Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fostering... The Heart of MMDR

By Deanne Peterson

Aldean - One of Dolly Parton's Pup
As most people know already, fostering is the heart of our organization.  The more fosters we have, the more dogs we can save.  We wouldn’t be where we are without the warm souls of our foster homes.  I’ve been fostering for over a year now, and have seen countless dogs come and go through my home.  This story is about one specific type of fostering – litters. 

It takes a special kind to foster a litter.  Sara, our co-director, always said to me, “don’t ever let me convince you to do a litter!”  But when there were moms in need, and we were short on foster homes, that statement changed to “well, everyone should try it at least once.”  To this point, I had fostered everything from puppies with severe health issues to adults with behavioural problems – everything BUT a litter.  So I should at least try it once, right? 

January 10th rolled around and in came Dolly Parton with her six 5-day old puppies from Sagkeeng First Nation.  Dolly Parton was extremely thin and uncared for.  She had lost two babies in the cold.  The surviving six had frostbitten toes and dry, flaky skin.  Despite their rough condition, they were in high spirits, and Dolly was an incredible mom.  Seven weeks and many fat balls later, I was seeing all of my pups and mom off to their forever homes – now fat, playful and loving dogs.  Dolly made a very special place in my heart.  I’ll never forget her friendly tail wag and our snuggle sessions.  More importantly, she taught me the unconditional love these mom dogs have to offer.  It’s incredible how much they give to their puppies, but still have enough to love you too. 

Personally, I loved fostering the litter.  I got to pick the theme for pups, named after Country Stars (of course) –  Urban, Aldean, Shelton, Dunn, Lambert and Brooks.  Mom did all the heavy lifting for the first four weeks.  I just had to take care of her and make sure everyone was loved and clean.  Around week three or four, the pups start eating “mush” (i.e. blended dog food and water), which is when things got interesting.  It’s hilarious to watch and a complete mess!  Around that same time, mom stops cleaning up, so each day I’d clean up their pen and lay fresh bedding.  Sometimes the pups are split into foster homes at six weeks.  I chose to keep my litter until eight weeks and sent everyone off to their forever homes.  A lot of people worry that you need to be home all the time to dedicate to your litter.  I can attest that isn’t the case!  I work a full-time job, volunteer my time with MMDR (outside of fostering) and participate and run a couple rec sports team too.  You’d be surprised how easily a litter can slip into your day-to-day life.  It’s more about making space in your home and your heart, than in your day. 

The experience was worth every clean up, puppy snuggle and mush mess.  I got to see Brooks (now “Luna”) a couple weeks back, and she ran up to me so excited – she still remembers who I am!  Right now, I’m fostering my second litter, Chickadee, and her 10 puppies born in early March, 2012.  Chickadee and her puppies came in from Norway House, unwanted and uncared for.  This litter has a bird theme and I love them dearly.  You’ll never believe how rewarding it is until you experience it. 

Many fosters don’t think they could handle a litter.  When the babies are born in care, it’s a 6-8 week commitment.  Often the first few weeks are a breeze, then things get harder for a few weeks before the pups leave mom.  I’ll say to everyone now – you should try a litter, at least once.  I never thought I’d enjoy it, but it’s now one of my favourite fostering experiences!  For more information on fostering, or what it takes to foster a litter, email  You won’t regret it.  

Chickadee's Litter

Chicky's New Family! Happy Girl

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