Adopted and Foster Pets Bring Comfort and Companionship During Time of Coronavirus

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Teddy and Mocha: Newest members to the King family. Photo courtesy of the King family.

Lizzy King and her family always knew they would have two dogs someday. That day came in mid-March when K-12 public schools closed statewide to help slow the spread of covid-19. King knew it was time for her family to act and find their second canine, even though they had just adopted a 1-year-old pit-lab mix in January.

King gathered her husband and two sons—ages 6 and 2—around the computer that Friday in their East Lansing home. They looked at adoptable pets posted on the Capital Area Humane Society website. A puppy with deep brown eyes captured their attention. They knew he could be the perfect companion to Mocha. Something just felt right.

“Since we had already made the decision about having a second dog, we felt comfortable with the impulse,” said King. “We also thought if the kids were going to be home, we would be, too. We thought we should adopt now, rather than later.”

On Monday, King called and scheduled an appointment at CAHS. At noon, they went to the west Lansing facility as a family to meet their prospective puppy. As they were talking with an adoption counselor, they heard phones ringing off the hook. Something was happening. It was March 23. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had just issued her first stay home/stay safe order related to pandemic. Dozens of people were calling to adopt or foster pets, realizing the time was right.

Within a few hours, the Kings adopted and brought home a 2-month-old rottweiler-pit mix. Mocha accepted the puppy quickly, just like the counselors at CAHS had anticipated. The two King boys named the puppy Teddy—short for Teddy Bear—and welcomed him to his forever home. 

“The shift of suddenly leaving school and being at home was dramatic for us, so having the dogs was really helpful and gave us that feeling of having someone else who needs you,” said King. “The new puppy gave our oldest boy an added companion. He sat with Teddy a lot on the couch and petted and cared for him. Seeing that affirmed we were giving him something that would help.”

Thought becomes action

Paulette Stenzel had been thinking of getting a small dog for a while. She retired from Michigan State University in mid-May and knew she would be traveling less. And while she had had cats for much of her adult life, she remembered dogs from her youth, particularly a collie.

Two-year-old Paulette Stenzel, her grandfather Raymond D. Harrison, and her first dog in an undated family photo. Photo courtesy of Paulette Stenzel.

“The stay-at-home order made my decision come a little faster,” said the retired professor of international business law and sustainability. “I thought, ‘why am I waiting?’ I wasn’t going to be traveling for a while. It was simply the perfect time in a lot of ways.”

Stenzel opted for a puppy. She had heard good things about Havanese dogs and a local breeder who specialized in the gregarious, small canine. She also like that the breed hailed from Cuba since much of her professional research was based in several Latin American countries.

Stenzel contacted Charley and Michele Van Dien to discuss adopting a Havanese through VanCort’s Properties and Puppies. Based in Bath, the Van Diens have specialized in raising and socializing Havanese puppies in a non-kennel, home setting for more than 17 years. 

As a registered, AKC-breeder, the Van Diens educate and screen prospective owners, and keep puppies in their care and with their mother for the first eight weeks of life. The Van Diens also partner with several local veterinarians to ensure the health and wellness of each litter and their parents.

“Havanese are wonderful pets,” said Charley Van Dien. “We’ve never gotten so many calls as we have in the last 10 to 12 weeks. This is a great time to take a new dog into your house because you’re at home more and have more time to train.”

The Van Diens got their first Havanese nearly two decades ago as a companion to their rescue Cocker Spaniel. Bopper will celebrate her 17th birthday on July 6, just a few days before Stenzel is scheduled to take her new puppy home. 

Stenzel recently decided to name her puppy Maya. She also stocked up on the recommended puppy food, leash, bed and other essentials to keep Maya safe, comfortable and happy. She hopes to take Maya back to VanCort’s for occasional visits and boarding—something the Van Diens welcome as part of their family-friendly business model.

Havanese puppy Maya at 4 weeks and 3 days old. Photo courtesy of VanCort’s Properties and Puppies.

“We love seeing our alumni,” Van Dien said. “We’ve made lots of lifetime friends through this business.”

Planning and preparing to welcome a dog into her life has given Stenzel a focus aside from the concerns related to the pandemic. While she has routines like phone calls with friends, social media check-ins, and making and delivering contactless lunches to a homeless shelter, Stenzel is more aware than ever of her need for interaction.

“Animals bond with you. They love you unconditionally,” she said. “My dad is 91 and has two Australian shepherds. They give him reason to get up in the morning. While I don’t necessarily need that, taking care of a little dog helps you get out of yourself. You get a lot in return.”

Never alone

As Michigan goes from shut-down to re-opening, the number of people adopting and fostering pets through the CAHS has remained steady, if not slightly elevated. 

Community Relations Director Penny Myers said that 100 pets were placed in foster homes from the moment the stay-at-home order began to the day the CAHS reopened on June 4. Of the 100 animals fostered during the shutdown, 12 were adopted by their foster families. 

“I think we had more people step up to the plate to foster because they saw a need and wanted to help,” she said. “We also got a lot of people stepping up to foster animals because they were home and knew they could give pets a lot of attention during that time.”

One of those people was Sue Karr—a long-time volunteer. 

The moment she heard the CAHS needed foster families, Karr was on the phone, asking after a cat she knew about. While she already had three felines, she had bonded with Pierre a short-haired black cat with gold eyes, and wanted to bring him home as a foster animal. 

 Pierre the foster cat relaxes in his favorite spot. Photo courtesy of Sue Karr.

“He was a little scared at first,” said Karr. “But he came out after about seven or eight hours.”

Karr retired from the MSU Federal Credit Union in August 2019, and spends her days volunteering and visiting with family and friends. In her 14 years as a volunteer for several animal organizations, she has fostered nearly 200 animals and adopted six cats.

During quarantine, Karr rarely left home except for essentials, and stayed busy taking care of her pets. When her oldest cat Miracle passed away toward the end of May, she knew for certain she could offer Pierre a forever home.

“Some people felt boxed in by the stay-at-home order, but I never felt alone,” said Karr. “The cats were always there, following me around, wanting attention, or curling up with me. I talk with them all the time. It’s just like having other people in the house.”

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