Helping Animals Grow

Sydney Neal, Fall 2014 J1 student

Sophomore Brooke Rowland has seen many infant animals in the past three years. She has fostered baby dogs and cats since she was in seventh grade. Her family decided to start fostering after Rowland’s mother said she was interested in it and Rowland’s father was fine with it.

“[We] knew our house was going to be emptier with [my brothers] Garrett and Brad gone and off to college, so we wanted to fill it up again,” Rowland said. “Plus my mom’s kind of a cat lady, so we couldn’t really stop her.”

The Rowland family receives their litters from Wayside Waifs, a local rescue shelter for animals of all ages. The foster parents can choose what ages they want to foster and what cases they want to foster. Sometimes if other foster parents are out of town, the Rowlands can volunteer to watch over the animals.

Rowland said there weren’t many requirements to become foster parents for animals.

“You pretty much just have to not have a police record, and after they check that, you’re good to go,” Rowland said.

Rowland said they only had two pets, one dog named Sarah and one cat named Treetop, before they decided to foster. They had both pets at the same time, so they said they could handle baby animals together.

“[Treetop and Sarah] were well-behaved, so we weren’t sure how the kittens and puppies would react to our training style,” Rowland said. “We were hoping that the kittens and puppies would respond positively and would behave for their next owners.”

Foster parents normally get kittens when they are three weeks old and get puppies when they are five to six weeks old.

Before Rowland could get her first litter of animals, she said the whole family had to go to a four hour class on how to train the animals, give the animals medications if they were sick, and contacting Wayside Waifs if there was a serious problem.

The Rowland family received their first litter, boxer-chow mutts, in the fall of 2011.

“[My mom] drove to Wayside Waifs, confirmed her identity and pick-up, grabbed the puppies and brought them home,” Rowland said. “I wasn’t actually home when they got to my house, so I didn’t get to see the puppies’ initial reaction to being in an actual home. I was still excited about fostering because I was ready to cuddle with cute and tiny puppies and kittens.”

Rowland said her family only had the boxer-chows for three days though because the puppies had an infection called Parvovirus, a disease that can be found in two forms. Rowland said the form they found was where the puppies would vomit, have diarrhea, lose weight in drastic time and have anorexia.

“I think [the boxer-chows] were one of the hardest cases to let go for multiple reasons,” Rowland said. “They were our first cases, so I think my family thought it was our fault that they got sick. We were so excited to have them beforehand and after only three days, they were taken away from us. It gave us a real look on what we might have to deal with when fostering.”

Rowland said the first litter of kittens weren’t very eventful like the boxer-chows.

“[The kittens] didn’t really do much,” Rowland said. “They were past three weeks old so we didn’t have to bottle feed them. I’m pretty sure we only had them for two weeks before they went back [to Wayside Waifs] to be adopted.”

Rowland said the bower-chow experience wasn’t her worst moment fostering animals. Rowland’s family wanted to foster a pregnant mother and her soon-to-be kittens. Treetop had already given birth to kittens before without difficulty, so Rowland said her family figured they would give it another go.

“You’re supposed to leave the mother alone when she’s giving birth so she can relax and focus on getting the kittens out. There are obvious signs of near delivery so you won’t be stuck in the room with [the mother] when she gives birth,” Rowland said.

When the Rowland’s pregnant cat was ready to give birth, Rowland said they left her in the basement with fresh water, food and a litter box nearby so she could take breaks between kittens. The birthing process can last between two to six hours.

“We checked on her after the first hour passed to see how many kittens she had birthed and to make nothing was going wrong. When we got downstairs, the mother wasn’t breathing and we couldn’t find any kittens. She died during delivery and none of the kittens lived,” Rowland said.

The Rowland family haven’t fostered any pregnant mothers since, and Rowland said they would have to have a serious conversation about it if they were to do so again.

“There haven’t been many serious incidents with our family since [the pregnant mother died], but I remember some other foster parents had one of the kitten they were fostering break its leg when [the kitten] jumped off the couch arm,” Rowland said.

Rowland said she has had too many foster litters to count, but she knows which litter was her favorite.

“I probably liked the German Shepherd puppies the best. They’re super playful, and they listen well to their owners. They know how to follow orders,” Rowland said.

Most kittens and puppies Rowland receives come from bad situations, she said.

“Wayside Waifs give them the shots, and then when we get them, we have to make sure that the animals take their prescribed medicine,” Rowland said.

Rowland said it’s hard work but totally worth the time and effort.

“My life wouldn’t be the same without these animals,” Rowland said.