Fostering furry friends

Local volunteers provide temporary homes for dogs and cats

Want to foster for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society?

  • Fill out an application at WCGHS.org/volunteer
  • Attend a volunteer orientation
  • Schedule an on-site training session with WCGHS staff
  • Call 360-835-3464 (cat shelter) or 360-335-0941 (dog shelter), or email foster@wcghs.org
  • Visit WCGHS.org/volunteer/foster-volunteer-program for more information

Jessica Kaady, of Washougal, holds Keanu, one of the kittens available to adopt at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, in Washougal. Kaady and her two children have provided foster care for 20 kittens during the past year.

Piper and Rowan Kaady enjoy petting the foster kittens that they and their mother, Jessica Kaady, take care of. Their volunteer efforts with the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society began with a pet food and supply drive in December 2017. (Contributed photo courtesy of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society)

Maska, a puppy, relaxes in Melvin Caylor's arms. Caylor and his wife, Lori Bourdon, are the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society's main puppy fosters. (Contributed photo)

Jessica Kaady turned her children's playroom into a room for foster kittens. Kaady and her husband adopted two kittens, Ember and Pearl. (Contributed photo)

Fred Parrish prepares to take Astara out for a walk. Parrish and his wife, Jeannie Parrish, are volunteer dog fosters for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society. (Contributed photo courtesy of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society)

The top of Jodi Wilkins' dresser is filled with photos of dogs she has fostered for the Washougal-based West Columbia Gorge Humane Society. As a medical foster, Wilkins cares for dogs that need to recover from medical concerns before they are cleared for adoption. (Contributed photo courtesy of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society)

Pets in need of a temporary home are finding shelter with a few local families in a process known as “fostering.”

The Washougal-based West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS) often relies on volunteer foster families to help the organization care for kittens and puppies — as well as animals being treated for health conditions or recovering from surgeries.

The Post-Record recently spent some time with two local foster families to learn more about what attracted them to this type of volunteer work and how they cope with the ups and downs of fostering.

The challenge of letting go

Amanda Prince, of Washougal, has volunteered with the WCGHS since 2011 — first as a dog walker, then as a dishwasher and dog shelter cleaner — and now as a foster parent who cares for dogs at the shelter as well as in her own home.

Prince, 34, recalled her first foster pup: a nervous chihuahua puppy named Pia that plopped in her lap in 2014. Prince wound up adopting Pia, and has fostered three other dogs since then.

Although letting go of the foster dogs can be challenging, Prince said she likes to keep in mind the true purpose of fostering.

“You just have to be mindful that there are homes out there for them,” Prince said. “Somebody else wants them. It makes it easier when you see and meet the people and see how happy they are.”

Prince, who has a total of three dogs in her own fur-baby family, including Pia, said serving as a volunteer foster home for the dog shelter is a way for her to give back to the community.

“I just love to be around animals, so the more the merrier,” Prince said. “You see them sprawled out on the couch or the bed, and you say, ‘you’re a lot more comfortable here.'”

The volunteer work is rewarding, but can be challenging. Prince said it’s often hard to bring a new dog into the home without knowing their routine.

“(With) the last dog I brought home, if you left food out, she would eat it all,” Prince said. “My dogs graze throughout the day, so then you learn: I have to adjust feeding now, because they are going to control each other’s food dishes. I’m going to have to feed my dogs all at once now.”

Although she loves animals, Prince said she has realized not every dog is going to be the right fit for her foster home.

Her advice for other potential foster families — and people hoping to adopt a pet?

“It’s important to be mindful of a dog’s needs,” Prince said. “If you don’t like to go on walks that are miles long, you probably should not get a dog that needs that kind of exercise. You have to be realistic with what you can provide them. There are so many people out there that can provide those things.”

Providing learning experiences for children

Jessica Kaady, of Washougal, started fostering kittens after her two children decided to hold a pet food drive for the WCGHS in December 2017. They brought donations from family members, friends and neighbors to the dog and cat shelters, and promptly fell in love with the animal shelter.

Kaady, 36, and her son, Rowan, 8, and daughter, Piper, 5, decided they would turn the children’s playroom into a foster kitten room.

They welcomed their first feline guests in January 2018, and Kaady said it has been a great experience for her children.

“They’re giving these little creatures that they love so much over to a new family. And watching the joy that it brings to that other family has been so wonderful for them to see,” Kaady said.

“We were learning that we care for these things, and we give them the best start that we can. Then, we turn their care over to another great family who deserves a loving pet, and that pet deserves a loving home forever. … It completes that full circle.”

Kaady said her husband, Jason, supports the family’s foster duties, despite the fact that he is allergic to cats.

The family now has five pets of its own, including two dogs, a cat, and two former foster kittens — Ember, also known as “Emmie,” and Pearl, a deaf kitten.

Rowan and Piper help feed the foster kittens, and their mom said they enjoy reading while the kittens crawl on their books.

“They have exposure to kids, dogs and other cats,” Kaady said of the foster kittens. “We like them to be very well-rounded before they leave us. That way, we are setting them up for success, before they start their lives in their new homes. We like to give them all the experiences before they go.”

Kaady created a Facebook page to help her communicate with potential pet families. The site, at facebook.com/gorgefosterkittens.washougal.7, also helps Kaady stay in contact with the pet families after her foster kittens find their “forever homes.”

Kaady said she would encourage others to consider fostering for WCGHS.

“I feel like we’ve grown a lot as a family through the process,” she said. “You can give love without expecting anything in return. Please, absolutely do this if you have the time and space to give to these little guys.”

Which animals need a foster home?

Though the animal shelter looks for foster homes for many of its younger and more medically needy animals, foster situations also can be good for animals that tend to get extremely stressed or anxious in a shelter environment, and for dogs and cats that might need a little more one-on-one training or socialization.

Some volunteer fosters take in animals that are blind, deaf, missing a limb or have other special needs and would do better in a home environment than in a shelter. And then there are the fosters who go the extra mile by providing hospice care and a warm, safe home for terminal pets with medical conditions that make them unavailable for adoption.

WCGHS covers all medical care for animals in foster homes, including vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries and medications. The WCGHS can also provide food and litter, if needed. The foster volunteers provide housing, bedding, toys, exercise, socialization and love.

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