Fosters for special-needs animals fuel lifesaving

Fostering animals with special needs is rewarding. Read about cat with congestive heart failure, a dog going through physical therapy, and other pets.
By Denise LeBeau

Julia Jepson of Salt Lake City is an animal lover and advocate who has spent countless hours volunteering to help animals in need. In fact, she's been on the forefront of lifesaving since 1996. She's worked adoption events and continues to lend her time to bottle-feed tiny felines at the kitten nursery at Salt Lake County Animal Services. The nursery, a partnership between Best Friends and Salt Lake County Animal Services, keeps neonatal kittens separate from the main shelter population. Jon the cat is curled up, purring on Julia's lap today because of her selflessness.

Fostering a cat with congestive heart failure

Jon entered Julia's home as a typical foster. While it was determined he was sick, everyone thought he had a digestion issue, but a subsequent visit to the veterinarian gave him a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. He was given approximately six months to live, and Julia was happy to give him the best six months of his life. That was over two years ago.

"I've been fostering on and off for 10 years. It's just a great way to help rescues with so many animals in need. It's a safe place for them to stay until they get adopted. Helping these animals who might be confined to a cage is something I enjoy doing," shares Julia. "Jon could have gone to a sanctuary, but he was content in my home. He loves to come over and get some affection, and then he gives me a swat and runs away. His playful nature just makes me smile."

Julia says it can be hard to say goodbye when a foster animal is adopted, but knowing she's helped save a life and given an animal a wonderful temporary stay is priceless.

Forever grateful for special-needs pet fosters

"Special-needs foster homes are always something that we need more of since we specialize in saving the dogs and cats off of the kill lists of shelters," says Tiffany Deaton, adoption and foster coordinator at Best Friends Animal Society-Utah. "There are often animals that need more intensive care than others. We have many dedicated foster homes who take care of special cases for us, but any help we can get in attracting more means we can work more efficiently towards saving them all."

Opening your home to a special-needs animal can be doubly rewarding, not just because you know you're saving a life, but also because you know that animal is getting the extra TLC that a home can provide. Cats like Stella, a feisty, one-eyed, 17-years-young cat who is a total delight to be around, and dogs like Cinderella, another sweetheart, who needs to recuperate from hip surgery, are waiting for you right now in Salt Lake City.

Stella the cat is such an affection hound, and while she is still a petite girl, weighing in at five pounds, rumor has it she can eat like a horse. She needs her own family to dote on her and give her the one-on-one love and attention that she craves, almost as much as food.

Cinderella is a pocket-sized pit bull terrier who needs a quiet place to recover for a month or two while she goes through the paces of physical therapy. With a coat as white as snow and oversized ears, it will probably be impossible for her foster home not fall in love with her. But what dog lover hasn't been admitted to the "failed foster" club? And yes, foster homes have dibs on adoption.

You don't need any special training or skills to be a foster home for special-needs animals.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Deaton