Reigning cats and dogs at the Aurora animal shelter

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AURORA | When firefighters delivered two litters of puppies to the Aurora Animal Shelter in the middle of the night earlier this month, staff scrambled to find them foster homes.

And after the holiday season, more puppies and kittens will need foster homes of their own, shelter manager Jenee Shipman said.

Santa sometimes brings puppies that can’t be properly taken care of, she said. Or, parents buy chicks and rabbits for Easter that escape just in time for spring, the season of copulation for unneutered pets and strays of all varieties.

That means more four-legged friends are checked in at the animal shelter in the early months of the year. More than 100 animals are booked at the moment, many of which are up for adoption.

In the cat wing of the shelter, rows of tabbies and black cats alike slept in cubbies. In the dog kennel, a raucous chorus of barks filled the air, but most of the dogs pressed their noses to the chain-links for scratches.

These are adult cats and dogs. Puppies and kittens, however, need constant care, and the shelter relies on foster “parents” to temporarily take them home. Fostered animals are often young enough to nurse bottles like human babies.

Adult dogs and cats recovering from a medical procedure also need a place to rest easily for a few weeks or months, like Pinky, a dog that survived cruelty and suffered from two broken legs that were recently mended.

Shipman said she has expanded the list of regular foster households from just one in 2014 to more than 30 today. Occasionally, though, there are small crises: like when eight puppies were delivered in the middle of an early November night – a litter of pitbull puppies and another of chihuahuas.

“We got two litters of puppies overnight, and there were not enough calls we could make” to foster parents, Shipman said. Staff regularly foster dogs and cats themselves to give them the attention they need, she added.

Eventually, all but one of the puppies were fostered and later adopted — outside of Aurora, which banned pitbulls within city limits.

The remaining puppy, Pecan, has bulging eyes like a chameleon or hammerhead shark, and one of his legs is lame. That didn’t stop him from racing around a carpeted room in the shelter, where Roberta MacPhail coddled a tiny, six-week-old kitten named Lava.

MacPhail had brought in Lava for a medical check-up, which included a shot. Lava, tired from the ordeal, buried his head in MacPhail’s stomach and slept soundly while she described the joys of fostering. Her home serves as a regular foster household for kittens from the Aurora Animal Shelter.

“I’m retired, so I have a lot of time,” she said. “They keep me busy.”

MacPhail was glad that the shelter provided her with food and litter while she watched Lava, which is standard policy. Shipman said the shelter gives food, treats and bedding to doggie foster parents.

The only danger in fostering, Shipman said, is becoming too attached to an adorable puppy, kitten, or healing adult animal.

“It’s sad,” Shipman said in the dog kennel. “There are so many of them.”

She added: Why doesn’t The Sentinel foster a dog?

As usual, this Sentinel staffer looked at the eager dogs in their kennels, and said that we could not. Sometimes it seems there is no way to leave an animal shelter but with a broken heart.