Fostering love: volunteer cares for kittens


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If Jill Bristow is having a bad day, she knows there will be a reason to smile when she gets home.

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If Jill Bristow is having a bad day, she knows there will be a reason to smile when she gets home.

The 42-year-old Crescentwood resident has fostered 244 kittens since she started volunteering with the Winnipeg Humane Society foster program more than 10 years ago.

The program pairs volunteers with animals who may be too young, sick, injured, under socialized or emotionally stressed to be adopted.

By being placed with foster parents, the animals receive the care and attention they need in a loving environment prior to being placed in their “forever home.”

Bristow, who works as a 911 dispatcher with the Winnipeg Police Service, has a dog and two cats of her own, plus a third cat that she shares with a friend. She is currently fostering six kittens.

“You can’t have a bad day and then go home to kittens and then still have a bad day,” she says. “It’s the best.”

In January 2018, Bristow started an Instagram account, @fresh_starts_fosters, as a way to share her fostering experiences and help the kittens she fosters find permanent homes.

More than 3,200 people follow the account.

“It’s a really great tool and it can be so effective because the ultimate goal of fostering is that these animals get great homes.”

One of Bristow’s most meaningful experiences volunteering last year was fostering and then adopting Gracie, the cat she shares with a friend.

Gracie has a severe form of cerebellar hypoplasia, sometimes called wobbly cat syndrome, that has left her unable to walk or stand.

Bristow shares about Gracie on a second Instagram account, @gracie_the_wobbly_warrior. It can be difficult to find homes for cats with special needs, and Bristow hopes the account shows people that cats like Gracie are a joy to live with.

“She’s incredible. Here’s this cat that doesn’t walk and doesn’t stand, but she’s a normal cat in every sense of the word. I’m really fortunate that Gracie is part of my life. She’s a very special cat and definitely a highlight of (2022).”

A few years ago, Bristow’s presence on social media caught the attention of Fetch by the Dodo (formerly Petplan), an insurance company that specializes in pet insurance.

At the beginning of 2019, the company presented Bristow with its Petplan Pet Parent of the Year award. She flew to Orlando, Fla., to attend an award ceremony and accept the award.

She received a $1,000 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to an animal-related charity of her choosing, which was directed to the humane society.

The person who won the award the year prior was NFL player Danny Shelton, a defensive tackle with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bristow was pleasantly surprised by the recognition.

“It’s weird to receive an award for something I just like doing,” she says. “I’m just letting them be in my home, but it’s so fulfilling.”

The Winnipeg Humane Society invites people who are interested in volunteering with its foster program, or who are interested in making a donation to help fund the program, to visit

Bristow encourages people to consider fostering an animal.

“It’s such a great way to help with no cost to the person, and it’s so rewarding,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard and there’s sadness. But the good far, far outweighs any bad.”

If you know a special volunteer, please contact

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