Goodbye is the Goal

Goodbye is the Goal – Do you know what this phrase is referring? When you foster an animal, the goal is not to keep the animal but to raise it to find a loving home of its own. Think about it, if every foster animal home kept the animals they fostered, we’d all live on farms! I know I wouldn’t be able to keep track of 24 cats and kittens. Goodbye is the goal refers to the idea that the foster home is not their forever home, but the space in which they become healthy, old enough, and learn manners for their forever home.

When I first started fostering animals, I thought to myself – “There is no way I am going to be able to give these animals up, I love them too much to say goodbye!” What I quickly realized is that I loved them too much to keep them. I knew that I was the person who could provide the care needed to get them healthy, but someone else was their person forever. If I kept every animal I fostered, I would quickly run out of space and therefore not be able to foster any more animals.

I cry every single time I say goodbye to a foster animal that was in my care. Whether I found them a home, or they are still looking for one, it makes me tear up. There have also been times I have had full-blown waterfall moments in the shelter parking lot after saying goodbye to an animal. It never gets easier but I think that is the beauty of fostering animals. We have so much love to give it creates really strong emotions.

If you are interested in fostering but don’t think that you could say goodbye to them once they find their forever home – you can. You’ll fall in love with the process of saving an animal’s life, finding them a home they will thrive in, and bringing in the next animal that needs you. It does get easier, but only once you realize the impact you have made on their life. These animals would have a chance if it wasn’t for the foster homes that take them in and care for them.

With the organization I foster for, it is not a requirement to find these animal homes, but it is encouraged. We can reach out to our network of family, friends, and acquaintances and find homes for all of these amazing animals. If I cannot find a home for the animal I am fostering, they go back to the Nevada Humane Society for their spay/neuter appointment and go out on the adoption floor. As hard as it is to know they go from the comfort of my home to a shelter kennel, I know they will still have the chance at life that they wouldn’t have had without foster care.

It may seem lame to some, but I keep a memory book of all of the animals I have fostered. I include a picture, their name, and a description of them so I always have a quick reminder if I am having a hard time saying goodbye. One example of an amazing ending to goodbye is a friend who adopted two kittens from my foster care, from different litters. She adopted a kitten from me in August 2019 and another in June 2020. The two girls are a year apart but they are now the best of friends. As hard as it was for me to say goodbye, it is so rewarding to see the amazing life they are living now. I know that they would not have had that chance if I had not fostered them.

Rezz and Kai are living the good life!

If you take anything away from this, take this: You are saving lives. It may seem hard to notice at the moment, but these animals wouldn’t have a chance at life without foster care. Shelters do not have enough funding and resources to provide care for all of the neonatal animals that come into their care so you are quite literally saving them from euthanization.

If you have ever considered fostering animals but have not because you don’t think you could say goodbye, please reconsider. You have already proved you have the heart of gold to take care of these animals, so I know you can say goodbye to them as well. Follow along for more information on fostering and animal rescue. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me via kaelinleavitt@gmail.com, and I would be happy to talk with you. Remember, goodbye is the goal!

Grieving the Loss of a Foster

If you are involved in animal fostering or understand the world of animal rescue, you know that losing animals is inevitable. It is a sad truth, but one that many of us have experienced, including myself. Many animals are euthanized across the United States because there are not enough resources and funding to care for sick animals. This need is where animal fosters come in.

Foster homes essentially create sanctuary spaces for these animals that may not have a shot at life in the shelter. Whether it be a neonatal puppy or kitten, or a hospice animal, foster homes give these animals a shot at life with a little love and care. Many foster homes are incredible, selfless humans that give their time and home to these animals. Even when we do all we possibly can, sometimes the animals don’t survive. Hospice fosters are known to be at the end of their life, and neonatal puppies and kittens are at high risk.

Losing a foster animal is never easy. For hospice animals, it is expected but still heartbreaking. I have incredible amounts of respect for those that take these animals into their home they are amazing people. It is a different kind of loss you don’t know until you’ve experienced it. Hospice animals leave a mark on your heart that you can’t replace. Whether you have a week or a year with them, they were a part of your family, and we grieve their loss.

We pour our hearts into these animals, doing everything we can to save them. When you take in neonatal animals, you always have to assume that they are at their worst. Whether they have congenital disorders they may never overcome or diseases with an end in sight, you fight hard for these animals. I, for one, did not expect the emotions I would experience losing my first fosters.

The first part of this story is Frank. I had many reasons for keeping him, but one was losing his two siblings. I was fostering three kittens who were five weeks old, extremely unhealthy, and emaciated. The vet told me there was a very small chance of any of them making it most than a few days. The first little girl passed about 30 hours into my care. Her body was too weak to fight whatever was going on inside of her. The next little boy fought very hard for about six days in my care, and we, unfortunately, lost him too.

I will not go into the devastating details of their loss of lie, but I said goodbye to both of these babies in my hands. it is something that I will never forget. When it first happened, I blamed myself. I convinced myself that I didn’t do enough to keep them alive, and it was my fault they wouldn’t grow up and find loving, forever homes. I know now that at the time, I did everything I could have done to keep them alive. Seven months later, I have learned from this experience and can take this knowledge with me in fostering future neonatal kittens.

Lip and Debbie continue to encourage fostering and supportive care in my home, even after they lost their lives.

Although I would have never wished this to happen, or to any animal in this situation, but it does happen. And when it happens, it is our job as animal rescuers and advocates to learn from it so we can use that in the future. For example, I now keep Pedialyte, chicken baby food, formula, and bottles on hand, no matter the age of the kitten. I didn’t do this before, but now I know that it is best to have supplies you don’t end up using than to need supplies and not have them.

I had a hard time for a few weeks grieving the loss of these two kittens, but one thing that helped me was Kitten Lady’s article on losing a foster kitten. If you are experiencing loss, I highly recommend this read. During these trying times, keep your animal foster community close, as they know how you are feeling.

If you are ever having a hard time, please reach out to me via kaelinleavitt@gmail.com. I know what it is like to be in this position and am always here to help. Grieving fosters that don’t make it is, unfortunately, part of this experience. Follow for more tips on fostering and animal rescue!

TNR – Trap, Neuter, Return

Have you ever heard the term TNR? TNR is a term widely used in the animal rescue community, and it stands for trap, neuter, return. ‘Trap’ is a term used to trap a feral cat (or dog) safely and humanely. Rescues or community members will trap a cat to provide it veterinary care such as helping with an injury, it is sick and frail, and most important for spay and neuter. Once the animal receives the necessary treatment and/or surgeries, they will spend a few days in recovery and then returned to their colonies. The animal must be returned where it came from.

Trap

Have you ever heard the term TNR? TNR is a term widely used in the animal rescue community, and it stands for trap, neuter, return. ‘Trap’ is a term used to trap a feral cat (or dog) safely and humanely. Rescues or community members will trap a cat to provide it veterinary care such as helping with an injury, it is sick and frail, and most important for spay and neuter. Once the animal receives the necessary treatment and/or surgeries, they will spend a few days in recovery and then returned to their colonies. The animal must be returned where it came from.

If you are trapping a female cat, you always want to make sure that she does not have any kittens she is caring for. If it is unclear, it is best to continue surveying the colony and talking with the locals to see if they have noticed any kittens in the area. If they do have kittens, you will need to trap the mama cat first and then her kittens. If you trap her kittens, she will not follow, even though you may think she will follow her kittens. The mom and kittens should then be brought to a shelter or rescue organization, so they can receive proper medical care and be placed in a foster home.

Image via @MyFosterKittens on Instagram.

Neuter

If the animal is alone without kittens, they will be brought to a vet for spay and neuter surgery. If you are doing this on your own, you will need to talk to a vet beforehand and make sure they will take them and some of them may even do it for cheaper or free to help the animal. You also have the option to bring it to a rescue organization or shelter in your area. For example, the Nevada Humane Society has a great TNR program where you can give them the whereabouts of the animal and they will come out to trap them and have them spayed or neutered.

For those who don’t know, spay surgery is for a female animal, and neuter surgery is for a male animal. When the animal is under anesthesia, the vet will also tip its ear. Ear tipping is a humane practice, think ear piercing, and helps people easily spot out if an animal had already been altered. If you see the ear tip, then you know the animal does not need to be trapped. Fun fact: vets used to tattoo on the incision site for alteration surgery recognition, but with this type of marking, you have to trap the cat and handle it to find out. This situation is not ideal, therefore vets started using the ear tipping method.

Return

The most important part of the return is that the cat is returned to where it came from. Feral cats who are born into and live their lives out in feral colonies are safest there. If you decide to relocate it across town, they are going to seek out their previous colony which adds risks such as getting hit by a car, being hurt by another animal, dehydration, and starvation. You always want to return the animal to exactly where it came from. This gives the animal the best shot at a healthier, longer life.

If for some reason the cat is deemed unsafe or unhealthy to go back to its colony, there are few options, which is why it is never recommended unless in a dire situation. If the animal has been around humans too long, it now may need the human to survive even if it is still feral. In this situation, they can be sent to a rescue organization with a barn cat program. This program ensures it is a human making sure they are fed and receiving proper veterinary care, but they are out in the wild where they are their happiest.

TNR is very important for population control and the safety of feral colonies. Kitten Lady states in her book, Tiny But Mighty, that around 80% of kittens come from outdoors, not breeding situations. Just under a million cats and kittens are euthanized every year due to a lack of resources and funding to care for these animals. If there are fewer animals born into these situations, there are more resources and funding to care for the animals that are alive. Therefore, TNR is extremely important in curbing the mass amounts of cats euthanized in the US every year. It is also important to spay and neuter outdoor pets, especially males because it can control the number of animal fights and injuries happening in the wild. Male cats are notorious for fighting other male cats either for territory or a female cat. Neutering male cats help calm their hormones and lead to less fighting.

TNR is very important, and many organizations across the US dedicated resources just for this type of program. If you are interested in TNR, I would advise you to look up shelters in your area and find out which ones can help train you and get you started! @MyFosterKittens on Instagram is also a great advocate for TNR and fostering and shares many great tips and resources. Follow along for more insights on animal rescue and fostering!

Frank

If you are reading this and have read my blog, you know that the reason I started volunteering, and ultimately fostering animals, is because I was learning how to cope with survivor’s guilt from the Las Vegas Route 91 Music Festival shooting. On September 27, 2020, my roommate and I picked up more foster kittens in need of care at the shelter. These would be our 21st, 22nd, and 23rd foster animals. You could say that I was on a “high” of having twenty animals survive and leave my home healthy and ready for their forever homes. I was NOT prepared for what was next to come.

On September 27, 2020, we took three, five-week-old kittens home. They were all between 6-12 ounces, Frank being the smallest. For reference, they should be well over 16 ounces (1 pound) at this age. In the first 24 hours, we cared for them around the clock, trying every tactic we knew to keep them alive. On September 28, I lost my first foster kitten. The one little girl, who was about 8 ounces in size, passed away in my hands. Whatever her life before me entailed, it was bad enough for her to leave this world. When kittens come from outside, especially late in the kitten season and colder weather, the odds of survival are a lot lower. I still think about everything I could have done differently, and she may have survived.

Now my effort, as well as my roommates, was completely on these other two kittens and keeping them alive. Unfortunately, five days later, on October 2, another kitten passed away. Being the healthiest of the three from the beginning, I was shocked and heartbroken. He lived his last few days in a warm and loving home, and I am thankful I could give that to him. Dealing with this kind of loss is difficult because even though you have only had these animals for hours or days, they leave such a big impact on you and your heart. As I write this, I tear up thinking about the lives that were lost, and saved, in foster care. The last kitten surviving was little Frank.

Back story: Frank’s name came from Frank Gallagher from the TV show Shameless. I brought Frank to work since he needed food on the hour, and my coworker instantly called him Frank. If you have seen the show, you know Frank is the father who has a drug and alcohol addiction and to be honest, always looks a little rough. And that’s exactly what this little kitten looked like. See for yourself!

Now you know why he was named Frank!

Now that Frank was the only kitten I had left, I knew I had to do everything in my power to keep him alive. The vet at the NHS clinic even said that his odds of making it were slim to none. And as I write this blog, he is sitting next to me in his 11 pounds of glory and fluff, knowing we did it. To give an idea of the supportive care that Frank needed to stay alive, I would put him in his carrier and sleep with him on my bed with an ice chest full of formula and food just so he was right next to me to feed every hour and make sure he was still alive.

Frank today

He slowly grew from 6 ounces to 7 ounces to 8 ounces and so on. Sometimes he regressed, and we upped the supportive care. Then when he was doing a little bit better, I would get a few more minutes of sleep. Needless to say, after three weeks of supportive care, my roommate and myself were exhausted. It was all worth it for Frank to have made it out alive. After he was old enough and in a stable condition, I knew that there was no way I would ever be able to let him go. So that is how I ended up with my first ‘Foster Fail’, Frank.

You know, I never considered myself a cat person. I liked cats, but I always saw myself having dogs. But as soon as Frank pulled through and was a crazy kitten running around my home, I knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Frank is eight months old now, and he is the best furry friend I could ask for, minus the random ankle biting of course.

If you have followed along, you know that the date of the Route 91 Music Festival shooting was October 1, 2017, which means that October 1, 2020, was the third anniversary. The week of the third anniversary was also when I lost two foster kittens. This time of year was already hard for me, and this was the icing on the cake. Maybe Frank was the universe helping me heal, or maybe I just didn’t have the strength to let him go, but I do know that he’s my first fur baby, and I am more than happy I decided to keep him.

Frank is doing great now. He is a large fluff ball who likes to go outside (with his harness and leash, of course), LOVES food, to be held like a baby, to play with the bedsheets when you’re trying to make it, and to steal food off of your plate when you’re not looking. I guess the point of this post is to show you that when bad things happen, good can come out of them. And that animals are the best serotonin boost you can find! Follow along for more content on fostering, the good and bad.

What My Life Looks Like with a Ringworm Foster

You may have noticed that I have already written a blog about fostering an animal with ringworm, but that just skimmed the surface. Caring for an animal with ringworm, especially one with other illnesses, can be hectic and amazing, all wrapped up in one experience. I currently have a foster that I picked up from the Nevada Humane Society on Monday, May 11th. Her name is Cici, and she’s a four-week-old kitten with ringworm and an upper respiratory infection (URI).

Cici weighed around 22oz, which is a pretty healthy weight for her age. Kittens at four weeks of age should weigh at least 12-15 oz. Her eyes were crusty, and she was sneezing and slightly lethargic, which is all a result of her URI. She was losing hair in chunks as her ringworm took over her back legs, ears, nose, and stomach. Her treatment included oral antifungal medication and medicated baths for the ringworm and oral antibiotics and eye drops for the URI. If you’ve ever wondered what life looks like taking care of a foster kitten with ringworm, now you will!

My foster kitten, Cici.

Before sharing my schedule, I would also like to share that I properly cover up my skin before caring for Cici. I wear sweatshirts, sweatpants, socks, and gloves when caring for her. This is to ensure the ringworm does not spread to my cats or me. I would not want to spread it to my animals. When I leave her room, I take my socks off right away, and the clothes I was wearing go straight into the wash. I remove my gloves and thoroughly wash my hands with soap and warm water. These steps minimize the risk of the ringworm spreading in my home,

Morning

When my roommate, and foster animal co-parent, wakes up at 5:30 am for work, she will feed her and make sure she is doing okay. Following her first feeding, I check on her between 7-8 am to see if she needs any more food, and dependent on how well she ate earlier in the morning, I syringe feed her to make sure she is well fed. I also give her antibiotics, antifungal medication, and eye drops. She is definitely not my biggest fan after that! I like to spend time playing with her and giving her some love and affection as she is still a little bit timid around humans, and I have to leave on a good note after playing vet.

Lunchtime

I work part-time remotely and part-time in my office. Luckily, my office is about 8 minutes away from home, so it is easy for me to run home and check on her at lunch. I will feed her, fill up her dry food and water, and play with her. Usually, in the middle of the day, she is quite literally bouncing off the walls, which is a nice break from a busy workday!

If I am working from home and on the weekends, I will also play with her throughout the day. There are only two days of the week in which she has less playtime and visits. Especially in the first few days in my care, I like to ensure my fosters are doing well and on a path towards becoming a healthy kitten. This means feedings and check-ins are a lot more regular until I can understand the health and routine of the specific foster. With Cici, I quickly learned that she was going to be a picky eater, and we needed to closely watch her weight. She was at a healthy weight for her age, but it needed to y that way. If she wasn’t eating well, then she might start deteriorating.

Afternoon

In the afternoon around 5:30, I check on her again. I make sure she is well fed and has some playtime. This is also the time of the day I change out the laundry in her room and clean up. Ringworm is highly contagious and zoonotic, meaning she can pass it on to me and other animals. Ringworm can spread by direct contact with the spores or touching clothing or other objects that the infected animal has touched. Therefore, it can spread through the blankets and sheets making up her care area.

I take out all of the sheets and blankets in the room and replace them with clean ones, wipe down any noticeably dirty areas and spray peroxide on the floor. These steps promote a healthier care area leading to a quicker recovery. I wash all linens in the washing machine with bleach and hot water on a double rinse cycle, and I dry them on high heat. This process kills any spores that have transferred to the linens.

The kitten receives medicated baths every three days, so when it is time for her bath we do a slightly different process. The medicated soap for her baths has to sit on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing, so I put the treatment on and my roommate holds her and keeps her warm while I sanitize the room. The difference in cleaning processes if she is getting a bath slightly changes to complete floor cleaning, changing out her litter box, and replacing all food and water bowls. After the room is cleaned, I will rinse the medication off of the kitten, and once again my roommate will hold her to dry her off and warm her while I finish the room.

Evening

Cici is on antifungal and antibiotic medication which she needs doses of both at night time, so around 7-8 pm, I give her her meds and play with her. I try to separate feeding and medication check-ins because if I am giving her medication through a syringe and then switch to food, she already has a negative association with the syringe and will not eat. Therefore, I will go in again around 11 pm before I go to sleep to make sure she eats one more time before bed.

The first few days she was in my care, I did wake up once throughout the night to make sure she was doing okay and see if she needed any food. Since she was gaining weight and healthy, I started sleeping through the night and checking on her first thing in the morning. You want to continue with regular feedings and check-ins around the clock until you are sure the kitten is healthy and stable.

Taking care of a kitten with ringworm is a commitment, but I do not think enough people are willing to care for a ringworm kitten. Many people shy away as soon as they hear ‘worm’ but ringworm is not a worm and just a fungus of the skin. These kittens still need love and care, and I am happy to give it to them. Follow for more content on animal rescue and fostering!

Fostering Animals + Working Full-Time

Are you interested in fostering animals, but you also work full-time? It’s still possible! I work full-time, as well as going to part-time graduate school, and am still able to make time for fosters. It does take some time management, and maybe an extra hand here and there, but you can make it work to help save some foster animals’ lives. In this blog, I will be talking about the steps you should take to make this successful for the animals and yourself.

Time Management

If you have a pet now or have in the past, you know that there are extra steps in your day to take care of that animal. First thing in the morning I make my coffee and feed my cats before I do anything else. As a pet owner, you understand that they need your time and assistance in feeding, cleaning, taking them outside, playing, and giving them love and affection. It is essentially the same thing with foster animals. You have to learn how to fit their care schedule into their own life.

I currently have a 4-week-old foster in my home, who also happens to have ringworm, and I can care for her while working full-time. I have up about 20-30 minutes earlier to make sure she eats and gets her medications. On my lunch breaks, I come home to feed her again and spend time with her. As soon as I get home from work, I directly go to check in here and make sure she is doing okay. And throughout the night while I am home, I constantly check on and care for her.

My current foster kitten, CiCi!

Having Help

It is not necessary to have help when fostering, you are more than capable to do it alone. But, there are times in which help can make things go smoother and quicker. For example, my roommate and I foster animals together and when our ringworm kitten needs her bath, one of us bathes and keeps the kitten warm, while the other cleans her space and replaces all linens and blankets. If you are doing this solely on your own, it is possible but may take closer to 30 minutes rather than 10 with a teammate. Having someone in your life who can help do the laundry, wash food bowls, or change out litter can be a huge help, but it is not essential.

Bringing the Foster Animals to Work

There are many offices and jobs out there where bosses or managers are okay with people bringing in their animals to work. At my previous and current job, I have been able to bring animals into work with me, as long as I give prior notice. If I am bringing an animal to work with me, I ensure that I have everything necessary for the animal packed up the night before, and double-check the next morning. I get to work a little bit earlier to set the animal up and get ready for the day, without taking time out of my work hours. Many people love having these animals around and it is a great way to socialize the foster as well.

If you work somewhere in which you cannot take the animal to work, or it is not safe, that is okay. For example, if you are working in retail, it is not safe for the animal to be in a busy store or around too many people. If you work in a profession with long shifts, such as a nurse or police officer, you cannot bring these fosters to work with you nor can you take long enough breaks to go home and care for them. This is when you have to decide if a foster animal is the best fit for your lifestyle. My previous blog series was on different types of foster animals and how they fit into your life, it is a great place to start to decide if you have the time for a foster right now.

In conclusion, it is very possible to work full time and foster animals. It takes time management, and sometimes some help, to ensure the animals are getting the best care possible. Before you take home your first foster, you should always understand the expectations of the animal and what time you can set aside for them. If these do not align right now, you can always reevaluate in the future. Comment below if you have fostered while working full time and give insight on how you made it work!

Do You Want to Adopt A Puppy?

Are you looking for a puppy? Are you looking to rescue a puppy? Many people want a puppy and go straight to Google or Facebook to find a breeder. But, many people look to adopt a puppy and have a hard time finding one. If you are adamant about adoption or want to look into the option, I am here to help! I know that many people struggle to find puppies in rescue or don’t even know you can.

Image via 1 Love Dog Rescue on Facebook

Research

The first step to bringing home a puppy is to understand the time commitment a puppy requires. Yes, I know that is “so rescue” of me to say, but the number of purebred animals that I have seen surrendered to shelters is ridiculous. Many reasons are such as ‘too busy’ or ‘unrealistic expectations’ or even ‘too much energy.’ If you are interested in a specific breed, you should take some time to research the general expectations of the breed, and what to expect. For example, research will tell you that huskies have a high prey drive, so having a cat in the home is probably not the best idea, and they need to live in a house where the backyard is fenced in at least six feet tall as they can jump high and get out.

You can find plenty of research and information online to help you decide what type of puppy is the best fit for your lifestyle. You should never bring a puppy into your life if you are doing it for aesthetic reasons. Many people buy puppies because they are cute and pretty, but they do not realize the responsibilities that come with the animal. Take your time, and find something that is a great fit for you, as well as the animal.

Where to Start

The next thing to do in your puppy journey is to start looking for rescues or breeders. In this article, I will only be talking about how to find a rescue. Many people do not realize that there are plenty of rescue organizations all over the country that receive litters of puppies, mixed and purebred. For this article, we will choose to follow the German Shorthaired Pointer breed. The best way to start is by a Google search. I googled ‘German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue’ and came across many different options.

The next thing is to start looking into each rescue. Many rescues will have Facebook or Instagram pages to showcase the animals they currently have in their care. For example, NorCal GSP Rescue has an Instagram and Facebook page, along with their website posting pictures and videos of their current dogs looking for homes. There is also plenty of rescues that are not breed specific but take in litters of puppies. For example, 1 Love Dog Rescue in Auburn, CA rescues litters of puppies regularly. Some of his litters are purebred GSPs, and others are unknown mixes.

Once you have found some rescue options you like you should continue following them to see which animals they have in their care currently. Many rescues have a high turnover of animals so if a rescue doesn’t have what you’re looking for one week, they may a few weeks later. There are so many dogs in this country and world that need caring for, so there will always be an animal for you to bring home as your own.

Expectations

If you choose to purchase a puppy from a breeder, you understand that you will have to wait until the mother has a litter of puppies, and then you can try and purchase one if available. In rescue, it is the same way. Many people decide they want a pet and want one instantly. That is not realistic if you choose to rescue an animal. Since rescues are taking in animals that are essentially homeless, they take in whatever is in need. That may be a little of Shephard puppies this week and next week an older chihuahua. You have to be patient and understand that you will find what you want, but it takes time.

There are also many rescues that want to ensure the animals are going to amazing, caring homes. Therefore, if your application is not a good one, there is a chance you will be turned down. Many rescues want to know where the dog will spend most of their time, what other animals are in the home if you rent or own your home, and your reasoning for wanting a dog. If any of your answers to these questions do not align with the mission and values of the rescue they will deny you. Since these animals are homeless, and some have had rough experiences in the past, they are looking for the best homes possible.

You should also keep in mind that there are many breeds in rescue, but not all breeds can be found in rescue. For example, you are very unlikely to find a litter of Golden Retriever puppies in rescue in the US, but it is highly likely in China. Understanding that there are other breeds out there in this world, I advise you to keep your options open and do not settle on just one breed.

Rescuing an animal is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. You get to change that course of that animal’s life and have the opportunity to give them its best life possible. If you would like a puppy but are having a hard time in rescue, please reach out via email and I will help guide you in the right direction. Please follow my blog for more insight into the world of animal rescue!

Reputable Breeder vs. Backyard Breeder vs. Puppy Mill

For many people who are not involved in animal rescue, a reputable breeder is probably a term they believe they know the definition of. A backyard breeder is another dog breeding term that has become more popular and focused on in the last decade or so. And last but not least are puppy mills which I would assume the majority of people have heard. I will talk about the factual difference between these three types of breeding situations and my personal opinion on them, which comes from having a background in animal rescue.

Reputable Breeder

A reputable breeder is someone who has chosen to breed dogs and has most likely bred a lot of puppies over the years. Reputable breeders are also considered “hobby breeders” as they breed dogs not for monetary profit, but the betterment and love of the breed. A reputable breeder may have an AKC certification for their specific breed, but it is not required to be considered as a reputable breeder.

The best way to find out if a breeder is reputable is to (1) go see the animals, kennels, and parents in person before putting a deposit down on the animal and, (2) look for reviews from a vet, friends, or previous buyers to ensure that they are factual in their breeding claims. If they are AKC certified, they will have pedigree paperwork for the puppies that certify the breed and has the “American Kennel Club” logo clearly on the paperwork.

My opinion on breeders is that if you choose to purchase an animal, you should always use a reputable breeder, but I always advise you to try and find the animal you are searching for in rescue first. There are many breed-specific rescues, that may even have litters of puppies, instead of buying from a breeder. I believe that an animal coming into your home is a part of your family and deserves to be treated as one. If you are only purchasing a dog because of its aesthetic looks or other surface-level reasons, you should not own a dog. Period.

I also highly advise you to research breeds you are interested in, before even looking for breeders or rescues. Many people gravitate towards breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Huskies, not realizing how high energy of an animal they are. You should ALWAYS understand the temperament and expectations for a certain breed before bringing them into your life.

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Backyard Breeder

A backyard breeder is an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided efforts towards ethical, selective breeding. A backyard breeder will not have an AKC certification and the living conditions for the litters and parents, are not up to requirements. A backyard breeder will normally be doing this out of their home, with little to no proper equipment and supplies, and is most likely breeding for monetary reasons.

Some things to look out for when researching breeders is if they are willing to let you come meet the puppies and the parents. If they are not, then they are not a reputable breeder. You want to ensure you speak to them in person and ask as many questions as possible. Another sign for backyard breeders is the living conditions and overall health of the puppies. The puppies can receive their first set of shots before the 12-week mark they can be weaned from their mother, therefore, you should request vaccination paperwork and veterinary exam information. If a breeder is not willing to share this information, they are not reputable or taking care of their litters.

My personal opinion on backyard breeders is that they are simply trying to make a quick penny. They are most likely not providing necessary veterinary care and do not care for these animals. If you find yourself researching a breed, deciding on the right fit, and choosing to buy from a breeder, please do not buy from a backyard breeder. If you choose to go the breeder route, make sure they are someone who is going to take care of your animal while they are in their care.

Puppy Mill

A puppy mill is a commercial dog breeding facility characterized by quick breeding and poor conditions. A puppy mill operates as a company that breeds dogs to sell to puppy and animal stores. Puppy mills are not regulated and are known for horrible conditions for all animals involved. In recent years, there has been a large push in legislation for banning puppy mills. For example, the City of Reno placed a moratorium on new puppy store license requests for some time to combat the public issues on puppy stores in the area.

Seeing as though many places and states are pushing for tighter restrictions and even banning puppy mills completely, should be a reg flag on buying a puppy from this type of business. Puppy mills are known to neglect their animals and dump the parents at shelters once they cannot produce any more litter. The puppies are not provided with proper veterinary care and vaccinations and therefore more likely to contract diseases such as parvo and distemper.

My personal opinion on puppy mills is to stay far away from them. They may look cute at the store and behind the glass begging to get out, but what you don’t see behind closed doors is horrifying. There have been reports from store employees saying these animals barely get fed, laying in their feces without proper cleaning, and even selling puppies knowing they are sick or battling a disease just to make their profit. If you are buying a puppy from a breeder you are supporting animal abuse and neglect. I always advise adopting over shopping, but if you are choosing to purchase an animal, please support reputable breeders over backyard breeders or puppy mills.

If you have any questions on how to find a rescue for the specific breed you are looking for, please feel free to reach out at kaelinleavitt@gmail.com, and I will help however I can. Finding a puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue is possible but it takes a little more time than driving down to your closest puppy store. To be frank, if youaren’t willing to take the time to find your animal, you shouldn’t be bringing home an animal. Subscribe for more on rescuing animals and fostering!

Not Ready to Foster? Here’s How to Support Them.

Many people are interested in fostering, but they may not have the time, space, or support to take that step right now. And that’s OK! If you would like to support fosters in your area, I will be sharing some items below that are always in need at shelters. It may also be a great experience to see what it takes to foster animals and if you are ready for the commitment. There are so many different rescue groups and organizations across the US and even globally that support foster homes, and most of them would appreciate a little extra help.

Did you lose the lid to a storage bin? Don’t throw it away, save it for a foster kitten to get cozy in!

Many rescues and shelters support their foster homes, but they can’t always supply everything needed to foster animals. Usually, they provide food, veterinary care, litter, toys, and blankets or towels. Sometimes they have generous donors that provide other extra supplies such as heartbeat stuffed animals, heating discs, beds and blankets, and treats. Below are some items that I have used with my fosters that are either low-cost or can be found in a goodwill or trash pile in your home.

Blankets, Towels, or Bedsheets

Do you have any of these items laying around, or have you seen them when you are at the grocery store? A foster home could use them! Blankets, towels, and bed sheets can be used to keep an animal cozy and warm, can provide a layer between carpet for easy cleaning, and can serve as placemats for messy kittens and puppies. I use large sheets to cover my playpens, pillowcases as food placemats, and blankets to keep them warm and cozy. If you have a set of old bedsheets you are looking to get rid of, donate them to a shelter or foster home!

My guest bathroom set up for a single foster kitten. All of these are old towels and bedsheets that I could recycle for foster kittens!

Shoe Boxes or Amazon Boxes

Shoe boxes, or Amazon boxes that are approximately the size of a shoebox, are great to use as a disposable litter box. You already have them and can be thrown away once soiled! Kittens also loving playing in boxes, so why buy toys when you can go through your recycling bin? You can use large or small boxes and cut holes in them for a fun kitten activity.

One of my foster kittens loved old boxes to play in, so an old Corona Light box it is!

A Heating Pad or Disc

A heating pad or disc is a great gift if you are looking to purchase an item for a shelter or a specific foster home. Pro tip: most foster and some smaller rescues have Amazon wish lists where you can purchase items they need. Heating pads are necessary for orphaned kittens and puppies and sometimes if a shelter does not have enough on hand, foster homes purchase them themselves. They are relatively inexpensive ($30-$50) and can save a life!

Heartbeat Stuffed Animals

Heartbeat stuffed animals may seem like an odd and new item for you, but they are an incredible comfort for orphaned or even weaning kittens! If a puppy or kitten is orphaned and/or loses its siblings, a heartbeat inside of a stuffed animal can be a great source of comfort to help them feel they are not alone. They can be priced up to $50, but are very much worth it. A heartbeat sound simulator can be purchased separately, or you can buy the stuffed animal with the heartbeat inside. If you are looking for a great holiday donation item, this is perfect!

My foster kitten and how resident cat, Frank, found a lot of comfort in the heartbeat cat when he was orphaned and lost his two siblings.

Wet and Dry Food & Bowls

Food and water bowls, as well as wet and dry food for puppies and kittens, are always needed. Low serving dishes double as wet food bowls for weaning kittens! Any other food and water bowls can be used as well. If you are looking to purchase pet food, wet food specific to kittens is always a high need at shelters. Also, most shelters will take the open dog and cat dry food as long as it is in the original bag (it can be opened). If you have any leftover food from a previous pet or yours is picky, drop it off at a shelter to be used up!

One of my fosters using an old Pier 1 Imports serving dish for dinner!

Puppy Pads

Puppy pads are a necessity for foster homes as kittens and puppies can be the messiest little things. I use puppy pads near litter boxes for litter training and on their sleep playpen in case they have an accident at night.
Puppy foster uses puppy pads religiously to potty train them and keep their areas clean. Did you know that between foster animals, the foster parent has to sanitize and clean any area the animal came in contact with? Puppy pads make it way easier to clean the area if there was already something to protect the flooring.

Toys, Beds, Playpens, and Cat Trees

Lastly, shelters and foster homes can always use toys, beds, playpens, and cat trees. If you choose to donate toys, try and avoid fabric toys. Since we have to disinfect everything between animals, plastic toys are way easier on us. Most shelters will accept fabric toys as long as they have not been used. Cat trees or scratching towers can be accepted as used or new, we just take the extra step of sanitizing the used ones to protect our foster animals. New beds of all types can be accepted. You can find cheap ones at Costco and Target too! Playpens are also very useful for fosters if they need to keep the animal contained in a small area or take them on the go.

My player set up for a group of three foster kittens.

As you can see, there are many items you may have laying around the house or are easy to purchase that can be a great help to a foster home. If you are looking for somewhere to donate, use PetFinder to find rescue groups in your area. If you know an animal foster home personally, reach out and see if they are in need of any items. We are always very appreciative of anyone who supports what we do. Now it’s time to find those old towels and blankets you are looking to get rid of and donate them to an animal shelter!

Pet Foster Series: Adult Dogs

There are many different situations in which an adult dog will need a foster home. Please keep in mind that there are many more reasons than I will share in this blog, so keep an open mind, and ask plenty of questions! Adult dogs may need a foster home due to: an injury they need support recovering from, an illness that they need help controlling, they are too stressed in the shelter environment, need socialization, or they are a hospice foster needing a cozy place to call home in their last amount of time they have left.

Injury

Common injuries that dogs may be recovering from are broken limbs. Commonly, shelters take in previously-owned animals who have broken a limb because the owners cannot afford the veterinary care. This is an all too common situation where a foster home can be of help. The dog will most likely need to be kept on strict bed rest for the broken limb to heal. Depending on the size and energy of the dog, this may be a hard job to take on, but it can also be a really rewarding experience.

You will need to provide proper nutrition and any necessary medication. Most likely, if the dog needs bandages replaced, check-ups, or more care, you will bring them to the clinic. You will not be required to provide any veterinary care. These cases could range from a week to a few months of care. Depending on the injury, they may be a great temporary addition to your home! If the dog is a puppy or a large size breed, this could be a little bit tough, but not to say you will not be able to get through it.

Illness

Dogs that come from living on the streets may face many illnesses, some being mild and some very severe. One of the most severe illnesses is parvo, also called distemper. Parvo is a highly contagious disease causing gastrointestinal issues. Parvo is more common in puppies, but older dogs can still be affected. If you are caring for a dog or a litter of puppies suffering from parvo, you will need to keep them 100% quarantined from any other animals in the home, even if they are fully vaccinated. As parvo is highly fatal, you do not want to risk spreading it amongst your pets.

Other illnesses that shelter dogs may have contracted are canine influenza and coronavirus or kennel cough. These illnesses need to be treated with medication and proper care for the animal to make a full recovery. When you take on a foster dog with an illness, you should expect to spend about an hour every day making sure they have their meds and have enough nutrients. You will also need to monitor to make sure that they are not getting any worse.

Stress

Another reason where a dog may need foster care is for stress. Sometimes when animals are too stressed, they stop eating and drinking water and lose hair weight, which leads to worse or even fatal complications. Some animals need a little bit of TLC in a comfortable and loving home to be ready for adoption. Most of the time, these animals will be slightly shy to begin, but really, they simply want a lot of love and relaxation! These are great foster animals if you are looking for a short-term companion or would like to show a stressed-out animal some love!

Socialization

A large number of dogs surrendered to shelters because the owner did not properly train them or could not meet the animals’ expectations. This is a very sad reality but a great place for a foster parent to step in. You can be the person that helps gives these dogs a chance to a forever home with a great family. Some dogs need a little bit of time to work on their training and manners for them to be more adaptable. As their foster, you will work with them to gain trust in humans, proper commands, how to play appropriately, and other normal household dog expectations. This is a great foster home for someone who truly wants to see an animal’s personality shine and go to their forever home.

Hospice

Hospice dogs may be struggling with many issues such as old age or cancer. Hospice fosters are not for the faint of heart. When taking in a foster dog, you have to be aware that their time here on earth is limited, and they need a comfy and loving home to spend the rest of their days. I call hospice fosters our rescue angels because they take on the grief and loss of an animal to provide them comfort at the end of life. If you are feeling like one of these amazing people, this is a great way to show animal love in the time they have left. I have not had a hospice foster in my home yet as I am not emotionally prepared for that yet, but I hope that one day I am!

Conclusion

As you now know, there are plenty of reasons an adult dog may need a foster home. Some situations are easier foster situations than others, but for the most part, they are not very time-consuming. They simply need love, food, a cozy home, and sometimes medical care! If you are interested in fostering dogs, there are a lot of great avenues available for you. Fostering a dog can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, and you will be able to take those skills into your pets or even further volunteer work.

I would highly recommend fostering a dog if you have never had a pet of your own and are looking to add a new furry family member. Many people adopt or buy dogs without understanding the animals’ needs and do not keep them, which adds to our already full shelter populations. Fostering a dog will give you realistic expectations of the time commitment and the living situation required for a dog as well as connecting you to resources like veterinary care and knowing how much an animal can cost. Comment below if you have fostered an adult dog and tell me about your experience!

Image via @WeResq on Facebook – they are a local nonprofit foster-based rescue providing lifesaving care for dogs in Northern Nevada and California.