By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Hopkinton – When a cat or dog is admitted to a shelter, he already has a lot going against him. The reason for him being surrendered could be for behavioral issues, the family may not be able to take care of him anymore, or he may be a stray. Entering a shelter where there are other cats and dogs also bewildered and stressed can make any animal even more distressed. Their chances of then presenting well and finding their forever home drop substantially.
That’s why the Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton, Inc.’s foster program is so important. The dedicated volunteers take a dog or cat into their homes and give them tremendous amounts of love and attention. Also, with the help of the shelter’s staff, they gently work on behavioral and social issues, which greatly improve their chances of being adopted. And sometimes an animal just needs a quiet, calm environment to recuperate from surgery or a medical issue.
Many of the shelter’s animals come from a previous scenario of abuse and/or abandonment. Leslie Doyle and her family recently worked with a small dog, Dora.
“She was found in an abandoned home, and was terrified of noises. She could get scared easily by too much commotion,” Doyle said. “She just needed a quiet home where she could decompress and have the time to come out of her shell.
“Once she was out of the shelter, she showed her true colors, and very soon we could see that she was an amazingly loving dog with a fun personality. She made great strides in getting more comfortable with noises around her. She was recently adopted by a wonderful young couple and she has a little furry ‘brother’ Taco as well,” she added.
The shelter is always seeking foster families. It is not necessary to have previous fostering experience but ideally the family should have some experience with dogs. Experience with positive reinforcement is a huge plus, Doyle said.
“We often need pet-free homes with older children or adults only. We sometimes also need homes where there is a good natured dog in the home to help some of our shyer dogs,” she said. “A fenced yard is a huge bonus for fosters.”
Baypath covers all of the costs for foster families including medical, food and crates.
Michelle Kreel and her son, Sam, who is a seventh-grade student at the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School in Westborough, have fostered many dogs over the past year. And as Kreel explained, not only has it been a positive experience for the dogs, but also for her son, as well.
“It has taught him compassion and empathy,” she said. “It has taught him responsibility and patience. It has given him a moral compass that I don’t believe most 12-year-olds have until later in life.
“I love his passion when he shows outrage over animal cruelty and the like. I love the proud look he gets when he teaches a new foster a new command, or when he is explaining to peers or teachers about one of his new fosters. He is extremely proud of himself and confident.”
“Walshy” was a recent dog the Kreels fostered.
“He came to us covered in ticks, heartworm positive, had Lyme disease and Rocky fever. And he was terrified – he cringed at the slightest of movements. Sam spent hours with this dog just lying with him, patting him, treating him, etc. … just letting him know people were not all bad. By the time his lengthy treatment was done Walshy was a new dog – confident, friendly, fat and sassy. And everyone who meets him loves him.”
Walshy was adopted by Kreel’s godson so she and Sam are able to see how well he continues to do.
Both Kreel and Doyle admitted it can be hard when it is time for a dog to leave their foster family.
“But just knowing that you have given that dog a chance and that they are going to go to their new forever home, it’s just so awesome,” Doyle said. “It makes it much easier to bear knowing that this dog who really needed a second chance is getting one.”
For more information on Baypath and its foster program, visit www.baypathhumane.org. The shelter, located at 5 Rafferty Road in Hopkinton, is open daily 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays.