rodent Rescue, among others.

There's even an umbrella organization, the Pet Foster Network, trying to raise awareness and attract volunteers for its member groups. All of them depend on foster parents to look after rescued animals.

Fostering works a little differently for volunteers in these groups. Because there are no shelters, foster parents look after their charges until they find permanent homes and sometimes, long after.

"Sable's a return," said Amy Joslyn, patting her current foster dog. "The family that adopted him moved and couldn't take him."

Joslyn is a Second Chance board member as well as a volunteer. She has seen dogs find new homes in two days, and stay in foster care as long as two years. She has seen dogs like Sable find homes, come back into foster care, and find new families to love them.

No matter the circumstances, it's always hard to say goodbye, Joslyn said. In fact, the independent groups end up permanently placing a lot of animals with their foster parents.

"It's good and it's bad," Joslyn said, noting that the group loses a lot of volunteers who adopt and then don't have room to foster any more.

Jeanne Harned, a Cary resident who volunteers with Carolina Basset Hound Rescue, is a foster parent who has decided to adopt her charge permanently.

Harned said she'll keep fostering "it's raining bassets out there," she explained. But she couldn't resist Sarah, the 7-year-old hound who moved in to the Harned house needing heartworm treatment.

Harned said she liked the friendly little dog from the beginnning. But she didn't think of keeping the basset permanently until she brought Sarah home from the veterinarian.

"She ran to the front door and loved on the other dogs," Harned said. "And on my husband and me. And we thought, if anyone loves your home that much, they should stay."

Contact Ann Claycombe at 460-2607 or

Foster groups

Interested in fostering, or in finding another way to help stray animals? These local groups can help:

SPCA of Wake County www.spcawake.org 772-2326

Second Chance Pet Adoptions www.secondchance nc.org 460-0610 (general questions) 468-0009 (volunteer information)

Best Friend Pet Adoption www.bfpa.org 661-1722

New Beginnings e-mail: [email protected] canine.com

Pet Foster Network www.petfoster.org 596-1818

For a list of local breed-specific groups, go to www.petfinder.com, click on the "Shelter and Rescue Groups" button at the top of the page, and select "North Carolina."


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