Three years ago, Kristen Audet’s brother asked her to help with a stray dog he found, so Audet contacted Underdog Pet Rescue.
Since then, she’s fostered more than 20 animals, mostly dogs, at her Near East Side home through Underdog. Currently, she cares for Charlie, a 2- or 3-year-old mutt whose family never returned for him after their house burned down but is now in line for adoption.
Audet, 31, grew up in the Chicago suburbs, works full-time at UW Health and has one dog and three cats of her own.
What is the need for pet foster care homes?
From all of the resources we pull from, thousands. We take dogs in from crowded shelters where they would otherwise be at risk of being euthanized because of space issues.
What’s fostering like for you?
I like to think of it as my second dog when it’s convenient for me. So when it’s Christmas and my family only wants me to bring one dog, that’s fine. But when it’s just me and my schedule’s a little light, then I can have a second dog and enjoy taking care of them and knowing that I’m also saving a life.
Where do your animals come from and what breeds are the dogs?
We have a variety of shelters we work with. We work with a lot of shelters in Alabama, Kentucky, Texas that are really crowded. For a variety of different circumstances, there are a lot more stray dogs down there. Mutts come to us more often than not.
It’s long been clear that you should spay or neuter your dogs and cats, so why are there still so many strays?
My theory is it’s warmer (in the south). A lot of dogs that we get are outdoor dogs; they lived outside. They maybe were even community dogs. And so when you have that environment without a strict spay-and-neuter program, you just have a proliferation of dogs.
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How do your pets get along with your foster pets?
I have one cat that’s very dog-savvy and he knows to just get above the dog and if the dog gets to close to him, he’ll hiss or just swat him in the nose. My other two cats ... live in the basement when there’s a wild dog around. It took my dog a couple foster dogs to get used to it. For a while, he seemed to think he was being replaced. So he would sit on my lap at all times, and he would make sure that the foster dog knew that I was his person. But now, he does really well.
Any interesting fostering experiences?
My second from Underdog and the first cat I ever fostered. Her and her sister were from Milwaukee animal control and came in probably from a hoarding situation. They were so tiny. But she was the feistiest cat ever but still so loving. She would not let my 75-pound shepherd up the stairs. She would just stand there and kind of look at him and he would know, “All right, I’m going to stay away from her.”
Is it hard to say goodbye to them?
I think I have maybe cried at one or two because I’ve become so attached to them (but) it’s great to be a foster dog in my house, but it’s even better to be the forever dog in your own home.
What advice would you give to dog owners?
First of all, especially with a new dog, just take your time. Dogs really do best when you continually positively reinforce and show that they’re doing the right thing.
Are you a dog person or a cat person?
I think I’m equal opportunity.
— Interview by Chris Rickert