Parade of pooches

Published 9:54 pm Saturday, September 3, 2011

Linda Vetter has had a veritable parade of pooches through her home in the last few years.

Foster: Linda Vetter, a Suffolk Humane Society volunteer, gets a kiss from Charlie, an 11-year-old Pomeranian she is fostering.

In addition to her own dog, she has cared for 26 other animals in her role as a foster home for the Suffolk Humane Society.

“This is my way of giving back,” she said. “It’s rewarding when I see the animals get adopted into good homes.”


Email newsletter signup

Vetter and about a half-dozen other Suffolk Humane Society volunteers help by giving animals good homes while they’re waiting for their “forever homes.”

The organization will hold its biggest fundraiser of the year, Mutt Strut, on Sept. 18 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Sleepy Hole Park. The pledge walk — which can be done with or without a mutt — is the money-making part of the event. The rest, which includes children’s activities, a pet costume contest, doggie demonstrations, rescue organizations, vendors and more, is free and open to the public.

Vetter began fostering a few years ago to fill her spare time after retiring from the U.S. Navy. She typically takes only one adult dog or one litter of puppies at a time. Only one of the animals she has fostered has been a feline — a three-week-old kitten that she had to bottle-feed.

The humane society adopts animals from Suffolk Animal Control and then gives them to their experienced foster families. That allows the volunteers to be able to socialize the animals, discover their strengths and weaknesses and work out any medical problems before the animal is up for adoption.

“The value of fostering is to help with that socialization process,” Vetter said.

Her current foster dog, an 11-year-old Pomeranian named Charlie, had a number of medical issues when he was first discovered as a stray. He was overweight, had heartworms and was suffering from spinal problems.

Though he will always have spinal issues, he is now on medication for heartworms and maintains a healthy weight.

“He’s ready to find his forever home,” Vetter said. “A lot of people walk away when they hear his age, but with the right medical care, he can have quite a few more years left.”

Charlie had a microchip implanted in July 2000, which is how the humane society knows his age. But the previous owners never registered the chip, so he could not be returned to his family. Vetter searched innumerable lost animal listings but never saw one matching Charlie’s description.

After weeks or months caring for an animal, Vetter admitted, it can be hard to give them up.

“Some are tougher than others,” she said. Charlie will be one of the tougher ones.

But, she added, she enjoys seeing animals go to good, permanent homes and knows she’s making a difference.

Because of his back problems, Vetter has discovered, Charlie needs to be in a home without small children or a lot of steps.

The humane society also needs volunteers. Those interested can get more information at the Mutt Strut, or by calling the society at 538-3030.

“Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from exploring the possibilities,” Vetter said.