In this special edition of Cloudera Cares #VolunteerSpotlight for International Pet Day, Julia Ostrowski shares her experience of fostering cats and dogs for the past two decades.
Where are you based?
I live in beautiful downtown San Jose, CA and live in a house built in 1904.
What’s your job role?
I have been with the Support org since starting with Hortonworks almost 8 years ago (cannot believe it’s been that long) as Director of Support Enablement, until this January when I moved to the IT department.
Introduce your foster animals!
What are your foster dogs and cats names?
I’m fostering two senior cats, Emma and Gianna, whose owner unfortunately died of cancer last year. When the owner’s husband died several years ago, she had to go into assisted living and I took in a cat for them at the time. Matt (now Panther) turned out to be the best, most amazing companion I could ask for, and so I adopted him a few months later.
So when I heard the wife had terminal cancer, I immediately volunteered to take in her cats. They are super easy going, very loving and it’s been a joy fostering them. I will likely have them for a long time as (unfortunately) senior animals are less desirable than younger animals, which is just fine with me!
Last year, my own dog Hoshi (a 16 year old poodle/shih tzu mix) died of kidney issues, and just a week later Rob Roy, my 15 year old foster hospice dog died.
Recently my other two fosters Maxie (a 7 year old Chi/terrier mix), and Bailey (a 7 month old Chi/pom puppy) were adopted. So now I’m fostering Johnny Boy (a 13 year old, 20 pound “your guess is as good as mine” dog), and Wrigley (also known as Mr. Wrigglesworth, Wriggly Piggly, and just plain “Piggy”–a 3 year old Chi mix).
Johnny is the smartest, clumsiest dog I’ve ever fostered who loves going for walks more than I love chocolate, and Piggy is by far the happiest, wriggliest dog I’ve ever met. He never stops wagging his tail and just loves people. And Johnny and Piggy get along great together, even sleeping in the same crate during the day.
How did you first get involved with fostering dogs and cats?
I have been fostering cats for about two decades now for 13th St. Cats, a small, all-volunteer run rescue located primarily in downtown San Jose. At the time, we adopted out about 50 cats a year…and now we regularly place 300+ cats into loving forever homes annually.
I knew nothing about cats when I first became a foster, as my brother was allergic to cats, and we were always a dog family growing up. But I soon saw that cats are absolutely amazing in their own right and have fostered hundreds of cats and kittens over the years. Some have been ‘foster failures’ and ended up staying with me as my own cats until they crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
The group also focuses on TNR (Trap Neuter Return) , which traps and neuters all the feral cats in a colony, adopting out the kittens and friendlier kitties, then returning the wild adults back to their territory and providing them with food and shelter.
I also started fostering dogs more than a decade ago, and now foster through a group called Every Pet’s Dream. This is a small but wonderful rescue that focuses on taking dogs with medical and behavioral issues that would be otherwise destroyed by the Shelter. I have fostered dozens of dogs for them, each one fantastic in their own way.
I prefer fostering (and adopting) the older dogs and cats as they have a special place in my heart, and am happy to foster animals with medical issues, such as kidney, thyroid, and heart problems, as well as diabetes. Neither rescue I volunteer for will end the life of a dog or cat due to treatable medical issues, or behavioral issues.
How do you volunteer for them – what do you do?
For 13th St. Cats, I generally facilitate the monthly planning meetings and volunteer for their special fundraising events (like a recent Game Night co-hosted by the San Jose Woman’s Club). I also monitor and respond to calls made to our hotline, process adoption paperwork, and keep our Adoption Center (located in Petsmart) stocked with supplies.
What’s the most rewarding thing about volunteering with local animal rescues?
Every bit of the time and energy spent in volunteering with animal rescues is worth it when you see the animals placed into wonderful loving homes! Hearing a once-terrified kitten purr for the first time…seeing a once-insecure dog gradually decompress and grow confident…there is nothing else like it.
It’s been an incredible experience over the last two decades, and I hope to continue for years to come. Dogs and cats are some of my favorite people 🙂
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with an animal rescue?
Explore it! As a foster, all supplies (including food, bowls, beds, litter boxes, etc.) are provided by the rescue. You can let them know what type of foster situation you are looking for. Some folks can only foster dog-friendly dogs, if there are resident pooches already in the home, or they prefer to foster kittens and puppies (or, like me, prefer the more mature animal). Some prefer larger dogs, or smaller dogs…all those preferences are taken into consideration when placing animals into foster homes.
And even if fostering is not a possibility for you, there is a place for you as a rescue volunteer. There is always a need for data entry, fundraising (which is a constant, year-round necessity), staffing special events (like in-person adoption showcases), even driving animals to their medical appointments. And these days there is a special need for volunteers to help promote rescues and their adoptable animals on social media.
Rescue saves lives!