STORIES BY LEAH CIRELLI

Fostering Animals: When a Brief Friend Turns into a Life-Long Companion

Published: Oct. 5, 2020

Jess Lewis and her foster dog, Bean. Photo by Leah Cirelli

At the Jacksonville Humane Society, foster programs have always been a need. When someone fosters a pet, they are a temporary babysitter to an animal in need. Typically, foster pets are either too young to be in shelters or require extra attention for medical needs. Fostering an animal is great for those who want to care for an animal but not make any commitments. It can provide the foster parent with a little extra love from a pet, while helping out the Humane Society. 

Sometimes through the fostering process, the parent can fall in love with that pet, an understandable occurrence. Caring for a fuzzy creature every day can create a bond like no other. That’s why fostering often will turn into an adoption.

As a recent college graduate, Jess Lewis was unsure of her next steps in life. She always wanted a dog, but her parents warned her not to get one until she was settled down. The next best option for Jess was to become a foster mom. Not only did she want to follow her parent’s advice, but she wanted to be sure she was ready for the responsibility of a pet. 

She went to the Jacksonville Humane Society for an event called, Dog’s Day Out. The program allows potential adopters to spend a day with a dog. The program is a great way to “test the waters” with one of the shelter dogs or give a pup a day away from their kennel. 

Jess was interested in the Dog’s Day Out program, but also asked about their fostering program. The Humane Society told Jess about a dog they had named Dandelion.

Dandelion was an extremely shy dog. She wouldn’t let anyone near her. She was heartworm positive with seasonal allergies. Despite all this, Jess took her home that day to foster.

For two months, Jess took care of Dandelion. She was diligent in keeping up with all of her medications. She learned to care for Dandelion, being patient with all the fears she had. A simple walk outside would be too much for Dandelion, but Jess persisted for the sake of helping an animal in need.

A call came from the Humane Society, asking Jess to set up a meeting with a potential family for Dandelion. That’s when she knew she couldn’t get rid of her. 

“I started crying and I was like, I can’t get rid of her. She’s my, she’s my dog. She was like sent to me,” said Jess.

The thought of getting rid of Dandelion was enough to make Jess realize just how much she needed her to stay. 

“I was in a transitional phase, where I wasn’t really responsible for anything,” said Jess. “She just kind of came into my life and she had all this heartworm medicine. I didn’t think that I would be able to be consistent with it. She kind of transitioned me from not really having much direction to really being responsible and having a routine and being focused. I had never really had that responsibility before.”

Jess decided to adopt Dandelion. She changed Dandelion’s name to Bean, and they’ve changed each other’s lives. 

Jess and Bean are the perfect example of when fostering goes wrong, in the best way possible. 

Jess and Bean on their adoption day party. Courtesy Jess Lewis