At any given time, there are more than 100 animals living at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. These animals are part of our pack – meaning that we have to care for them as individuals and a group. For example, to protect the health of every animal in the shelter, all of our animals must be vaccinated against the same diseases. To determine whether an animal is having digestive issues or if there is a stomach virus spreading through the shelter, we feed our animals the same food. This is an important part of shelter animal health monitoring and management.
However, specialized care is required for puppies, kittens and animals with unique medical or behavioral circumstances. Assimilating as part of the shelter pack isn’t always possible for them. In these instances, we rely on our network of foster families.
Foster families serve as temporary caregivers for our animals. The work they do is as unique as the animals they house. Families that care for newborn kittens provide 24/7 care, ensuring they are fed by bottle every two hours. Families that care for dogs post-surgery maintain a vet-prescribed medication and care schedule. Some families simply serve as a temporary home for an animal that is about to be adopted!
One of the best ways to explain the important work that our foster families do is to share one of their stories. Laura Jones is a lifelong animal advocate with a passion for cats. When her longtime cat passed away, she wasn’t quite ready to commit to adopting another animal. Her passion for animal advocacy led her to the Humane Society’s fostering program. Her ability to intermittently care for cats on a short-term basis was a perfect fit for her – she didn’t have to commit to animal parenthood but could still support animal rescue in our community.
Since joining our network of foster families, Laura has fostered 24 animals. Her flexibility and willingness to take on even our most challenging cases is only part of what makes her an incredible foster parent. For as little as two weeks or as long as two months, Laura provides loving care and attention to each cat entrusted to her. She’s fostered cats in various life stages including adult cats that needed a little time to adjust to domestic life and to litters of kittens needing regular bottle feeding. Because of her dedication, cats in Memphis and Shelby County get a second shot at life.
Fostering animals isn’t a great fit for every person or family. But for people like Laura, providing temporary care is a lifesaving calling that can fill an animal-sized hole in their lives.
While Laura is an incredible example, it’s important to know that foster families come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to foster dozens of animals, commit to bottle feeding or respond to every call for foster families. You can participate as it makes sense for your life, taking on animals that fit your circumstances and life at the time. What’s most important to know is this – foster families at the Humane Society save lives. If you’re at all interested in fostering an animal, we encourage you to connect with us at https://memphishumane.org/become-a-volunteer/become-a-foster-parent/.