In 2010, the young Withers family paid a visit to the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Perth, just to find out how they could help their local shelter. Over the next couple of weeks, Mum Emma made a few trips to donate blankets, but wanted to do more.
“Working part-time, I found I had enough time in my week to give to somebody or something, and as we love dogs we loved the idea of fostering,” said Emma. “Being a family with two young girls, two Labradors and cats, we thought we wouldn’t tick all the boxes required, but it turned out that’s exactly what they needed for fostering puppies!”
Like many shelters and rescue groups, the Dogs’ Refuge Home regularly recieves pregnant females or litters and need to get the pups into a foster home as soon as they are weaned at six weeks. This gives them a safe environment in which to live while they have all their injections before being put up for adoption.
“At first, I didn’t realise just how invaluable foster carers really are,” Emma smiled. “Being in a family home with children constantly cuddling them and other dogs socialising with them prepares the pups for life in their new homes, making the whole transition much easier for the puppies and their new adopted families. I love the fact that we give them a better chance of being successfully adopted for life.”
Emma also realises that it’s a good learning experience for her daughters, Phoebe (six) and Hannah (four), teaching them to care and show compassion for others.
“In the beginning, Phoebe was sad to see them go, as I am too sometimes, but I keep reminding myself and the girls that by looking after them and then giving them back, we’re doing a good thing. We’ve helped them find a loving home,” Emma explained. “There’s also something lovely about having puppies, kittens or baby animals around the house. They’re cute and cuddly, and they give us a lot of love and affection back.”
The Withers family has fostered five litters to date, with anywhere between six and nine pups in each litter. They generally only foster them for two to six weeks, until they all find forever homes.
And she admits that every now and then there are pups she falls in love with.
“There was one I particularly wanted to keep from a litter we had just before Christmas. She was a Kelpie and we adored her because she just fitted in with the family perfectly. And before that, we had a whole litter and adored every one. They were so good. Helpless little sweet things who loved to just snuggle up next to us,” Emma sighed. “I sometimes joke that we should sell up and move out to the country so we can adopt some of the puppies we foster, which is met with an eye-roll!”
But Emma’s mantra is to remind herself that if she adopted they would no longer be able to foster and make a difference.
“It surprises me that so few people foster,” Emma adds. “It’s really easy. You get an awful lot more out of it than you put in. I recommend it to anyone who loves animals, particularly parents – it’s a great experience for your children.”
You can help us keep saving pets too, by making a donation to our rehoming programs. It costs just $10 to match one of our rescue pets with their new family.