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'The love stop': Animal shelters in constant need of foster homes

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Theo is a young male waiting for adoption at Cats Cradle Shelter in south Fargo. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 3
Vixey, a pregnant Heeler mix that had been abandoned, is at the Homeward Animal Shelter in north Fargo and is waiting for a new home. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 3

FARGO — A pregnant dog named Vixey found a foster home, just in the nick of time.

The heeler mix was dumped at a health care center on the Spirit Lake Reservation near Devils Lake recently, and Homeward Animal Shelter here agreed to take her in.

A shelter full of animals is no place for a dog to have puppies, however, because of the noise and increased risk of infection.

Homeward manager Heather Clyde said a foster home opened its doors to Vixey, due to give birth any day now.

"Even though we have foster homes, we're always needing more," Clyde said.

Animal shelters and rescue organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area all rely on networks of foster homes to take in animals up for adoption that can't be housed in shelters.

Animals needing foster care include pregnant animals and their litters, those recovering from surgery, and dogs that can't be around other dogs because they weren't properly socialized when they were young.

Jill Lamp fosters animals for CATS Cradle Shelter in downtown Fargo. She almost exclusively takes in newborn kittens that have to be bottle-fed about every two hours, around the clock, for the first few weeks of life.

"And because we're a little short on fosters, it seems like just as one litter sleeps through the night, I get another litter that doesn't. So all summer, I don't sleep," Lamp said.

The 4 Luv of Dog rescue has only a small shelter in Moorhead for a half-dozen dogs, and thus relies almost entirely on foster homes.

Volunteer Karen Schneider of Moorhead said even when the rescue runs low on foster homes, it never runs out of time for the dogs.

"As long as they are adoptable, we will keep trying to get them in a home," Schneider said.

No financial commitment

Animal shelters in the Fargo-Moorhead area are often at or close to capacity.

At CATS Cradle, executive director Gail Adams-Ventzke said volunteers have watch over 150 animals — 100 kittens in foster care and 50 cats in the shelter. It has 25 active foster homes.

The 4 Luv of Dog rescue is working with just over 60 dogs, with 47 people actively fostering them.

At Homeward, they have nearly 100 animals in their care — more than half at the shelter and the rest in foster homes.

One dog in foster care through Homeward is Casey, an adult female pit bull terrier that's been in and out of the shelter multiple times, through no fault of her own, Clyde said.

She loves people, including children, but can't be around other dogs or cats, likely due to not being socialized as a puppy.

"She'd rather have her people to herself," Clyde said.

Until she finds a home where she's the only pet, Casey will remain in foster care.

To foster an animal, no financial commitment is needed. In fact, local shelters provide food, litter, bedding and toys, and cover veterinary costs for the foster animal.

They only ask that the animal has its own room, preferably with laminate or linoleum flooring for easy cleanup, and that someone in the foster home can take the animal to the shelter for vaccinations and other medical needs.

"If you have room, love in your heart and time to transport, look us up," Adams-Ventzke said.

One fostered, another to be saved

Most people can foster an animal for a shelter, even someone with limited experience as a pet owner.

"If they're willing to learn, we're willing to teach them," Clyde said.

College students, retirees and families with children are good candidates, as are people who have recently lost a pet, but aren't yet ready to commit to another one.

Schneider, who's personally fostered 79 dogs over about six years, said her organization especially needs pet-free foster homes.

That would help clear the small shelter of dogs that can't tolerate other dogs, but are otherwise loving and great with people.

Lamp is fostering three litters of kittens, some of which suffered hypothermia injuries in the spring when they were wet and cold for too long. Soon, she'll turn them over for adoption.

Doing that is tough on some people, but one animal fostered means another can be saved.

"We call it 'the love stop,'" Adams-Ventzke said, an opportunity for children, or anyone, to learn about responsibility and letting go.

And if someone adopts their own foster animal, making them a "foster fail," that's OK, too.

"I'm one four times over," Adams-Ventzke said, laughing.