When Kelly Glanzer, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided it was time to become a foster mother – to dogs.
“I always wanted to foster,” Glanzer said. “But I was busy with the kids. The timing was never right.”
Her cancer diagnosis convinced Glanzer, who lives in Mint Hill with her husband Shawn, 47, and their children (Rose, 14, and twins Anna and Jacob, 11) that “it is now or never.”
The Glanzers had always had a family dog, but in 2008 they became certified by the Humane Society of Charlotte as a foster family for puppies. They have since had more than 170 puppies spend time at their home, where an entire downstairs room is designated as the puppy room.
“It is quiet and dark,” Glanzer said, “so we put them there at nighttime.”
There is also a 4-by-4-foot crate set up in living room which “is a pretty permanent structure,” Glanzer said.
In order to become a foster family, Glanzer, who also fosters dogs for the Greater Charlotte SPCA, took a class through the Humane Society that taught her what to do in the case of an emergency and how to keep the dogs safe and secure until they are ready to be adopted, which usually takes between two and four weeks.
Glanzer said a big part of the training is driving home the point that “they are not your dogs – you are just caring for them.”
Kathy Rose, who lives in Eastover with her husband, Geoff, and five children (Emily, 20, Sarah, 18, Michael, 16, John, 13, and Benjamin, 11) began fostering dogs for the Humane Society in the summer of 2013.
We’re allowing other families to get these sweet dogs and saving their lives.
Kelly Glanzer, certified foster parent of puppies
“We’ve always had cats and the kids love animals and always wanted a dog,” Rose said, “but I had enough to do with the kids.”
Her daughter Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. She found out about fostering through the Humane Society website and asked Rose if that was an option.
“I don’t remember actually agreeing to it,” Rose said. “But the next thing I know, Sarah and I go to a class on a Saturday.”
There was no turning back.
“Once there, you get sucked in,” Rose said. “You hear the hard luck stories, you see them. They are just too difficult to resist.”
Rose brought two Labrador puppies home and the kids fell in love with them. But when it was time to return them to the Humane Society two weeks later, once they were old enough to be neutered and could then be adopted, the entire family was devastated. They were all red-eyed and distraught on the ride back to the Humane Society.
“I’m never doing this again,” Rose said she announced at the time. “It was a terrible mistake.”
But she had an immediate change of heart. She decided that the way around the heartache was, she said, “to just keep doing it.”
She returned home with two German Shepherd puppies. And she has been fostering puppies, and the occasional kittens, ever since.
Both Rose and Glanzer said that the Humane Society makes it as easy as possible, sending foster families home with food, bowls, toys, crates, and leashes, and they provide any medical care that is needed.
Even though both Glanzer and Rose have had what they refer to as “foster failures” in which they have ended up adopting a dog they were supposed to return, they know they are of more use to the dogs by socializing them and giving them back.
“Look how many more we can help if we keep doing this,” Rose said. “If you take two, you are actually helping four because then two more have room to come in to the shelter.”
Glanzer, who was trained as a neonatal nurse, often fosters “bottle babies,” puppies that are so young that they need to be fed with a baby bottle.
“I am a nurturer by profession,” Glanzer said. “I am used to working with little bitty babies.”
And, like newborns, the puppies she fosters must be bottle fed throughout the night. She continues to take them in despite the fact that she has Stage 4 breast cancer and is, she said, “very tired and sore.”
She credits them with helping her through her illness.
“When I don’t feel like getting out of bed,” she said, “I know I have to because they need to be fed.”
While it is a lot of work, and there is the inevitable heartache of parting with the dogs or, in Glanzer’s case, the occasional puppy who doesn’t survive, both women see many upsides to their fostering roles.
For Rose, a big plus is the way the foster puppies serve as “a community builder for the family.” With a range of genders and ages, the Roses do not necessarily agree on the same movie to watch or food to eat.
“But,” Rose said, “we all can agree on how cute the puppies are and how much we love them.”
Glanzer likes knowing that the dogs will get a second chance at life.
“You feel like you’re making a difference,” she said. “We’re allowing other families to get these sweet dogs and saving their lives.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Humane Society of Charlotte, visit www.humanesocietyofcharlotte.org.