We're celebrating Adopt a Shelter Cat Month with reduced adoption fees for cats and kittens from June 17th-23rd. Learn more here.

Nov 30, 2023

Fostering Second Chances


Ava arrived at DCHS emaciated and injured. Supporters like you helped her back to health and gave her a chance at a new beginning.

“When I saw Ava, I immediately knew I wanted to foster her,” says Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) volunteer Sheila Hart after seeing Ava’s shocking condition.

Ava was found by a good Samaritan late one night in a wooded area in Madison. She was weak, hypothermic, dehydrated, and severely underweight with her ribs jutting out sharply. She had sores on the tops of her feet and overgrown toenails. She needed immediate help, but DCHS was closed for the night, so the finder brought her to UW Veterinary Care.

UW veterinarians ran several diagnostic tests and concluded the most likely reason for Ava’s appearance was malnourishment. They provided food and treatment to keep her comfortable overnight. Then, she was transferred to DCHS, and our veterinarians determined the top priority was bringing Ava up to a healthy weight. To facilitate frequent small feedings and regular monitoring of her condition, she needed a dedicated foster family.

Ava rests on a thick bed in her foster home

At DCHS, we ask a lot of our volunteer fosters. We ask that they open their homes to animals we often don’t know much about – animals who may be struggling with behavior challenges, who may need lots of time and patience to trust new people, who may need some extra positive reinforcement training, or who may be suffering from medical challenges that require ongoing treatment or therapy.

Through your generous support, you set up our volunteer fosters for success when they take any animal home. When you give between now and December 31, 2023, you can double your impact for animals at our shelter and in foster care thanks to a generous $20,000 matching gift from the Don and Marilyn Anderson Foundation.

In addition to her medical exams, Ava also received a behavior assessment from DCHS’s canine behavior specialists. We didn’t know much about her history, and we wanted to learn what we could to provide Ava’s foster with as much information as possible. Our canine behavior experts learned Ava was friendly towards people, but she showed some fear when hearing and seeing other dogs.

We knew that Ava’s behavior could change as she put on more weight and became healthier – and thus, more energetic. Ava needed a family who understood dog behavior, could read dog body language, and provide the extra medical care required by a dog so emaciated.

Sheila was an excellent fit for Ava’s specific needs. “My very first DCHS foster was a neglect case, severe malnutrition,” Sheila says. “And Ava was just so darn sweet.”

We sent Ava home with Sheila, and of course, DCHS offered as much support as possible.

“DCHS Animal Medical Services is the best,” Sheila says of DCHS’s veterinary team. “I love working with them on medical cases. They provide the instructions, and I simply follow them.”

Sheila makes it sound easy, but she put in so much effort to bring Ava back to health. Sheila provided Ava with multiple small meals per day of wet and dry food specially formulated to be gentle on her tummy. She also outfitted Ava with jackets and sweatshirts for the frosty March weather since Ava didn’t have enough body fat to keep warm.

Additionally, Sheila explains, “I live in a highly populated area, and many people can be uncomfortable seeing such an emaciated dog. Clothes minimized questions, but not comments about how cute Ava is.”

Thinking of everything she could to help Ava be comfortable, Sheila also made sure there was “really soft bedding and places to rest for a dog that had so little padding or insulation of her own.”

Ava stayed with Sheila for six and a half weeks while she steadily gained weight and her sores and wounds healed. DCHS veterinarians examined Ava regularly during her recovery and eventually determined she was healthy enough for her spay surgery. Around this time, they would have cleared Ava for adoption, but it turned out Ava wouldn’t need to find a new home.

She was already there.

While helping Ava along her road to recovery, Sheila found herself thinking that Ava needed to become a permanent member of the family.

“We’ve fostered for fifteen years and only kept one dog before Ava,” Sheila says. “I am accustomed to the temporary heartache of passing them on to wonderful families.” But Sheila and Ava had become very close during Ava’s recovery.

“Only days after bringing Ava home to foster,” Sheila explains, “I tested positive for COVID. She and I were quarantined from the rest of my family and inevitably bonded over several weeks. When I saw that Ava was clearly therapy dog material, that led to our final decision. Our last foster ‘fail’ is also a DCHS alumnus, a pitbull mix, and a certified therapy dog. It makes me happy that people go home after seeing a pitbull terrier in a therapy dog role at a hospital or school and tell their family and friends.”

Ava was a star pupil in her first set of training classes. She has since become certified as a therapy dog and has visited a few hospitals and schools.

“Ava is so good natured and welcomes every person and dog we’ve had over to our home,” says Sheila. “I honestly don’t think she has a mean bone in her body.”

Because of generous supporters like you, dogs like Ava receive the care, comfort, treatment, and compassion every animal deserves. Continue your support today to ensure the thousands of animals who come through DCHS’s doors every year receive the same.

Give by December 31st and DOUBLE your impact for animals like Ava, up to $20,000!

Bonus Story! Banks

Th is sweet kitty, named Banks, was found in a snowbank and arrived at DCHS lethargic and dehydrated. Our veterinary team immediately started her on fluids and antibiotics. Her recovery was long, and our veterinarians even liquid fed her through a tube when she struggled to eat. Her ears both had frostbite, and eventually the tips fell off. Th rough it all, she remained friendly, purring loudly at visitors and making biscuits. With the help of DCHS staff, she finally fought her way back to health and started her next chapter with a new loving family.

Next Story

May 20th, 2024

A Soft Landing for Rocket

When senior dog Rocket needed time outside of the shelter, one of DCHS’s foster families immediately stepped up. Now, she’s thriving in her new home.

Full Story

Next Story

May 19th, 2024

New Store, Same Mission

We’ve been asked over the past several years “When will we open a second location?” and now, we have some exciting news to share!

Full Story

Next Story

May 18th, 2024

Hopping to Help

Thanks to our community’s support, an injured rabbit who was tossed away had a second chance at a new beginning.

Full Story

Next Story

May 17th, 2024

Expanding Their Impact

More educational opportunities than ever before! Due to ever-increasing demand, DCHS's Humane Education team has been expanding their offerings.

Full Story

Next Story

Apr 26th, 2024

Celebrating Ruth Vetter Day

April 26th marks a special day at Dane County Humane Society (DCHS).

Full Story

Next Story

Apr 10th, 2024

YOU Can Help Wildlife's Youngest Patients During Baby Shower Week

Thanks to a surprise $2,500 matching gift from Steve and Margie Holzheuter, you can DOUBLE your impact for baby wildlife when you give between now and Sunday April 21st!

Full Story