Foster dog mother cares for the unadoptable

The phone rings and Joey begins to whimper quietly.

“He’s fine, but he really doesn’t like long-distance calls. So hopefully no one from far away phones,” Anne Sayers said.

He dislikes long-distance calls because the ringing lasts for such a long time. About two seconds later there is a long-distance call and Joey begins to whimper even louder.

Joey is a four-year-old Boston terrier who lived at the Toronto Humane Society until September 2007, when Sayers took him home. These days, the phone seems to be about the only thing that upsets Joey. He shares a home with Niki, a 13-year-old Rottweiler-lab cross, also an ex-resident of the THS.

Sayers is a foster dog mother who has taken in six dogs. She takes home dogs that are old or sick and considered by the THS to be unadoptable, so they can live out their lives in a home. Joey and Niki are her latest charges.

“You take care of them and give them what they need and you know that they’re dying; you know that they don’t have long,” Sayers said.

When Joey came into the shelter he was very sick. Sayers said the veterinarians believed that he had a neurological disorder. He was depressed and wasn’t eating anything. He weighed nine pounds and wasn’t expected to live very long. At Sayers’ home, he perked up and is now healthy weighing 22 pounds, which is a bit chubby for a Boston terrier.

Niki had spent her entire life with her owner who suddenly went to the hospital and couldn’t care for the dog anymore. Niki ended up at the shelter and since she was an older dog, the chances of adoption were pretty slim.

“She’s a big dog and she’s 13 years old. Who’s going to adopt her?” Sayers said. “I always take whoever is the worst down there. Whoever is not going to get adopted, I take them.”

Sayers has been a volunteer dog walker with the THS since April 2005. A dog she’d had for years died and she was devastated. She decided she wasn’t going to get another dog, but working at the THS seemed the perfect alternative. Once she got there and saw all of the dogs suffering she considered becoming a foster parent to the dogs.

Three months later, she met Roger, a German shepherd, and the first dog she’d seen in palliative care. She learned that THS did not consider him adoptable because he was so sick.

Sayers said she couldn’t stand the idea of Roger living out his last days in the shelter, so she took him home where he lived another 18 months.

“The vet said to me, ‘Even if it doesn’t work out, even if you only have him for two weeks, at least he’s had a vacation from the shelter.’ He was just the most wonderful dog,” Sayers said.

She’s been fostering dogs ever since.

“I see them as the innocent victims of hard times. Whether it’s marriage breakups, job losses, people’s circumstances changing. They have no control,” Sayers said.

Sayers said that it’s really hard knowing that a loved one is going to die soon and it’s especially hard to deal with their death, but she finds fostering very rewarding.

“My attitude is that it’s better for them to die here than it is for them to die in the shelter,” Sayers said. “I can’t do anything about the fact that they’re sick, but I can give them a good home and they have a pretty good life while they’re here.”

Go to to see the pets that are up for adoption.