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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Should you be fostering a puppy during lockdown? These UC Davis students say yes

Puppies bring comfort, support during unprecedented times, and find forever homes with the help of Davis students

Though classes are continuing and many students still have the same responsibilities as they did pre-COVID-19, there still remains somewhat of a caveat: most activity is now performed at home. Though some may not literally have more time on their hands, it might feel that way — which has led three UC Davis students to take advantage of the shelter-in-place order by fostering local dogs. 

Hearts for Paws is a local Davis foster-based rescue that has re-homed close to 1,000 dogs since the organization’s inception in 2016. Through the shelter, many students and community members alike have found furry companions to make quarantine a little bit more meaningful and entertaining.

Cara Van Niekerk, a third-year managerial economics major, had always planned on fostering a puppy — but when she found herself in lockdown, she decided that there was no time like the present. She said having a dog around has been really helpful in keeping her motivated and giving her purpose during this challenging time.

“It honestly was the best decision I ever made — especially stuck in my house, I get really lonely,” Van Niekerk said. “It has encouraged me to get out of bed in the morning, it encouraged me to exercise more and go on walks around Davis and it’s just been a really fun and positive experience.”

Van Niekerk has already fostered two dogs, both of which have since found permanent homes. Now, she has a third foster dog on the way. Her first two pups, Goldie and Luna, were able to find new families within 10 days, but Van Niekerk said without a foster, other puppies might not be so lucky. 

“With the [COVID-19], shelters around the entire country are basically shutting down,” Van Niekerk said. “If dogs don’t find foster homes, they [have higher odds of being] euthanized. They have a much shorter amount of time to find a home, so I think it’s really good [to foster] in terms of you’re able to save an animal’s life.”

These dogs need to be homed, given that shelters are unable to operate at their full capacity during the statewide shelter-in-place order. Jasmine Rosa, a fourth-year global disease biology major, explained that Hearts for Paws is actively looking for people to foster homeless pets, as they need to clear out the shelters. Rosa, who began fostering with Hearts to Paws in January, said she was reached out to by the company itself and asked if she would be willing to foster during this time.

“It’s extremely important [to foster] right now, because people can’t go into the shelters so these dogs are going days without eating or any human interaction so they’re left to starve,” Rosa said. “It’s not because people want to do that, it’s just because of the situation — employees getting sick and social distancing. A lot of organizations, like Hearts for Paws, are trying to clear out the shelters at least with fostering. This is a great time, since we are all stuck inside, to really save a dog and give them a second chance.”

Rosa has been fostering Hippo, a seven-year old poodle mix, for about three weeks. While she hopes he’ll find a forever home, she said he has definitely made her quarantine experience more enjoyable.

“[Fostering has] definitely made me a lot more active because I know I have to take my dog out for a walk,” Rosa said. “Other than that, I know during this time it’s very difficult for students to get used to online classes. It’s an anxious time, and I’m a very anxious person, so at least I have a dog to calm me down and remind me that it’s more about the simple things.”

Unlike Rosa and Van Niekerk, Sandy Caroll, a fifth-year civil engineering major, did not expect to be in a position to foster a dog. She found out about Hearts for Paws from Rosa, who told her about the dogs that would be euthanized if they did not find foster families. She decided to foster because of this, and because it gives her an opportunity to see what living with a dog would eventually be like.

“I know I’m going to graduate and probably not be able to have a dog for at least five years because I’m going to be in an apartment and have a [full time job] and probably not have a yard,” Carroll said. “This is the only time really, in the near future, that I can have a dog and take care of it.”

Carroll has already fostered one puppy, Max, who was able to get adopte. She is hoping to get another furry companion in the coming days. 

All three students agreed that having a puppy at this time has been mutually beneficial, and they urged others to look into fostering as well. Carroll said, in addition to giving a puppy a second chance, fostering a dog right now is a great way to lift up your own spirits. 

“It definitely brought up morale,” Carroll says. “We all had something to watch out for and take care of and it was honestly a good distraction. It was a reason to go out and do three walks a day and get out of the house and have a reason to and not break any quarantine rules. Dogs just make people happy.”

These students aren’t the only ones interested in fostering — in fact, since the shelter-in-place order, Hearts for Paws has experienced a notable increase in applications and emails from the community and beyond. On their website, they thanked everyone who has reached out to foster and adopt and assured interested parties that they are trying their best to get through all email messages. 

As of the time of publication, Hearts for Paws is still operating during the quarantine, though they have implemented new policies, such as Skype or FaceTime interviews and small, socially distanced in-person meetings for prospective owners or fosterers with dogs. 

Written by: Katherine DeBenedetti — features@theaggie.org


  1. “Hearts for Paws” what a great initiative this is and best wishes to you, your furry beneficiaries and the supportive foster homes. I am super proud of all the UC Davis students who are involved and supporting this at a time it’s most needed. I am Alice van Niekerk, Cara’s proud Mom. I am in lockdown at her family home in Cape Town, South Africa. I have found it hugely comforting that while Cara has supported such a good cause and saved animals lives, she has also had furry friends to comfort which in turn brought her great joy.

  2. This is a cool way of comforting our students at UcDavis I agree. But I also agree that they should be responsible. I’m an essential worker for these students. I find dog hair in the shower stalls where other students have to shower. It’s gross and it’s harder on me as an essential worker. I’m fighting the covet19 by disinfecting everything I think is (touched), while having to clean animal hair. I hope some of these students read this comment. God bless all the students and essential worker who care for the students. #AnEssentialWorker #StudentHousing


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