By Helen Jaques
There was no better time to foster an entire litter of puppies, traumatized mother and all, than the Covid lockdown. With nowhere to go and no friends to see, the reality of spending months alone with my family had started to take a toll. There seemed to be only one alternative better than snacking, cleaning, and engaging in frequent, mind-numbing arguments: adding 9 new dogs to our home.
My love for dogs began at 4 years old when my family adopted Honey. Originally set to be euthanized at a kill shelter in Alabama, Honey was instead saved from death and transported north, where we took her in. The idea that her life could’ve been ended at just 6 months old, like so many other dogs, boggled my 4-year-old mind. At 16, the idea is still equally disheartening. However, I’ve found a way to make at least a small difference in a few dogs’ lives.
Shortly before the pandemic, I had convinced my family to submit an application to foster dogs through a local organization, Great Dog Rescue New England. Our timing was lucky, because as the pandemic spread, so did the idea of fostering dogs. Millions of Americans now found themselves isolated at home, craving new company, and foster applications went through the roof. Individual dogs needing fostering would be posted on the website and snatched up by prospective fosters within seconds. An entire litter, however, seemed to have much less appeal. Somehow I was able to convince my parents that we could handle the challenge.
The puppies were ridiculously cute. At 2 weeks old, they were entirely dependent on their mother – Maggie – and unable to even stand on their own. The runt of the litter, who we named Peanut, had to be hand-fed every few hours until she was able to catch up with her siblings. We had been told by the rescue to keep our distance while the puppies nursed, as mother dogs can be aggressive. But as it turned out, Maggie wanted nothing to do with them. She was practically a puppy herself – only about a year old. At first, she got along well with our own two dogs (Honey and Fern). However, as time went on, she decided she hated Fern. Fern still bears the scars from a few unpleasant incidents.
We were a little sad, (but not too sad), when the puppies had been weaned and it was time to send Maggie off to her adopters. The puppies stayed with us for the remaining few weeks before they were adopted as well. The bigger they got, the more work they became. Taking 8 curious puppies out in a non-fenced yard was no easy task, and always required mental preparation and multiple sets of hands. Two puppies in particular, Penelope and Piglet, wreaked havoc on the entire family. At 8 weeks old, they had mastered the art of escape and liked to keep us on our toes. But, by the end of their stay with us, those puppies had worked their way into all of our hearts.
This time, it was hard to say goodbye, but we were happy to know they were all going to loving families and beginning the next chapter of their lives. Peanut and her brother Phinneas, (the only male puppy in the litter) were both adopted by families we know, so we’ve gotten to see them grow. Although this particular litter will always have a special place in my heart, they were only the beginning of a long line of foster dogs. Since then, we have fostered 14 more dogs, most recently over Christmas break. Although it can be a bittersweet experience, every goodbye means a new life has been saved. Fostering has been an incredible experience, and I couldn’t recommend it enough.