“Mom” to many

Pet fostering offers chaos, rewards

8-31 FOSTER 1 MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Carrie Rowe snuggles with Sailor, a puppy she provided foster care for in her Little Hocking home. Sailor is the last of 10 puppies in a litter she cared for to be adopted.

LITTLE HOCKING – When the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley animal shelter receives animals that need extra care and attention, it turns to one of more than 50 foster volunteers ready to take dogs, cats, puppies or kittens into their homes.

Even without foster animals, Carrie Rowe’s Little Hocking home on a hill looking over the Ohio River is a haven for rescued dogs. She has 11 of them, and visitors need to be prepared for a mild mobbing at the gate. In their clean, friendly way they check each arrival. All were fostered pets she decided to keep.

Talking to her is a near-Dickensian experience of animal chronicles. Daniel, a mixed breed boisterous black-and-white dog of about 25 pounds, 20 of which are probably mischief, came to her when he was three days old, not expected to live.

“I kept him in a box on the kitchen table for a month, bottle-feeding him every few hours,” Rowe said. The only sign of a traumatic puppyhood is a catch in his walk from a neurological problem in his front leg.

Penny is a medium size brown dog with appealing eyes, quiet but insistent on being acknowledged, and only when she gets up from the floor is it apparent she’s missing a back leg.

“She was hit by a car, and we tried to save the leg but it had to be amputated,” Rowe said.

Oliver is a big, slate-colored crossbreed with a mildly wolfish look, quiet and affectionate.

“I knew when he came here he was going to stay,” she said.

Rowe, 57 and a retired engineer, said her grandfather raised field trial beagles, and taught her to care for them when she was a child.

“I learned how to tube-feed puppies when I was 8,” she said. “The crazy thing is it’s hard, but I love doing it. You get kind of goofy after doing it for a while, but now that I’m retired I can do it all the time.”

Bent on a career as a veterinarian, Rowe said when she was in high school she spoke to a vet who gave her a different perspective.

“He told me if I wanted to be a vet, I needed to love medicine and like animals, not the other way around. Well, I didn’t love medicine,” she said. Her career path made it possible to do volunteer work for animal shelters, and now in retirement she can devote all the time she wants to making a difference in the lives of animals.

She served as president of the humane society in Parkersburg for several years, and as an engineer, she said, “I have a system for everything.”

Rowe also runs her own nonprofits, one of which fosters animals for domestic violence victims, making it easier for people to leave abusive situations with the assurance their pets have someplace to go temporarily while they are getting their lives back on the rails.

It’s a life that is both systematic and unpredictable, but from feeding the dogs and cats in the morning – her cats and her current foster kittens have separate quarters upstairs, except for a four-kitten litter lodged in the downstairs bathroom – to cleaning and mopping, then sitting down in the room with a view of the river and having coffee while the dogs mill around her, explore the yard, and nap.

“I am an immediate gratification person, I like things that are immediately visible,” she said. “It’s neat when I get messages from people about how their animals that I’ve fostered are doing, but when they talk to me I recognize the dogs, not the people.”

On Tuesday, she was waiting for the adoptive family to claim Sailor, last of the latest litter. Despite having her own dogs to keep her company, she said, a feeling of loneliness descends on her when the last of the litter, whether puppies or kittens, leaves with its new family.

“Someone will come by today and take him away,” she said, nodding at the sleeping dog on the sofa. “And tonight, I’ll phone my three shelters and tell them I’m available. Because this is what I love to do.”

Anyone interested in providing foster care can contact the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley at 740-373-5959.

“You don’t have to be crazy like me to do it,” Rowe said with a laugh.

Foster animal homes:

•Care mainly for dogs and cats that need special attention, such as litters of young ones.

•Take pressures off animal shelter staff.

•Open additional space in shelters.

•For information: Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, 740-373-5959.