The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Personal Essay: Fostering helps both the pet and the person

4 min read

Fanny was the first foster dog to arrive to the students' home. | Courtesy of Caleb Picard


Staff Writer

During quarantine, it seems like the only ones not going stir crazy are our pets. With their best friends at home 24/7, it is a dream come true for the family fur baby. The Fredericksburg SPCA has been working tirelessly to make the cats and dogs who need the love of a partner and escape from the shelter a reality.

Sadly, it can take time for the adoption process to happen, especially with little information about dogs in a shelter environment compared to in a home environment. On the bright side, that leads to the Fredericksburg SPCA having an incredible foster program being run by some UMW students and Alumni, like Erin Whitesell, who works as a case manager for dogs living in foster homes.

Personally, my roommates and I have fallen in love with the program because of being able to take a dog home and give them the love and attention that they deserve. This semester alone, we have had the privilege of fostering three dogs: Franny, Willow and Molly. Each one of these dogs were some of the sweetest pets I have ever known, but all came to us in rough shape.

Franny was our first foster baby and came to us as a scrawny, underweight puppy just over a year old. We had to feed her three meals a day with high calorie food as well as wet food on top. Willow and Molly came to us as a pair of dogs who had lived together and were given to the SPCA as part of a group of five dogs (all from one home). They had been overweight and needed only two meals a day, a little less than one cup each, of low-calorie food. After two weeks on a diet and some exercise, they both got to slim out a little and show some of their amazing, happy personalities.

All of the dogs my roommates and I had a chance to foster each had their own quirks and personalities. More than anything else, all three of them wanted to be pet and loved whenever the chance arose. Franny had the hardest time acclimating; she came to us severely underweight and riddled with anxiety. Thankfully, after a few days passed Franny’s personality started to shine through as she would watch the television and chase squirrels after she started to regain a sense of normalcy. 

Sisters Willow and Molly exhibited a typical sibling relationship, competing for our attention with jealousy arising whenever the other got something. There was a seemingly eternal power struggle between the two: Willow was bigger, but Molly was faster and crafty. 

Molly was our success story. After a Zoom interview with a potential adopter, Molly was able to find a home and a new best friend. We still see photos of Molly now and again and seeing how happy (though unphotogenic) she looks, makes the morning walks in the snow all feel worth it.  

These were experiences that brought a light in the dark of the pandemic. The SPCA gave us the opportunity to take in these dogs and not only give them a break from the stress of the shelter but give ourselves a break from the stress of school. It is also eye opening how amazing and welcoming the SPCA community is. There are hundreds of people who will open their arms to help these animals in need when they need it the most. Fostering allows these animals to prepare for their adoption/life outside of the shelter and get some spoiling and love.

The Fredericksburg SPCA in particular has an amazing turnover in adoptions as well. In 2020 alone, there were 1,316 adoptions. That is an average of almost four adoptions a day. The Fredericksburg  SPCA has almost 900 volunteers working tirelessly to help in-need animals find their forever homes. Being less than 10 minutes down the road, you too can make help make a difference. Fostering a dog was one of the most rewarding experiences I had in a long time. Not only that but the SPCA will provide you with food, bowls, crates, leashes, collars, litter boxes or anything else you need. Alternatively, if you are on campus you can help with your time, working with animals has been so therapeutic as well as enlightening.

The foster program has been a win-win situation for my roommates and myself. Not only do we get a dog, but the SPCA gets to focus their time on some of the more in need animals, and the pets get the love and affection they deserve. 

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