Turning a life-long love of pets into volunteer engagement – and even marriage!

As the beating heart of our organization, the fosters at Rescued Pets Movement are the first stop on an animal’s journey to its forever home. By giving these animals shelter, food, care, and love, our dedicated foster volunteers truly make our movement possible.

To shine a light on the incredible work our fosters do, we highlight one volunteer every other month in our “Foster Feature.” Gain insight into their experience fostering with RPM, why they do what they do, and how you can get involved too.

Foster Volunteer: Ellen Chen

Position: Foster Volunteer

Time Fostering with RPM: Since December 2015

Rescued Pets Movement: How did you hear about RPM?

Ellen Chen: From a friend. When I expressed interest in fostering animals, she told me she had briefly fostered for RPM and that it was such a rewarding experience. Also, a co-worker mentioned RPM to me because one of his friends had fostered for RPM.

What made you want to foster for RPM?

EC: I have always been a huge animal lover. Even as a young child, I was constantly begging my parents for guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, cats, dogs, etc. My husband and I have two cats: we adopted the first for one of my birthdays, and he adopted the second one as part of his marriage proposal!

I very much want to expand our furry family, but my two cats are quite spoiled and content with just one another, so I figured fostering would somewhat satisfy my desire to adopt more animals, but in a less permanent way. During the home-buying process, I explicitly mentioned to my husband that I couldn’t wait to own a home so that we could finally start fostering animals – which he (thankfully) agreed to!

I originally started fostering puppies for RPM during a brief period of unemployment, but then switched over to kittens and cats once I had a regular 40-hours-a-week job at an office away from home. While I still foster puppies once a year or so, felines are my true animal love. I am a total crazy cat lady, and everyone in my life is well aware of my cat obsession!

What all goes into being a foster?

EC: For me, it’s a deep commitment to these animals and their welfare, and of course, a love of animals! I currently work from home, and my job allows me a bit of flexibility, so I’m able to foster more high maintenance or sick animals.

Once a kitten enters my home, it essentially becomes “mine,” in that I care for it as if it were mine to keep. Therefore, I try to be very attentive and observant when it comes to health and sociability of the animal. I try to do everything possible to ensure the kitten receives the best care (courtesy of RPM’s amazing vet staff!) and take mini-breaks throughout the day to socialize and cuddle with the kittens.

I ask the vet staff, foster coordinators, and other foster volunteers a fair amount of questions, which I think is important. You can never know too much, and every new foster animal presents an opportunity to “foster better” and learn more than with the previous one.

How long do you have to commit to being a foster?

EC: It varies depending on the age and health of the animals. I’ve had very short-term fosters, requiring only a night or two stay with me, and then I’ve had kittens for two or more months. Thankfully, RPM is great with coordinating re-fosters should I need to leave town or something personal comes up.

What is your favorite part about fostering for RPM?

EC: Kitten cuddles! I seriously cannot get enough of kitten cuddles. It is truly therapeutic for me during the work day to take kitten cuddle breaks every so often to decompress and distress. It’s an inexplicably warm happy feeling to have a kitten or cat lying in your lap or on your chest and bask in their content rhythmic purring. I seriously cannot get enough of it!

Also, adoption updates! Whenever I do receive news or see updates that former foster kitten of mine has found their forever home, I always cheer and have a mini-celebration and immediately text my husband (and my friends and other foster volunteers) about the awesome news! It’s extremely rewarding to see the fruits of your labor result in a happy ending.

What has been your favorite memory fostering for RPM?

EC: There have been so many of them! Would it be cheesy and cliché to say all of the long-lasting meaningful friendships I’ve made? Because that is absolutely the case! It’s just been so exciting and reassuring for me to connect and interact with people whom feel as passionately about animal rescue and fostering as I do. Rescue and fostering can sometimes be pretty harrowing, so active awareness that you’re not alone in the “struggle” has been incredibly encouraging to me.

Also, the charity events are pretty memorable and fun! I always have a blast interacting with RPM people in a more social setting!

What’s something you wish you would have known before you started fostering for RPM?

EC: I wish I had been more knowledgeable about all the various viruses, bacteria, and ailments that can affect the animals we rescue. Because there are a lot of them, and they all have very specific treatment approaches and plans. However, thankfully RPM vet staff and other foster volunteers have been very resourceful in providing the information I need to undertake the challenges associated with these illnesses.

What has been the most difficult part about fostering for RPM?

EC: Occasionally, saying goodbye can be quite bittersweet, especially with the neglected animals that came to me with severe health issues. I usually end up keeping these animals for a more extended period to nurse them back to health, and of course, I become incredibly attached to them. It’s impossible not to when I’m up all hours of the night caring for them and stressing myself out over whether they’ll make it!

Also, on rare occasion, I have had very sick kittens pass away and those moments have been especially painful for me. However, it’s never been a deterrent to continue fostering. It is gratifying to know that these vulnerable babies wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise, and I did my best (and then some) to maximize their chances at survival toward the ultimate goal of a finding a loving forever family.

Interested in learning more about becoming a Foster Volunteer for RPM, or ready to apply to become a foster? Head over to our Foster page to learn more, and fill out the foster application here.