MHS In-home Heroes
Fostering tomorrow’s best friends
Diana Humfleet didn’t plan on becoming a pet foster parent. When she first joined the Michigan Humane Society’s volunteer program, Humfleet started as a dog walker. Like many other volunteers at MHS’ three centers for animal care, she spent a few hours a week giving dogs some fresh air, socialization and playtime. While she wanted to do more to help animals in need, she initially was wary about the prospect of opening up her home to sick, injured or young animals who were not yet ready for adoption.
Then one day, her daughter asked whether they could start fostering cats. Once she started, she was hooked. “I foster constantly,” Humfleet says. “Probably around 50 cats a year for the last two-and-a-half years.” Today, Humfleet heads one of MHS’ most prolific foster families, who are dubbed “In-home Heroes” for the life-saving care they provide. Working exclusively with cats, she already has helped MHS save the lives of more than a hundred animals. While each cat has a unique story, one in particular stuck out for Humfleet. “Licorice was part of a litter of 5-week-old kittens with upper respiratory infections,” Humfleet says.
“While the others recovered quickly, Licorice took a turn for the worse – he was lethargic and having difficulty eating.” After weeks of TLC provided by his caring foster mom and medical care provided by the MHS Berman Center for Animal Care in Westland, Licorice’s condition gradually improved, and he soon was adopted – by Humfleet. “He had so much heart; I couldn’t bear to let him go,” Humfleet says.
Like many new foster volunteers, Humfleet initially had questions about the program’s expectations and requirements. The most frequent inquiries include affordability of supplies and veterinary care, as well as how often volunteers are expected to care for these animals. Chrissy Schmoock, MHS foster program coordinator, answers these and other questions on a daily basis.
“We support our foster families to make this program work well for them and their specific lifestyle,” she says. “This support includes MHS providing all the pet food, cat litter and veterinary care necessary to treat each animal and get them healthy in a warm and comforting home environment. And, no matter how much or how little time a volunteer has to give, they can help make a positive impact and save lives.”
According to Schmoock, fostering is one of the most important ways the public can help save the lives of treatable animals who need more time or care prior to adoption.
Foster volunteers select the animals they would like to foster, at the times they feel comfortable fostering. Some foster once a month while others foster once or twice a year, and many have pets of their own.
One In-home Hero who balances his busy life with fostering dogs is Jamahl Scott, MHS volunteer programs manager. Scott, who has two dogs of his own, says that while he was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to give up an animal once he began fostering, he knew firsthand from working at MHS that the need for additional foster homes was great. “Even though I felt it might be an emotional risk to get attached to an animal and then have to give him up, the joy of knowing that I helped save another life is worth it,” Scott says. “I try to foster two or three times a year as my schedule allows.”
Last year, 229 MHS foster volunteers changed nearly 2,000 animal lives. As MHS shifts its focus to helping save the lives of more treatable animals, the importance of these men and women who open their homes and hearts to animals in need has never been greater. If every animal that has a chance is going to find a home, the foster program will need to grow in the coming years to meet the ever-increasing need.
“This is a program that is directly saving lives,” Schmoock says. “It’s one of the most satisfying and rewarding ways that someone can help the animals here at MHS.”
If you’d like to learn more about the In-home Heroes program, visit www.michiganhumane.org/foster or call Chrissy Schmoock at 734.721.7300, ext. 449.