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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

Their antics amuse Brown, who marvels at this twist of fate. A year ago, she and Swanner had an apartment, busy jobs and no thoughts of raising pets. Then the virus struck and, while working from home, they chose to foster a dog in need through the Canine Humane Network. Enter Flossi, an Australian cattle dog mix suffering from heartworm. For two months, they nursed the 3-year-old back to health and when Flossi was fit — and adoptable — the couple hedged. The dog was family; they couldn’t give her up. Moreover, in the midst of the pandemic, they bought a home to give her more room to roam.

“We’d been talking about [getting a house] anyway, but Flossi was the tipping point,” Brown says. They continued to foster and then fell for Hope, a pit bull mix who arrived scrawny, sick and terrified of men. Now, months later, the two dogs go for woodsy walks, romp in a nearby dog park and generally have the run of the house, including the office where Brown, a therapist, sees patients.

“They’ll come into the office through a doggy door where clients can see them. It’s an icebreaker, for sure,” she says. Flossi and Hope lift Brown’s spirits as well.

“I can end a session, go downstairs, sit on the sofa with them and recharge,” she says. “And on days when I’m frustrated and just want this whole [pandemic] to be over, Hope will cuddle in my lap. She came with that name, and it fits. These dogs have gone through hard times, yet they are still willing to give humans a chance.”

A sense of purpose

Elizabeth Burrage fosters shelter dogs in order to look after them until their big day comes. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Burrage, 31, was seven months pregnant on New Year’s Day when the family welcomed Cookie, a lab mix who soon took the woman’s condition to heart.

“She curled up on the couch, in my lap, and put her head and paw on my ‘bump,’ " Burrage says. “It was comforting.”

 

Eventually, Cookie found a stable home, as have the other five dogs that Burrage and her husband, Tyler, have fostered in their Elkridge residence since the start of COVID-19. They’ve had Faith, a deaf Pomeranian mix who arrived on the mend from a fractured jaw; Boston, a three-legged mutt who now goes for hikes with his new family; and Rocco, a mongrel who’d had both hips fused, forcing him to sit with his feet to one side, like a mermaid.

“They were all my first babies, and they have a special place in my heart,” says Burrage, a resource development manager for The Arc of Howard County. She and her husband, a civil engineer, have two dogs of their own but chose also to foster others “to give us a sense of purpose during the pandemic.”

“When you’re quarantined, unless you’re a front line worker there’s not much you can do to help in situations where there is a whole lot of despair. I love giving dogs a second chance and being part of their journey to find families that want them. You don’t have to have a perfect house or yard to foster; these dogs just need to know that they’ll be safe.”

While parting with each adoptee is “bittersweet,” the goodbyes are always cathartic, she says.

“The night before [each adoption], I make some one-on-one time,” she says. “We snuggle on the bed and I tell them everything will be OK — and that they don’t have to worry about anything in their lives that has happened before.”

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