Wellness foster program for dogs and cats in Los Angeles

The wellness foster program at Best Friends in Los Angeles, California, places homeless dogs and cats in foster homes to prepare them for adoption.
By  Kelli Harmon

Kiwi the dog had a broken leg. He received TLC in his foster home.It was unfortunate enough that Chocolate Kiwi lost his home and ended up at the shelter, but the tiny chocolate brown Chihuahua also limped along on a broken leg. He was transferred from Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) to the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles, where he was safe, but he still needed to heal.

Chocolate Kiwi had surgery to repair his broken leg, after which he needed to stay quiet and calm. At the center, that meant cage rest — and weeks on cage rest is eternity for a spunky little dog.

Wellness foster program for dogs

Chocolate Kiwi was a perfect candidate for the center’s wellness foster program. Foster program coordinator Mary Alice Davis says, “Our wellness foster program is for pets with medical or behavioral issues that make them not quite ready for adoption.” Whether it’s mama cats with grown kittens who need time for their milk to dry up before being spayed, dogs prescribed cage rest due to illness or injury, or a pet on immune-compromising medication, animals often need some time away from a shelter environment to get better so they can go on to homes.

“Instead of cage rest, Chocolate Kiwi could have couch rest. And couch rest is so much better,” says Mary Alice.

Chocolate Kiwi arrived at her foster home, Clarissa Brillembourg’s apartment, as “a little brown puffy ball of excitement and love with a giant cast on his leg,” Clarissa says. He still had to stay calm — no roughhousing with her other dogs — and go for required vet visits to remove the pins from his leg one at a time. But Chocolate Kiwi barely seemed phased by his injury. Clarissa says, “He was awesome and he definitely knew it.”

Wellness fostering for cats

Bobby needed daily insulin injections, which he got in his foster homeBobby the cat feels that way about himself, too. The steely blue and gray cat thrives on attention and activity. He loves being around people every minute of the day and happily wears a harness and leash for outdoor strolls. Today, he’s the picture of health, but it wasn’t always that way.

At the adoption center, Bobby was found to be diabetic. He needed a strictly regulated diet and daily insulin injections, meaning he’d have to live in a cage by himself. But the cage stressed him out, making his illness worse. The negative cycle needed to be resolved, and quickly.

The best place to get Bobby well was in a home. Foster volunteer Cheri Shankar is experienced with diabetic cats, and was happy to foster Bobby.

As Bobby settled in with Cheri, it was immediately clear a foster home was exactly what he needed. Over time, Bobby’s diabetes went into remission. Cheri says, “Now his blood glucose is perfect. He’s completely normal. He needs no shots, no insulin, nothing.”

On their way to a happily-ever-after

Once his leg healed, Chocolate Kiwi went back to the center. Mary Alice says, “Every day was a great day for Chocolate Kiwi. I think it’s because he got to recuperate at home.” He was adopted after just three days.

Bobby is still looking for his forever home, but for now he’s staying happy and healthy in his foster home. Cheri says, “He’s really the most charming cat. He’ll give you kisses to infinity.”

Being a wellness foster parent may take a bit of extra effort, like bandage changes for a Chihuahua recuperating from a broken leg, or careful diet monitoring for an affectionate, diabetic cat, but as Cheri puts it, “Knowing you’re part of getting animals ready for their loving, forever home is really satisfying. You fall in love every time. And I always feel really good knowing Best Friends will find them a wonderful home.”

To bring hope and healing to more animals like these, become a Best Friends member.

Learn more about how Best Friends saves lives in Los Angeles.

Photos by Clarissa Brillembourg, Best Friends staff,  and Cheri Shankar


Cat Dog Los Angeles