Fostering a Pet

Jan 272004
Authors: Brittany Burke

Some may have coped with the death of a pet, but it might be

somewhat less normal to have chosen to say goodbye in order to

benefit someone else’s life.

Janet Bayless, the executive director of Canine Partners of the

Rockies, helps raise service dogs to help people with disabilities

other than blindness.

“At a very early age these dogs are little sponges for

information,” Bayless said.

Canine Partners of the Rockies is currently training 18 dogs,

Bayless said. For the first seven to eight weeks the “puppy

starter” teaches the dog the basics like the command “sit.”

“Sometimes the puppy starter becomes the puppy raiser,” Bayless

said. “It all just depends on the dog and the person.”

Bayless grew up around dogs and has been involved with service

dogs for the last seven years. She recognizes the difficulty of

letting a pet go after growing attached to it.

“Of course it is difficult,” Bayless said. “We like to say the

way to deal is to drink a lot of red wine and eat a lot of

chocolate. We cry a lot.”

The trained dogs are usually placed within 18 months, Bayless


“It’s good to know we are making a difference,” Bayless said.

“We also get to see this change in the dogs. They really like what

they do.”

Not all dogs are cut out for the service life and those who are

not are adopted out to good families, she said.

“We recently released a dog that just wasn’t happy,” Bayless

said. “We let the puppy raisers have the first shot at adopting

them. If they can’t adopt we look for a good, caring home.”

Canine Partners of the Rockies mostly uses Golden Retriever and

Labradors, but sometimes it uses Standard Poodles, Bayless


When asked what qualities a person who wants to train dogs

should have, Bayless said, “patience, patience and patience. Along

with consistency, patience is the most important quality.”

Training isn’t the only reason people decide to foster animals.

The Cat Care Society in Lakewood has about 20 volunteers taking

care of kittens and cats waiting to be adopted by permanent


“We have foster parents for underage kittens until they reach

two pounds,” said Sherri Leggett, the shelter manager. “We also

have foster parents for orphan kittens and older cats.”

Although these cats aren’t going to help people with

disabilities, they do make people happy.

“Once you realize you can help that many kittens (it becomes

worthwhile),” Leggett said. “We are putting them into really good


Volunteers are not always cut out to be foster parents, Leggett


“The first two or three times it is difficult because they do

get attached,” Leggett said. “We have had some volunteers adopt

entire litters.”

Darlene Mason, a volunteer at the Cat Care Society, has been

taking care of kittens since 1987 and has dealt with the heartache

of letting the cats go.

“It’s very sad in some cases,” Mason said. “It’s difficult, but

I can deal with it. I know they are going to good homes so it is

very rewarding.”

Mason has been tempted to adopt many of her foster cats, but she

has avoided temptation.

“You have to be realistic about it,” Mason said. “It’s just like

a parent. You know your kids are going to grow up and you have to

deal with that. You can’t let emotions get in the way.”

The Larimer Humane Society finds fewer problems with foster

parents wanting to adopt.

“A lot of our volunteers are college students who can’t make a

commitment (to take care of an animal) full time,” said Cary

Rentola, the manager of community relations.

Rentola said the bond between humans and animals has been around

for ages.

“The animal is really an extension of the family,” Rentola


Although the bond is still present between a foster parent and a

pet, these volunteers find the outcomes more rewarding than the

immediate pain of saying goodbye.

“Nothing worth doing is ever easy,” Bayless said. “The more

worthwhile (something) is, the harder it is to do.”

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