By PETE KRISTIAN  |  Moonshine Ink

The call comes in from a rural shelter in Northern Nevada. A nursing mom and her young puppies have been turned in. The shelter does not have room or resources to handle the new arrivals. Can the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (HSTT) help? Animal shelters are not the best place for young puppies with nursing moms. Their immune systems are not fully developed, and they’re too young for vaccines. The current shelter animals could be put at risk. Are this young mother and her puppies out of luck? Not if we have people willing to foster. Fosters do more than give a puppy a place to crash for a few nights. They save lives.

HSTT’s foster program is booming year-round. Seniors, puppies and kittens, animals dealing with shelter stress, and dogs and cats with medical issues are all prime foster candidates. Fosters are also important for socialization. Animals at the shelter don’t get exposed to kids, other pets, unusual things like hearing you vacuum, and other aspects of home life in general. Living even for a short time with a busy family can prepare young puppies and kittens for that forever home, and puppies in the foster program often move quickly from fostered to adopted.

Fosters Save Lives
CAT’S PAJAMAS: If you were a foster-parent you could meet cool cats like Delroy, a failed foster living the Tahoe dream. Pictured here is the author Pete, with his own personal Garfield. Photo by Wade Snider/Moonshine Ink

Emily Watt, animal programs manager for HSTT, runs the foster program and reports that “people love the program and fosters are lifesavers.” To begin, HSTT requires that prospective fosters attend an orientation and training session. Once completed, you are promptly handed half a dozen kittens in a basket. (I made that last part up.) Fosters might be needed just for a night or for as long as five weeks, and HSTT provides supplies and support during this time.

My family has fostered kittens, puppies with nursing mothers, and even dogs with medical challenges. Your houseguests may be a few puppies, or it may just be a senior who needs a mellow break from the shelter. But in my experience, if you haven’t had six puppies, your two children, two dogs, and a cat all running around your house, you really haven’t lived.

Some people become “failed fosters” who adopt the animal they are fostering. Others continually foster animals. Both are valuable and make a big impact. And here’s my personal fail: In 2016 we took in four kittens for a few weeks. We couldn’t resist the orange one and became a failed foster family by adopting Delroy. Now we have a cat who eats dog food, enjoys gourmet coffee, and steals food from the kitchen. He also prepares our new fosters for what it’s like to live with a cat. We couldn’t be happier.

If you would like to become a lifesaving foster, contact: foster@hstt.org.