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A place to rest: “Super foster” Sara Sewell steps up to foster pets who need her the most

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2021

This year Coordinator of Foster Care Allana Maiden has sent 819 pets into foster homes with 306 volunteers. This holiday season, Allana reflects on the story of one extraordinary foster, Sara Sewell, and her impact on the lives of many pets including a miracle dog named Noodle.

On an October day, Prince Edward County Animal Control called our Transfer Coordinator Nicole Harrig about a dog who had been found on the side of a road hit by a car. An animal control officer took the dog, who was in dire need of emergency care, to a veterinary hospital. They were uncertain if she could be stabilized but needed a facility that would be able to care for her long-term medical needs.

Noodle’s X-rays showed a fractured radius and extensive pelvic injuries.

Thankfully, the dog who was eventually named Noodle made it through the night and our Admissions department transferred her into our care the next day. From the records provided by Prince Edward, we knew that she had a fractured right radius and ulna (the bones making up the “forearm” of the front leg) along with pelvic fractures. Though her front leg was splinted, she was unable to stand on her own.

Richmond SPCA Associate Veterinarian Dr. David Molinas repeated radiographs and made a surgical plan. First he would plate her front leg, allowing the injuries to her pelvis to continue healing while she was on cage rest after surgery. While Noodle recovered, our shelter pet veterinary team began the rehab process, focused on pain management and comfort, so she would be strong enough for further treatments.

Once Noodle was able to stand and walk again, our veterinary team consulted me about placing her in foster care. After discussing her treatment plan, I talked with Brittany Pierri, our manager of internal veterinary services, and we both immediately said the same name: That of our “Super Foster.”  

The pandemic foster surge

A silver lining to the pandemic – people became more interested in fostering. Everyone wanted a puppy or kitten to take their mind off the world outside as #stayhomeandfoster was trending online. However, it remained difficult for us to place pets with behavioral or medical issues in foster homes. Even with so many people interested in fostering, when I presented our challenging pets most in need of foster care, I got little response. Until in walks Sara Sewell in November of 2020.

In her first year of fostering, Sara has had at least one foster pet in her home for 327 of the 365 days. From fostering several litters of puppies to injured large dogs, Sara accepted every challenge. We could not think of a better foster to take on Noodle’s special and complicated case.  

“Meet the sweetest Noodle girl you’ve ever seen.”

On November 23, Sara came to pick up Noodle. However, Noodle wasn’t ready to leave us, and she refused to move. Using a sling, we got her standing, but we knew she could not make the walk out to the parking lot. So, we lifted her onto a cart, but then she refused to lay down on the warm blanket we had prepared for her. With no other options, we rolled her through the building and out into the parking lot. We got a lot of funny looks as Noodle went skateboarding through the shelter, but she soaked up all that attention getting lots of pets and wagging her tail the whole time.

We are extremely lucky to have our amazing group of foster care providers who take in sick, injured and neonatal pets. I feel so blessed to get to know each and every one of them. Sara is just one of our many compassionate fosters, and Noodle is just one of many lucky pets to spend time in the care of a wonderful foster home. Fostering is rewarding, but it is definitely not easy, and Sara will be the first to tell you that. I could tell that she was nervous about Noodle, but I knew that she was the perfect person to care for this dog. Later that night when she posted in our Facebook group, I got that confirmation. 

Sara’s first post about Noodle to our Meet the Fosters Facebook group described her own initial trepidation. After getting to know Noodle, she was soon in love. Her post concludes, “Meet the sweetest Noodle girl you’ve ever seen.”

This is fostering at its best. It is always worthwhile, even when the pet has daunting behavioral or medical needs. I honestly think those cases are the most rewarding because you are helping a pet in critical need. Sara is always willing to take on our challenging cases. I sometimes worry I’m taking advantage of her, but she just says, “I wouldn’t offer if it was too much. I promise. I love it!”  

The miracle of kindness

Thanks to Sara’s dedication and compassion, a miracle happened: 

Noodle was in Sara’s home for only a few days before Sara wrote an update: “We quickly went from: ‘How do we take a dog potty that won’t walk?’ To: ‘Noodle, stop running! Noodle, calm down! Noodle, be careful!'”

One kind person discovered this dog, broken by the side of the road. Another kind person at Prince Edward Animal Control reached out to us, knowing that we would help. Our wonderful admissions team got her to our humane center, where our fantastic medical team helped her to heal enough that she could go into foster care. And now a caring foster has taken her into her home to continue healing and to be loved. It only takes one act of kindness to start a chain reaction that can change the lives of countless people and animals. I am immensely grateful for our foster care providers and the impact they have on the lives of our homeless pets.

Noodle continues to recover in Sara’s loving care as she awaits a femoral head ostectomy (FHO) procedure on her right hip, which Dr. Molinas will perform in January. Please register for our Meet the Fosters online training to become a foster provider.

Allana Maiden and Pacino (cat)

Allana Maiden joined the Richmond SPCA in 2012 as an admissions counselor. She also worked as a veterinary assistant in our Clinic for Compassionate Care before becoming the coordinator of foster care in 2014. She and her husband share their Richmond home with two small dogs, Dexter and Ruby.

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