Fostering Experience

Where will Ivy take root?


I wander through my local animal shelters fairly often. Usually I’m looking for a dog of a certain description to photograph for an article. (Sadly, dogs with illustrative health or behavior problems can often be found in a shelter.) I also go to the shelters following our reviews of foods, treats, toys, and dog care products, to donate the leftover booty.

I’m often tempted to bring dogs home.

For years, my motivation to steel my heart against this temptation was my old Border Collie, Rupert. He didn’t appreciate the company of other dogs, and it just didn’t seem fair to foist a permanent housemate on the old guy. But Rupe’s been gone a year this Christmas.

I still have Mokie, the Long-Haired Chihuahua who came for a summer visit and stayed. After a lifetime of big, hairy dogs, it’s been nice having just one tiny (hairy) dog. Small dog, small dog food budget, small poop. Even his bad behavior is no big deal!

But it was inevitable that I would see a face I couldn’t resist. Let me quickly add – I’m just fostering this pup! She’s not staying!

I was looking for a puppy to photograph for one of our sister publications when I saw her. Being black, she wasn’t of much use to me (black dogs are famously difficult to photograph), but she sure was sweet, pressing her shoulder and head against the bars of her cage in an effort to elicit some contact.

In case the shelter staff didn’t already know, I called a volunteer over to look at the thick goop coming out of the puppy’s nose; she was miserable with kennel cough. “Yup, I know,” said the volunteer. “And if I don’t get her into a foster home quick, that’s going to be the end of her…” All my resistance crumbled. “Oh gosh, I’ll take her,” I found myself saying. (I have to add that I had recently heard an immunologist discuss how low a risk kennel cough presents to healthy adult dogs who live in homes. And Mokie has been fine.)

I’ll keep Ivy (as we’ve dubbed her) for a couple of weeks, until her cold is gone and she receives another puppy vaccine and is spayed. By then, she’ll be housetrained, crate-trained, pretty well socialized, and know the basics – sit, down, wait, off. She’ll be far more adoptable at that point. Then I’ll help the rescue group who oversees the fostering from that shelter find her a “forever home.” Any dog who lives here has to model for the magazine; how can I keep a dog I can’t photograph?

In the meantime, the timing of Ivy’s arrival has been fortuitous. Samples of aromatherapy products (for CJ Puotinen’s article in this month’s issue) were arriving from all over, including some terrific immune-stimulating formulas perfect for a puppy with a cough. I picked up a few tips as I edited Mardi Richmond’s article on housetraining (this month’s issue) to help with that process. I used canned food (from my review in this month’s issue) to help convince her that the crate was a good place. And when she lost four of her front baby teeth chewing on a cardboard box in my office, I was able to use Dr. Randy Kidd’s article on the mouth (this month’s issue) to pinpoint her age at 13 weeks.

And, just in case, I’ve been trying to improve my photography skills.


-Nancy Kerns