Man’s best friend has an ally in Emily Burgess, who just hit a milestone of fostering 800 puppies through the Stokes County Humane Society last week.
“I first became interested in fostering when I was delivering food to a family in need Thanksgiving weekend 2010,” she explained. “I saw a litter of tiny puppies shivering in the cold. I called the Stokes County Humane Society and was told that if I was willing to foster the puppies, all expenses would be covered.”
Since then she’s gone on to rescue puppies, dogs, kittens, cats, chinchillas, sugar gliders, rabbits, guinea pigs, baby goats, one potbellied pig, and a ball python. It’s become a family affair with her husband and four children pitching in as well.
“They all help with the foster babies. The children help by feeding, bathing and socializing and my husband helps with trips to the vet and transports. Even our own pets help by welcoming, sharing and teaching house manners,” she said.
As part of SCHS, Burgess finds out about animals in need through phone calls, emails, and word of mouth.
“We answer free puppy adds on Facebook yard sale pages and flyers at gas stations. We pull from high kill shelters and rescue babies found dumped out in cardboard boxes or dumpsters and parks. You name it.”
While she and other volunteers are the hands and feet behind the organization, SCHS finances vet care, food and supplies.
“I typically foster each puppy or litter for two to three weeks. If the babies are younger or sick, they’re fostered longer. If no one applies to adopt puppies locally, they’re sent on a transport to North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York. They’re the largest no kill shelter in the country and they do a fabulous job matching puppies with their perfect homes,” she said.
But there’s been exceptions. Burgess fostered a pit bull mix for 11 months after the dog was brought in and gave birth to five puppies on the cold, concrete floor.
“I couldn’t let her stay there,” she said. “I’ve fallen in love hundreds of times, but the ones that stand out most in my mind are the ones I’ve bottle fed and stayed up all night with for weeks, trying to keep them alive.”
“This year, on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, two chihuahua puppies were brought to my house. Their mother was hit and killed by a car and the puppies were only a week old. They were cold, dehydrated and very weak. One lived three more weeks and died from complications of hydrocephalus, a birth defect common in chihuahuas. The other thrived and grew and was adopted locally by a family who adopted another pup from us last year. His name was Po, but now he’s Jack and I love seeing pictures of him. It makes me happy to know I saved his life and brought a lot of happiness to his wonderful family.”
The rewards of fostering far outweigh the challenges, according to Burgess.
“The rewards are puppy breath, free snuggles, teaching my children compassion and most importantly, saving the lives of innocent animals.”
However, she is quick to say the number of local animals in dire need is alarming.
“It far exceeds the number of spaces in our foster homes and dollars needed to pay our food, vet bills and to gas up the rescue van.”
Last year SCHS saved 402 animals and continues to be a safe haven, more now than ever since Stokes County Animal Shelter has modified their services until the new shelter opens in the Meadows community.
“We’re the only game in town, so to speak,” Burgess said. “We rescue and foster as many animals as we possibly can. We speak to groups of children, teaching humane education and responsible pet ownership. We help people rehome pets in emergency life crises and we also advocate for animals in criminal abuse and neglect cases.”
“If you want to make a difference in the lives of animals in this county, first, I would suggest voting for county commissioners who will vote for and uphold laws that protect animals and hold owners accountable. Second, I would suggest supporting the Stokes County Humane Society. Foster, volunteer, share, and donate.”
For more information about the Stokes County Humane Society, visit http://www.stokescountyhumanesociety.com/.
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.