Diary of a serial fosterer

Friday, Nov 8th, 2019 – The foster request email was long that day.  Many cats and dogs were in need of a foster, to address medical needs, for a de-stressifying shelter break, for a chance to grow…  At the very bottom of the lengthy email, without a picture, was the comment “we also have a pregnant dog (looks like 6 puppies)”.  Hmmmm.  Both of the “foster animal areas” of our home were occupied.  One space housed 4 once-cusp kittens who had come to us at almost 3 weeks of age, extremely fragile and vulnerable, but were now strapping 9 week olds, confidently taking on the tasks of eating, using the litter box, and playing like their lives depended on it.  The other space was the current home of Goldie, a lovely calico, and her almost 6 week old kittens.  We were occupied and not able to take on more fosters at the time.  Plus, I had been telling myself that after almost 6 months of back to back fosters, we would be taking a short, 2 week break after this crew of kittens.  Still, the pregnant mama was on my mind.  Would someone take her home and let her settle in and get comfortable before her puppies tumbled into the world?

Amina at the shelter

Saturday, Nov 9th, 2019 – The mama was still on my mind when I woke the next day.  The last time we had a pregnant canine (Daisy, puppies born March 31st, 2019), she had been a young, energetic pup who was committed to both escaping her 10 puppies as they became more mobile and aggressive in their nursing and getting closer to us and our 2 resident dogs.  While she joined us for walks and hour long breaks from the litter once they were around 4 weeks old, whenever she was enclosed with the puppies for nursing and other mothering duties, she made short work of scaling our fencing.  She was so proud of herself!  We weren’t bringing home a new pregnant pup anytime soon, but it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the kennel system I had in place so that if we fostered another athletic mama, she would be safely and securely contained.  Plus, between mamas delivering and puppy teeth, our durawhelp and makeshift wooden whelping box had been destroyed.  I took some measurements and made some sketches.

Sunday, Nov 10th, 2019 – I had a vet appointment for all my kitties that morning.  Mae and I loaded up all 11 (!) and headed to the shelter vet to see Dr. Julie and Kristin.  Goldie’s kittens passed their check up.  All but one was eating and growing well.  Dr. Julie suggested syringe feeding the slow grower.  Goldie wasn’t producing much milk and the kitten needed the extra calories.  Goldie herself was thin.  Dr. Julie suggested that she wean the kittens as soon as the littlest was eating well, within the week hopefully.  The once-cusp kittens got a positive health check too.  Two of them were put on the intake list for that coming Wednesday, the 13th.  The other two were placed on the intake list for the following Wednesday, the 20th.  One of them was just under 2 pounds and could use the extra week to grow.  The other was being treated for a possible URI, and while he wouldn’t be symptomatic or contagious this week, he could keep the other kitten company and finish out his meds at home.  Kristin mentioned the pregnant dog, Amina. 

“She’s such a sweetheart.  Would you want to foster her?”

“Well, my two foster areas are occupied,” I replied, gesturing at all the kittens.  “But tell me a little more about her,” I said, and Kristin smiled as she launched into telling me about Amina: pitty, 70 pounds, gentle.    

It was worth chatting to the vet about the week’s what-ifs.  What if the pregnant mama didn’t find another foster as her delivery approached?  The shelter, with all its noise and contagions, is no place for a mama and newborns.  Could our two kitties who were planning to stay with us another week potentially be ready for intake sooner? 

“Yes,” replied Dr. Julie.  “But don’t feel like you need to take the dog.  Let someone else..”

And here I started nodding in assent.  Yes, I should let someone else have a turn with a mama and puppies.  What a cool experience.

“…take the burden of that big job,” finished Dr. Julie. 

She was right, both on what I thought she was going to say and what she meant.  I should let someone else both experience the wonder of a whelping mama and take on the work.  Acclimating a new dog to our home and raising puppies to weaning age is a massive, messy job! 

Monday, Nov. 11, 2019

But if nobody else reached out and accepted the joy and challenge of taking this mama, I wanted to be prepared.  I sent an email to Ann:

Good (snowy) morning!

Checking in about the kittens.  Dr. Julie put two of them on the intake list for this Wednesday (Twizzler and Pixie) and two on the intake list for next Wednesday, the 20th (Snickers and Skittles).  She said to double check with you about space, however, and if either of those intake days is crazy, all four can do the other.  

Goldie (mama cat to the six 6 week old kittens) should come in sometime this week too.  She is underweight and Dr. Julie thinks she will benefit from weaning the kittens.  Let me know when would be best. 

Kristin mentioned the pregnant doggo at our visit.  (Like I didn’t notice that at the end of your Friday email!!).  Right now, our two foster animal areas are occupied, but I suppose that could change soon.  Maybe somebody who has been waiting and hoping for a pregnant dog will snatch her up this week, but we are open to learning more if not.  

Have a good day, 


I looked back over the sketches I had made for my plans to bolster up our dog and puppy pen and made some tweaks.

Tuesday, Nov 12th – Ann wrote back that nobody had offered to take the pregnant mama.  She included some info about her including notes from her previous owners.  Her name was Amina, but her nickname at home was Beans.  She was a gray pitty mix around 3 years old and 70 pounds who had already delivered at least one litter of pups.  She had been a beloved pet and was super friendly.  Amina had not, however, been around any children in her life. 

I wrote back that if Dr. Julie gave all 4 of our upstairs kittens the green light for intake the following day (and if there was space for them to have their neutering surgery), I would bring them and Goldie (mama cat) in and meet Amina while there.  If she seemed good-natured, I would move Goldie’s kittens upstairs and ready the area for Amina, then return for her Thursday morning. 

Ann replied that the cats were a go for return. 

I looked again at my lumber requirements and made a shopping list for Lowes. 

That evening, I received a message from Anne Savage, shelter photographer extraordinaire.  Anne and I had met several times for her to photograph some of our foster dogs and cats and I always enjoyed her company.  She asked if we would be fostering Amina.  Anne was hoping to photograph and document some of her story, from intake to delivery to weaning to adoption.  I replied that I was planning to meet her in the morning and, if we were planning to bring her home, I needed to complete some work to ready the area and would pick her up the following day.  Anne asked if I needed any help. 

“I am happy for help if you’re around tomorrow (1-2:30ish).  How are you with a drill?!  But I will be fine solo if you have any plans then.  Thanks for thinking about it.”

I didn’t hear back from Anne that evening, but I understood.  I was suggesting a middle of the day power drill date and I didn’t know many people available or willing to sign up for that!

Wedneday, Nov 13th, 2019 – I joked with the kids at breakfast about having scared Anne off with my mention of the drill. 

After school drop off, I loaded up Skittles, Snickers, Twizzler, and Pixie with a heavy heart, but also with amazement about how much they had grown in their time with us. 

I also loaded up a VERY reluctant Goldie.  I knew she was ready to wean her kittens and start her new life, but I also knew she had a tough couple of weeks ahead of her.  Taking in the mamas is always particularly hard on my heart.

After dropping the kittens and Goldie off at intake, I headed over to meet Amina.  She greeted me with a low, slightly nervous wag.  I leashed her and took her past several barking dogs to head outside for a walk.  She didn’t even glance at the other dogs on the way out.  Outside, she favored her paws as we traversed the salted path.  I took her into a play yard to get her off the stinging salt and to get to know her.  She was, as advertised, friendly and relaxed after a few minutes.  I knew then that we would bring her home.

Leaving the shelter, I checked my messages.  Anne had replied that she was very handywith a drill and would love to come help me with cleaning and bolstering the pen.  She would bring her drill and see me that afternoon.  Unbelievable!  And incredible! 

I feel confident about tackling simple building and repair projects around the house.  But I do always have to take a deep breath and settle into them, as it is not my particular forte.  To have a helper, much less one who was confident with her power tools, was such a gift!!

I walked a few more dogs, then headed to Lowes.  I owe a quick shout out to Don and Ashley, who helped me pick the right lumber and even made the majority of the cuts and helped me load up. 

At home, I cleaned the upstairs area where the kittens had been and then relocated Goldie’s kittens from the basement area to upstairs.  Out of breath but eager to keep working, I greeted Anne and we started unloading the lumber and hauling it downstairs.  Over a pleasant afternoon (and leading into the evening!) of comradery, the back straining work of drilling through hardwood, and two trips back home for Anne to get more screws and make a few more cuts of wood, we converted a medium weight, mobile pen into a solid, strong, secure puppy holder!  We also constructed a new whelping box with pig rails to ensure that mama didn’t roll back on and crush the newborn puppies.  We loaded the pen with comfy blankets, clean bowls, and toys, then stood back and admired our work. 

The pen was ready.  The family was ready.  Now I just had to hope that Amina didn’t start delivering her babies tonight, before I could pick her up tomorrow morning!

As you may have noticed, I usually only post pictures and information about animals that I fostered in the past.  The Humane Society of Huron Valley asks fosters to refrain from posting information about animals who are not available for adoption on the internet, as it can distract from those who are available as well as cause confusion with potential adopters who wish to submit applications.  In the case of Amina and her puppies, however, the shelter has opted to share her story with the public in order to educate about the importance of spay/neuter, the foster program, and dogs that exhibit characteristics of the “pitbull”.  Please follow the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s facebook page for beautiful pictures of Amina and her puppies and this blog for more of the ins and outs of daily life fostering them.  Thank you!

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