Families Fostering Puppies Say the Pets Are Their 'Bright Spots' During Coronavirus Outbreak

Jason Sheeler

When Noelle Yuen received an email from the San Francisco SPCA asking for help fostering pets — the shelter had to temporarily close to visitors and volunteers recently to help curb the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19 — she jumped on it. “Our kids were feeling bad about school being canceled,” she says. “We were all feeling bad about our spring break being canceled.” Yuen, 55, her husband Patrick Ryan, and their children Jake, 13, and Jenna, 11, live in a small house near Golden Gate Park. “We can’t have a full-time, full-grown dog. But we wanted to do something. Something rather than sitting at home worrying.”

Yuen, a structural engineer now working at home, says having three 8-week-old terrier-mix puppies in the house gets the family’s mind off things. It also feels like helping. “Fostering feels good — to be able to do something that’s positive. We know there are people who are sick and out of work. But you can’t go out and help, you can’t do much about it directly. It feels good to actually do something. Plus, the puppies are really cute.”

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Courtesy MaeDay Rescue

In Los Angeles, Natalie Garcia and her wife Maria O’Driscoll operate MaeDay Rescue, a foster organization in the Silverlake neighborhood. Currently, Garcia is working with more than 20 families who are fostering her organization’s dogs during the coronavirus pandemic. The word has gotten out about the need, “so the calls are increasing with interest in fostering. I just hope the interest stays after, hopefully, this is all over. And people will want to foster, and even more importantly, adopt dogs.”

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At home, the couple are doing their part. They are fostering seven puppies — named for American presidents, from Barack to John to George — and their mother Jackie. “The puppies are going to be five weeks this Thursday,” says Garcia. “They don’t know what’s going in the world.” This keeps things in perspective, she says. “They just want kisses. They just want love.”

Courtesy MaeDay Rescue

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“Here’s why I do this,” Garcia explains. “I say this with every dog: They are so present. The world is so scary. We don’t know about our jobs. None of that concerns them. They need love, food, and water. I look at them and see how happy they are. So that reminds me, to be present and live in the now. And then I think: ‘You, Natalie, have food, water, and love'”

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