This article was featured in WYDaily on 4/12/24
Are you ready to make a positive impact while experiencing personal growth and fulfillment? The Heritage Humane Society invites you to foster a dog – it will change their world as much as yours, too.

Tail wiggles and puppy dog kisses

As Greater Williamsburg’s largest homeless animal shelter, The Heritage Humane Society has a year-round need for fosters. Currently, the shelter has 84 dogs in its care – 105% more than pre-pandemic April 2018, its kennels are beyond full, and it is just the beginning of its busiest time of year. Strays and surrenders arrive daily, each just as different as the reasons many people have when they choose to foster pets.

Fostering dogs helps them as much as it often helps their fosters. Here are just some of the benefits:
  • Fostering saves lives. Shelter space is freed up allowing more temporary homes for the nonstop arrival of new homeless pets in need of care.
  • Socialization. Being with people and even other pets in a home environment is beneficial for dogs that may have had a rough past or need extra socialization. Plus, fosters report the joy of companionship.
  • Personal fulfillment. Fosters often enjoy the sense of purpose with helping to make a significant difference in a dog’s life by providing love, care, and temporary shelter.
  • Trial run for adoption. Fostering is also a way for potential adopters to see how a dog fits into their lifestyle without the long-term commitment of adoption. This can lead to more successful adoptions, as it helps ensure that the dog and the adopter are a good match.
  • Health benefits. Interacting with animals has been shown to have various health benefits, including reduced stress levels, lower blood pressure, and increased physical activity.
  • Support for shelter staff. Fostering helps provide some reprieve on an already stretched shelter staff and resources. It allows them to focus more attention on animals that require medical care, behavioral training or other specific needs.
  • Learning experience. Fostering can be a learning experience for both experienced and first-time pet owners. It provides an opportunity to learn about dog behavior, training techniques, and the responsibilities associated with pet ownership.
  • Community engagement. Fostering can help build connections within the community by raising awareness about animal welfare issues and encouraging others to get involved.
Fosters for The Heritage Humane Society have access to the shelter’s staff and support along with the entire foster care community.
Kimberly Laska, CAWA, Executive Director of The Heritage Humane Society shares her enthusiasm for all of the goodness that results for pets, fosters and the shelter thanks to the dedicated foster volunteers, “”I love our foster community for its impact on shelter pets and the connections it creates. Fostering lets our community get hands-on with the very pets who need our help the most. There is great joy, and yes, sometimes tears of joy, knowing you’ve helped improve the life of a pet and help them find their forever home. Plus, you get our winning team here to assist and support every step of the way. We cover expenses like food and medical care, and you provide the love. Fostering is ideal for travelers or those in transition who still want a pet in their lives. Since our fosters spend so much time with these pets, they often help us answer key questions from potential adopters who are hoping to find the right match in a pet. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Straight talk with current dog fosters

The Heritage Humane Society has an active foster community and is open to accepting foster applications from individuals interested in making a difference. Here are some current foster community members sharing about pups in their care.
Howl Holloman, fostered by Stephanie Sword. This scared, shy dog was accustomed to a life of seclusion and little human interaction, and then lost the one person he began to trust. In a heartwarming turn of events, The Heritage Humane Society and his foster Stephanie Sword are giving Howl glimmers of hope and helping him make small but significant milestones along his journey towards adoption.
Sword shares, “I feel very honored to be entrusted with the care of Howl Holloman. Howl has been in foster care for a few days and has taken the time to acclimate, decompress and rest. He gets along well with the other dogs in the home. He is potty trained and enjoys short walks in the backyard but is ready to come right back inside once business has been taken care of. He is a very shy, skittish boy so foster mom and doggos are helping him feel safe and a part of the pack. Today Howl had a bath and while it wasn’t his favorite thing to do he was receptive and patient. Howl sleeps through the night, is a good eater and doesn’t mind his crate when his foster mom is away from home for a short time. It will be wonderful to see this sweet boy’s personality shine as he heals and grows more confident.  Howl thanks the wonderful volunteers who worked with him while being at Heritage Humane Society. He says he was made to feel cared for and loved. Stay tuned for more wonderful updates.”

Lexus, fostered by Ivonne Luchs. Beautiful, statuesque Lexus is a brown and white terrier mix. Her foster Ivonne Luchs happily reports, “I really love this dog. She is very content just being with a human. She will generously lick the air around you (like blowing kisses) or deliver them directly. She will walk right next to you and is easy on the leash. Didn’t chase squirrels or dogs on our route. She loves to chase down the sticks we throw and chomp on them. She is so gentle and actually will speak to you. She, however, is not a barker. She loves taking in the scenery. Lexus enjoys her dog bed. She is challenged by the staircase to the second level of our home but is quite happy on the first floor (where she finds sunny spots). I love this dog.”

Brad Pitbull, fostered by Caitlin Kelley. Superstar Brad Pitbull is handsome like his namesake and is equally as sweet. This three-legged charmer, his missing leg doesn’t slow him down from being faster than his speeding paparazzi. He may take the occasional tumble worthy of a dramatic movie scene, but he always bounces back with a grin that could melt hearts.
His foster mom Caitlin Kelley who doubles as his publicist gushes, “True to pitty form, Brad is a cuddly lap dog (yes, he will fit right onto your lap!) with a penchant for outdoor fun. Despite his missing leg, he’s eager to keep up with his four-legged friends, sometimes comically face-planting in the process. He’s friendly and I’m helping him with his exuberance. Brad’s quiet and toy-loving, but a power chewer so his adopted family will want to stock up. He eats eagerly, so a slow feeder and mats are advisable. He’s good in the car and at home but may experience separation anxiety. With training, he’s improved a lot and completed Level 1 dog training offered at The Heritage Humane Society. Brad thrives in an active household with confident dogs and no cats or small children, needing someone strong for leash walks.”

Dolly, fostered by Lisa Kessler. This sweet lady is ready to be doted on. Dolly prefers a quieter setting where she can be the only pet to receive undivided attention. Dolly enjoys walks, basic commands, playing with a ball, and chewing on rawhide bones. She’s been well cared for and is looking for a patient owner who can provide her with love and attention.”
Foster mom Lisa Kessler shares, “We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Dolly.  We had her for 3 ½ days. She is such a sweet girl. She settled in just fine here and had full run of the house without issue and is very well house-trained. She was quite calm and playful (likes to play chase) by the first night. She likes tennis balls and squeaky toys. She loves being outside and enjoys walks in the woods.  We made sure to walk her away from other dogs as that does get her excited. She does very well on a leash as long as you “tell” her to not pull (keep her on a short leash until she does). She ate quite well. She slept fine with us and was on our bed for most of the first night. After a few days, she was content to be on her bed at the foot of our bed.”

The critical need for fosters

The Heritage Humane Society’s Behavior and Training Manager, also known as Williamsburg’s Dog Whisperer, Adam Claar, is a firm believer in the positive outcomes resulting from the shelter’s vital foster care community.  Claar spends time with each of the shelter’s dogs, learning what he can of their backgrounds and helping them acclimate to temporary surroundings while preparing for their forever homes. He also provides ongoing training offered through the shelter once a dog has been adopted.
“We could not do what we do without fosters. There are more homeless dogs in our community than our facility can house. Fostering has benefits beyond considerations of space. Studies have shown even short-term foster stays decrease cortisol and increase duration of resting periods. Giving them a break from the shelter means they can destress and finally get a good night’s sleep. That improves their welfare, as well as their behavior. Another huge benefit of fostering is with assessment and adoption counseling. Who a dog is in the shelter doesn’t tell us who that dog will be in a home. A foster stay gives us a much clearer picture of who they are. Which allows us to better match them up with their future furever family.”
For those interested in helping, but who cannot foster at the moment, the shelter offers training for individuals who are interested in teaming up with a pup for a Fido Field Trip. The shelter also has an ongoing need for volunteers.

Adoptable pets ready for a forever home

The shelter is filled with homeless pets who are eager to have forever homes. Nearly 160 dogscats and small pets are currently in their care. Adoptable pets are available to meet during The Heritage Humane Society’s visiting and adopting hours from 12 to 4:30 p.m., Tues. through Sun.
To learn more, visit, call 757-221-0150, or visit The Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185.

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