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Fostering friendship: Students care for dogs during pandemic

<p>During the spring semester, senior Tyler Meier decided to foster three puppies at once.</p>

During the spring semester, senior Tyler Meier decided to foster three puppies at once.

Senior Fernanda Herrera isn’t usually home during the semester. During COVID-19, she was, so she decided to keep herself busy with a new furry friend.

“I didn't really consider myself a dog person, but I became very attached to our last foster, Freddy,” Herrera said. Freddy would follow her around everywhere and “it was very nice to have that companionship.”

Herrera was not alone in this. Some Duke students have become interested in fostering dogs during the pandemic as they spend most of their time at home. 

Senior Tyler Meier also became interested in fostering last semester. Unlike Herrera, Meier does consider himself a dog person.

“Last semester we got two puppies,” Meier said. “They were brothers and we named them Fred and George. We had them for like a month.”

“At first we obviously had to get adjusted, especially because we were in an apartment,” Meier said. Meier spoke of how he used to take the puppies out for walks and described his fostering experience as manageable. 

When Meier went to the shelter to give back the puppies, one of his friends decided she wanted to adopt Fred. 

During the spring semester, Meier decided to foster three puppies at once. However, Meier only had the puppies for five days—despite their cuteness, Meier said three puppies was just too much to deal with, even with the extra time at home given the pandemic. He said that he would still contemplate fostering a dog in a normal year but keep a “one dog maximum.”

Riju, one of senior Fernanda Herrera's foster puppies.

Saving Grace, the Wake Forest nonprofit where Meier and Herrera both adopted their dogs, has seen a rapid rise in the number of people interested in fostering animals. 

“Right at the start in March when all the lockdown started and people were immediately working from home and students were off, we had a massive increase in people interested in fostering,” said Iantha Dunne, a volunteer with Saving Grace.

Saving Grace collects puppies from shelters in rural and less populated areas and brings them to Wake Forest where they can get vaccinated, fostered and later adopted. Dunne said this increase in fostering interest has lasted several months, and although Saving Grace does not collect demographics of their foster volunteers, she has welcomed an increase of Duke students in the fostering program since the start of the pandemic. 

Senior Alex Frumkin lived in an apartment during the fall semester. At the beginning of the semester, Frumkin knew he wanted to adopt a puppy but had a slight reservation.

“I knew that if I were to bring the animal into my life, I would make the commitment to the animal—it would be too hard to give it up,” Frumkin said. However, he knew that this would be “the best time of [his] life” to raise a puppy, given the free time a primarily online education provides.

Senior Alex Frumkin's foster puppy, Quaker.

Frumkin adopted a labrador mix, whom he named Quaker, from Saving Grace. He was surprised by how fast he became attached to the puppy.

“I've always loved the idea of dogs, but this is my first dog. I felt such a strong love for him so quickly that I didn't really know was possible,” Frumkin said. 


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