Fostering pets gives them a chance for a fresh start with a new family
By Kim Campbell Thornton
It's every kid's dream to wake up to a puppy or kitten beneath the tree on Christmas morning. Last year, Clifford R. Robinson and his family helped make that dream come true for two families.
Louisiana SPCA has a "surprise holiday delivery" program that allows families to choose dogs they want to adopt in advance and then have them delivered for the holidays. The Robinson family, who live in New Orleans, fostered two beagle puppies, preparing them for their new homes.
"We had them for about two weeks, giving them as much housebreaking and other training as possible," Robinson says. "Then on Christmas, my two daughters dressed up as elves and brought them to the families' houses as a 'special delivery from Santa.'"
Foster families such as the Robinsons allow shelters throughout the country to place animals in homes where they can get special care or simply make room for other animals in the shelter. Foster homes are good choices for puppies or kittens who need preparation for family life; senior pets, who may be traumatized by a stay in a shelter; or pets with health problems, who need special care before they can be adopted.
The Robinson family became interested in foster care a few years ago when their daughter enrolled in LA-SPCA's volunteer training program. They love their two Labrador retrievers, but being a foster family allows them to spend time with other dogs and puppies without making a lifetime commitment.
Delivering Christmas beagles is possibly the most memorable foster experience the Robinsons have had as adoption ambassadors with Louisiana SPCA, but they have many fond memories of various foster pups. One was Luna, a scared puppy who was found with her littermates when she was approximately 3 months old.
"When we brought her home, she ran as far away from us as she could, hiding in corners of the house or under the couch," Robinson says. "It was terrifying, because we knew if she couldn't adjust to being around people, there would be no hope for her to be adopted."
Robinson spent hours lying on the floor with natural peanut butter slathered on an extended hand, inching ever closer to her with the hope that she would take a lick or two. Family members would walk around dropping shredded cheese or roast beef on the floor so Luna would associate people with delicious treats. But it was their two Labrador retrievers, Nikki and Tessa, who finally taught Luna that people were OK.
"She would come sit near us or even play with us when she saw them giving and receiving affection," Robinson says.
The intensive socialization resulted in Luna's successful adoption. The Robinsons became close friends with the adopter and still see Luna frequently.
Robinson attributes much of their success to the guidance of the family's own dogs. When foster dogs arrive without good house manners or leash manners, they have Nikki and Tessa as role models. The two Labs show their canine compatriots how to behave.
"When we give them a stable, loving environment and Nikki and Tessa show them that it is OK to trust people, we rapidly see them settle down, and their true, sweet personalities get to emerge," Robinson says. "The foster program seemed like a great way to help dogs find new homes and to contribute in a meaningful way to the SPCA," Robinson says. "I think we and our dogs have a lot to offer foster dogs, in terms of training and socialization, to help them get a good start or a fresh start."
Get the scoop on
Q: One or both of our otherwise healthy cats has been occasionally pooping on the sofas in our den and sun porch. How do we stop them? -- via email
A: Your cats may seem healthy, but if you haven't taken them to the veterinarian to rule out underlying health problems, such as impacted anal glands or irritable bowel disease, that should be your first step.
If they get the all-clear, the next step is to make sure your litter box maintenance is up to par. Scoop at least once daily, and clean the box and change the litter every week or two.
Do you have enough litter boxes? The "rule of paw" is one litter box per cat, plus one extra. In a perfect world, each litter box is in a separate place, because to a cat, a row of litter boxes just equals one giant litter box. It may be that one cat is guarding the litter box area so the other can't use it, so he uses the sofa instead.
Your cat may dislike the texture or smell of the litter, or the placement of the litter box. Try switching to an unscented litter or a different type. If possible, move the litter box to a quieter or more secluded area.
Note the circumstances surrounding the poop on the sofa. Does it occur when a family member is traveling or working long hours, when there are visitors in the home or during some other unusual event? Cats don't always like change, and this may be their commentary on your work schedule or the presence of guests. Is the sofa near a door or window where outdoor cats may be marking? If you can connect the poop to a stressful event, you may be able to take steps to relieve your cat's anxiety. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Stats show reduced
vet care for cats
-- Cats continue to get a fraction of the veterinary care dogs do, according to a study of more than 5 million pet health insurance claims by Nationwide. Working with economists at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Nationwide found that from 2009 to 2014, the monetary value of actual claims for common canine treatments fell 2.1 percent, while cat care claims costs fell 6 percent. The average claim for a dog or cat puts the disparity in a sharper light. In all four geographic regions, pet owners spent roughly half as much on a cat's veterinary visit as they did on an average visit for a dog.
-- It's all too tempting to give your pet a taste of this and a sample of that during the holidays, but certain foods or ingredients should never pass his lips. You probably know that chocolate is a no-no, especially the dark variety, but other foods that can be toxic to your pet include macadamia nuts; baked goods or other foods, such as peanut butter, that contain xylitol, a type of sweetener that can cause fatal kidney damage; raisins and alcohol (that means no slipping Fido any of Grandma's fruitcake!); grapes; and anything containing onions.
-- Is your dog's tail drooping after a cold bath, a swim in a frigid lake or an extended period of strenuous wagging? He may have a condition known variously as cold tail, dead tail and broken wag. Seen mostly in hunting dogs, the painful but generally harmless syndrome results in a limp tail that the dog is unable to extend. Fortunately, it usually returns to normal within a few days. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication or an anti-inflammatory drug to help him recover. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Katherine and Brenna Robinson prepare to deliver foster puppy Hershey to his new family. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Cats need annual exams and good preventive care to make the most of their nine lives. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1