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A.D.O.P.T. issues call for dog foster homes

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TribLocal Naperville
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
Feb 2, 2011
Riley, a pit bull, was Mary Young’s first foster dog. “He was just the sweetest dog,” Young said (photo by M. Young).

Three years ago Toni Robinson and Mary Young, both mothers, agreed to take their parenting skills to the next level.

Robinson, the mother of four, and Young, the mother of two, have served as “mom” to more than 62 dogs and 2 cats, in addition to their “human” children.

“We have a handful of dog fosters,” said Laura Vivas, A.D.O.P.T.’s coordinator of dog foster homes. “I can’t even explain how important they are. They are often directly responsible for saving animals’ lives. It’s a very selfless thing they do.

Experiences being a dog foster

Vivas, a dog foster “mom” herself, knows well the joys and sorrows of being a foster “parent.” One of her foster dogs, Monty, came to live with her after he was diagnosed with lymphoma and was, therefore, unadoptable.

“I believe he had the best four months of his life [with me], and then he passed away,” said Vivas, tearing up. “It was the hardest foster I’ve ever had, but it was the most rewarding. I went in knowing he would be with me for the rest of his life and knowing I was going to do the best I could possibly do for him to make him as happy as he could be.”

Young tells of her first fostering experience with Riley, a pit bull, who had “soulful brown eyes and white skin.”

“Laura [Vivas] called me and said, ‘There’s a pit bull who’s been languishing here [at the shelter] for awhile, probably a couple months, and nobody has been interested in him. We’d really like to see how he’d do in a home.’

So I said, “Fine, we’ll give him a try.’

“We probably had him longer than any other dog. He was just the sweetest dog, the most ‘focused-on-you’ dog, but he didn’t look like what you’d expect your standard pit bull to look like.

“Somebody had docked his tail unprofessionally and worked on his ears, trying to get that nice pointy look to make him appear tough, and they did a poor job.

“But somebody came along who needed a companion dog for their little dog, a poodle, I think, who was lonely. [Riley] was a darling dog.”

Robinson said when her children wanted a dog of their own, she questioned whether they would take care of it.

“My youngest son wanted a big dog; my other kids wanted smaller dogs,” Robinson said. “So I said, ‘Let’s foster for awhile.’ We actually got everything we wanted.”

Robinson, whose parents used to raise beagles, keeps track of the number of dogs her family has fostered: 47, as of press time. “We have lots of hands here in this house because I have four kids, and they all help. Fostering is working out well for us.”

In fact, fostering is working out so well that when they renovated the basement, they did so in such a way that they could foster mother dogs and their puppies in a safe, controlled environment.

Robinson said the basement contains a bleachable floor and a portable exercise pen that accommodates mom and puppies in one corner, about 100 square feet.

At press time, the family was fostering a mother dog and her five puppies; the most dogs they have had at once is nine, Robinson said.

“It’s so rewarding, “ Robinson said. “The last time we had a pregnant mom for a couple weeks before she had her puppies here. It was a great experience for the kids.”

Vivas, too, emphasized that “when you foster, everybody in the family gets involved.”

So you want to help?

A.D.O.P.T. needs dog foster homes to help animals with behavioral and medical issues, Vivas said. In addition, “if the shelter is full, and there’s an immediate need for us to place an animal, we need foster homes for that too.”

She added that sometimes if dogs live at the shelter for a long time, “they just need a break” — to get into a home environment for a while.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that it is difficult to be a foster, especially with dogs,” Vivas said. “The dog may have house training issues, it may have behavioral issues, it may be rambunctious, it may have never been crated, so you have to be prepared for those things.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of physical energy, but it’s also a lot of emotional energy,” she said. “You love that animal like it’s your own. Many first fosters are surprised how painful it is to let go, but it’s also very, very rewarding. You have to balance the two.”

In the end, Vivas said that “there are a lot of really caring people who want to help shelter dogs, and fostering is one way to do that.”

For additional information and a foster care application, go to


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