community, reflections

Paws and Think: Woof You Be a Foster (Dog) Parent?

Me in 1991, with my first doggy love, Maia Papaya. I miss her!

I’m really excited to become a dog foster parent. I haven’t lived with a dog full-time since I left my parents and hometown more than seven years ago to move to Colorado, and I think that living with a dog again will bring new joy and adventure into my life. My partners and I applied to foster through three different organizations, and we are ready to go as soon as one of those applications gets approved.

Fostering animals through any program is helpful and saves lives, so prospective foster parents shouldn’t stress too much over the particular program they support. Because I feel most comfortable working with no-kill animal shelters, we applied at MaxFund Animal Adoption Center, which also has an attached low-cost veterinary clinic. (On a somewhat related note, I’m encouraging MaxFund to plan increasingly vegan fundraising events, because a pro-animal organization should keep critters off the dinner table in addition to in our homes and hearts. I’m sure this will be a multi-year process of advocacy.) Folks who want to get involved with the no-kill advocacy scene should check out No Kill Colorado and the No Kill Advocacy Center’s No-Kill Equation.

Two other rescue organizations might be of special interest to Colorado-based animal rights activists. Kindness Ranch is three hours north of Denver and is the only animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and rehoming animals formerly used in research (particularly beagles, the dog breed most commonly used in research due to their size and docile nature.) The second group is the Colorado Springs-based National Mill Dog Rescue which rescues and rehomes dogs who were formerly part of the puppy mill industry. These excite me because they both provide ample opportunity for telling individual animals’ stories and advocacy to dismantle exploitative animal industries. Furthermore, dogs who have been caged and poorly treated for their entire lives require special attention, care, and socialization best delivered in a homey environment with foster parents. I hope that it goes without saying that vegans and animal rights activists should rescue animals rather than buy them, no matter how “reputable” a breeder a dog comes from. Ending breeding programs and rescuing individuals who are already here is, in my opinion, a key part of ending breedism and our relationship to non-human animals as commodities.

Alexis and I are excited to feed our foster dog a well-balanced vegan diet, since dogs are omnivores (unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores) and can thrive on many of the foods we do. There are various companies that make vegan kibbles for dogs, namely Nature’s Balance and V-Dog. We are probably going to go with V-Dog since they are a vegan-owned company, and we’ll add homemade veggie stew to the food to make meals a little more interesting. We are excited to make some homemade dog treats as well, which brings me way back to making dog treats with my dad in the early nineties.

41pP1taP0RLI plan to speak up about dog rescue and get our foster critters as much visibility as possible, even though I know it will be hard to let go of critters once they find a forever home. Bandanas like this one at right let members of the public know that a foster dog is available to go to a forever home, and merch from places like Project Blue Collar both signal a canine companion as a rescue and support rescue projects. We’ll be able to take advantage of free training classes for foster dogs through the Misha May Foundation. I’m excited that we live very close to the newly-opened Lowry Dog Park (find more Denver dog parks here) and the hilariously-named Watering Bowl, a dog- and human-friendly watering hole similar to northwest Denver’s Bark Bar. We plan to adopt a dog once we are more permanently established in jobs and housing, but I hope that even after that happens that we will keep fostering dogs. As my friend Hugo says, the next step after veganism is activism, not raw foodism or being gluten/oil/sugar/soy-free. I hope that fostering and storytelling can be a small part of my activism going forward.

P.S. Cats aren’t possible for us because of allergies, but there is a cat cafe opening in Denver in mid-November. Part of the goal is to find the cats good forever homes. Marc and I will definitely be checking this place out.