4 Things not to say to someone who’s fostering an animal

/ Published in the TRIPPIN’ Issue

by Karen Camerlengo


Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog—or parrot, horse, baby pig, or any other homeless pet—with the goal of nurturing them for a while until a permanent home can be found. Foster parents are an amazing and integral part of a system that saves lives.

Sometimes people unwittingly say things that aren’t supportive to the end goal of fostering. Here are a couple of things I (and other foster parents) routinely hear that are just not helpful:

You can’t give him up, he LOVES you!
Of course he does. I’m totally awesome. But you know what? He’s gonna love the person who adopts him even more.

She thinks she is HOME.
Yup. She does. And yes she looks happy. Considering where she just came from, she thinks she’s in Heaven. But she’s not home—yet. We’re working on it.

You HAVE to keep him!
No I don’t. Listen, every single animal that comes in my house is in danger of being kept by me; the lucky ones get adopted out. Truly, anyone who fosters is aware that they are going to fall in love, but we don’t take them in to keep them—we take them to help the transition to a better life. No amount of pressure from friends can make us want to keep an animal that does not fit into the family or the plan. Pet ownership and increasing the numbers is a serious consideration and one we don’t take lightly. If I were to make a foster a permanent family member, that would mean one less foster family in the system, because I can have only so many dogs in my home.

They LOVE each other!
(Said in reference to seeing the foster animal and resident dog/cat playing together or snuggling). Ummmm—yeah not so much. I took this picture so you would find my foster totally adorable. I can’t tell you about the baby gates or the crates or the fighting or the infighting in my own animals because you would think it’s the foster dog causing the problem. My dogs are being jerks but I can’t tell you any of it because the foster dog is super sweet and that’s what you need to know.

Helpful things you CAN say:
• She’s adorable—tell me more about her so I can share!
• Oh I have a friend looking for a dog, let me share!
• I’ll share!
• Thank you for fostering.

A note about social media
Foster parents post their furry temporary house guests on social media because we need your help finding them a forever home. We also want to show them off because, let’s face it, they are the cutest animals eve—but we really are hoping you will be so moved that you will share.
Foster animals are some of the best animals to share, as potential adopters can learn how they are with other animals, kids, etc. They can learn about the quirks and the skills. Foster dogs are so awesome—I hope you will feel inspired to share. •

Would YOU like to foster? All expenses are taken care of—you just need to provide love and a safe space. Please reach out to Animal Care and Protective Services, The Jacksonville Humane Society, or a reputable local rescue group!

Cleopatra Needs Another Victory

We first met Cleo in the VICTORY issue—her serendipitous story amazed us! We were recently contacted by her hooman, letting us know she was just diagnosed with cancer. She’ll be well taken care of at SEVO-Med starting next week, but we’re hoping after you read her story, you will please unleash the love and good healing vibes her way as well. She’s a special kitty with lots of life left in her! She is very loved.

Serendipity, a cosmic coincidence
Serendipity, the unfolding of events
Serendipity, that brought us to the moment that we’re in

Do you believe that this makes sense?
Could you conceive the unfolding of events
Do you believe that this is…

Serendipity, serendipity, serendipity?

~ The Cranberries

CLEOPATRA, My Victory Story \ Victory issue \ by Carrie Good

My husband and I were eating Easter dinner at his parents’ home in 2009. I glanced out the window and saw a chubby Tortoiseshell kitty on the sidewalk—I had to go meet her. She was extremely friendly and came right up to me to be petted. When I left to go back in to finish dinner, she followed me. I noticed that her belly was very big, and not just from two cans of cat food. She was pregnant.

I didn’t stop thinking about the kitty after we left, and my mother-in-law said the kitty was basically glued to her back porch. She checked with neighbors and no one knew the cat. We went back, picked up the kitty—who we called Cleopatra, as she looked like a queen to us—and took her to the Jacksonville Humane Society the following day, since we already had two cats. We were told since Cleo was pregnant, they would keep her until we were able to find her owners. I had to imagine she had an owner since she was so very friendly. We waited and waited, but no one came for this sweet girl.

Cleo had four kittens. Once they were old enough, they were spayed and neutered and placed up for adoption. Cleopatra was also adopted, and I thought that’s where this story would end.

Much to my dismay, Cleo’s new owners returned her with the return reason of allergic. I was so upset I couldn’t adopt her due to the unfortunate realization that Cleo didn’t enjoy the company of other cats … at all! But I knew her perfect home was out there somewhere.

A few weeks later I learned that Cleo was adopted to a family in St. Augustine. Again, we were relieved. End of story? Nope.

Two years later, my husband was reading the paper and I heard him gasp. He pointed to “Cold Noses — Pet of the Week,” female Tortoiseshell, Cleopatra. This Cleopatra was at St. John’s County Animal Shelter. It couldn’t be. Could it? Would her her family have turned her over to a “kill shelter?” Panic set in. A quick call to St. John’s confirmed my worst fear. The microchip number matched. Now my head was spinning. I stewed about it all weekend. Finally, Monday I drove straight to St. John’s and there she was! My sweet Cleo. I adopted her and brought her back to Jacksonville, where I knew her life would be spared.
With tears streaming down my face, I left with Cleopatra, having no idea of where I was going to take her. I called the Humane Society on the way home. They advised me that St. John’s should have contacted them when they found the chip. They let me bring her in, and they would put her up for adoption, again.
No way was I going to let just anyone adopt her. I visited her every chance I got, and  I was getting more and more attached every time I went. She was so sweet, loved to be brushed, and loved to get her ears rubbed. Each time I went home, I asked my husband if we could adopt her. Realistically, I knew it was a bad idea, but who could love her more than me?

Two months passed.

Out of the blue one Sunday morning, my husband said, “Let’s go visit Cleo. If she is still there we’ll bring her home.” What? OK, let’s go! When we arrived, one of the volunteers took me aside and said that Cleo had an adopter. They were there to pick her up! I went to the cat room and there were Cleo’s new pet parents. A young girl and her boyfriend. I was so excited. I told her all about Cleo. I was feeling relived that Cleo wouldn’t have to spend another night in a cage.

A few days later I received a frantic email from Cleo’s new mom—she was allergic and could I take Cleo for her. My heart shattered. Really? How could this be happening to my girl … again. I agreed to meet her boyfriend at the Humane Society and switch over ownership from them to me. She was finally coming home—for good. I can’t describe how right this felt.

Cleo is now the queen of this house. She is the highest on the totem pole now with five—yes five— other kitties below her. She doesn’t get along perfectly with all of them, but she tolerates them. She is right where she belongs—sleeping next to us every night. The only regret I have is not adopting her the first three times I had the chance! •

Please comment below to send Cleo and her parents your good wishes for her recovery!

Cruelty-free expert joins Unleash staff!

Happy Monday! We are so very excited to announce another new staffer at Unleash Jacksonville! The adorable Gretel will be guiding us on a fantastic journey to live a more cruelty- free life! Gretel knows a thing or two about cruelty, unfortunately, but she’s living the best life now!

Meet Gretel of the Rescue + Freedom Project.

Hi! I’m Gretel, your Unleash Jacksonville Cruelty-Free Living Expert!

Gretel is a female beagle who was purpose bred for animal testing. She is one of the lucky few that was released by the laboratory to a rescue organization after her testing protocols were completed. Now she spends her days being spoiled rotten by her human mom and has a beagle-dachshund mixed brother and three feline brothers. When Gretel isn’t busy being an advocate for all animals in laboratories, her favorite things to do are chase leaves, wrestle with her feline brother Seamus and discover what treats are in BarkBox each month.

Gretel was born March 13, and her nicknames include: Gret Gret, Baby Gret, and Gretster, Gretty Betty.

You can follow Gretel on Facebook or Instagram @rfpgretel

Gretel looks forward to sniffing out the best cruelty-free products for us!

Atlantic Beach Commission approves ‘puppy mill’ ordinance!

Great breaking news! Puppies and kittens will not be able to be sold in Atlantic Beach!

From the Atlantic Beach Website:

The City of Atlantic approved an ordinance Monday night banning the sale of puppies and kittens that come from large-scale commercial breeders. The law limits pet stores to selling animals from shelters, humane societies and rescue groups, with the goal of getting rid of puppy mills that churn out sick animals.

Here is the ordinance.


We miss you Polly Pocket!

Polly Pocket was a Pit Sisters rescue. She came with a menagerie of medical problems, mostly caused by heart worms. We adopted her and sadly lost her just seven months later on December 19th. She changed our whole world and words cannot describe the pain we still feel over loosing her. God Speed Polly, no more suffering….. xo

~ Jennifer Bristow


Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there.

I could feel your eyes on me, humbly begging for my attention in the quietest way possible—with the stare. But like every morning, I was busy and preoccupied—and I was scrolling. Seeing things that made me desperately sad and wondering who would do these things—who would cut off a dog’s nose, or chain them to a tree in a blizzard, or surrender them as a senior, or bring them to boarding and never come back? WHO are these monsterpeople? What happened to them to make them this way?

I set the phone down and knelt down next to you. I focused on only you. I loved this moment with an audible sighhhhh. I thought about how much I love your face and the smell of your body—well, the front half smells pretty nice. You feel safe with me and nuzzle my neck to get cozy. I teared up into your fur for just a minute, praying for all the animals who’ve been hurt and those hurting even as we cuddled in bliss. I pulled you into me to the max of your threshold, an apology for all the things that you remember from your early years but aren’t allowed to tell me about. You’ve been sentenced to silence by some unfair law of nature. You can only give me little glimpses when I raise my hand too fast, or clap too loud while dancing around the kitchen, or walk toward you when you feel too vulnerable. You know what it’s like to be abused. You remember, but have cautiously moved on. All has been forgiven.

I ask you for answers—how do we fix this? How do we stop it from happening? How do we change people? You tell me give you more treats and to stop being distracted when you want me. You mention under your breath that a subscription to Bark Box would be nice. And you tell me to write.

Well, if you want me to write, I’m going to need better answers from you, I said, because I don’t know what to do, and giving you more treats isn’t going to help them. You cocked your head and burrowed into my neck as if trying to become part of me. Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there. And! Give yourself extra scoops of food. We will change the world, mama.

Well, okay then. That’s what you get when you ask a hound.


‘Unadoptable’ NE Florida dog becomes BADASS drug dectection agent in Washington

When the volunteers at a Florida animal rescue learned about a deaf young dog that was deemed “unadoptable” by workers at a shelter where the stray pup had been dumped, of course they made room for the little guy.

“Gator” became part of Swamp Haven, an animal rescue organization that takes “down-on-their-luck” dogs at risk of being euthanized primarily in Northeast Florida.

Read Gator’s story here!
He is a true BADASS.

Hey, thank you. I mean it.

Amy Olivieri | Unleash Jacksonville

I was thinking about the power of a thank you this week. It’s kind of immeasurable. (I guess, in all transparency, if pressed … and maybe given a floor-to-ceiling chalk board, and a three-year grant, I could come up with a mathematical formula. But I’d kind of like to get this post finished today. Immeasurable. When you say thank you and mean it … it most definitely has far reaching effects beyond the smile you put on someone’s face, or the opening of their heart.

Let’s consider the absence of a thank you for just a sec (but only for a sec because it’s  yucky) … the impact is immediate. (I’ve already discovered the mathematical formula for this, but I don’t think you’d understand it. It’s really really advanced.) You let someone in front of you on the road and … no wave! What the …?  You open the door for someone and … they whisk past you—all you’re left with is the smell of their stinky dryer sheet which probably causes cancer. Well F you, then. You buy your friend a beer and … not so much as a cheers! You’re so frickin’ rude, dude. The “thank you” absence births stress, anger, tongue biting, violent hand motions, squelched feelings, and it leaves you feeling less likely to do that lovely gesture for that lovely person in the future. Depending on what it is and the mood you’re in, the anti-thank you can ruin your day.

When you are grateful for the awesomeness of someone or something they did, you can participate and expand on that energy. Thank you, you are amazing for bringing my mail every day (even though it’s just a MINT magazine and a bill for the sewer)—you don’t have to mention that last part. Being appreciated truly energizes people. It’s encouraging to know you have purpose and that you are connected and that someone notices you. The young man at the grocery store took extra care with your produce … Thank you for doing a great job. I appreciate it. I kinda hate your haircut, but to each their own—again, maybe don’t mention that last part. A sincere thank you makes that baggerboy want to keep doing a good job. Your dog leaves you the last piece of pizza because he knows you’ve had a hard day at work. Thank you for thinking of me, Bingo, you’re very kind. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if we were boyfriend girlfriend—I really need to learn to just stop at the thank you part.

Thank you, rain. I mean it. I was feeling your absence.
Everything is connected.

As someone who is connected to some of the most self-less, big-hearted, seemingly-tireless-but-ever-tired animal rescue and advocacy human beings (some personally, some only on the Facebook), it seems like it could be lonely. It seems like it can be heart wrenching, emotionally and physically exhausting, and I see it can definitely be thank•less. It seems to also be rewarding and happy and victorious at times, but it’s never ending. It’s a passion and a calling and something you can’t just up and walk away from. Fuck it, I’m not doing this any more … doesn’t seem like an option (but a thought that I’m sure happens maybe daily?) There’s that big heart—I can see it glowing with goodness—it’s soft and mushy for suffering animals. They’re empathetic beyond what most people can imagine. I have a feeling those in the trenches of rescue physically hurt inside much of the time—mostly in that heart area, but a lot of the time in the stomach, too, because of the things they can’t do. I see them spend their own money even when they have none. They can’t turn their backs, it would go against everything in their being. They do things people say they wish they could  do … I wish I could save that dog. These beings who are rescuers find a way to do it. I wish I could go to the shelter and help, but it’s too sad. These beings who are advocates go, because they don’t want to think about what happens if they don’t. They embody the strength and the forward motion for all of us.

Changing a situation for just one animal can take a chain of events and a slew of people—you are very likely one of them. Even sharing a post can have great impact that you may never know about. Thank you to all, I mean it.

Here is the gist of what I’m getting at today—let’s work on connection through thank you. Gratitude seems to be a buzz word right now, but I hope you’re not tired of hearing it. It’s the way to happiness, people. We are connected (if you don’t feel like it today, try doing something about it). We are a community. Animal lovers. Rescuers. People who want to help. People who do help.

A teeny-tiny act of kindness + gratitude is all it takes. This will take literally 5 minutes (unless you don’t have a piece of paper. Then you’ll have to go to the store—in that case, tack on 30 minutes—pick up envelopes and Doritos while you’re there.) Let’s go old school and write a thank you note today! Unleash Jacksonville has almost 2000 awesome followers … imagine the impact if even half participated in our “Hey, Thank You” exercise! This week, I’d like us to thank Fawns Small Dog Rescue, who often pulls older small dogs in need of medical care that are dumped at shelters. (They’ve got a lot of younger small dogs as well, so if you’re looking to adopt small—young or old, check them out.) If you follow them on Facebook, you will see some of the sweet dogs they’re working on saving and finding homes for. I’m going to suggest sending them a physical thank you note, even if you’re just learning of them today. If you love animals you can send them heartfelt thanks in an effort toward connecting. Think of the impact we can have as a group if we all send a thank you with a five-dollar-bill (or one dollar-bill or twenty-dollar bill or just a lovely simple thank you note!). Just a little somethin somethin for doing great work for our community.

Fawns doesn’t know we’re doing this—except tagging them may have tipped them off, I guess. I hope they’ll find at least a few thank you notes in their mailbox, and it will make them feel loved.

Fawns Small Dog Rescue
PO Box 2607
Orange Park, FL 32067

Hey! Thank you for reading. I mean it.