After separating from the Air Force in 2013, Amanda went to school to become a professional dog trainer with the goal of helping shelter dogs, specifically Pitbulls. When Kiwi arrived at a shelter extremely pregnant. Amanda knew she couldn’t let Kiwi have her puppies in the stressful shelter environment. Here’s her foster hero story!
What made you decide to foster?
The shelter didn’t have another foster with the time or space to take her but I work from home and could provide that. I had previously fostered a mom and her five puppies. Kiwi was HUGE and super, super sweet, ready to deliver any day! Fostering Kiwi and her puppies was a full-time job.
What was your experience fostering so many at once?
Kiwi was an incredibly sweet pitbull and I wanted her and her puppies to have the best possible start in life. I had never had a pregnant dog and didn’t know what to expect. I set up a kiddie pool in my office with blankets and towels and hoped she would know what to do when the time came. After a few days, I went to the gym and came back to find she did know what to do and she was in the pool with six little puppies, a few hours later she was finished with ten total.
The first few weeks were easy, she cleaned up after them and I only had to change the bedding out. Watching the puppies grow, exposing them to new things, flooring, food dishes, people (things I learned were essential for puppy development in my dog training school) was such a great experience.
As fun as it was having ten cute puppies, there were frustrations. I set up a huge pen in my living room and constantly cleaning after them as they got older (six to eight weeks) seemed like a full-time job.
A few weeks after having Kiwi and her puppies my neighbors found a very young male kitten in their backyard, dehydrated and starving, I wasn’t looking to add more fosters, but I took him to the shelter… and ended up fostering him and two kittens from another litter so he wouldn’t be lonely! Once I got the foster kittens that added more work, I was up early to bottle feed them (first-time bottle feeding kittens) but as they transitioned to grow feeding times were spaced out it was less challenging. Kiwi had high prey drive so I had to make sure she was kept separate from the kittens at all times. I also have a male rescue pitbull (Prince Joseph) that loves kittens but is dog selective, so I had to keep him and Kiwi separate as well. All the work and time spent cleaning, feeding, and rotating the animals was worth it. I had a pen full of puppies I could sit with and play with anytime I wanted. Once the kittens were older they were allowed to interact with the puppies as well.
I had friends stop by to get their “puppy fix” and also took a few puppies in a stroller (they can’t be exposed to public ground until they all have their immunizations) to a local brewery, which helped expose the puppies to new people, sounds, and helped promote the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter.
I had a full house and it was exhausting at times but knowing all the animals were starting life out right, meant they had a better shot of getting adopted and staying adopted.
Who supports your foster volunteering and how?
I attended a three month school and became a professional dog trainer, following that I was hired at the school and was a professional dog trainer where I gained experience working with a variety of dogs, teaching basic obedience, puppy class, and doing behavior modification. The skills I learned and experience allows me to foster some of the more challenging dogs that end up at the shelter. I also work remotely and have the time and space to foster dogs/puppies that others can’t.
What advice would you give to first-time foster pet parents?
Make sure you are comfortable with the type of pet you are fostering. If you really like kittens, foster kittens. If you like low energy dogs, don’t foster a high energy dog.
If you have a dog that likes all dogs, and you don’t want to have to rotate them and keep them separate, make sure you only foster dog-friendly dogs. I always have baby gates up and rotate my foster dog(s) with my dog, Prince Joseph as he’s dog selective. Sometimes I foster for months and he is never allowed to interact with the foster pet. It is a huge time commitment and can be challenging but I know what I am signing up for.
Start with an easy foster or a foster that only needs a few days or a week of fostering. If you get into fostering, take breaks when you need it. Fostering back to back can be mentally draining and it’s ok to take a break.
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