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These families opened their hearts and their homes to foster dogs during COVID-19 pandemic

Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Parenting News

At Canine Humane Network, which fosters its clientele before putting the dogs up for adoption, public support exploded at a time when most shelters, like CHN, were temporarily closing shop.

“We put out a social media plea, and people really stepped up. We’ve gotten about 150 new foster families during the pandemic,” says Mona Hicks, including those named in this story.

Five years ago, Hicks founded the no-kill shelter, which has found homes for nearly 1,700 dogs to date. Besides Maryland, strays stream in from as far away as Texas, to be scooped up by foster parents who receive the food, medical care, crates and toys, all gratis. In return, families help acclimate the dogs to a normal life for anywhere from a few days to several months.

“The community help has been wonderful,” Hicks says. “Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to accept so many animals from other states; they probably would have been euthanized.”

‘To do something positive’

Each dog enters the foster home in Clarksville timid and fearful, eyes darting this way and that. Abuse and neglect may be all he or she has known; why should this place be different?


As always, Cindy Benedek leads the new dog into the kitchen, set off by baby gates, to sniff and to settle in. Then she trots out George, the family’s Great Pyrenees mix and a 90-pound galoot, for a meet-and-greet. The reaction is swift.

“The pups are nervous until they see George; then they physically relax,” says Benedek, who has fostered seven dogs in the past year. “George wags his tail and gets all wiggly. He gets down on the ground, the puppies jump on him and they wrestle. The whole time they’re here, the pups just follow him around.”

Like others, Benedek and her husband, Dave, began taking in shelter dogs during the pandemic “to do something positive while we’re stuck at home,” but also to give George a friend.

“Before, he would come up while I was working at the computer and want to play,” says Benedek, 54, a biology instructor at Howard Community College. “George would bop me on the back with his nose and then stand there and stare at me.”


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