Posts tagged PAWS Lynnwood

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Foster care: ‘A shelter without walls’


Mo, a foster cat from PAWS

Sept. 19th, 2013

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne News

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

My husband, Eric, and I had presided over a two-dog, one-cat household for a long time before one of our dogs passed away in May. We were not ready to commit to another dog. Instead, we decided to foster cats and dogs from a local rescue group and help out one animal at a time.

We signed up with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) since its shelter is close to our North Seattle home. There are also foster programs through the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) and numerous private rescue groups. Smaller rescue groups also depend on foster families to care for homeless pets because they do not have a brick-and-mortar shelter.

Eric and I acquired the requisite training to volunteer and to learn how to engage with the foster-care system. We learned about pickups, drop-offs, vet appointments and how to encourage good behavior in the home so our foster animal will be adopted.

I was ecstatic when PAWS’ foster-care coordinator Rebecca Oertel called to say she had a dog needing care for two weeks. By the end of the day, our confident yet tiny foster dog, Mariah (a Chihuahua mix), was firmly established in our home and was spending her Friday night in a rambunctious play session with our dog, Toby.

Toby loved every minute of his new playmate’s company. They chased and played tug of war (with both sanctioned and unsanctioned socks). At times, my cat Buca would sit high on the counter and watch Mariah bounce around the living room like a ball in a tennis match.

Toby and Mariah

Toby and Mariah

As a puppy, Mariah needed guidance on house training, but she quickly absorbed new commands like “sit” and “stay.” She was a joy to have in our home.

When I got a voice mail that a family was keen on adopting Mariah, I was overjoyed, yet I braced myself to miss her petite and energetic spirit. Toby, Eric and I took Mariah back to the shelter together, and the abundance of kisses and hugs were natural at such a moment to say goodbye.

New foster family members

That day, Oertel introduced us to Mo, a 20-pound Maine Coon-mix cat with a positive outlook and polite disposition. In our extra bedroom, Mo hunkered down in the closet. But within a day, he found the lounge chair and amply filled it as if the space between the arms was destined for a giant, long-haired, white cat.

Mo was a perfect gentleman toward dogs, cats and people. He even graciously notified me when it was time for his litter box to be cleaned, and he kept himself and his surroundings in order. Indeed, he was a perfect houseguest, complete with good “meow” conversations in nearly comical tones.

We found it exceptionally difficult to take Mo back to the shelter so that he could meet some potential adopters. Mo awaits adoption at PAWS Cat City in Seattle’s University District.

Our current foster dog, Choco (a Chihuahua mix), is about 2 years old and started out timid around new people. Within days, she learned that life at the Lagally house is safe for dogs, and she found good company in my cat, Buca.

Choco and her shoe pile

Choco and her shoe pile

Like Mariah and Mo, Choco’s unique personality is a delight to discover. Chaco loves shoes, and she collects them from all over our house — from closets, shoe racks or the back porch — and piles them on the couch. No shoe is ever damaged — just displayed as yet another glorious find. As we take joy in and offer respect for Choco’s shoe pile, she seems to learn that people are not so scary after all.

Rewarding connections

Animals at SAS or PAWS typically need temporary foster care to recover from a cold or surgery or to take a break from the shelter. Foster families come from all walks of life, including working people, families, apartment dwellers and homeowners.

“We literally have all lifestyles represented, said SAS spokesperson Kara Main-Hester.

Main-Hester said that SAS regularly has about 130 to 200 animals in foster care and more during kitten season, and more than 700 animals per year are cared for by foster parents serving our local city shelter.

Similarly, PAWS placed around 1,600 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies in foster homes last year alone.

“The foster-care program creates a shelter without walls,” explained Oertel, who emphasized that PAWS can always use more foster families, which, in turn, helps PAWS care for even more animals.

For me, not only do foster-care programs serve an important role as part of the companion animal-shelter system, such programs also give foster parents the rewarding, heartwarming chance to connect with some very precious souls who we might otherwise never get to encounter in our journey through life.

For more information on local foster-care programs, visit the Seattle Animal Shelter website at, or contact PAWS at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of “Living Humane,” a news site providing information on humane-conscious lifestyles at She also writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at


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“The Bond” book signing in Northgate Seattle

Wayne Pacelle (HSUS) at the Northgate Barnes & Noble

With more dogs than children, it was a typical Seattle event at the Barnes & Noble yesterday morning when Wayne Pacelle, President of the HSUS came to talk about our human responsibility towards animals — a topic included in his book The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals, Our Call to Defend Them.

The group discussion was started with a great bit of local support for St. Matthew School in the Lake City area.  Nancy Edwards, school librarian, passed out coupons to visitors that allowed part of B&N’s proceeds from a purchase of “The Bond” to go towards the school’s book fair.

River that greeter dog

Our friends from PAWS were also in attendance, and River, a big black sweetie, greeted people at the door.  As an organization, PAWS works to help our community integrate with local wildlife and serves companion animals.

Pacelle’s talk on the issues of animal welfare, and especially advocacy to prevent cruelty,  included animals from horses, chickens to laboratory animals.  The crowd was well prepared with questions, and listened with engagement.

Ruth Kildall asked a question of particular interest to Washingtonians about why the HSUS decided to forgo the state ballot initiative (I-1130) to ban chicken confinement pens and instead pursue national legislation for the improvement of conditions for all hens.  Clearly other audience members had the same questions, as ears perked up once again.

Local Seattle activists Claudine Erlandson and Ruth Kildall at “The Bond” book signing.

Pacelle’s reasoning was one of resources, and he explained that the HSUS and local constituents could help the majority of hens in the US by pursuing national legislation rather than state initiative.  A state initiative would have required considerable resources beyond the successful signature gathering.  Furthermore, such initiatives would only be an option for advocates in states where the ballot initiative method is allowed to circumvent the state legislature.   The grim outcome of a patchwork of state laws to protect chickens could mean that the majority of US chickens would reside in states with no protection laws, Pacelle explained.

Wayne Pacelle explaining Meatless Mondays

Pacelle also encouraged us to choose Meatless Mondays to reduce the amount of meat we eat as a society.  “Meatless Monday saves the lives of 1.5 billion animals a year.” explained Pacelle.

In the company of friends, this book signing was a reminder that our goals to prevent cruelty to animals are shared by so many people right here in my own backyard of North Seattle.

An AHELP hospice dog, waiting for the book signing, sticks his tongue out at me.

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