Not many kids can say they get a new puppy every month. But 11-year-old Jackie Edwards can — sometimes she even gets three at a time. She’s a regular pup- pologist, an expert in puppy care, puppy kisses and puppy snuggles.
But there’s a catch: Jackie’s family volunteers to foster homeless puppies, which means the sixth-grader has to say goodbye when a dog gets adopted. That’s the hard part about fostering, which is all about caring for a homeless animal while he or she waits to be adopted.
It all started three years ago, when Jackie’s family adopted a dog named Godiva. She thought her dog needed a canine friend. Fostering puppies for PetConnect Rescue, a Potomac-based animal rescue organization that her mom helps run, provided the perfect solution.
In the past two years, Jackie and her family (which includes her 13-year-old sister, Ally, and her 5-year-old brother, JJ) have fostered more than 80 puppies in their Gaithersburg home. “Dogs are so friendly, cute and fun,” Jackie says. “Fostering makes me feel good because we are helping save a bunch of homeless animals.”
The decision to foster dogs was a family one, says Catherine Edwards, Jackie’s mom. “Jackie has always been very persistent . . . and has worked hard to spread to word . . . about the need to help homeless animals.”
Jackie gives lots of tender, loving care, once even spending the night on the bathroom floor to comfort a litter of scared puppies. A typical foster puppy can stay for as little as a day or for as long as a month. In August, Jackie got Jasper, an adorable black Labrador retriever mix with silky ears and white toes. She also welcomed his equally adorable brothers, Joe and Jack. During the month that the pups lived with the family, Jackie helped house-train them, taught them manners including how to sit on command, took them for walks and got them used to living in a house.
When the super-snuggly puppies got adopted, Jackie kissed each one goodbye. “It’s hard to see them go,” she says, “but it’s great when they get good homes.”
Jackie admits to once hiding a puppy under her bed covers when her mother was rounding up a litter before an adoption event. But, she says, if she kept every foster puppy she loved, she wouldn’t be able to help save other homeless dogs. That’s good news for Kayla, Kevin and Katrina, the German-shepherd-mix puppies who arrived this month, right after Jasper and his brothers were adopted into their new homes.
When she grows up, Jackie has dreams of starting her own rescue group “so we can save even more dogs.”
“A dog is a best friend,” Jackie says. “It’s not their fault if they’re homeless. Each one is special. That’s what makes fostering fun.”