Fostering Love During COVID-19


Shannon and her two dogs, Starley and Maddie. Photo courtesy of Shannon Bartholomew.

It has been said that the true winners of stay-at-home and quarantine orders, if such a thing exists, are the beloved four legged canine companions who have all but certainly been basking in the constant presence of their human counterparts. In fact, social distancing has benefited not only the dogs who had already found homes, but their homeless brethren, too, as people have flocked to shelters and rescues looking to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness through the love and admiration of a new pet.

Critical to the success of some such operations are foster parents, like Phi Sigma Rho sister Shannon (Gorman) Bartholomew (Pittsburgh - Zeta). Foster parents serve as temporary caregivers with whom dogs are placed until they are adopted.

Although her home was not lacking in canine residents -- Shannon and her husband already have a 14 year old pug mix and a two year old lab mix -- she always knew she wanted to be a foster parent, but “never felt like [she] had the time to dedicate to it until now.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Shannon began working from home in mid-March, which allowed her the opportunity to foster through a group called Paws Across Pittsburgh. The organization takes in dogs from local shelters, owner surrenders, and high-kill shelters in nearby areas and places them directly into foster homes, bypassing shelters entirely. Prior to rescuing a dog, Paws Across Pittsburgh ensures that all dogs have a foster home by recruiting fosters through their Facebook group.

Over the past two months, Shannon has fostered five dogs: four puppies and one adult lab. She notes that puppies tend to be adopted quickly (“which is good because they are a ton of work!”), but that dogs are typically within her care for two weeks. During that time, the foster dogs are able to get up-to-date on their veterinary care and interested applicants are able to complete the adoption application process.

          
The foster dogs. Photos courtesy of Shannon Bartholomew.

“Fostering is time consuming but if you are a dog lover (like me) it is so rewarding knowing that you are providing an actual home to a dog for a few weeks and giving them a better chance at adoption,” Shannon said.

As an added bonus, fostering has provided her own dogs with new, often energetic, and playful companions. Shannon says that her two-year-old lab mix loves the experience of getting a steady stream of new friends who pass through the house. Her 14-year-old pug mix, on the other hand, finds comfort in securing her spot on the couch and largely staying out of the way. 

Since most of the fostering activity happens at home, the pandemic hasn’t greatly affected the adoption process. Aside from meet-and-greets between fostered dogs and their potential adopters, which happen outdoors at safe social distances, and applicant home visits, which are now done digitally, it’s basically business as usual.

Contributing to the process of finding a forever home for the dogs is rewarding and Shannon’s favorite part of fostering. “Watching their adopters getting to take their dog home and getting pictures of my previous fosters in their new homes are such great feelings,” she said.

Although she acknowledges that she may not be able to foster as frequently once this quarantine period ends, Shannon knows this is not the end of her foster parent journey. 

“Most of the time, not only are you helping a dog that might be facing a grim future, but usually dogs from fosters/rescues are fully vetted and ... they provide just as much love,” she said.

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