Gratitude for the Gifts of Fostering
That classic song from back in the 1960s still says it all: “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”
And, I might add, more foster parents, too!
In so many ways, foster parents embody love for homeless animals — the first love they’ve ever experienced — which makes foster parents some of the luckiest people in the world. They give and receive unconditional love, turning often frightened, neglected, or lonely cats and dogs into confident, playful, well-socialized pets. Foster parents help pets become their true selves. It’s a dress rehearsal for what’s ahead when adoption finally comes.
That’s why I’m so grateful to be part of North Shore Animal League America’s fantastic foster program. As a foster family, Howard and I have had the pleasure of fostering more than 500 cats and kittens during the past four years. We’ve also had the just plain fun of working with great pets and great people.
Shelters across the country love foster parents, because we expand each shelter’s ability to nurture their many homeless pets. That’s why I urge you to check out your local shelter’s foster program and sign up. Find a foster routine that fits your life style and makes you happy.
You’ll soon learn that the benefits of fostering are many, for both the pet and the fosterer — and for the lucky people who eventually adopt these pets. In my case, the most important thing is knowing I’m saving lives. When I bring a cat or kitten home from North Shore’s Adoption Center, I’m freeing shelter space for another animal in need, so I’m actually saving two lives.
Besides saving a life, I also know I’ll have a chance to improve that nugget’s quality of life. Many pets don’t adjust well to the shelter environment and need the chance to shine as unique individuals…in a home…on a sofa…on the windowsill…as the center of our love and attention.
This year I helped three semi-feral cats, Angel Pie (above), Wally, and Wanda, learn that people can be trusted and homes can be safe. I could see hope gradually enter their spirits as their bodies relaxed. I could hear that first faint rumble of their purrs. And though it took a while, I’ll never forget the first time Wanda took a bit of food from my hand. It was magic. Below are Wally (left) and Wanda (right) in their new homes.
I’m sure you know that I love all my fosters. But I have to admit I have a special place in my heart for my “perfectly imperfect” nuggets.
Over the years, many of my fosters have fallen into this category. Some have been blind or partially sighted, others had three legs, and many were at a disadvantage simply because they were adults, seniors, or their fur was black. (For reasons that elude Leon Bear and me, shelters often have a hard time finding homes for black cats. As far as I’m concerned, black cats are glorious and have brought us nothing but love and good luck.)
Thumbelina, home for good.
Mama Abby’s loving family.
Then there are those like my recent foster (now adopted!) Thumbelina, who’s black and missing her right back leg due to a horrible accident in the midst of Hurricane Irma — or Moonshine, a beautiful black and white sweetie with nerve damage in his right front leg…or Pineapple (now adopted!), Flossie, Mama Abby (now adopted!), and our little Catalina, all of them blind or partially sighted.
One thing I love about these felines is that they have no idea that they’re less than perfect. My little Catalina, for instance — you’d never know she was blind. She’s never missed her litter box, she plays like any other kitten, she definitely knows where her food bowls are, she loves other kitties, and she can always find my lap.
And of course, there are our permanent residents, beautiful black Leon, Bella and Sophia, both of whom are blind, and Yoda, who came to us with a serious heart condition that, with love, has disappeared, and perfect Walter.
My “imperfectly perfect” fosters are special-needs pets, and shelters always appreciate help with this elite group. But if you think about it, all homeless pets have the same special need — the need for a responsible, loving home. Foster nuggets learn the skills required to be happy house pets, which means being recognized as individuals, respected, and loved.
I believe that taking a cat of dog who never caught a break and giving that creature a chance at a beautiful life…well, there’s nothing quite like it. Each foster teaches me how valuable life is and how much every cat, kitten, dog, and puppy wants and deserves a life full of love.
They’ve taught me other lessons, too, the most important of which is that everything is temporary. Life is made up of one moment after another, and if you embrace each moment fully, and when it’s time, let it go, you’ll begin to understand the true nature of love, sweet love.
And when the moment arrives for your nuggets to fly into the arms of their ecstatic new families, you will no doubt shed a tear…but it will be the happiest good-bye you could ever imagine.
One last thing before I go, In case you didn’t know, November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month and Senior Pet Health Awareness Month, so schedule an appointment for a wellness exam for your senior pet today.
If you need reasons to believe that adult pets make great additions to the family, below are three of my recent nuggets, 5-year-old Chester (left) and 6-year old Jimmy (center), whose owner “didn’t have time for him.” Both were recently adopted. And that beauty with the banana? That’s 16-year-old Peanut, now Moxie, who found a family to love her for the rest of her wonderful life. My heart simply exploded with joy!
P.S. Howard and I are honored once again to serve as the co-chairs of North Shore Animal League America’s 2017 Gala, on Friday, December 1, at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan. Join us for a fantastic night of puppies, kittens, great food, and inspiration with people who care about homeless pets as much as you do.
We’ll be celebrating progress on Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, as well as our exciting partnerships with the New York City School System, Nestlé Purina PetCare, and others. Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97 will host the event, comedian Scott Blakeman will supply the laughs, and the great tribute band Bee Gees Gold will get the whole room dancing.
For more details, visit animalleague.org/gala2017.