After returning Beans and Daisy to the shelter for adoption, I expected to continue to receive foster request emails by the dozen for kittens in need of foster while they grew. We cleaned what had begun to be referred to as the “kitten room” and waited. No emails featuring super adorable kittens arrived.
At that point, I didn’t really know much about “kitten season,” the time of year from late March to October when shelters are absolutely flooded with kittens. In the winter, fewer kittens are born and shelters (and kitten fosters everywhere!) get a little reprieve.
Having just started fostering, however, I wasn’t ready for a reprieve. I was high on the feeling of having successfully fostered Shadow and Midnight, Beans and Daisy (and beginning to forgive myself for things not going well with Morgan). I was ready for the next foster!
An email arrived requesting canine fosters. Several of the pups needing foster had requirements like no children in the home or no other dogs in the home. Not a good fit for this household!
One such dog, Gerralynn, caught my eye despite having a “no other dog in the home” designation. Gerralynn was being treated for heartworm, but was such a high energy, anxious, young dog that the shelter was a poor environment for her during this time. She was constantly barking and bouncing around in her kennel when she was supposed to be calm.
Heartworm disease, as a relevant aside, is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. It can be prevented by administering a monthly pill (often in an inexpensive and tasty treat-like morsel)…a monthly pill that an alarming number of pets are not given.
Heartworm disease is spread from animal to animal through the bite of a mosquito, making the disease’s prevalence more epidemic in warmer climates, but certainly not uncommon in cooler climates like here in Michigan.
Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.
Once an animal has contracted heartworm, the treatment is extensive. A concoction of several drugs is administered to first prepare the dog’s body for the treatment and then to slowly kill the worms and allow them to pass through the dog’s system.
An important requirement of successful treatment is reduced activity. Dogs should remain calm and relatively inactive throughout the heartworm treatment process, which takes months.
For a hyperactive, anxious, young dog like Gerralynn, this requirement would be a problem.
I realized that with a dog, Livie, in the home and four children, our house was probably not the calmest, most appropriate foster fit for Gerralynn. I didn’t respond to the foster request email, though Gerralynn stayed on my mind.
After seeing several foster requests for her over the course of a week, I thought we might at least be a good temporary fit for Gerralynn. Or, at the very least, better than the shelter environment in which she was constantly aroused.
I definitely had apprehensions: Would Gerralynn bite Livie? Would Livie feel comfortable with her? Would she react well to the children? Would we be able to keep her calm enough to survive her treatment? What would it be like if she didn’t make it? What if she got over excited and a worm lodged in her heart and she dropped dead?
I knew I was getting ahead of myself. I collected a deep breath and sent a tentative email…