Pet lovers serve as foster parents to homeless animals

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

On a winding dirt road, a few miles outside Greenville, sits a white brick house, surrounded by bright, blooming flowers and green plants, a vibrant testimony to their green-thumbed owner.

The numerous cats and dogs, kittens and puppies who call Wite Road home are doing just fine, too.

For some, it's their permanent address. For others, it's a safe and loving place to live until a permanent home can be found.

Kandys Killough is the foster mom to these animals. School bus driver, &#8221Pet Nanny“ and former manager of the Greenville Animal Shelter, Killough is one of several Butler County Humane Society members, including Inga Lawrence and Brenda Whitney, who serve as homeless animals' temporary caretakers.

Curious kittens &

bouncin' hounds

&#8221There are just so many animals that have to be put down here every yearŠwe are trying to do what we can to save those we can save,“ Killough says as she pets one of the bottle-fed animals, a sweet-tempered, caramel-eyed pup named Baby.

Brenda Whitney explains why there is a need for foster pet parents in Butler County.

&#8221(The animal shelter) doesn't have the facilities to house special needs puppies and kittens. Animals that have to be bottle fed around the clock must be taken home with someone who is willing to spend the time needed to ensure they get a good start in life,“ Whitney, who works in quality assurance for LV Stabler Hospital, says.

Whitney, who has been foster parenting since February 2005, is currently caring for two puppies at her home. There's Jesse James, a three-and-half-month-old black and tan Shepherd mix, and Cali, a three-and-a-half-month-old female tan Lab mix.

&#8221Those precious puppies have been with me since about six weeks of age,“ she says.

Hounds Buck, Daisy and Duke, once tiny bottle-fed pups, are now bounding around in the corral at Killough's home, healthy, happy and full of energy, &#8221just waiting to go hunting with somebody.“

&#8221We had eight hounds and we've adopted out five - which is just wonderful,“ Killough says with a grin. &#8221All our puppies have their shots, and when they are five months or older, they are spayed or neutered. They are in good shape for their new homes.“

The bottle-fed animals seem particularly friendly and trusting. When a newcomer enters their domain, a bevy of curious kittens proceed to gather around to sniff clothing and shoes.

One &#8221tuxedo“ kitten investigates a camera bag while another speckle-coated feline manages to climb the photographer's back, much to her delight.

Kendall Mixon laughs at the antics of her &#8221babies“ as she looks on with obvious affection.

The 13-year-old is a regular visitor to Killough's home. She began bottle-feeding Baby the pup, along with several kittens, during the summer.

The teenager sits down to play with one of the kittens, and several others quickly join her.

&#8221It's a lot of fun. I enjoy taking care of them. I really want them to find good homes,“ Mixon says.

Killough says helpers like Mixon and her dad, Ken, who can assist with bottle-feeding and socializing the young animals are a godsend.

&#8221We just need a lot more people who are willing to give their time and their love to do this. We had to put down a mother and her five-day-old litter of puppies - there was no one available to feed them,“ Killough says, shaking her head.

Feathered friends, for whom there are no facilities at the local shelter, have been getting a helping hand from Inga Lawrence, who has rehabbed a number of birds over the years.

&#8221Once I am able to let them outside, I feed them out on the deck. For a while they keep coming back, and then they finally fly off,“ Lawrence says.

Other birds have been taken to the bird sanctuary at Oak Mountain State

Park in Birmingham. Lawrence has also rehabbed several fury friends since becoming involved with the humane society three years ago.

Time, love and patience

What about the cost of caring for these animals? The foster parents do get assistance with the financial aspects, Killough and Whitney say.

&#8221Pet food, donated to the animal shelter by Wal-Mart, is used by the BCHS to feed foster animals. The humane society also covers the costs of the puppy and kitten formula, and reimburses us for the costs of shots and cat litter,“ Whitney says.

She adds she does stock up on detergent on sale, as bottle-fed puppies and kittens &#8221go through plenty of towels and blankets“ during their care.

&#8221People are really generous in giving to support the shelter, so the cost isn't really bad for foster parents,“ Killough says.

The biggest expense involved in being a foster parent just may be the emotional toll it can take on the caregiver.

It's hard, they say, seeing an animal that has suffered at the hands of an abusive owner. It's tough having an animal die in your hands because someone didn't let it stay long enough with its mother to get a good start in life.

&#8221When you spend all hours of the night and day bottle feeding puppies or kittens, and then wake up to find one of them wasn't strong enough to make it to the next feedingŠthat is really hard,“ Whitney says.

&#8221Somehow, you find the strength to deal with it and move on, because you look down at the other babies that are counting on you as the source of their food and love.

&#8221The big expense is your time, your love and your patience. To finally see them adopted out and hope they live a good, long life with a family that will enjoy them as much as I have, well, that's the best part of it all,“ Whitney says.

Despite some heartache along the way, Killough says fostering the animals is &#8221the most rewarding thing I've ever done.“

&#8221Giving them up to their adoptive parents is the hardest thing - and the best thing - about doing this,“ she says.

&#8221Once, back when I was still working at the shelter, we had a wonderful dog that seemed to be there foreverŠwhen that dog was finally adopted out, we were so happy, we almost cried.“

Looking for a good home

There are certain animals that especially capture the caregivers' hearts.

&#8221We have a wonderful bloodhound mix that's now at the shelter. Betsy lost a leg after an accident. She's a great dog but she can't be around horses. We'd love to see Betsy get a good home,“ Whitney says.

Another dog at the shelter, a Husky mix, formerly belonged to a family who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

&#8221They were going to have him euthanized, but we are trying to find a good home for him for him instead,“ Whitney says.

She also mentions a spayed adult cat who's &#8221very gentle and loving, and needs a new home.“

Baby, the pup bottle fed by Kendall Mixon, is clearly a favorite of Killough, who has visited local preschool classes with the puppy.

&#8221This has turned out to be such a good, docile animalŠshe's just no trouble at all,“ she says with a smile as she watches Mixon scratch the puppy's belly. &#8221I hope we find a good home for her - and if we don't, that's OK, too.“

And there's Precious, a lively six-month-old tan and white pup; the three hounds, Buck, Luke and Daisy, more dogs and puppies, and all those playful kittens, from the black and white tuxedos to the silver tabbies.

&#8221We really need homes for the kittens. Some of them will go over to Atlanta to a no-kill shelter; still, we'd like to find good homes for them here,“ Killough says.

Adoption is $55, and covers the cost of any needed shots, vet check and spaying and neutering - &#8221a bargain compared to what it costs in some places,“ Killough says.

The foster parents encourage folks to consider adopting older animals as well as puppies and kittens.

&#8221They can be wonderful companions, too,“ Killough says.

Several of the animals at the shelter and in foster care can be seen at the website, The city shelter, located on at 1310 E. Commerce St., is open Monday through Friday.

Some of the foster and shelter animals will also be making a personal appearance at this weekend's Blues Fest and at the Old Time Farm Day at the end of the month.

The volunteers have high hopes of finding the right person or family for a least a few of those animals in need for a good home.

&#8221And we need more people who have the time and facilities to do this, to foster animalsŠI would love to talk to anyone interested in doing this,“ Killough says.

&#8221There are so many animals who need our help.“

For more information, contact the Greenville Animal Shelter at 382-7806, Kandys Killough at 437-0729 or Brenda Mitchell at 437-3330.