Two Foster Caregivers Play Key Roles in One Dog’s Success

January 27, 2021


As the country remains challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, foster caregivers and foster-assisted adoptions continue to secure placement for vulnerable animals in ways that benefit the animals, their caregivers and the shelters.

Eileen Hanavan, ASPCA Director of Volunteer and Foster Engagement, says that the ASPCA saw a 70 percent increase in the number of animals being fostered. The increase was seen through both its New York City and Los Angeles operations in 2020, an act of compassion she calls “heroic.”

Demonstrating said heroism, two different foster caregivers took in Zoey, a five-year-old Alaskan Malamute who suffered from irritable bowel disease and pancreatitis. The caregivers provided her with medication, socialization and lots of affection over a five-month period.

Zoey with her foster caregiversZoey with her foster caregivers Mekenzye, left, at the University of Virginia, Mekenzye’s alma mater, and right, with Sasha at Manhattan’s Carl Schurz Park. 

From Abandoned to Adored

Back in April, Zoey was found abandoned, tied to a boardwalk in New York City during the first wave of the pandemic. The NYPD officers who found Zoey brought her to the ASPCA.

Zoey gets attention from a Licensed Veterinary Technician at the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center.Zoey gets attention from Susan Lee, Licensed Veterinary Technician at the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center. 

The following month, Mekenzye S. took in Zoey as a foster. As the days turned into months, the two grew close, and Mekenzye frequently showed off the 75lb bundle of love. She also loved to flaunt Zoey’s gregarious personality on video calls with her mother, Lynn, who lives in Florida.

“The whole time I had Zoey, until early August, I didn’t want to return her even though I knew I couldn’t keep her,” says Mekenzye, an associate producer for a cable news program who currently works remotely. “When I go back to work, I won’t be home all the time. I recognized my limitations, but I wanted to have a hand in where she ended up.”

Zoey with Mekenzye and Michael at UVALeft: Zoey with Mekenzye and Michael at UVA; right: with Mekenzye and Karina Sayers of the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center.

When Mekenzye’s time with Zoey was over, another foster, Sasha K., stepped up to take care of Zoey.

Like Mekenzye, Sasha was working from home during the pandemic. A life-long dog lover, she had fostered a dog through another organization and wanted to foster again. On her birthday, August 6, she saw Zoey’s photo in an ASPCA email. Sasha picked her up the next day.

“I liked waking up and going outside with her every morning,” says Sasha. “She’d sit under my desk during calls and spend hours on my couch. She loved to snuggle. And she reminded me to take breaks.”

Zoey and Sasha, her second foster caregiver Zoey and Sasha, her second foster caregiver.

Sasha also learned how loyal and connected Malamutes are to their caregivers and appreciated getting to know the breed.

“I very much felt Zoey’s loyalty,” she says. “During our time together, we learned each other’s routines. She also helped me get to know my neighborhood—I talked to people in the street and in the park. I learned who my neighbors are. Having her was a lovely part of my summer.”

On October 1, Sasha returned Zoey to the ASPCA, just before embarking on a road trip to St. Louis to visit her parents.

Zoey in profile

An Adopter In The Family

Meanwhile, Mekenzye had never stopped thinking of Zoey, and finally convinced her mother, Lynn, to adopt the plucky pooch.

“She needed a companion,” Mekenzye says. “And she knew that she could provide that home for Zoey.”

Mekenzye’s mother, Lynn, adopted Zoey. Mekenzye’s mother, Lynn, adopted Zoey. 

“Mekenzye broke me down eventually,” says Lynn, an elementary school teacher who recently returned to work and previously owned two Bull Mastiffs. “When I saw her during my calls with Mekenzye, in the back of my mind I thought about adopting her.”

Just prior to making Zoey’s adoption official, on October 12, Lynn communicated over Zoom® with ASPCA Matchmaker Stacey Rozell and ARC Medical Supervisor Dr. Danielle Armato. They went over Zoey’s medical issues in depth, including putting to rest Lynn’s concerns about the effects of Florida heat on Zoey.

Zoey balances treatsZoey balances treats offered by her caregivers at the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center.

A Thousand Miles to Home

Mekenzye and her boyfriend, Michael R., chose to drive Zoey from New York to South Florida, where she adapted quickly.

“She’s adjusted really well,” Lynn says. “She loves meeting people and is excited when I walk in the door.”

For now, Mekenzye and her adopted French bulldog, Chickpea, are staying in Florida with her mother. Chickpea gets along so well with Zoey that Lynn is considering adopting another dog after Mekenzye and Chickpea return to New York.

Zoey and Chickpea in Florida. Zoey and Chickpea in Florida. 

Zoey’s medical issues are being successfully managed with long-term medication, and she is in good physical shape in her new home.

“She loves to go on walks, loves the beach, is good at fetch and overall, just a wonderful companion,” Lynn says. “I have no regrets at all.

Sasha, Zoey’s second foster, is thrilled that Zoey was adopted by Mekenzye’s mother, and she’s been in touch with them since Zoey’s adoption.

For potential foster caregivers, Sasha offers this advice: “Don’t overthink it. You might be worried it’ll be hard to give up the pet when your time is up, but the rewarding nature of the time you spent together is just so valuable.”

Zoey on the beach

Like other animal welfare organizations, the ASPCA now offers remote or socially distanced adoptions and online meet-and-greets using video conferencing to help animals find homes. To find a pet at a local shelter or rescue organization in their area, potential adopters and those interested to foster can visit