Finding joy in fostering pets and making a positive impact

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In the heart of Karratha, Western Australia, Karri Frisken and her partner John Harvey have made their home a sanctuary for animals in need – not only for their own pets, but also for foster animals waiting to be adopted.

Photo Credit: Heather Osborne

Karri and John began fostering for SAFE (Saving Animals from Euthanasia) Inc in September 2021 when they took in a mother cat with three eight-day old kittens. Less than a week later, they took in the cutest little foster dog!

“We loved pet sitting while we were renting and when we bought our house, it came with a cat named Puss and she just let us live in it!” laughed Karri. “That’s when we decided to foster! I have no idea how many animals we’ve fostered to date! Our pets and the temporary dogs and cats we care for have no boundaries; they are part of our family.”

Karri found fostering to be a great way to create community connections and make a difference in animals’ and people’s lives.

“Fostering has made a positive impact on our lives, being responsible and dedicated to animals that are often unwell and unloved,” she said.

“It’s so rewarding to see that confidence slowly return in the safe, quiet space that we can offer them. They leave us bright and happy after SAFE have seriously considered a suitable adoptive family. I still get photos of some of the pets that I have loved and let go to their new families who give them the best life. It’s these that make my heart sing.”

Karri and John’s door is open to puppies, dogs, cats and kittens; however, they tend to be placed by SAFE with smaller dogs due to Karri’s disability. Karri has hemiplegia, paralysis or weakness that affects only one side of her body, from a brain infection that happened when she was 15 years old.

She spent almost a year in recovery / rehabilitation learning to walk and talk again. Having the hospital resident cat, Smokey, sit on her lap and receive visits from other pets in hospital made a world of difference for Karri’s morale.

“I knew from that moment that animals were crucial for people’s recovery and mental health,” said Karri, who today works with young people with mental health difficulties in a career inspired by the amazing team of medical professionals involved in her recovery.

Karri and John’s own pets Rufus ‘White-Socks Harvey’, Brin ‘Scruff-Tail Harvey’ and Biscuit ‘Kitty Kit Harvey’ are ‘foster fusions’ (foster pets that are adopted by their carer) that are integral members of their family.

Originally born to a backyard breeder, “Rufus was socialised from day one and takes great care of the foster puppies and dogs. It’s like he has an innate sense of protection and love,” said Karri. “He plays tug-o-war with the puppies and always lets them win and I’ve caught them on countless occasions snuggled up sleeping.”

Brin was one of three siblings Karri and John fostered over Christmas 2021 – part of a litter of 11 that were split into different foster homes.  Brin was one of the last to get adopted and was Rufus’s little shadow, so they decided to keep her.

“Brin is our ‘tester dog’ with foster cats and kittens; she lies down and waits patiently for them to come investigate. When the kittens are more confident, Brin has lots of fun with them. We know that she has Cattle Dog in her because she tries to round the kittens up!” laughed Karri.

Woman with dog in field

Photo Credit: Heather Osborne

Biscuit, from foster to family

The latest recruit to the family is a 1-year-old Chihuahua x Terrier named Biscuit, featured in the premier episode of Channel 9’s TV series Take Me Home Season 2 in April 2024.

Karri and John brought Biscuit home from SAFE Inc as a foster pet.

“She slept for the first two days in recovery and was such a good puppy!” said Karri. “SAFE eventually received a beautiful application for Biscuit and it was all set for adoption when filming Take Me Home – Season 2 concluded. But the longer I spent with Biscuit I knew that it was going to be impossible to let her go. When I received news that the family could no longer adopt her, I jumped!

“I fell more and more in love with her little mannerisms, how she talks to us, is super snuggly like a cat – and let’s face it, the size of a cat, also! Biscuit is the boss of Brin and Rufus. She also favours John; they have snuggles every night!

“I call the dogs “the motley crew”. They love the beach and the river.  Our life feels complete with the dogs which we love and could not imagine life without.”

With three dogs at home, Karri and John can’t take in any more foster dogs (unless it’s emergency care), but they can still foster cats and kittens.

What’s Karri’s advice for people thinking of fostering a pet?

“Fostering is like pet sitting and when your foster animal goes, it’s making room for a new one,” she said.

“Don’t let a disability hold you back from making the decision to foster. You will be supported by the agency who saves the lives of animals. It brings immense joy to be part of the animals journey.”

View more episodes of Take Me Home – Season 2 here

To learn more about fostering pets, contact a CANA member near you. https://australiacan.org.au/who-we-are/

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