What’s involved in fostering a mamma dog and a litter of puppies? A huge heart and the right set-up are a great start.
There are a lot of great reasons to foster a pet in need. Time spent in a home can be invaluable for very young animals that need to grow a little before they are ready for adoption. Sick or injured animals also recover more quickly in a home environment.
The Oregon Humane Society has more than 500 active foster parents. That may sound like a lot, but there is always a need for foster families. In 2017, foster families cared for more than 1,629 animals for a wide variety of reasons. One of the most challenging foster assignments is a mom and puppies – especially a larger mom with a big litter. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are immense.
Ashley Cooney, a foster parent for seven years, is familiar with the benefits of fostering. ”Fostering is a crucial part of the shelter/rescue world. It is very rewarding to know that you helped make it possible to save a life… or 10.”
In January, Ashley was called to help with 10 dogs. Yes, 10. A pregnant female dog, Sephora, was brought to OHS and needed a safe, comfortable place to have her nine puppies.
Although Ashley has fostered many litters of puppies, this was her first time caring for mom and puppies during birth. The experience was intense. “The birthing process is exciting, but stressful,” she says.
After the puppies were born, the real work began for Ashley. Getting into a routine and adjusting the set- up in her home was an evolving process. At first, Sephora and her puppies were in the laundry room, but they moved to a master bathroom as the puppies grew. Ashley kept her sense of humor as she spent time cleaning, feeding and socializing the young family. Think about the mess one puppy, that’s not housebroken and constantly knocks over the food and water dish, can make. Now, multiply that by nine. “Puppies are cute, but they are messy,” she says. “Exercise pens are a wonderful thing,” she adds. “They really help keep the mess to one general area which makes for easy clean up.”
Ashley works from home full time and has two dogs of her own, so it’s been a constant balancing act. “Managing my time has definitely been the most challenging part.”
It may sound overwhelming, but Ashley keeps her eye on the big picture. “I have to remind myself that it’s temporary. It’s a mess for a few weeks, but look at how many lives we’ve saved.”
Ashley has advice for other foster parents who are considering caring for a mom and puppies.
- Set-up is key. Having a large space to accommodate a big litter is absolutely necessary. Creating an area for them to sleep, play, and use the potty is very important. Exercise pens and crates are great tools.
- Get into a routine. Be sure that you have enough time to take care of a large litter and that you have a system in place. Mom and puppies have a lot of needs, and simple tasks such as feeding and cleaning can take much longer than normal. Having a good system can make or break this experience.
- If possible, start with mom and a small litter.
Foster parents who are able to care for medium and large moms and their puppies are always needed at OHS. Contact [email protected] if you are interested in becoming a foster parent. Learn more about being an OHS foster family here – https://www.oregonhumane.org/get-involved/volunteer/foster-care/.