Thomas Salada, of Lewiston, said he too gets a little teary when he returns the dogs and puppies he fosters back to the SPCA of Niagara for adoption.
That feeling of melancholy doesn’t last long, he said, once he remembers the reason he became a foster volunteer about a year ago with a 5-week-old puppy he called Rambo.
“When I got him he was needy, he had a bad cold and he wouldn’t eat. He was just a handful and he was tiny,” Salada said. “I had to give him medication and I had to feed him baby formula and water with a baby syringe. It was a great experience to see him finally start to grow.
“I did have the chance to see him after he was adopted. He was probably about a year old when I saw him and he was just fantastic, big, healthy and happy,” he said. “That really does it all for you.”
Salada is currently fostering four 3-month-old pups who he thinks are a black labrador-pit bull mix.
The puppies sleep overnight in a kennel in Salada’s home, and he said the most time-consuming part of his day is cleaning up the mess they’ve made overnight. His three collies — Joey, 13; Duffy, 7; and Maxie 11/2 — help him take care of the pups the rest of the time.
“Joey took over as the father figure” for Rambo, Salada said. “The puppy would curl right up and sleep with him. It was amazing to see.”
This socialization with other animals is an integral part of the fostering experience, he said.
“You need to get the puppies acclimated to other dogs, children, other animals and different situations that life throws at you,” he said.
And as much as the fostering experience saves the lives of hundreds of animals, both the Ruggieros and Salada said they, too, get so much out of the process.