Warm and fuzzy foster families | February 13, 2015 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 13, 2015

Warm and fuzzy foster families

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

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

"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, valleyhumane.org. 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 valleyhumane.org. 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.


4 people like this
Posted by Abbie L
a resident of Old Towne
on Feb 13, 2015 at 11:44 am

Fantastic article! I don't know that I have what it takes to be a successful fosterer but this article has persuaded me that I must at the very least make a donation to Valley Humane Society in order to support its foster program.

4 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2015 at 9:15 am

Deborah is a registered user.

Wow, what a great article. I bet the author really enjoyed writing it, and I hope it has the desired effect of encouraging more people/families to get involved with Valley Humane's fostering program.

6 people like this
Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2015 at 11:19 am

Every time you transfer a fostered animal, there's a pang -- because you cared. That's exactly as it should be. Please (please) don't let that transitory feeling discourage you! It's a badge of honor that quickly morphs into a deep satisfaction that you've done something good and pure, and absolutely essential to that fellow traveler in the world.

If/when you ever see that critter again, you may rest assured that it'll remember your kindness. I've had dogs I fostered a decade ago recognize me and make a huge fuss like I'm their long-lost relation -- which I am, in a way.

Want your soul fed? Foster a companion animal!

4 people like this
Posted by Dot Bennett
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 16, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Thanks for this great article. I didn't even realize that Valley Humane had a fostering program where animals are taken care of outside of the shelter. I thought it was just a shelter. Live and Learn! I am going to look into how I can support this great purpose.

4 people like this
Posted by Janice
a resident of Dublin
on Feb 17, 2015 at 11:40 am


You have such a great heart! Enjoy those precious little ones. Great story.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Nominations due by Sept. 18

Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form