As Charm, a 2-month-old orange kitten, crawled along the floor, the injuries became obvious. Her foster, Kelley Long, called her a “little bunny” and Charm almost hopped like one.

Charm had been injured and then infected by a parasitic botfly and lost use of her left front paw. The outlook wasn’t great, but she was syringe-fed back to health, minus a tail that was removed, by the team at Mostly Mutts rescue in Kennesaw. Soon, that infected paw will have to be amputated, too.

But Charm was a happy cat as she batted at Long’s mask as she worked near the front desk.

“She is truly a little survivor,” Long said.

Pet shelters like Mostly Mutts, Bosley’s Place in Smyrna and Good Mews in Marietta have had to change their processes completely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But they also have been adopting out pets, finding their permanent homes, at a record pace.

Those shelters haven’t seen an influx in returned pets as more of the workforce returns to offices, according to Cobb County Animal Services, where many of those shelters find the next pets they will care for. In fact, they’ve seen more and more pets as 2021 has moved on.

Weekend adoptions at Good Mews 

In the largest room at Good Mews Animal Foundation off Robinson Road in Marietta, there are 65 adult cats. Some are playing with small toys, others with each other.

And all seem ready for the possibility that they will find a home that day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, it’s open season for cat adoptions.

At the height of COVID-19 closures, all 100-plus Good Mews cats were in foster homes. But now, they’re back at the facility and adoptions are at an all-time high.

In 2020, there were 579 adoptions from the facility, 100 more than any other year. And in July of this year alone, there were 92 adoptions.

“Many of our intakes are transferred from animal controls of surrounding counties so we are doing our part to help them with the influx,” said Good Mews Director of Operations Kendra Ledlow. “We are able to house 150 cats between our facility and a few dozen foster homes at any given time. So, each adoption basically allows us to save another kitty from somewhere… Our organization’s motto is ‘finding good homes for good kitties,’ so we certainly prioritize quality over quantity when adopting out cats despite setting records.” 

For the volunteers who work at Good Mews and the other area shelters, that rings true.

“The best feeling is seeing the ones that pick their adopter. They come up and meet them,” said Karen Redlew, who has volunteered at the shelter since 2005 after working at a rescue shelter at her previous home in California. “When those click, I just love it because it was meant to be.”

Foster failures are wins, too

On a wall in the back of Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw, there are photos marked as “foster failures.”

Volunteer coordinator Sara Rylander is pictured with her three “failures,” one that got her involved in the shelter and the other two fosters that she just couldn’t give up.

These “failures,” are pets that head to a home with the intention of being foster pets but then never leave as they have found their permanent homes.

Mostly Mutts has 300 active volunteers who work with the shelter, on anything from walking dogs to cleaning to fostering dogs. The shelter adopted 477 pets as of late summer 2020 and was on pace to top that at 540 at the same time in 2021.

“We try really hard to match up the right dogs with the right families because sometimes people will apply for a dog and it’s not a great fit,” Rylander said. “But nine times out of 10 we have another dog here in the program that is a good fit.”

The shelter had one of its largest influxes of pets in July 2020 when it took in nearly 50 dachshunds after they were forfeited in a hoarding case in Tennessee. The pets were spayed or neutered at the facility and then adopted out.

The shelter also works with a Fulton County re-entry program where Mostly Mutts’ head trainer works with people in the program to care for some of the vulnerable pets that need more care or training than others.

Taking in puppies in need at Bosley’s Place

In the weakest moments after birth, orphaned puppies find their home at Bosley’s Place in Smyrna. The shelter specializes in rescuing neonatal puppies who have been orphaned and they have seen everything, said Foster Coordinator Caryn Sokol.

“If they’ve got a fighting chance, (our executive director) will fight along with them,” Sokol said. “She will tube feed them every hour on the hour, day and night if that is necessary.”

The care is often costly and therefore Bosley’s Place is always looking for foster homes as it runs completely off donations and volunteers. It can be a tough role with regular feedings and vulnerable puppies, but it also can be rewarding.

Sokol encourages anyone who is interested in being a Bosley’s Place foster family to apply on the rescue’s website to begin the process. All of the puppies at Bosley’s Place stay with foster families or staff until the puppies are ready at 8 weeks old for the rescue’s Saturday invitation-only adoption events.

Volunteers help make the Saturday events successful as well, Sokol said.

“It is puppy kisses and wagging tails and total adorableness,” she said. “It’s also puppy poop and, if you’re a bottle feeder, some sleepless nights.”

The foster families, who have to be ready quickly, are a crucial part of how the rescue is able to successfully operate.

“We don’t have the luxury of time to search for a new foster family,” Sokol said. “We need ones that have been approved and are up to speed to take our puppies. A 2-day-old puppy can’t sit in a shelter for a week waiting for someone to take care of him. We need immediate action.”

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