Fostering pets during quarantine

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Carrie Caldwell is fostering four puppies who will soon be available for adoption. (Photo provided)

Local residents answer the call for emergency shelter for pets

by Carrie Steinweg

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (April 15, 2020) – As those in the area find themselves at home a lot more, most people are spending a lot more time with their pets, or even deciding to welcome new pets into their home.

In March, before the shelter-in-place order was issued in Illinois by Governor JB Pritzker, the South Suburban Humane Society (SSHS) made the decision to consolidate operations, and their Homewood location was closed. The facility was cleared of animals, some of which were adopted, and many of which were placed into foster families. The remaining animals were transferred to the Chicago Heights location, which remains open by appointment only.

In the 11 days leading up to the stay-at-home order, 90 pets were adopted and 99 were fostered. The shelter sent out a plea to several of their previous foster volunteers. One who responded was Carrie Caldwell of Lansing.

“I adopted my German Shepherd, Shay, from South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights in 2015. I became a volunteer in 2018. I learned about fostering through volunteering and decided it was a really good way to help without having to be away from home. I’ve fostered a couple of adult cats and very small kittens,” she said.

When Caldwell was contacted on March 6, about two weeks before the shelter-in-place order, she said she’d be willing to foster.

“I received an email from South Suburban Humane Society about needing a foster family for a mother dog named Abigail and her eight puppies, who were five weeks old,” she explained. “I kept four puppies, another family took the other four, and another foster family took in Abigail.”

The puppies have been thriving in Caldwell’s care as she has been working from home. Two of the puppies have already been adopted, and a third will move to its new home later this week. The fourth pup, Jake, will be staying with Caldwell forever. She decided to to adopt him herself.

Carrie Caldwell is fostering four puppies who will soon be available for adoption. (Photo provided)
The puppies have been thriving in Caldwell’s care as she has been working from home. (Photo provided)

This isn’t the first time the SSHS has had to depend on its volunteers due to a large-scale fostering need. “We have previously been in a position to need emergency fostering. Several years ago, before we installed a generator, the shelter lost power after a terrible storm in July. We had to move as many out to foster as possible because of air conditioning,” said Emily Klehm CAWA, CEO of SSHS. “Over the past couple of years, there have been several times that we have been severely overcrowded and we’ve done a big plea to the community. We were amazed at the response and help we received in the past, but of course nothing can compare to this. We’re truly grateful for the response.”

If you are considering adopting a pet, limited appointment hours (10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday) are available through the Chicago Heights location, but there’s also an option to get to know a pet through virtual means.

Klehm said that they worked quickly to implement a system of processing paperwork and payment electronically to minimize contact. “Our adoption manager is conducting Zoom meetings with potential adopters and foster families so that they can e-meet first and minimize any face-to-face contact,” she said. “It’s working very well.”

As of April 14, the South Suburban Humane Society has 49 pets available for adoption, and 31 of those are in foster care, including the 4 puppies that Caldwell is fostering.

Sample adoptables

Bleu

Bleu is a 3-year-old female pittie mix currently in a foster home. Her foster family shares that Bleu is very affectionate and snuggly, she loves squeaker toys (the sturdier the better), and she spends a lot of time watching whatever’s going on outside. Bleu loves going for walks, and she gets excited when she sees birds, squirrels, and other dogs, so her foster family uses a harness to keep her under control. Bleu is choosy about her dog friends, so a meet-and-greet with any resident dogs would be necessary before an adoption could be finalized. (Photo provided)

Evie

Evie is a young, energetic, playful pittie mix looking for a home with lots of toys and a big back yard to run in. She loves people but not other pets. (Photo provided)

Lady

Lady is an older female who is still very active and playful. She loves to play with toys—especially plush toys—and she knows how to fetch. Somewhat cautious at first, she warms up to people quickly with a few treats and then is very affectionate and a loving companion. Lady is good with people of all ages, but she has a high prey drive, so she cannot live with cats. She may pull on the leash when she sees small animals like rabbits and squirrels, and caution should be taken around small dogs. (Photo provided)

Morgan

Morgan is a roughly 2-year-old Great Dane mix who came to SSHS from another shelter. She is sweet with people, but her dog meet-and-greets have not gone well, so a home without another dog would probably be best for her. She enjoys walks and playing in the yard. (Photo provided)

South Suburban Humane Society is located at 1103 West End Avenue in Chicago Heights, Illinois. More information is available at www.southsuburbanhumane.org/adopt or by calling 708-755-7387.