For animals that are shy, fearful or undersocialized, a foster home can act as the perfect stepping stone on the road to adoption. Foster parents provide individualized attention and care that helps pets acclimate to home life, and the ASPCA is so grateful to all the fosters who have opened their hearts to our furry friends. In honor of National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing the success story of one foster feline named Torvald.
Torvald arrived at the ASPCA in March 2013. Found as a stray in Brooklyn, New York, the four-year-old cat was incredibly shy, timid and fearful. He was frightened of toys, strangers, noise and movement, and at the ASPCA Animal Hospital he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. He was the perfect candidate for foster care.
We sent Torvald to live with a foster named Ellen, and she quickly observed many of the traits we had seen at the hospital. “Torvald is a scaredy cat,” she reported. “When a neighbor stopped by briefly, he retreated into his closet for a full day. He is terrified of aluminum foil—even when I just reach for the box—and he runs away when I reach for the oven door.” It was clear that living in a home was a new experience for Torvald, but under Ellen’s care he soon began to improve.
“Torvald has become my buddy,” Ellen stated a few weeks later. “He hangs around with me all day, looks out the window and sleeps on my bed.” She also reported that while he was originally scared of toys, he had begun to explore and enjoy playtime. “I’ve really come to like him. He’s a good cat and he deserves a wonderful home.”
After his transformational experience in foster care, Torvald was finally ready to begin his search for a permanent family. He was transferred back to the ASPCA Adoption Center, and fortunately, it wasn’t long before he met Alix and her boyfriend, Joe.
“I wanted a companion who was independent, clever and loving,” said Alix of her quest for a pet. She and Joe had never been to the ASPCA before were immediately drawn to Torvald. “It was his eyes!” she recalls. “He tilted his head back, looked up, down, left and right, and finally straight ahead at me. He looked just like Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon, and I wanted to protect him and give him the world from that one look.” She and Joe adopted Torvald and changed his name to Regimus, or Reggie for short.
We told Alix and Joe that Reggie might take some time to come out of his shell, but she was happy to report that, “after only 10 minutes in his new home, he was taking selfies with us!” She says that although he always has a hiding place ready, he is a loving presence who enjoys when they play hip-hop and R&B music in the house. “What made my heart melt the most was when we called him by his new name and his head popped up, eyes glistening, and he walked over to us. We were on the same wavelength and that moment confirmed that he fell for us like we did for him,” Alix says.
Reggie’s journey from “scaredy cat” to beloved pet wasn’t always easy, but he is living proof that sometimes, a little extra love and care is all it takes. Thanks to an amazing network of behaviorists, fosters and adopters, this is one sweet kitty who is living the “Happy Tail” of his dreams.
It’s National Foster Care Month, and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight an exciting way to help animals in need. If don’t have the capacity to add a permanent furry friend to your household, becoming a pet foster parent is a great way to pitch in. By fostering a dog or cat, you’ll free up crucial space in your local shelter and you’ll help pave the way for that animal to find a loving home.
At the ASPCA, we rely heavily on our volunteer animal foster caregivers, who create “a shelter outside of our shelter” in their homes for thousands of animals who are not quite ready for adoption. Foster caregivers provide these animals with the time and attention they need while preparing them to find forever homes. As a result, our Adoption Center staff has additional time and shelter space to help thousands more animals.
If you’re in the New York City area and would like to find out more about fostering for the ASPCA, please email [email protected] and visit our foster care page to learn more. If you’re not in New York City, visit our shelter finder to locate a shelter or rescue group in your area that might be in need of foster volunteers.
For a first-time pet owner, animal adoption can be a daunting experience. New routines, new supplies, and a whole new lifestyle often come with a pet, and for someone like Aidan B., it can be a big adjustment. Fortunately, this first-time dog-dad had two things going for him: a girlfriend who grew up with dogs, and a new three-legged companion to show him just how fantastic pets can be. Here is the Happy Tail of Aidan, Julie, and a beagle named Finch.
Julie S. grew up with dogs and couldn’t wait to adopt one of her own. Her boyfriend, Aidan, wasn’t so sure. Many of Aidan’s relatives have pet allergies, so he hadn’t spent much time around dogs as a kid. Because he was hesitant to jump into adoption, the couple came up with a perfect solution: dog fostering. In August, they signed up for the ASPCA Foster Care Program, and Julie began looking for the perfect first dog to ease Aidan in to the pet-parenting lifestyle. That’s when she found Finch.
A seven-year-old beagle mix, Finch first came to the ASPCA in June. He was rescued from an abusive situation by the NYPD, and he arrived at the ASPCA Animal Hospital with an injured leg that needed to be amputated. Doctors at the hospital performed the surgery and Finch spent the next couple of months recovering in our care. In August—around the same time Julie and Aidan joined our foster program—Finch was ready to move in to a new home.
“I was browsing the ASPCA website and saw Finch’s face,” Julie recalls. “It was love at first sight, and can you blame me?” She sent Aidan a picture of Finch, but admits that it never even crossed her mind that they would be adopting a dog that day. “To my surprise, we both found ourselves leaving work early to go meet Finch,” she says. “Though we weren’t planning on adopting right then, we had prepared to foster.”
At the ASPCA Adoption Center, Julie and Aidan learned more about sweet Finch. Despite his injuries and difficult past, Finch was loving, playful, and curious—and perfect for the couple. “Finch is pretty adorable and I think anyone who saw his picture would want to adopt him,” says Julie. “But on a more practical note, it was really important to us that he could socialize with people and children. Also, we wanted an older dog.” Finch fit the bill, and—contrary to all plans—Julie and Aidan skipped the foster phase and adopted him that very same day. “It was just a feeling I got when I saw a picture of him, and then a feeling we both got when we met him,” she says.
In his new home, Finch seemed to forget all about his painful past. He now spends his days going for walks around his neighborhood and meeting neighbor dogs and dog owners. “I don’t think Finch has ever met a person he didn’t like!” laughs Julie. He is also learning commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “go to your bed.” Julie adds, “Finch just really fit with our personality and lifestyle.”
And for those wondering how the hesitant adopter, Aidan, is handling all of this, Julie says, “Finch has turned him into a dog person.” In fact, on their fourth night with Finch, Aidan looked at Julie and said, “I can’t even imagine our life without him.”
To celebrate the end of National Foster Care month, today’s Happy Tail is about a special-needs cat named Miss Pearl whose life was transformed by the ASPCA’s office foster program.
Have you ever heard the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child?” Well, sometimes, it takes a “village” to save an animal, as well! Such was the case with Miss Pearl, a feisty four-year-old cat who came to the ASPCA in August 2013. Pearl has Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and when we first met her, she also had a host of behavioral problems ranging from anxiety to aggression. We knew from the start that she would be a handful.
When Pearl first arrived at the ASPCA Adoption Center, she was upset. She growled, swatted, and did not take well to being petted down her back. We quickly learned that she was severely cat-aggressive and would redirect on people if she became upset by another cat. Because of her fears and issues, she had to spend much of her time isolated—which made it difficult to work on her socialization skills. But instead of giving up, we grew more determined than ever to help this frisky feline. We decided to enroll her in the ASPCA’s office foster program.
The office foster program is a unique concept that gives special-needs cats a chance to live in the office of one of our team members, allowing the animal to be socialized while receiving lots of extra attention. In November, Helene G., who works in the Licensing Department at the ASPCA, agreed to foster Miss Pearl. The results were amazing.
“Miss Pearl was transformed within two days of being here,” recalls Helene. The extra attention was just what she needed, and in her two-month stay, she won many hearts. Helene says, “Pearl loved being held and stroked and loved getting visitors from all over the office. In fact, a self-described “dog person” in the office fell in love with her and was a frequent visitor!” The foster program worked wonders for Pearl, and by February, she was ready for adoption.
“The day Pearl left was bittersweet for all of us,” Helene says. “Her picture is still my screensaver.” But Helene, along with the rest of the staff, knew that her job was done. In February, Pearl was adopted into a forever home.
We caught up with Pearl’s new mom, Laura, who says that she’s doing really well. Laura renamed her Kiko, and tells us, “I absolutely love having her and couldn’t be happier having her as my little companion.” Though she was rehabilitated through our office foster program, Kiko still maintains much of her friskiness: “She goes crazy for treats, and she’ll hunt me down, follow me everywhere, meow and purr until I give her some! I can’t refuse her antics,” she laughs. But her sweet side shines, too. “When she takes naps, she snores! It’s so adorable.”
From the ASPCA to Helene’s office to Laura’s home, Kiko has touched many lives. She is proof of what can happen when we all work together, and though we miss her presence around the office, we are so proud of all that she has accomplished.
In conjunction with National Foster Care Month, we’d like to highlight the work of our volunteer foster caregivers, who create “a shelter outside of our shelter” in their homes for thousands of animals who are not quite ready for adoption. Foster caregivers provide these animals with the time and attention they need to prepare to find forever homes.
Laurette O. is a dedicated foster caregiver who has volunteered with the ASPCA for the past three years. In that short time, Laurette has cared for an amazing total of 56 dogs and cats.
“I just love being able to help animals by offering them a warm, quiet place to stay while they heal, such as if an older cat needs hospice or a mother cat needs a place to nurse her kittens,” Laurette says. “I also like helping to socialize kittens and young cats to better their chances of finding forever homes sooner. I enjoy spending time with all of them and getting to know their individual personalities.”
We’re so appreciative of volunteers like Laurette for their time and dedication to animals in need. To read more tales from ASPCA foster volunteers, check out our foster stories page.
If you live in the New York City area and would like to become an ASPCA foster care volunteer, please email [email protected] and visit our foster care page to learn more.
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