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Doggie Foster Care
Comments () | Published February 14, 2011

Horowitz had begged the couple to foster Jack while they were sitting at a Lucky Dog happy hour. The group raises money through fundraisers—winetastings, a summer barbecue—and $200-to-$325 adoption fees, which help cover the costs of vet bills.

Like most rescue groups, Lucky Dog can’t survive without foster families. Regular fosters keep the dog as long as necessary; overnight fosters meet the dogs at the van, take them home and bathe them—the animals usually arrive smelling like a shelter—and drive them to an adoption event the following day. The organization hosts the events nearly every weekend, usually outside pet shops, and potential adopters can fill out adoption applications that day.

Lucky Dog doesn’t have its own boarding facility, and once in a while Horowitz takes more dogs than she has foster homes for. The puggle was living at Wagtime Pet Spa & Boutique in DC, which donates boarding space to Lucky Dog. Cleveland and Paraiso walked to Wagtime from happy hour, picked up Jack, and brought him home in a cab.

“Fostering teaches them how to act in a home,” says Cleveland, an analyst for the Air Force surgeon general. “Some of the dogs have been on the street or in a kennel for so long that they don’t know how to act.”

When Cleveland and Paraiso first brought Chi Chi into their Alexandria condo, the dog was shaking. They couldn’t get her to walk up the stairs. She wouldn’t eat from her bowl. “She’d take a kibble from my hand and go into the living room,” Cleveland says. “She would take it somewhere she thought was safe.”

Within two weeks, Chi Chi was going up the stairs on her own. She wasn’t allowed on the furniture, so she cuddled with Cleveland on the floor. When Paraiso put on his socks to take her on a run, she got him his shoes.

All four of the dogs chewing on Bully Sticks in Horowitz’s living room were rescued. Three are hers; Bear, a black Lab, is a foster.

“He was brought into a vet clinic to be put to sleep because he was scared of thunderstorms,” she says.

Pepper, a Portuguese water dog, and Hobo, a goldendoodle, are what Horowitz calls “failed fosters.” She was supposed to just foster them but decided to keep them.

Horowitz got into dog rescue by accident. She’d grown up riding horses in San Francisco and competed in equestrian events during law school. When she moved to Washington to work as counsel for Senator John Kerry, she didn’t have time to ride. She missed animals, so she got on the Web, found a photo of a black-Lab mix named Sparky, and adopted him from a Richmond rescue group. Soon after, a friend convinced Horowitz to try fostering.

Someone had to open up their home to save Sparky, Horowitz thought. I could do that.

She volunteered to foster for a local rescue group and started her own organization in May 2009. She wanted to focus on shelters in the South because that’s where she saw the most need. She says that one shelter, a few hours from Florence, had a nearly 100-percent kill rate. By comparison, 10 to 20 percent of animals in the Montgomery County shelter have to be put down; in Fairfax County, one-quarter of the 2,313 dogs that entered the shelter in 2009 were euthanized.

“The shelters we work with have almost no volunteer help at all,” Horowitz says. If she has an adopter looking for a breed she doesn’t have or she has open foster space, she’ll pull a dog from the shelter in Prince George’s County—something Tamela Terry thinks Washington-area rescues should do more often.

“The local needs are such that we choose not to import animals,” says Terry, president of the SPCA/Humane Society of Prince George’s County. “The shelter is full of young, healthy animals that could be easy to place if they got some exposure.”

Horowitz pulled one dog from the Prince George’s County shelter as soon as she saw her. She was walking by the kennels when she noticed a German-shepherd mix huddled in a ball. The dog, Mousie, thumped her tail when she saw Horowitz but wouldn’t get closer.

Horowitz decided to bring the dog to her rowhouse in Georgetown and foster her herself. She took a close-up picture of Mousie and posted it on the group’s Web site. The dog was adopted a week later.

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Posted at 10:22 AM/ET, 02/14/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles