Chicago Stays At Home and Fosters Dogs And Cats | WBEZ
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In Response To The City’s Forced Isolation, Chicagoans Take In Pets

Chicagoans are fighting cabin fever during the statewide stay-at-home order with a number of solutions: at-home workouts, comfort baking — and pet adoptions.

“They’re home, and maybe they’re just bored or looking to give back to the community during this rough time,” said Heather Owen, the executive director of One Tail at a Time in Bucktown, a city shelter that has seen adoption and fostering applications skyrocket in recent weeks. “We’re seeing so many people who want a buddy to ride this out with.”

Owen reports that the shelter received 500 fostering applications last week, compared to its weekly average of about 25; adoption applications increased threefold. Paula Fasseas, the founder of Paws Chicago in Lincoln Park, said adoption applications shot up by 50% last week.

One Tail at a Time normally only works with dogs, but they started a cat rescue program last week. Paws Chicago offers both dogs and cats for adoption and fostering.

Last week, Kelly Sorfleet took in a 3-year-old bloodhound named Lady Pinkerton as she settled into her work-at-home lifestyle. A longtime fosterer who had taken a break from housing dogs, Sorfleet said the quarantine seemed like a good reason to return. “There is no other being I’d rather be stuck in the house with for 24 hours, seven days a week,” Sorfleet said.

She said Lady Pinkerton “sparked joy” in her life, motivating her to wake up in the morning and get fresh air outside on their walks around her neighborhood in West Town.

Animal shelters coronavirus
Minju Park/WBEZ
Megan Slobodniuk's foster dog George, a six-year-old dachshund mix, makes himself at home on her laptop computer.

Morgan Win transferred her foster, a 4-year-old golden retriever mix named Phoenix, to a permanent adopter last week.

“For me, I don’t have many activities to do in my apartment, so spending time with her, it definitely helped,” said Win. “Playing a game of tug of war with her or something, it’s different everyday.”

Win said she developed a close bond with Phoenix during their three weeks together at her Pilsen apartment. She doesn’t know if fostering would have been possible with her normal work schedule of going into work every day as a medical scribe at Advocate Trinity Hospital.

One Tail at a Time closed its facilities to follow social distancing guidelines, so the kennels are no longer in use. Instead, the shelter is relying on the influx of temporary foster homes to continue operations.

That’s been possible because there’s been more interested fosterers than pets available, for the first time in its 12-year run, said Owen. She encourages interested fosterers to check out other local shelters with animals in need.

There isn’t a fee to foster, although One Tail does look for applicants to be able to house the pet for a minimum of two weeks, obtain the landlord’s approval and be up-to-date with vaccines for all other pets in the household.

Paws Chicago joined other businesses in barring walk-ins for the public, although its kennels are still in operation. Fasseas is worried that the change will dampen momentum. Owen is also concerned that interest in fostering will slacken once the crisis abates but sounds a hopeful note: “Our job is having people find their best friends, so to be able to do that in high numbers right now, in a moment where people are scared and anxious is very meaningful. We hope we can continue to be that silver lining.”

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