After almost a year of COVID protocols, masked and distant conversations, flattening curves, and going into or coming out of lockdowns, it would be easy to overlook significant achievements.
We’ve had a few of them.
Perhaps the most astounding accomplishment comes courtesy of our foster program. When the pandemic was declared, we knew we would need to dramatically increase our complement of foster volunteers. Normally, the number of animals we place in foster homes hovers anywhere between 15 and 40. On March 16, 2020 when COVID forced us to shut down, we immediately turned to our foster volunteers. Within 48 hours, we had more than 70 animals in foster care. The incredible response from every corner of our community to open their doors to cats, puppies, dogs, kittens, and other small animals, was overwhelming. Since that early spring day, the number of animals in foster has never dropped below 60 and during the peak season, swelled to over 100. Quite simply, we could not have survived without the kindness and compassion of these volunteers. I wish we could tell every story of every person who has accepted the unique responsibility of providing a foster home. It takes deep compassion, an abundance of love and an understanding that your home is a temporary stop on a journey to finding a forever family for the animal in your care. These characteristics were never more apparent than in letters we recently received from two of our newer foster volunteers.
Tori was fostering Bruce, a stray cat that came to us with injuries likely suffered as a result of being hit by a car. After four months when Tori returned him so that we could transfer Bruce to Toronto for comprehensive dental work, she asked us to pass along this letter to his new family, “Whoever loves him next, Thank you so much for taking care of Bruce. He has been through a lot in his short life which is why he holds such a special place in my heart. I’m terribly sad to see him leave my foster house but I know that this is for the greater good….You’re in for a real treat with this one. He likes kisses on the bridge of his nose and on his forehead. He’ll even tilt his head down and lean into me if I pick him up. He and I have a tradition that every night, before I go to bed, I’ll lay down with him on my chest and give him all the kisses, cuddles and pets he needs that day. Please carry on this tradition if you can so it will remind him of me and how much I love him.”
Tori’s willingness to love Bruce without reservation, knowing her time with him was momentary, inspires all of us.
Jerry’s love for his foster cat Frankie was also inspirational and moved us to tears when we read about their time together. When Frankie arrived as a stray, he had a heart murmur but seemed otherwise healthy. We sent him home with Jerry thinking it wouldn’t be long until Frankie was adopted. When he returned for a routine recheck, we discovered Frankie was in kidney failure and would eventually succumb to his illness. Jerry was not deterred. He decided to provide palliative care for Frankie; to give him his best life for as long as possible. This is from Jerry’s letter to us after he said goodbye to Frankie, “I’m so proud of Frankie for fighting as long as he did and for bringing light to dozens of people’s lives just through his personality and image, and I’m so happy he got to visit his cat cousins and get my family to fall in love with him too. I will love him forever and I wanted to thank you and all the staff at KHS for giving me and Frankie such a beautiful gift….. Having Frankie has been the time of my life.”
Tori and Jerry are two of 303 foster volunteers who cared for 713 animals in the last year alone. Those numbers are astounding. Then consider that these volunteers give more than just time, shelter and care to our animals, they give their heart without any expectations. Once you understand that, you begin to see the essential nature of this program.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of every charitable organization but the commitment and unconditional love of foster volunteers is something unique to animal welfare. Today and every day we send out a heartfelt thank you to the group we affectionately call, “The Fosters.” You’re the best and we couldn’t do it without you.
– Gord Hunter, Executive Director