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Pet fostering brings happiness to parents, pets

Providing a home for shelter pets until they find their forever home isn’t just the job of foster parents with the Humane Society of El Paso — it’s a passion.

Kathleen “Kathy” Whelen has a big heart and a full house. More than half a dozen dogs bolted out her front door, happily yapping, as she smiled and welcomed ABC-7 cameras into her home.

Whelen has eight dogs of her own, and yes, she can rattle off all their names like a good mom.

“Mirabelle, Madeline, Holly, Cash, Reyna and Polar Bear,” Whelen said, pausing before continuing. “And my daughter’s dog is Sparkles.”

She realized after walking back into her home that she forgot one: her 14-year-old Chihuahua, named Llama.

Oh, and Olive, a pig.

“It can be a little chaotic sometimes, but normally, feeding and cleaning is first thing in the morning and as soon as I get home from work,” Whelen said.

And all those dogs — which range in age, size and breed — are just the ones that Whelen calls hers. She’s also a dog foster mom. Currently, she’s caring for Bambi and her five adorable pups.

“One has been named Trouble,” Whelen said, referring to a tiny, dark brown Chihuahua mix that jumped on top of its four brothers and sisters within a wire makeshift cage in the middle of her living room. “But I’m still thinking of the names for the others.

That’s one fun part of fostering. You get to name the puppies.”

Whelen started as a volunteer with the Humane Society in 2009, but she said that realized she could help more dogs — and take care of her own — if she fostered in the comfort of her own home.

And yes, sometimes she has caved in and allowed herself to get attached to her wards.

Olive the pig, Reyna (a cocker spaniel mix), Holly (possibly a collie mix) and Polar Bear (a Chihuahua mix) all started as her foster pets. They’re just a few of the more than 200 animals Whelen has cared for over the last 10 years.

She doesn’t do all this work alone, either.

“The Humane Society provides all the food, all the medical care and all the support. I get lots of kisses,” she said, looking down fondly at Bambi, who has settled comfortably into Whelen’s arms.

Whelen admits it can be hard to part with her temporary fur babies.

“But you have to balance that with knowing that that dog might be having puppies at (the) Animal Services (shelter) in a cage and the quality of life versus a little bit of sadness to see them go,” she said.

Caring for the grateful pups also comes with a lot of enjoyment.

Help change the lives of dozens of animals at the Humane Society by taking part in ABC-7’s “Be a Star, Save a Life” telethon.

It takes place Saturday, Aug. 3, beginning at 4 p.m. on ABC-7.

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