Two rescues have emptied the animal shelter. They couldn’t have done it without you, the fosters

As of this writing, you can almost equate the absence of pets in kennel areas at Long Beach Animal Care Services with paper-goods shelves in supermarkets. Almost—although Mayor Robert Garcia’s office yesterday announced that 170 pets have been spirited away via a major project spearheaded by rescue groups, there are a handful of animals needing medical attention in the shelter.

This article is meant as an expression of gratitude to The Little Lion Foundation and Live Love Animal Rescue and in particular to the fosters who opened their hearts and homes to all those pets. That’s all it really takes—your heart and your home. The rescues will provide any necessary food and medical care. When the shelter reopens, the cats, dogs and bunnies will return to the shelter—or maybe they won’t, in the best way possible.

Two groups have essentially emptied the kennels at Long Beach shelter

The fosters profiled only exemplify what it takes to be a foster, and I hope that some of you out there will be motivated to click on one of the links at the end of the article to apply to foster for them, too. Yes, it will help fend off the loneliness and boredom of being sequestered. Not exercising enough? Walk a foster dog. Stretch with a cat—they’re great teachers. Binge horror movies and TV series on the sofa with either or both. This is how Long Beach got to call itself an animal community in the real sense.

It doesn’t take a national emergency to become a foster, but it’s a good start. Ask any of the following good people.

 

beautiful white kitten with green eyes check to cheek with exotic-looking woman with bright-orange lipstick

Erica Elliott Castillo and Wizard: “A good foster is somebody who follows the guidelines for care, someone willing to deal with potential problems like illness or diarrhea, someone who can follow any medical orders from the lead volunteer, provide a stimulating environment and play with the kittens and show them lots of love.”

 

“I’m all for foster-fails!” Erica said. “If I’ve approved you as a foster, I’m more than happy to have you adopt!”

Erica is the foster coordinator for Helen Sanders CatPAWS, an organization that believes that every cat has the right to a full life. CatPAWS pulls all its feline adoptables from Long Beach Animal Care Services and has continued to do so during this madness.

“It took me a while to gather up the courage to foster,” said Erica, who began fostering five years ago with a medical foster, Clara. “I spent a lot of time at (CatPAWS’s) medical foster’s house, and she took care of the sickest of the sick. I knew it wasn’t easy by any means.”

Spurred by mentoring and plain kitty love, Erica now fosters cats and coordinates cats for about 20 other CatPAWS fosters.

“All of them aren’t always fostering—they need to take a break for vacation, a surgery, a break from back-to-back cats,” she said. “They may need three weeks, but then come back three days later for more! I always ask first, though, and people appreciate that.”

Erica’s fosters often include cats with medical issues. Guinness had dry feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), an infectious disease that causes inflammation and is ultimately fatal. As yet, there’s no cure. He holds a special place in Erica’s heart.

“He was the most loving cat I’ve ever had,” Erica said. “He’d wait at the door every day for me to get home.”

Guinness, just a few months old, lived for a year and a half. Erica choked up at the memory.

“I want to give them the best life I can while they’re alive—every moment, just the best they can have,” she said.

Wizard, Erica’s present foster, is 6 months old and also has FIP. He’s being treated with an experimental drug and is doing well. Erica said that he just might become a foster-fail himself.

With kitten season looming, Erica sees an amplified immediacy for enough fosters, and she’s gratified by the response.

“A lot of people do want to foster, and I’ve gotten a lot of applications,” she said. “They’ve seen what’s on the news, and they’re offering to help.”

To foster any of the CatPAWS cats, fill out the application here. Adoption applications are available here, along with photos of really adorable cats.

Calico cat poses near cat tree with smiling woman in brown bangs and blue V-neck looking at her.

Jeannette Meers and Tyra: “With kittens, if there’s a rescue, you do it for just a month, and then they go to someone else or get adopted. You get to enjoy kittens and not have 25 cats in your house!” (This is a problem?)

 

Jeannette got into fostering about two years ago when she answered a friend’s social-media plea to foster a few. Jeannette, who’s been involved in rescue and trap/neuter/return, or TNR, agreed to do it if her friend could find a nonprofit to sponsor the foster.

Zazzy Cats stepped up,” Jeannette said. “They’re a good organization and very good at what they do.”

Recently, Jeannette took in six kittens from a hoarding situation that Zazzy Cats was helping to deal with. Tyra, seen in the photo, is one of them.

“They’re really sweet,” she said. “They were a few months old, already weaned, starving and with dog bites. They were very scared.”

Shelters are closed to the public and rescues can only save as many cats as they have fosters for. Jeannette encourages people who love animals and want to gain the trust of some unfortunates to fill out foster applications.

“You’ll help the cat and have companionship while you’re at home,” she said. “Take one in, because you won’t have them permanently.”

Maybe, maybe not. To adopt Tyra or any cats on Zazzy Cats’ adoption page, contact [email protected]. Contact the team to foster as well.

woman with big, black-framed eyeglasses, short gray hair and wearing a yellow shirt holds a tiny puppy with brown eye masks and a white body.

Faye Costigane and Sebastian: “You have to have enough love in your heart to protect them, take care of them, find their forever homes, and then let them go. That was a difficult lesson to learn.”

 

I had to set three separate times to call Faye. The first time, she was walking dogs, both fosters and her own. The second time, I heard frantic barking in the background and a plea from Faye to call back in 10 minutes.

Faye’s been fostering for 22 years for various rescues and was likely managing some anxiety with her housemates. Taking care of stress for your pets and especially for yourself is always important and is increasingly urgent now.

“You’ve got to breathe and stay as calm as you can to not transfer stress to them,” she said. “Hold them close during this time.”

Faye became a foster after a brief conversation with the Animal Match Rescue Team, a former adoption/rescue that operated within pet-supply stores. After learning what fostering entailed, she ran the idea by her husband, who gave his somewhat qualified blessing.

“I wound up taking two little yappy Yorkies, who got adopted together,” Faye said. “From there, it took off—I got another dog and another dog and another dog and another dog.”

Faye fosters dogs for Live Love Animal Rescue, Fix Long Beach, S.A.F.E. Rescue Team and Sparky and the Gang. Her latest charge, Sebastian, is a S.A.F.E. Rescue Team beneficiary—Faye described him as a “typical puppy but not as hungry.” Sebastian had been an unelicited gift to a couple who was grieving over the recent death of their old dog. Pets aren’t presents, especially surprise gifts, and the couple wasn’t ready to adopt. They turned the puppy over to S.A.F.E. Rescue.

“It’s a challenge to get him to eat, so I’m being resourceful,” Faye said. “I mixed rice baby cereal with puppy formula—that way, I get him to drink fluids. This last week, I’ve been adding Halo puppy food. I take him out in the sunshine—I hold him because he hasn’t gotten his puppy shots yet.”

After he becomes a kindergartner, Sebastian will be ready to go home. It’s always sad to send them off, but Faye also gets a good feeling, knowing that what she’s done to resolve the needs of her fosters will make it unlikely for any of them to wind up in a surprise basket again, or in the shelter, either.

To adopt Sebastian, contact [email protected]. Check out the adoptables on any of the links in this bio and contact them to foster.

German shepherd with a black saddle, ears and muzzle and tan legs and forehead grins while woman with white visor cap and a gray jacket stand on grass, with tree in background.


Jeanne Perales and Canela: “Once you foster, you lose a little control over your life! It’s not just keeping them for a time frame—it’s helping them get better while they’re under your care.”

 

Jeanne is a volunteer with Long Beach Animal Care Services and is drawn to the big kids, German shepherds in particular. She has one of her own and has an “adopted-to-foster.” Jeanne had adopted a dog from the shelter when her mom requested one, and the animal turned out to be too much energy for Mom. The dog is a 6-year-old German shepherd named Canela.

“Aahhh, Canela—she just caught my eye, so I adopted her,” Jeanne said.

Jeanne was firmly against returning Canela to the shelter when her mother ultimately shook her head in sad resignation.

“I wouldn’t do that to a dog,” she said. “The shelter does what they can—they provide a place for animals to stay, but they’re also highly understaffed. I truly love this dog, and I want to find a home for her.”

Jeanne does a lot of networking with shelter animals—Live Love has helped her a lot in this respect—and Canela is her living project. She pays for Canela’s food and veterinary bills and took her all the way to Frazier Park for specialized training. The shelter’s adoption team had no problem supporting Jeanne as an individual adopt-to-foster.

Canela sleeps in Jeanne’s bedroom now, but the dog needs space for herself, likely as an only dog.

“She’s a sweet, affectionate girl now,” Jeanne said. “Whoever owned her didn’t take the time to play with or touch her, so I’ve taken a lot of time to do that. She’s gotten more confident and loves to be close to her humans.”

Like any responsible foster, Jeanne is fussy about potential homes for Canela. If, however, you think that you’re a good match for an affectionate, energetic and somewhat needy German shepherd, contact [email protected]

A man with black hair, mustache and white shirt with shorter woman with shoulder-length light-brown hair and white shirt, man holding tabby kitten and woman holding one black and one tabby kitten.

Molly and Alejandro Arambula, and present fosters Socks, BLT and Pastrami: “For us, it’s been a learning curve. Even after five years, we learned not to be afraid to ask questions. We have a very supportive community.”

 

When LA County’s stay-at-home order went into effect, Molly and Alejandro found themselves working from home. The couple had fostered dogs in the past but had moved over to cats after joining Wrigley Kittens, a Facebook page that networks neighborhood community cats, TNR, rescue, adoption and other practical cat-welfare things in the Wrigley. The Arambulas find most of their fosters there, under the auspices of Zazzy Cats.

“Kitten season is right around the corner, and there will be a lot of intakes,” said Molly. She and her husband share Erica Elliott Castillo’s concern about the combined effect of the pandemic and the next kitten tsunami during the birthing months.

Like other fosters, the Arambulas recommend patience for anyone wanting to host a pet. Thinking outside the litter box is also a bonus, as in the case with James. James was a challenge. A family had given him up because of behavior issues, but the couple were in it for the long haul. They tried everything: socializing with other cats, cuddling, brushing his fur.

“His coat got better, but not his behavior,” Molly said. “We could pick him up a little bit at a time, but he’d wind up getting overstimulated again.”

They stuck it out until Kelly found a farm to send James to—yes, I know how that sounds, but it’s an actual farm, honest. According to Molly, who’s visited, James is living his best life there.

Sometimes, it takes more than four walls and cat grass, but most foster situations, albeit individually memorable, need those walls and a lot of loving care. Unless enough cats get fixed, the birth rate will continue on its merry way and fosters will be necessary.

“Right now, there’s still a lot of cats up for adoption, so find someone who can be your forever friend,” Alejandro said.

To adopt any of the cats in residence at the Arambulas or to join in on fostering, contact [email protected]

Woman with glasses and straight, shouder-length blond hair and wearing light-blue top holds little white dog in pink sweater, who's licking her.

Gale Heilman and Ruby Jo: “I’m not a typical foster—I’m not good at foster-fail.”

 

It’s arguable whether Gale’s not typical among fosters. Scratch a foster and ignore the pun a-begging, and you’ll find at least one instance of them having fallen too deeply in love coupled with the delusion that no one else could ever want the animal or be as good a pet companion as they are. Be forewarned—I speak from experience, and so does Gale.

“I took my first rescue, Chandler, and kept him,” she said. “He was a nightmare. He chewed through the first foster’s electrical cords. He chewed through my screen and got into the house from outside. He was so difficult to train, but I knew you can train any dog. It took me five years, but now people look at him and say, I wish I could get a dog like him, and I say, you have no idea.”

Chandler’s the kid who used to be the bane of the classroom and then grows up to be a firefighter. Gale said that he loves all people and makes sure that the rest of her fosters—cats or dogs—get along. He once jumped between two fighting felines and made the aggressor back off.

Gale is a medical illustrator and has been an X-ray technician, so she has knowledge of what to do for sick or injured pets. She takes quite a few of them in and adopts them out, too.

“I had one dog whose mouth had been wired shut—we saw the red line on her muzzle,” she said. “There was another found in the wetlands with scabs all over his body. He turned out to be a Manchester terrier. He now lives in New Orleans with his adoptive family.”

Gale used to rescue independently but presently fosters exclusively with Sparky and the Gang. The nonprofit’s rescues include a large number of injured, abused, sick and otherwise unfortunate dogs found on the street. Gale socials her fosters by grooming them, helping with the healing, takes individual videos so that potential adopters will see their personalities, and takes psychology into consideration.

“If you get a dog during this epidemic and are with them 24/7, remember that this is a situation that’s temporary,” she said. “You’ll eventually be leaving to go places or to work, and the dog won’t always go with you. My advice for you is to leave the dog alone occasionally to make sure they’re comfortable, even if you just get into your car and drive around the block. They’ll know then that there will be times you’ll leave and they’ll be alone. You don’t ever want to have separation anxiety if you can help it.”

Gale’s present foster, Ruby Jo, was found by Sparky and the Gang in a home along with a cat. The animals’ owner had been found deceased inside, and the rescue took the pets in. Gale took Ruby Jo, who has Cushing’s syndrome, a disease of the adrenal glands in which a dog can develop, among other symptoms, bloating, skin eruptions and bladder infections. She hopes to find someone who’ll give Ruby Jo the home she needs.

Gale seems to have gained perspective after foster-failing Chandler, not that she regrets it.

“I wish there were people who didn’t think they have to feel sorry for the dog, or ‘I’m afraid I’ll keep it,’” she said. “There’s so many good people out there—you’re not the only one who’ll give the dog a good life. You have to be able to have an open heart. Every dog who found a good home never looked back at me.”

To inquire about Ruby Jo or fostering or adopting any Sparky and the Gang dogs, email them at [email protected].

 

Please share your experiences with foster dogs, cats and rabbits. If you want to have company and entertainment for a few otherwise lonely weeks and help a pet have the same, links for applications are at the end of the article. Please suggest any that were missed. And whether you foster or don’t, donations are always needed for medical supplies, food, leashes, litter and everything else—click the live links on any organization’s name for donation information. And to adopt.

 

Long Beach Animal Care Services still has its adoptable dogs, cats and rabbits on its website—likely, there’s some crossover with Live Love and Little Lion, but you can make an appointment to adopt a dog from the shelter at [email protected].

 

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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