LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) closed in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The organization didn’t resume adoptions for two months, but in that time, people stepped up to help foster pets.
When the shelter closed, 240 animals went into foster families. One of those foster parents was Lauren Nichols. Nichols was an intern at KHS when it closed and saw the need for foster families, so she decided to bring home a puppy named Rhonda.
She didn’t know how long she would keep the puppy, but as time went on, Rhonda got along great with Nichols, her husband, and their other two dogs.
“She just kind of fit into the family just perfect,” Nichols said.
That uncertain amount of time turned into forever, when Nichols officially adopted Rhonda. She’s just one in a long list of foster parents who ended up adopting from KHS.
KHS PR and Marketing Director Andrea Blair said about a quarter of the animals that went into foster care at the start of the pandemic were adopted by their foster families.
Normally, only about 5% of families end up keeping the pet they're fostering. Nichols said those two months created a strong bond between her and Rhonda.
“She was tuning into me,” Nichols said. “She was laying across my lap when I was upset or just being near me when I was stressed out.”
Nichols started out training Rhonda with basic commands like sit and stay, but once she realized Rhonda liked training - and she was pretty good at it - Nichols decided to train her further.
Now she is training Rhonda to be a service dog to help with her anxiety and chronic pain.
“Help me kind of gain confidence and get out a little more than I am now,” Nichols said.
They are working on a few tasks at a time, and are also working with a trainer. Nichols suggests anyone who is thinking about training their dog to be a service animal should consult a trainer to see if the dog is a good fit.
Nichols’s advice to anyone who is thinking about fostering a pet is to just try it out. You only keep the pet for a short amount of time, and there's no pressure to keep it if you don't get along.
Fostering pets isn't for everyone, but you could really be helping an animal out.
You can learn more about the foster program at the Kentucky Humane Society here.