Barbara and Ed Buchanan hold foster cats Keeli
and Kami outside their Greenacres home. The
couple are foster volunteers for the Palm Beach
County Animal Control Center. Keeli and Kami
are the 73rd and 74th kittens the Buchanans
have fostered. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
Ed Buchanan embodies one of my favorite pet qualities: He is living proof that real men love cats. He estimates that he has cared for 74 kittens at his Greenacres home so far this year.
You read right: 74. Before you gasp at the notion of 74 fun-seeking, curtain-climbing kittens inside this man’s three-bedroom villa, I am happy to report that Buchanan is an ardent volunteer for the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, based in West Palm Beach. He and his wife, Barbara, serve as foster pet parents, caring for up to five kittens at any one time. They prefer two to three at a time. Currently, their temporary guests are feline siblings answering to the names Kami and Keeli.
“I’ve retired three times and each time, I got bored sick of playing golf, tennis and swimming,” says Buchanan, a retired executive chef. “But I didn’t want to go back to work. I’ve loved cats since I was a kid, so I decided to volunteer at the shelter and found out that I love fostering kittens.”
Challis Thompson of Lantana agreed to a friend’s request to care for Sammy, a 4-year-old Bichon Frisé while his owner was traveling to Jerusalem. That was back in January, and Thompson has recently learned that Sammy’s owner may not return for another eight months to a year.
That’s fine with her and her husband, Peter Bloom. This is their first time caring for a dog and they’ve found out how much they enjoy fostering.
“I’m 59 years old and Sammy keeps me young,” declares Thompson. “Sammy has the sweetest personality.”
Do you have what it takes to succeed as a foster pet parent? Animal shelters and people taking extended leaves from home for business or for serving in the military are in need of people possessing the special ability to nurture and bring out the healthy best in cats, dogs and other companion animals — all with the knowledge that their stay is only temporary until the animal lands a loving, forever home.
Tammy Roberts leads the foster pet parent orientation program at ACC. The most recent event attracted about 20 people, ranging from high school students to senior citizens, being welcomed into the fostering ranks.
“We look for people with a genuine love of animals,” says Roberts, who personally has fostered more than 100 dogs and cats in the past nine years. “We also do background checks to make sure they have never had any animal cruelty or human abuse charges. And, if they rent, we get verification from the landlord that it is OK for them to bring in shelter animals to foster.”
Her message to all potential foster parents: “You are giving these animals the best chance to get permanent, loving homes. Your job is to care for them and to love them until they are ready for adoption.”
Buchanan and Thompson offered some insights on how to success as a foster pet parent:
n Pet-proof your home before the shelter critter arrives. That means ensuring electrical cords are out of access of curious pets or fitted inside protective, chew-proof casings. It also means storing chocolate, sugar-free gum (containing xylitol) and other household ingredients poisonous to pets.
n Make sure your own pets are current on their vaccines. Often, shelter animals sent to foster homes are very young or recovering from an injury or illness and need added attention. They may have still-developing or weakened immune systems. Work with your veterinarian to ensure your own pets are at their healthy best so that they will not be at risk for any contagious disease transmitted by these furry visitors.
n Provide safe play toys — and remember to play. Forgo strings and or toy mice that contain small items that a kitten may swallow and choke. Opt for feather wands and balls that they can stalk and chase. Schedule regular play sessions each day and you will find yourself feeling happier and healthier, too.
n Serve up healthy chow. Adhere to the foster pet’s dietary needs to minimize any chance for gastrointestinal issues.
n Be willing to learn new pet skills. Buchanan has mastered the art of bottle-feeding kittens and Thompson enrolled in a dog obedience class with Sammy to re-enforce his “sit, stay, watch me, leave it” cues and to bolster their friendship bond.
As for the rewards one receives by fostering? It can’t be equated in terms of dollars.
“Barbara and I tell our friends that we are giving these kittens the best possibly start they can have,” says Buchanan. “Saying goodbye to them is never easy, but we remind ourselves that they are ready to enjoy being in forever homes.”
And, by that statement, Buchanan furthers my belief that real men do love cats.
In the August issue, we staged a contest to see which one of our loyal Coastal Star readers would get their paws on an autographed copy of my latest book, What Dogs Want. Dozens of you vied, but the lucky 24th person to email me was Challis Thompson of Lantana. Congrats
Arden Moore, founder of FourLegged
Life.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and certified pet first aid instructor. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on Pet Life Radio.com and learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.