Thursday, June 24, 2021
Pandemic Pups Keep Foster Pet Mom Busy
Jen Barth took this picture of Sandy with a fall motif.
Friday, April 30, 2021




You’ve probably heard about the rise in popularity of pandemic puppies and lap cats as isolation has left many people longing for the comforting company of man’s best canine and feline friends. So, it’s not surprising there has been a shortage of adoptable pets nationwide.

Jen Barth and her shelter dog Ginger enjoy a hug and a hike above Sun Valley.

And yet Jen Barth often has piles of cute puppies and cuddly kittens living at her house in Hailey. It’s all part of her volunteer job as a foster mom for nearby Mountain Humane.

Outside of working in the Sun Valley Ticketing and Pass Office as Assistant Manager Operations, she’s busy providing a loving home for young orphaned puppies and kittens.

“I put them in a routine right away, keep them calm, quiet, and let them relax, see that people are good… that food is available, and then they are balanced and happy, have no fears, and know what love is,” she explains her welcoming approach.

When the Barth family moved to the Wood River Valley from Vermont six years ago, she went straight to the local animal shelter to get involved, because it’s usually “where I meet my favorite people, too,” she says.

Jen Barth commemorated the “Big Bang” TV show with this picture of five Blue Heeler mix pups.

Barth went home from volunteer orientation with Ginger, a six or seven-year-old mix. When the family’s other dog passed away, the discussion came up on whether to get another dog and then Barth was asked to foster two Chihuahua mixes. After that she took in four puppies with pneumonia who needed hand feeding.

To date she figures she has fostered close to 70 puppies, remembers all of their names, and occasionally still receives updates from their owners.

Last summer when the shelter took in a lot of young kittens, she started fostering them, too. Barth says she is glad her daughter Dakota’s high school schedule had some flexibility during COVID, because the kittens are usually feral and “we spend a lot of time just holding them” to get them used to people.

Barth sends her “foster babies” to their forever homes with a five-page information sheet on how to be a good puppy parent.

Who could resist the “Candy Crew.”

“All the pups want to do is please you. Make sure you are kind and loving, like you want to be treated,” she says.

“They’re not a thing to own, they’re a part of your family.”

The puppies are usually spayed or neutered at the shelter at about eight weeks old, and then they are ready to leave the nest and benefit from more individualized attention.

Barth’s puppy information sheet emphasizes: “Everything your puppy does is directly related to how you are doing as a puppy parent. If things aren’t going well, it is never the puppy’s fault. It is yours and you need to step back and get some guidance on what might work better.”

Dakota Barth, Jen’s daughter, plays with Starburst.

Tips she shares:

*Always praise the good behavior and completely ignore the bad behavior.

*Never ever hit or physically dominate your puppy.

*Never be mad at your puppy for unwanted behaviors.

*Do not isolate your puppy (except when using a crate at night).

*Consistency is key.

*Never play with your hands and feet as toys.

*Do not run around encouraging the puppy to chase you.

*Never pull your puppy while walking on a leash.

Barth may sound serious in her notes, but she has a very playful side, for example, taking photos of all the pups in outfits that often tie into the closest holiday.

She switched it up, however, for the five Blue Heeler mix pups she fostered this spring. She named them after the characters in the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” and then dressed them up accordingly for their group photo.

Barth also likes to send the pups home with a gift bag containing two toys she makes. She wraps a sock around a plastic bottle filled with kibble. It makes noise and provides entertainment, as does the braided rope tug-of-war toy made out of old T-shirts.

Over a year ago the number of people offering to foster pets for Mountain Humane more than doubled. The shelter supplies foster parents with food and medical care for the pets, and welcomes new participants all the time.

 “Since October, we have placed 208 animals into foster care with 144 participating foster families,” says Mountain Humane Adoption and Foster Manager Lauren Rujawitz.

There are “regulars” like Barth, new foster families, and then those who opt to foster for a week or so to see how an adopted animal might fit into their home.

In the last six months, 74 of the 87 participants in the foster-to-adopt program ended up adopting their animals.

Barth says, “We thought we’d be getting returns, but now nationwide people are adopting a pet to keep their pets company,” says Barth.

Hence, yet another shortage of adoptable animals as people come out of isolation.


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