The little Pomeranian mix was half starved, dirty and scared when Molli Van Dorn found her at Columbia Park last week.
Thanks to Van Dorn, founder of the Pet Over Population Prevention group, the frightened pooch spent a warm Thanksgiving in the caring foster home of Marilyn Taylor instead of wandering hungry.
The pom is just one of hundreds of dogs and cats POPP rescues each year, and there is a desperate need for more foster homes, Van Dorn said.
POPP is not a shelter but an organization of caring animal lovers who come to the aid of abandoned and abused pets by providing rescue, health aid, food and hopefully a new home.
"Foster families are the heartbeat of POPP," Van Dorn said. "Because POPP is well known in the community, people get the false impression there are masses of foster homes. Nothing could be farther from the truth."
Amanda LaRiviere of Pasco has been a foster pet parent for about 13 years and has given temporary sanctuary to 150 to 200 dogs.
"Some people are reluctant to take on fostering full time, but it is great to have foster homes we can call on for temporary situations, like when another foster home goes on vacation," LaRiviere said.
She said most people who open their homes to pet foster care will tell you the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.
"Dogs are amazing animals and very sensitive," she said. "They know you are helping them."
Van Dorn says there is a great need for more foster homes to care for the growing number of abandoned pets.
"Foster homes are only temporary and are actually needed much more urgently than permanent homes," she said. "Foster homes lead to more pets finding forever homes instead of euthanasia as a means of pet control in our community. Without foster homes, pets will not survive to know those forever families."
The commitment to be a foster family requires a love of animals and a safe environment. POPP provides everything within its means to keep foster families from spending money on the pets, Van Dorn said.
"We provide food, toys, crates, beds, veterinarian assistance and assistance with behavioral issues," she said. "Whatever a pet may need to make his/her stay with the foster family a rewarding experience for both the pet and the family."
Ama Roth of Kennewick got involved with fostering about 10 years ago at the request of her then 9-year-old daughter.
"The high points of being a foster family is you do make a difference," Roth said. "For every foster home we have, we can save 10 to 20 dogs per year."
The toughest part of the job, she added, "is dealing with people who do not care for their dogs or just want to discard them."
As for the little white Pomeranian mix being fostered by Taylor, she is doing well and looking for a permanent home. POPP volunteers are calling her Windi since she was found on a blustery, cold fall day at the park.
She was cleaned up, fed and looked after by a veterinarian, then went to spend some foster time with Taylor.
"She's a very sweet little dog," Taylor said. "I will never understand how people can just abandon their pets."
Windi's companion, another Pomeranian female but with long brown hair, wasn't captured until Friday when a Kennewick woman found her criss-crossing the roadway through Columbia Park.
"She was much more skittish and elusive than Windi and harder to capture," Van Dorn said. "But both dogs are now safe with Marilyn and looking for loving homes."