Kim P. has been a foster volunteer with Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) for over twenty years, and has been part of transformational changes to give new life to animals in need.
Twenty four years ago, Kim found a Basset Hound running down the street with a rope trailing behind. Owners were nowhere to be found, and the dog was bleeding. Kim and her family brought the dog to MCAS, but she wanted to make sure that he would be ok. She offered to take the dog home if he wasn’t returned to owners or adopted, and would foster him. Luckily , a staff member adopted the dog, Kim later learned.
A Foster Home Companion
A few years down the road, Kim’s family lost one of their dogs to cancer, and their other dog became lonely. They wanted to give her some company, so Kim reached out to MCAS again and asked about fostering. The foster coordinator, Steph C., offered to start Kim off slow, and would let her take just about any dog home to help alleviate space in the shelter kennels. The first dogs Kim socialized were healthy, young, and basically ready to go back into the community, but shelter space was at a premium. Kim would foster them until they were ready to be adopted.
Fostering has always been a family affair. Kim and her husband, Robb, have fostered animals since their daughter, Emily, was about two years old. Their son, Tony, also supports the family effort. Everybody helps in any way they can. While they started fostering dogs, they have fostered all kinds of animals through the years, including rabbits, cats, and kittens.
“It has been really fun and rewarding,” Kim says. “I don’t think we’ve gone more than a few weeks per year without a foster animal in our home.”
Badger’s Ticket to a New Home
When Emily was young, it was really helpful to see how the dogs would act around little kids, something that MCAS can’t always determine for dogs in the shelter without any owner history. One dog, Badger, was a Border Collie mix who had been at MCAS for several months. The foster coordinator asked Kim and family if they could give him some time away from the shelter for a while. A couple was interested in adopting a dog with experience around children, to know that their grandchildren would be safe when they came over to visit. They visited Kim’s home to visit with Badger. Immediately, they saw how Badger was interacting with Emily, and they knew for sure that he would be a good fit for their family. After all the time Badger spent at the shelter, Kim and Emily were his ticket to a new home.
Now, as a young adult, Emily loves animals, and she has continued to be a major help in socializing, medicating, and transporting foster animals to the shelter and back.
Eve the Soulmate
Kim remembers how the family wound up with Eve, a young, energetic, black lab and German shepherd mix. Eve had been bounced around multiple homes before she wound up at MCAS. She was about a year old, and needed someone who could give her a lot of exercise, and Kim agreed to take her on and do the work. Eve became really close to the family. She and Emily were best friends, and also grew really close with Robb. But Kim did the fosterly duty, and resisted adopting her in order for her to find a new family.
Eve was eventually adopted to a family with three young boys, but was returned less than a year later due to behavior concerns. MCAS staff could tell from her behavior assessments that Eve was extremely stressed, fearful, and wouldn’t fare well with another period of time at the shelter.
“We wound up adopting Eve, and she became our foster failure,” Kim says. “We came and picked her up at the shelter, and took her home. Eve and Emily were best friends when we fostered her, but she could not tolerate little kids for the rest of her life. She became Robb’s soul mate. She had such a hard start in life, and so much love to give. She was Robb’s shadow until she passed away. She was fifteen years old, and just didn’t wake up one morning.”
Moving on to Cats
After adopting Eve, Kim and family decided they were at capacity for dogs- aside from the
one-off small dogs that could get along with the upstairs dogs- so they started fostering cats in the basement.
In Kim’s new home, there is a room with three floor to ceiling windows and large window sills. It was intended to be a family room when they moved in, but it quickly went from family space to the foster room. The foster cats love the big, sunny windows, and birds and rabbits to watch outside.
Rewards of Fostering
“Fostering can be really rewarding,” Kim says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There are so many wonderful people you meet. Some of the families will keep in touch after adopting the fosters, and send updates.”
“There was one dog, Dallas, whom we fostered. He was a brindle mastiff mix- a really big dog. He was 8 years old, and wasn’t doing well at the shelter, just really shut down. Within a half hour at our house and playing with our dog, he was like a puppy again.”
“The outdoorsy person who came to adopt Dallas wanted a hiking companion. We discussed his age, that he was a big dog, 8 years old, and the adopter just shrugged it off- ‘we only live as long as we’re going to live, right?’ Years later, I ran into the adopter's fiancee on the bus to work. She updated me on how busy and active their dog- now named Nikita- had been. They wanted to get a second dog, but didn’t think they could find another dog as perfect as Nikita. Though, they did wind up adopting two kittens and Nikita instantly took to being their daddy.”
“Suzette was a ghost of a cat we fostered, who would mostly just hide. I remember the sweet senior lady who came to visit with her. She wanted a companion, just someone to talk to and be around. I was able to bring Suzette out for about a minute, and put her in her lap before she scurried back under the couch. She adopted this cat, basically sight unseen, knowing she would be a good companion. She sent us photos a couple months later of Suzette all snuggled up on her lap- a BFF.”
Advice For Interested Volunteers
Kim says “there are a lot of options for foster volunteers. Email requests for fosters go out, and you can really pick and choose which animals are going to be a good fit for your family in the moment. You can foster medical cases, or just animals in need of socialization.”
“If you don’t have time to foster but still want to help, you could transport animals. The transport schedule is released, and you can jump in for a slot as you’re available. It’s a good way to test the waters and see what you’re comfortable with- you just have to get on the transport volunteer list and see what’s there.”
“It’s hard to let go of fosters for adoption, no matter how long you have them. But when you see another animal pop up in the foster emails that you know you can help, it makes it easier to bring your current foster back for adoption so you can start focusing on your next foster. Just remember that there will always be more animals you can help, and they will quickly take up your attention and affections. We have paperwork and photos of our fosters from the beginning, and it’s really something to go back and look at all the foster cases we’ve had through the years.”
“Fostering is wonderful. It’s an amazing experience, and it can bring the whole family together.”
Thank you, Kim, Robb, Emily, and Tony, for your volunteer service for the pets and people of Multnomah County.