Warm and fuzzy foster families

Something special in the works for volunteer's 50th birthday

"The trouble with a kitten is that

Eventually it becomes a cat."

So wrote poet Ogden Nash.

Although cat lovers would beg to differ, volunteers who foster kittens and puppies for Valley Humane Society in Pleasanton until they are ready for adoption might agree that they get their charges for the best part of their lives.

"You walk in the door and see kittens from every corner coming to greet you -- it's the greatest feeling in the world," said Pleasanton fosterer Jill Albers. "It makes you feel so good. You can't be sad if you're around kittens."

Her fostering mentor, Nancy Lyness, says her mantra is: "Fostering is not a lifetime commitment. It is a commitment to saving a life."

"We got involved with Valley Humane in 2007 when we first moved to California from Connecticut," Lyness said, explaining that this gave her young daughters some continuity since they had been active volunteers with animal rescue in Connecticut.

"We have fostered a total of 23 cats and kittens, and three puppies," Lyness said, noting with a laugh that she can still picture each one and remember their names.

"We also have one 'Foster Failure,'" she said. "We were so incredibly smitten with him that we just had to keep him. His name is now Beach Ball."

Lyness' enthusiasm for fostering and helping others in the effort inspired sister fosterer Laura Driver to suggest a special campaign in her honor to help the foster program.

"On Facebook, Nancy said something about her 50th birthday coming up April 7, and I thought, hmmm, '50 before 50,'" recalled Driver.

Ideas were bandied about for the promotion, now dubbed "50 Fosters for Nancy's 50th!" They decided it would be most realistic -- and have a longer-term impact -- to let the "50" include animals being fostered before April 7, newly trained fosterers, fosterers brought out of retirement, and people/corporate sponsors who donate money. Valley Humane is funded entirely by private donations.

To make the effort more tangible, fosterer Cathlin DeRosa is compiling a Quilt of 50, with photos of dogs and cats currently being fostered, new fosterers and donors.

"One of big pushes for Valley Humane Society is growing the Foster Program," said executive director Melanie Sadek. "No kittens stay at Valley Humane; they all go to foster homes."

Jill Albers made her foster debut with a mommy cat and her litter of five newborns. She knew she wanted to volunteer but finally took the pet plunge after being urged on by Valley Humane operations manager Yayoi deCosta.

"At first I was a little hesitant," Albers recalled. "Then Yayoi said there was a litter that was going to be euthanized (at the county shelter). She said, 'I will train you myself.'"

Valley Humane Society gets its animals from county shelters with the commitment that it will find them a home or care for them forever.

"I've successfully fostered and adopted 24 kittens and cats," Albers said. "I feel really good that those are 24 lives I've saved."

She is sympathetic when the kitties arrive.

"They can be completely overwhelmed. The first thing I do is give them space and time, plenty of blankets, and leave them for a while," she said. "Eventually you do want noise, they have to adjust and know this is part of life. But you have to ease them into it."

Valley Humane provides food, heating pads, scales, litter and emotional support as well as training sessions.

"The first couple of experiences can be a little nerve-wracking," Sadek said. "There are a lot of phone calls -- 'This kitten isn't thriving.' -- It's kind of like an advice nurse."

Foster homes are also needed for animals with medical procedures.

"The ideal foster is somebody who has the time to be able to do it, they love animals, and are very nurturing and caring," Sadek said. "It's like a brand new baby -- they need to be cuddled, played with."

Once a dog or a cat is ready for adoption, it will be shown on the website, Before that, Valley Humane might promote them on its Facebook page.

Also it takes a special person to be able to say goodbye to kittens or puppies they have lived with and loved, Sadek said, explaining, "They have to understand the process and let them find their new home."

To help ease the pain of saying farewell, Lyness began a Facebook page for fosterers.

"It is a place where we share and request information regarding fostering, offer and receive advice, share photos of foster critters while we are caring for them, as well as the joy we feel when they are adopted," Lyness said.

"It is also a safe and appropriate venue for us to communicate and commiserate over the anguish we experience when it is time to give the fosters back to the shelter, as well as the angst we have when we see them hanging out there until they get adopted."

They sometimes get together to share their sadness when their foster gigs are up.

"A bit of practical advice I'd like to offer is that anyone considering becoming a fosterer should recognize that it is truly a labor of love," Lyness said. "It is a tremendous responsibility to properly care for these little lives and it requires a lot of time, effort and attention to do all that is necessary to return them to the shelter, healthy, happy and well-socialized, when the foster gig is over."

Valley Humane Society training sessions can be found at Donations can be made online or sent to Valley Humane Society of Pleasanton, 3670 Nevada St., Pleasanton 94566.

Act before April 7 to help the volunteers celebrate Lyness' 50th in a warm and fuzzy way.

Adults Only

Valley Humane Society offers a special program for anyone adopting adult cats Saturday through Feb. 28.

* Adoption fees reduced to $14

* Free goodie bag (toys, fleece bed, catnip pillow and more)

* Cats must be 9 months old or older

* Cats are already spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated

* Contact VHS for more info.

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10 people like this
Posted by Appreciative in Avignon
a resident of Avignon
on Feb 17, 2015 at 8:54 am

Awesome article! And so lovely that Nancy's fellow volunteers are making this effort in honor of her 50th birthday and her own fostering efforts, all for the benefit of Valley Humane Society. What a great community we live in, where people go to bat for one another, as well as for the animals, with no personal gain or motive involved whatsoever.

8 people like this
Posted by Mary O
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Feb 18, 2015 at 10:00 am

My family fosters dogs for a different rescue organization. I can confirm from my own experience that it is a most gratifying and rewarding experience. A "true labor of love", as Mrs. Lyness indicates in the article. I encourage everyone who reads this article to train to become a fosterer, and save some lives. And do it before Mrs. Lyness turns 50 so that the "50 for Nancy's 50th" goal will be accomplished! I checked the Valley Humane website and it appears there is a foster training session this Saturday morning, Feb. 21, at 10am, at their shelter on Nevada Street. You can click on this link to sign up!! Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Stephanie L.
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Can't believe I missed this article. I was away on business last week! LOL So wonderful. I'm not home enough during the day to get involved with fostering, but I will certainly make a donation to Valley Humane Society to support its fostering program and will tell everyone I know that they should do the same!!

4 people like this
Posted by Nancy, The Birthday Girl
a resident of Old Towne
on Feb 25, 2015 at 11:09 am

Hello everyone. The "Foster Quilt" discussed in the above article is shaping up very nicely, thanks to the efforts of Cathlin DeRosa! There is still plenty of time though for others (Yes, Hello EVERYONE!!) to get involved, and become a square on The Foster Quilt, either by training to become a fosterer, fostering a pet/litter [if your are already a fosterer], or donating money to support Valley Humane Society's Foster Program (go to to donate). Thank you!
Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Tania D Hanks
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 25, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Fostering kittens is so rewarding, especially those who need a lot of socializing. Being able to hear the kitten's first purr - priceless! A lot of people say "oh I can't do it, I'd keep everyone!" Please re-think and remember you are assisting to get these kittens their "forever" home! Fostering is such a rewarding experience, and the Valley Humane staff are incredibly supportive! Please try it! Save a life and have great joy and fun in the process!
Tania Lansdowne-Hanks, foster Mum!

2 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 12, 2015 at 8:27 am

Following this story and am just checking in for a status update. Any idea what the number is up to? I hope these folks will get to 50 by the time Mrs. Lyness turns 50!!! According to my calculations, it is now less than a month away from her birthday.

2 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Hi there, Pete. I an a fosterer for Valley Humane Society and I believe the number is now in the low 40's!! Please feel free to make a donation to help us get to our goal of "50 B4 50". Donating to Valley Humane is easy. Just click on this link Web Link
and in the "comments" section of the form, indicate that your donation is in support of the 50 B4 50 Campaign. And be sure to tell all if your friends, please and thank you!!

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