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Rewards and challenges of fostering puppies in Winnipeg winter
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Rewards and challenges of fostering puppies in Winnipeg winter

Happy Monday!

My generous colleague, David Fuller, recently fostered a pair of six-week old shepherd crosses that found themselves holed up at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

The WHS foster program is for animals — moms and babies, orphaned kittens or puppies, cats and dogs with minor injuries, dogs that don’t “show” well in a shelter atmosphere and need to be adopted through fostering or cats and dogs that just need a break from the shelter — that are in need of a temporary home.

The shelter on Hurst Way provided David and his young family with the supplies they needed until the pooches are returned to the shelter for adoption.

That day, it turns out, is today. But before they go back, David wanted to share what it was like to have eight additional paws join the ranks of his already busy household. Here’s his account:


There are easier months in Winnipeg to foster puppies than deep-freeze January. But whenever you do it, the rewards and challenges are similar.

Our family first fostered for the Winnipeg Humane Society in summer 2020, when so many of our plans had been cancelled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Plus, our daughters had been asking us for months.)

It was a lot of work, but the summer weather meant the two five-week-old puppies we were looking after could spend a lot of time outside. It was an exhausting two weeks, but we still miss those little rascals (who were quickly adopted by other families after we returned them to the WHS).

We considered doing it again. My older daughter Fiona set up a daily reminder on our phones that said, “Puppies.” As if we might forget!

But when Omicron hit, cancelling most of our Christmas plans and making for an extended period when we would be working and schooling from home, we decided to foster again. We picked up two six-week-old puppies from the WHS in early January.

Mindy (left) and Sylvie wrestle under the dining room table. (David Fuller / Supplied)

And then the temperatures plunged.

On the plus side, our little fosters, Mindy and Sylvie, were endowed with thick fur. Both are listed as “shepherd” by the WHS, but Mindy, with her round shape and short nose, looks more like a black bear cub.

Mindy explores some snow that may be too deep for her. (David Fuller / Supplied)

Puppies this young need to be taken outside every four hours at least. That means one late-night trip outside around midnight, which my wife Bronwen handles, and an early-morning excursion around 4:30, which I take care of.

In between we take them out as often as we can, to help avoid accidents inside. But with the mercury diving to -29 C, sometimes we were only outside for a minute or two.

Mindy (left) and Sylvie, two six-week-old puppies, explore outside. (David Fuller / Supplied)

Fortunately, our family dog, Dash, a six-year-old Lab cross, is good with small puppies. Sylvie and Mindy absolutely adore him — but they had to learn which boundaries they can cross (chasing him and climbing all over him) and which they can’t (nipping his face with their sharp puppy teeth). A brief, no-nonsense growl from Dash has been enough to set them straight.

Sylvie tries to get at Dash’s face while Mindy stays by his feet. (David Fuller / Supplied)

Our main job is to make sure the puppies are happy, healthy and socializing. Learning how big dogs play is an added bonus. If we can help them start house training and a few other routines, even better. Training them with treats to “come” and “sit” has been a hit.

To help alleviate itchiness, we gave them a bath, after consulting with the WHS foster department. (David Fuller / Supplied)

There are some things we wish they weren’t so clever at. Mindy manages to find whatever small space she can fit into, such as gaps between furniture or underneath the car. Sylvie likes to sneak behind our raised garden, or underneath our deck.

They also love tearing around the house, and it usually takes two of us to keep tabs on them. My younger daughter Nora calls them Thing One and Thing Two, after the Dr. Seuss characters, since they are always up to something.

Sylvie looks down from a snow hill in the yard. (David Fuller / Supplied)

That’s not to say we are always run off our feet. There are plenty of times when the puppies are asleep, sprawled over somebody’s lap or in their arms. Or when they decide to supervise us in the kitchen, and sit like little sphinxes to watch.

Mindy (left) and Sylvie nap on a dog bed. They sleep overnight in a kennel. (Fiona Fuller / Supplied)

Overall, it’s been a great experience — for us, and, we hope, for the puppies. But yes: more than a little exhausting. May we all sleep well at the end of the day.

David Fuller

Leesa Dahl

Leesa Dahl

Ready Pet Go

This week in pet news ...

Taking the bull by the horns

COVID-19 has brought pets and their human friends closer than ever before. That aspect of pandemic life has shifted veterinarians’ work into overdrive, including Dr. Keri Hudson Reykdal, the Manitoba-based vet who’s the star of the Animal Planet Canada series Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet, which returns to TV with its fourth season première Jan. 2

Taking the bull by the horns

COVID-19 has brought pets and their human friends closer than ever before. That aspect of pandemic life has shifted veterinarians’ work into overdrive, including Dr. Keri Hudson Reykdal, the Manitoba-based vet who’s the star of the Animal Planet Canada series Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet, which returns to TV with its fourth season première Jan. 21. Read more about it here.




Season 4 of Prairie Vet features Dr. Chris Enright, right, from the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

Donations to local animal shelters honour TV star Betty White

Manitoba animal rescue agencies are thanking Betty White for being a friend. Organizations across the province have seen an up-tick in donations since the Golden Girl’s death at 99 on Dec. 31. Read more about the campaign here.


Carla Irvine, executive director of the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, holds Dillon, a shepherd cross, at the shelter. Tax receipts are given out for donations to the shelter.

Council committee approves pet bylaw changes after owners relate horror stories

Over an agonizing 30 minutes, Catherine Gagnon watched “the life drain” out of Ruby, her eight-year-old dog, as she struggled to free the pooch from a legal wildlife trap. Now she hopes one of several updates to Winnipeg’s responsible pet ownership bylaw, which would ban the outdoor use of body-hold traps, will prevent others from losing their furry loved ones the same way. Read more about Ruby here.


Catherine Gagnon with one of her dogs, Sophie, who was with her when her other dog, Ruby, was caught in a conibear trap and died.


Pets of the week ...

Have you got a favourite pet picture and story to share with us? We'd love to see it. Send your photo and story — including your pet's name and age — to


Meet Supernova, a.k.a. Nova, a.k.a. Novi, a.k.a. Rover, a.k.a. Rovi, a.k.a. Rovaro.

We adopted Novi in May 2018 when she was just eight weeks old, from the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter. I had lost my 11-year-old beloved Lab-pit mix, Lulu in October 2017 to a sudden illness, and I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a photo of tiny Nova posing with a stuffed duck toy and I knew that she was meant to be in our family. You see, Lulu loved to destroy anything stuffed, but one day she discovered a stuffed duck in our basement and for some reason she carried that duck around gently everywhere.

That photo of Nova (then named Little) was like a message from Lulu.

We joked that Nova was an appropriate name because like her stellar namesake, baby Supernova was a very destructive force. She shredded a love seat down to the wooden frame, chewed my kitchen cabinets, chewed our laminate flooring, our dining room chairs and even drywall.

After a few months, I discovered that a six-kilometre walk and a constant supply of Nylabones were the cure for the destruction, and now I’m pleased to say that our Novi is a sweet, hilarious, extremely well-behaved almost-four-year-old!

I’m a performing arts educational assistant and Nova has become the mascot for the Oak Park Theatre Company program! This year she was featured as Novaneezer Scrooge in our show program.

— Deanna Jones, my mum Barbara and my son Zane

Winston and Oliver

These are our boys, Winston (left) and Oliver (right). They were found in a shed abandoned by their mama. Naturally, we had to take them in and we are so glad that we did.

— Jenelle Bogaski


Looking for a home

Thinking of adopting a new pet? Be sure to check out this week's adoptable pet.

Sephora a fun, easygoing girl who loves playing with food puzzles and snuggling my stuffed reindeer. She is great with meeting new people and likes to hang out with the cats in her Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue foster home. She is fully housetrained and is working on being crate-trained.


Sephora is available for adoption through Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue.

Read more about Sephora here.

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