SPCA New Zealand

Foster 'fails' - the animals that capture our hearts

01 August 2019
Foster 'fails' - the animals that capture our hearts

​At SPCA we have a dedicated group of people who open their hearts and homes to the animals who need a little extra time before they are ready to go their forever home. These are our foster parents.

Foster parents give a temporary home to animals who need additional care, treatment, and socialisation. The intention is always that the animal returns to SPCA to find a forever family. But... sometimes one special animal comes into their care that they can’t help but fall in love with and decide to call their own.

These are the stories of their “foster fails”, the animals who captured their hearts and stayed with them forever.

"We just looked at each other and knew"

Jessie became a foster parent because she knew it was her only chance at having a cat in the house.

“I grew up in a pet-crazy house and my husband Dion and I already had a dog, Cody. But Dion was absolutely adamant he didn’t want a cat.

“When I started working at SPCA, I was surrounded by kittens and cats and I knew how important fostering was to helping them recover. I convinced Dion that we should sign up as foster parents and do our part to help,” she says.

Watching those vulnerable animals develop and grow into their own personalities was what made being a foster parent so special for Jessie.

“You are looking after sick animals who are usually super quiet and timid. It is so rewarding watching them coming out of their shell. The hardest thing to do is give them back.”

Jessie and Dion’s agreement to have cats on a temporary basis was going well... until they met Henry Hudson.

Previously looking after an excitable little kitten with plenty of attitude, they were both relieved to have the opportunity to foster an older kitten.

At five months old, this kitten was found living on the streets in West Auckland with severe cat flu and was fostered to Jessie and Dion’s home to recover.

“He came home with us and was the sickest cat we’d ever met. He needed to be with us for a month. After the first two weeks he started to recover and became friendlier, and really bonded with Dion,” Jessie says.

“It’s like he knew Dion was the one to win over. He would snuggle into Dion’s lap while he was sitting on the couch or lying in bed.”

“We were surprised he was a stray, as he bonded to people so quickly. He really just loved hanging out with us. He acted like he was meant to be with us.”

For Jessie and Dion, there was a key moment when they knew that this kitten would be part of their family forever.

“We were sitting on the couch with Cody our dog. Henry jumped up onto the couch, head butted Cody, snuggled into him and fell asleep.”

“I looked and Dion and he looked at me. We just knew after that.”

Adoption papers were officially signed, and the kitten was named Henry Hudson. Jessie liked the name Henry, Dion the name Hudson, they couldn’t agree so they combined the two!

Now they can’t imagine life without Henry Hudson

“I know that the point of fostering is to help animals recover so they can go back to SPCA... but we are so grateful we never sent him back and that he is part of our family,” Jessie says.

“We would have never found Henry Hudson without fostering.”

“Henry Hudson and Cody play so well together that we have to split them up at night time. Cody knows his name and even responds when Dion asks him, ‘Where’s Henry?’”

“Every night we take Cody for a walk, Henry jumps up on the windowsill to watch as we leave and when we walk home down the path, he runs to the door to meet us.”

"We just fell in love with them"

Rebecca Johnston has fostered so many animals over the years.

Whether it is bottle-feeding kittens, puppies, goats, or lambs, you can often find a foster animal at Rebecca’s home.

“Working at SPCA, I saw a real need for it. As I worked there more, and moved to a lifestyle block, I wanted to help foster more animals,” Rebecca says.

Two of these animals were pigs, Buffy and Kevin.

Buffy was found wandering in a Wellington suburb, and Kevin was found in the Wairarapa. They both came to Rebecca’s home and ended up never leaving.

Rebecca originally intended on taking Kevin back to SPCA to go up for adoption but couldn’t bear to part with him. She wanted him to have a long and happy life with her.

“They’re super super cheeky. Kevin isn’t allowed inside because he keeps trying to break into the pantry,” Rebecca laughs

“Kevin wrestles with our dog Paverotti, and you can often find them together. You can often hear him sleeping under the house.”

Rebecca always knows where she will find Buffy and Kevin each day.

“They are always down by the stream, they come wandering back with tide marks on their ankles from the water,” she laughs.

Buffy and Kevin are a perfect fit for Rebecca, and she couldn’t have it any other way.

“We just fell in love with them.”

"There is no way we are taking them back"

Heather became a foster parent purely by chance when two lambs called Annie and Ollie needed her help.

“We knew one of the vets at our local SPCA centre. One night she rang us and asked, “can you do me a favour?”

“So we had two lambs that came to us late on a dark, and wet night. They were orphaned, and they came and stayed with us temporarily.”

“But we just fell in love with them and they never left. Fifteen months later we got a call from SPCA asking, ‘do you want to adopt them?’

“The gratification we had from that one rescue showed there was such a need for fostering farm animals,” she says.

While fostering means so much to Heather and she is so invested in what she does, it also has its challenges.

“It’s hard dealing with the circumstances they arrive in. It can be time consuming when they are two or three days old, needing bottle feeding and around-the-clock care.”

Fostering is also how Heather was introduced to goats Bonnie and Clyde, who came into her care and were soon part of her family.

“Bonnie and Clyde were found emaciated and weak. They were barely able to walk when we first got them. SPCA brought them to us the night they were found, and we slowly introduced them to bottle feeding.”

In Heather’s care they have since flourished.

“Some mornings they are just standing on the roof of my car, and poo falls down my windscreen. They run around the barn walls. You’re either biting your lip to stop swearing at them because they are such clowns, or loving them to bits and cuddling them,” she laughs.

“When we were going to return them to SPCA, I tried to ring my daughter to let her know. Before I even got home, she had messaged me saying, “Mum there is no way we are bringing them back”.

Now Annie and Ollie, and Bonnie and Clyde, are happy and healthy with Heather and her family.

“They curl up on my lap and just fall asleep. They just want their mum and that’s who we are to them. They become a part of your family, you put your heart and soul into caring for them.”

Part of the family

We have so many special animals that come through our doors at SPCA and into the homes of our amazing foster parents.

They don’t usually have the intention of keeping them forever.

But sometimes, there is that one animal that comes into their lives and becomes a part of their family.

Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Find out more here.

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