Requirements: A warm home and a loving heartDescription: Longwood dog lover shepherds pets from her home to their forever homes
Pet lovers in our community can relate to the meaningful experience of welcoming a rescued dog or cat into the family. But before many of these pets are adopted, they need temporary foster homes. Thankfully, dog fosters like Longwood resident Karen DeVinney help make this happen. An owner of three rescue Labradors and a cat, Karen has chosen to offer her home and her heart to foster dogs in need while they wait to meet their forever families. In the past year, Karen and her family have found the journey of fostering dogs both life-changing and incredibly rewarding.
When Karen isn’t working as a realtor with her husband or enjoying time at the ballfield watching her son and daughter play baseball, she’s volunteering at local dog rescue events, searching for dogs who need rescuing, and fostering dogs in her home (currently, she’s fostering two). Karen has always been aware of the tremendous task animal rescue organizations face to save discarded, unwanted pets, and she’s always desired to help make a difference for these animals.
“Most people are under the impression that pet rescue organizations have the facilities to keep dogs and cats until they can be adopted, but that is not always the case,” says Karen. “Most rescues operate on a foster-based platform, meaning dog and cat rescues live in foster homes with owners who rehabilitate, care for, and work with them to best prepare them for adoption.”
Karen’s first foster experience was about a year ago with Panda, a Harlequin Great Dane.
“I fell in love with him,” she says. “It was a lot of work learning about this new dog that had been dumped with his five other siblings. The rescue organization that stepped up for them was desperate for foster homes, and we offered to foster.”
Since then, Karen has fostered nine dogs, many that have come through Me and My Shadow Dog Rescue, a nonprofit organization that rescues, re-homes, and rehabilitates local dogs that are set to be euthanized, like one of Karen’s current fosters, a black Lab named Cash.
“It would have been a tragic loss if I didn’t offer to save him,” says Karen. “He is a tremendous dog.”
In her experience, Karen says the gift of seeing a dog find the perfect family where they will be loved and cherished is so rewarding.
“People often say they can’t foster because it would be too hard to let the dog go,” says Karen. “That is very true. But tears of happiness over a successful adoption far outweigh tears because a dog was euthanized. Fostering has taught me that you can make a positive difference in the world, one dog at a time.”
Karen’s kids have been impacted in a positive way as well. They’ve learned about heartworm prevention and the importance of spaying and neutering pets, and they’ve come to appreciate the value of all dogs regardless of their condition or breed. And by watching their mom and being part of the rescue and foster process, the children have been shown the importance of love, empathy, and caring for those who cannot care for themselves.
“They’ve seen a lot, and they’ve experienced a lot,” Karen says of her kids. “I think it’s made them more compassionate, and it shows them how needed and valuable rescue organizations and foster families are.”
Most importantly, fostering is about saving lives.
“Yes, it’s time-consuming, and it takes work and effort and patience,” says Karen, “but at the end of the day, knowing you played a key role in literally saving a dog’s life... to me, it’s a no-brainer.”
Dog Foster 101
Interested in fostering a rescue pet? Karen offers some simple and sound advice:
• Most rescue organizations operate on an application-based process. The rescues want to be sure you would be a good fit for a foster dog.
• Most rescues provide everything you need while the dog is in your care, including crate, collar, bowls, leash, bedding, food, monthly heartworm preventions, and vet services.
• Fostering is a slow process. It takes time to integrate a new dog into a home with other pets and family members.
• Rescue organizations are there for you to offer guidance, tips, help, and suggestions. They want your fostering experience to be successful so that you will do it again and again. They want your family and the foster dog to fit and mesh.
• For some foster dogs, the wait for adoption can take more time depending on the dog’s needs.
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