BALTIMORE – In the dead of winter, and the throes of the pandemic, the Berman family chose to foster a passel of puppies and their mother, all desperate for shelter. Five dogs in all clambered into their Ellicott City home — a squirming, squealing brood from the Canine Humane Network, a nonprofit rescue organization in Highland.
The 4-week-old pups needed refuge until they could be adopted; their mom, a terrier mix, had Lyme disease and too little mother’s milk. So, for a month, Teresa and Michael Berman and their two sons nursed the lot until permanent homes could be found.
Challenges aside, they had the time of their lives.
“After dinner, we’d sit around and watch the puppies play,” says Teresa Berman, 48, a corporate attorney. “It was better than watching TV. I joked that this was my plan [to combat] seasonal depression; the pups really did improve everyone’s mood.”
The puppies tripled in weight during their stay — “We weighed them on a food scale to make sure they were gaining,” she said — and left in their wake more than 1,000 photos and videos of their antics. All of which took the Bermans’ minds off COVID-19.
“I loved their sibling rivalry. They would jump on each other, pull tails and play tug-of-war,” says Michael Berman, who owns an independent insurance agency. Like a proud dad, he says, “I sent pictures of the puppies to my colleagues, and now get text messages from their owners on how they’re doing.”
To date, the Bermans have cared for 12 dogs from the Highland organization in the past year. The virus has expanded his skill sets, he says:
“During the pandemic, I’ve learned to do two things: make bagels and foster dogs. I’m real proud of both.”
Nationwide, the story is much the same. In 2020, the coronavirus triggered a 15% rise in pet fostering and adoptions from the previous year — an increase of 26,000 animals overall, according to Shelter Animals Count, a nonprofit data group.