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Foster parenting for pets

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Animals get second chance thanks to Bangor Humane Society's foster homes



BANGOR - There are more foster homes in the state of Maine than you think. That's because when many people imagine foster parenting, they immediately think of caring for a child, minor or ward of the state. But there is actually a large group of people out there that are foster parents to another group of children in need - fur babies. The Bangor Humane Society relies on these foster "pet" parents to care for the cats and dogs that come through its doors that aren't quite ready to be placed in forever homes.

"I probably have 40-50 people in the foster group right now, and a lot of them have been foster parents for years," explained Kimberly Patterson, foster care coordinator for the Bangor Humane Society.

One of those long-time foster parents is Gwyneth Mattingly of Bangor. Although she has pets of her own, she has fostered several dogs for the shelter.

"I think it's a great option for people who have the space and time," said Gwyneth Mattingly. "I started with three puppies from the same litter and had them for eight weeks, which was a lot of work all at once. Then I had a hound dog for a whole summer, a husky, and my most recent was a hound/lab mix."

According to Patterson, finding a foster home for dogs is a lot harder than cats.

"Dogs are always harder because the dogs that need foster care have health or behavior issues," said Patterson. "I've been fostering a dog since February. She's 11, overweight and has a thyroid issue. So she's on a weight loss program with us."

Both Mattingly and Patterson agree it's easy to get attached to some of the animals in the foster program.

"It doesn't have to do with how often you had them, it depends on the dog and the bond," said Mattingly. "The most recent dog I had, the hound/lab mix, was the most difficult [for me] to bring back."

That's why Patterson is always in touch and in tune with her foster families.

"It does kind of wear on you emotionally," she said. "Sometimes my foster parents will let me know they need to regroup or take a break especially if they're fostering an animal with an illness we can't fix."

Since the Bangor Humane Society covers all expenses from vet care to dog crates, food dishes and litter, it helps many of the shelter's foster pet parents to open their doors to another animal in need sooner rather than later.

"It's rewarding but [fostering a dog] takes a certain personality," said Mattingly. "I'm a certified dog trainer so it helps that I can give an accurate assessment on how a dog would be in a home situation."

For more information on the Bangor Humane Society's foster program, log on to 


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