Wendy Caswell’s foster journey began when a litter of puppies was found outside a Salvation Army. Days old and without their mother, these puppies didn’t have the easiest start in life, but their luck changed when Caswell and other volunteers took them in.
“I had no experience in fostering, but offered to help three of them,” Caswell recalls. She enjoyed that experience and wanted to stay involved, thinking she might take a litter of fosters once a year or so, but quickly realized there was a much larger need for foster homes than she had anticipated.
In the 12 years since that first litter, Caswell has fostered over 400 puppies. “I always tell people that fostering is fun – and it is! There are certainly worse things I could do in life than watch puppies play in my backyard,” she says. “Unfortunately, I never have time to dwell on their leaving because I know there will always be another litter of unwanted puppies in need – usually within a couple of days – for me to foster.”
To keep up with this demand, she and her husband designed a wing of their house where their dogs and foster puppies can have their own space. When she is home to supervise, Caswell allows some of her dogs – all of which are rescues – to spend time with the puppies. “Puppies that didn’t grow up with a mom can learn a lot from adult dogs,” she explains. “However, some of my dogs are older now, and I don’t expect them to tolerate a bunch of energized puppies, so I keep them separated.”
For Caswell, animal fostering is simultaneously a source of joy and a reminder of the harsh reality that animal overpopulation is a huge problem. “Shelters are overflowing with unwanted animals and are running out of space to keep them alive. Fostering is needed to give these unwanted animals more time to find a forever home,” she says.
As a veteran foster, Caswell advises, “If you have a good setup with your kennel area, that’s half the battle.” Her puppy area, for instance, includes a large pen where puppies stay together as a litter, which she has found to be beneficial. “If you can foster more than one puppy, please do! They entertain and keep each other company,” she explains, adding that newborn puppies tend to be most comfortable with their littermates.
Looking to the future, Caswell is happy to welcome more puppies into her home, but would rather see fewer animals end up in need in the first place. In order for things to change, she stresses the importance of responsible pet ownership, which includes spaying or neutering animals. “Dogs and cats are the most wonderful companions, and we as humans need to do better for them,” she concludes.