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Ellen Chen with Foster Cats

Foster Feature: Ellen Chen

Turning a life-long love of pets into volunteer engagement – and even marriage!

As the beating heart of our organization, the fosters at Rescued Pets Movement are the first stop on an animal’s journey to its forever home. By giving these animals shelter, food, care, and love, our dedicated foster volunteers truly make our movement possible.

To shine a light on the incredible work our fosters do, we highlight one volunteer every other month in our “Foster Feature.” Gain insight into their experience fostering with RPM, why they do what they do, and how you can get involved too.

Foster Volunteer: Ellen Chen

Position: Foster Volunteer

Time Fostering with RPM: Since December 2015

Rescued Pets Movement: How did you hear about RPM?

Ellen Chen: From a friend. When I expressed interest in fostering animals, she told me she had briefly fostered for RPM and that it was such a rewarding experience. Also, a co-worker mentioned RPM to me because one of his friends had fostered for RPM.

What made you want to foster for RPM?

EC: I have always been a huge animal lover. Even as a young child, I was constantly begging my parents for guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, cats, dogs, etc. My husband and I have two cats: we adopted the first for one of my birthdays, and he adopted the second one as part of his marriage proposal!

I very much want to expand our furry family, but my two cats are quite spoiled and content with just one another, so I figured fostering would somewhat satisfy my desire to adopt more animals, but in a less permanent way. During the home-buying process, I explicitly mentioned to my husband that I couldn’t wait to own a home so that we could finally start fostering animals – which he (thankfully) agreed to!

I originally started fostering puppies for RPM during a brief period of unemployment, but then switched over to kittens and cats once I had a regular 40-hours-a-week job at an office away from home. While I still foster puppies once a year or so, felines are my true animal love. I am a total crazy cat lady, and everyone in my life is well aware of my cat obsession!

What all goes into being a foster?

EC: For me, it’s a deep commitment to these animals and their welfare, and of course, a love of animals! I currently work from home, and my job allows me a bit of flexibility, so I’m able to foster more high maintenance or sick animals.

Once a kitten enters my home, it essentially becomes “mine,” in that I care for it as if it were mine to keep. Therefore, I try to be very attentive and observant when it comes to health and sociability of the animal. I try to do everything possible to ensure the kitten receives the best care (courtesy of RPM’s amazing vet staff!) and take mini-breaks throughout the day to socialize and cuddle with the kittens.

I ask the vet staff, foster coordinators, and other foster volunteers a fair amount of questions, which I think is important. You can never know too much, and every new foster animal presents an opportunity to “foster better” and learn more than with the previous one.

How long do you have to commit to being a foster?

EC: It varies depending on the age and health of the animals. I’ve had very short-term fosters, requiring only a night or two stay with me, and then I’ve had kittens for two or more months. Thankfully, RPM is great with coordinating re-fosters should I need to leave town or something personal comes up.

What is your favorite part about fostering for RPM?

EC: Kitten cuddles! I seriously cannot get enough of kitten cuddles. It is truly therapeutic for me during the work day to take kitten cuddle breaks every so often to decompress and distress. It’s an inexplicably warm happy feeling to have a kitten or cat lying in your lap or on your chest and bask in their content rhythmic purring. I seriously cannot get enough of it!

Also, adoption updates! Whenever I do receive news or see updates that former foster kitten of mine has found their forever home, I always cheer and have a mini-celebration and immediately text my husband (and my friends and other foster volunteers) about the awesome news! It’s extremely rewarding to see the fruits of your labor result in a happy ending.

What has been your favorite memory fostering for RPM?

EC: There have been so many of them! Would it be cheesy and cliché to say all of the long-lasting meaningful friendships I’ve made? Because that is absolutely the case! It’s just been so exciting and reassuring for me to connect and interact with people whom feel as passionately about animal rescue and fostering as I do. Rescue and fostering can sometimes be pretty harrowing, so active awareness that you’re not alone in the “struggle” has been incredibly encouraging to me.

Also, the charity events are pretty memorable and fun! I always have a blast interacting with RPM people in a more social setting!

What’s something you wish you would have known before you started fostering for RPM?

EC: I wish I had been more knowledgeable about all the various viruses, bacteria, and ailments that can affect the animals we rescue. Because there are a lot of them, and they all have very specific treatment approaches and plans. However, thankfully RPM vet staff and other foster volunteers have been very resourceful in providing the information I need to undertake the challenges associated with these illnesses.

What has been the most difficult part about fostering for RPM?

EC: Occasionally, saying goodbye can be quite bittersweet, especially with the neglected animals that came to me with severe health issues. I usually end up keeping these animals for a more extended period to nurse them back to health, and of course, I become incredibly attached to them. It’s impossible not to when I’m up all hours of the night caring for them and stressing myself out over whether they’ll make it!

Also, on rare occasion, I have had very sick kittens pass away and those moments have been especially painful for me. However, it’s never been a deterrent to continue fostering. It is gratifying to know that these vulnerable babies wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise, and I did my best (and then some) to maximize their chances at survival toward the ultimate goal of a finding a loving forever family.

Interested in learning more about becoming a Foster Volunteer for RPM, or ready to apply to become a foster? Head over to our Foster page to learn more, and fill out the foster application here.

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Darryl Ehler

Driver Feature: Darryl Ehler

Going the Distance for Houston’s Homeless Pets

From escaping the local shelters to arriving to their forever home, the animals that Rescued Pets Movement saves go on a journey – both figuratively and literally. That journey is made possible by our army of volunteers, fosters, and staff members – especially our team of dedicated drivers.

In our monthly “Driver Feature,” we recognize the long, challenging work our team of drivers do each and every week. Our goal is to help you better understand what goes into each transport and then share ways you can help ensure our organization succeeds in its mission to save the lives of homeless pets across the Houston area.

Staff Member: Darryl Ehler

Position: Lead Driver

Time working with RPM: 4 Years

Rescued Pets Movement: How long have you worked with RPM?

Darryl Ehler: I’ve had the opportunity of transporting for RPM since November of 2014.

How did you hear about RPM?

DE: I learned about RPM and their valiant mission to save the lives of Houston’s overwhelming amount of neglected, overpopulated, and forgotten pets through an old friend of mine who was involved with us at the time.

Can you explain the transport process from start to finish?

DE: As the Lead Driver with Rescued Pets Movement, by the time we return to Houston from a successful transport of rescue animals to Colorado, my mission to prepare for the next transport has already begun.

For me, a transport starts with ensuring that our transport vans are serviced and in safe operating conditions. Once we have determined how many animals we will be transporting on a given week, I then determine how many vans and drivers will be required, lining that out accordingly.

Transport mornings (Thursdays) are everyone’s favorite day of the week. We get to see all of our fosters, volunteers, donors, and staff at their best, advocating for these amazing animals. It’s incredible to see the amount of love and care our fosters have for each and every animal we transport!

While the drivers get their vans set up, the dogs and cats (along with the occasional pig) are brought through to be collared and seen by our veterinarian. Then, we begin loading the animals into their assigned van and crate.

After each animal has been loaded, we begin our 2,200-mile journey. From the time we leave the RPM facility, we stop every 4-6 hours at safe, predetermined locations to exercise and feed the animals. Once we reach Colorado, which is normally around midnight, we stop for the night to get as much rest as we can, remaining in the vans with the dogs and cats. At 6 a.m., we check on the welfare of each animal, take them out for exercise, and feed them breakfast. We are back on the road by 7 a.m., heading for our first drop-off of the day.

On any given transport, we have up to 10 drop-off locations where we meet all the other amazing rescue partners we work with, including their fosters and adopters, to deliver the animal or animals. Our meeting locations stretch from Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, and beyond.

At each of the drops, it’s always amazing to watch our organization’s mission come full circle, seeing all the happy homes these animals are going to. We’ve even had families show up with their children holding big homemade banners welcoming their new family member to Colorado! It truly is a beautiful experience to be a part of and to witness. It is so fulfilling to all of us to see these animals get the second chance they deserve!

Only after the last animal is safely delivered do we point our transport vans southward and begin our journey back to Houston. As soon as we get back, we begin preparing for another incredible journey to save Houston’s homeless pets. 

What made you want to drive for RPM?

DE: I wanted to help RPM embark on this incredible and monumental mission to save thousands of otherwise helpless pets. It has been an extraordinary opportunity to help our community, as the organization has come together for the sake of the lives of those that don’t have a voice or the ability to help themselves.

What has been your favorite memory driving for RPM?

DE: I’ve had so many great memories and experiences transporting for RPM that it would be hard to single out a favorite memory. I would have to say my favorite memories are the ones where we help animals that have otherwise been deemed unadoptable or have had major trauma find the loving home they ever so needed and deserved.

What’s something you wish you would have known before you started driving for RPM?

DE: If there were anything I wish I had known before my opportunity of being with RPM, it would be the extent of the problem RPM aims to solve. I had no idea things were as bad as they are here in my own hometown before RPM began enlightening the community. I wish there was more public outreach from local news and affiliates about Houston’s homeless pet problems. 

What has been the most difficult part about driving for RPM?

DE: The most difficult part of driving for RPM would be saying goodbye to some of the amazing dogs and cats that you’ve grown to love along their journey from living on the streets, to the shelter, and to their forever homes.

What’s the best part about driving for RPM?

DE: The best part of driving for RPM is seeing the humility displayed by humanity as people come together from two different, and often multiple, parts of the country to ensure these animals receive the help and homes they truly deserve. It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever been able to be a part of!  

We are blessed to have Darryl in the RPM family, and we couldn’t do our hard work without him. With all the time, money, and resources that go into our weekly transports, we need your help to ensure that Darryl and our drivers have what they need to continue doing this life-saving work. Your donations help these animals get where they need to go – loving forever homes with families who are waiting for them.

Learn more about how you can donate to our cause or how you can get involved with RPM as a volunteer.

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Rescued Pets Movement Forst

How Do I Become a Foster with RPM?

Join our Foster Network

We say it all the time, but our foster volunteers truly are the heart of Rescued Pets Movement. While we could save every single animal from local shelters, our work would be impossible without homes where they could stay.

As the first stop on any pet’s journey to its forever home, our foster volunteers play a crucial role in the rehabilitation of the animals we rescue. By providing temporary shelter, food, care, and (most importantly) love, our fosters must give a lot, and they do so willingly.

If you love animals and can offer the shelter and care these pets need, we always want to grow our network of fosters so we can do the work that matters – getting these homeless pets out of shelters and one step closer to their forever homes.

How Foster Care Works

When you decide to become a foster, RPM will provide you with an estimated length of time the pet will be staying with you. This length of time can vary. It may be as short as one night, or as long as two weeks. If you’re fostering a young puppy, the time may fall to the longer end, because our protocol is to hold puppies for a minimum of 10 days before delivering them to their new loving families

A typical foster process looks like this:

  1. Typically, your foster animal will come to you from the Houston City Pound (BARC) or another local shelter.
  2. While the shelters do provide vet-care in-house, it’s always possible your foster animal may need to visit RPM’s veterinarian. In this case, we provide a hotline number you can use should your foster need additional vet care.
  3. Once your foster is in good shape, you simply need to care for and love your foster for the agreed-upon length of time.
  4. On transport day, our volunteers load up our passenger vans with pets, and our drivers transport the animals to one of our reputable rescue partners in areas that have a need for adoptable pets.

One thing we want to reiterate: Fostering is temporary. We work diligently to ensure these animals only stay in your home for the original duration requested. Why? Because we want to get them to their final destination as soon as they’re ready to be adopted. We’re happy to work with you around your schedule, as every little bit helps, even if it’s just one night.

How to Apply to Become a Foster Volunteer

Think you’ve got what it takes to become a foster with RPM? All you need to do is take a few minutes to fill out our foster agreement. We’ll need a few things from you, including:

  • Your contact information
  • The kinds of pets you’re interested in fostering
  • A little bit of information about any current pets you have
  • Any foster experience you may have
  • Whether there are any children in your home
  • How you plan to house and care for your fosters

Once we receive your foster agreement, we’ll contact you with any questions we may have, as well as any other relevant information you may need.

Other Ways to Help RPM

Want to give back to RPM, but don’t have the time, space, or living situation to offer yourself up as a foster? We are always in need of donations. All funds we receive from donors go toward the life-saving work we do. From vet care and medication to food and toys, every bit helps improve the lives of these animals.

To learn more about why your donations matter and how you can help Rescued Pets Movement achieve our mission, visit our Donations Page.

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About Rescued Pets Movement

How Do I Volunteer with RPM?

Join the Movement

The mission of Rescued Pets Movement is to save as many pets as possible from needless euthanasia. And with an estimated 1 million homeless dogs and cats wandering the streets of Houston, coupled with shelters that are already overcrowded and overburdened, we have our work cut out for us.

We fundamentally believe that our successes can be directly attributed to the passionate people who support the work we do. From donors and drivers to fosters and volunteers, we know first-hand the difference it makes to have enthusiastic volunteers supporting your cause.

As a non-profit, we count on our volunteers to help support our efforts so we can stay financially lean. It’s crucial that we use the bulk of our funds where they’re needed most – saving and improving the lives of homeless animals across the Greater Houston area.

We’re always on the lookout for more committed volunteers, so we’d love to have your help!

Ways to Volunteer

With a constant influx of homeless pets, we keep very busy here at RPM, and there is no shortage of tasks for our volunteers. With the volume and variety of work we need done, RPM truly has a volunteer opportunity available for people of every age, background, interest, and level of volunteer experience.

While we will always need foster volunteers to house and care for pets – and drivers to get our rescued pets where they need to go – we also need help with behind-the-scenes work. This includes tasks such as performing administrative office functions, fundraising, event planning, photography, and good old grunt work.

For a full list of the opportunities available to our volunteers, check out our volunteer form.

Applying to Become a Volunteer with RPM

Interested in joining the movement by giving your time to RPM? Great! We love the help of anyone who’s passionate about our cause! You can learn more about our volunteer program and fill out an application on our Volunteer page.

Filling out our volunteer application is a quick and easy process. We just need some important information from you so we can get the ball rolling:

  • Tell us who you are and how to contact you, including your:
    • First and last name,
    • Phone number,
    • E-mail address, and;
    • The best time to reach out to you
  • Let us know which volunteer activities sound the most interesting to you. Feel free to select as many as you’d like!
  • Give us your preferred schedule, including what days of the week you’re typically available, as well as your preferred time of day to volunteer.

After you submit your application, someone from our team will be in touch with you shortly!

Want to help our cause, but are short on time to give? All the donations we receive go directly to our efforts to save as many lives as possible, and each one is critical to the success of our operations. So, whether you can give $5 or $500, every penny makes a difference!

To learn how you can donate and how your contributions help the work of Rescued Pets Movement, please visit our Donations Page.

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Foster Feature: Laurann Claridge

Turning her passion for pets into active involvement

The heart of our organization, RPM’s fosters are the first stop on that animal’s journey to their forever home. Giving these animals shelter, food, care, and love, the love and dedication our foster volunteers put in to make our movement possible.

To shine a light on the incredible work our fosters do, we will be highlighting one volunteer every other month in our “Foster Feature.” Gain insight into their experience fostering with RPM, why they do what they do, and how you can get involved too.

Foster Volunteer: Laurann Claridge

Position: Foster Volunteer

Time fostering with RPM: 6 Months

Rescued Pets Movement: How did you hear about RPM?

Laurann Claridge: Through the wonderful efforts of volunteer Jodie Eisenhardt. She’s been a friend of mine for many years, and knowing her long history working on behalf of homeless animals, I knew when she was excited about an organization it was worth knowing more about.

What made you want to foster for RPM?

LC: I’m single and travel for my career throughout the year and know that having my own pet can be a challenge. So being able to pick up and foster a dog for a week or two weeks when I’m home and can devote time and attention to spoiling a pet, who might have been neglected, brings me so much happiness! Plus, RPM makes it so easy: giving you the right food they need, loaning you a crate and any toys, meds, or supplies you might need to make the transition from BARC to your temporary home a lot easier.

What all goes into being a foster?

LC: Like a lot of people, I have the sort of job where I can take a foster to work so that’s incredibly helpful because you can socialize a pet to new surroundings and introduce them to several different ‘real life’ scenarios.

LC: While a lot of people I meet and introduce to my foster dog confess they don’t think they could do it because they’d invariably get attached, that’s exactly why I do it. Because I want to be a pup’s best champion. I know it’s my job to give them lots of love and attention for that short time in their life they’re with me, and later when they must leave, I have to let RPM and their sister organizations do what they do best and find each a forever home.

I know the biggest thing I can do for them is to spoil them with attention and comfort. Take them to the dog park, to work, out in your respective neighborhoods, so they get comfortable in all kinds of arenas.

But make no mistake: I fill out the foster report cards in detail and do my best to reach out to the fosters in Colorado to let them know everything I’ve learned about my foster pet to make their eventual adoption an easier, more transparent experience.”

What is your favorite part about fostering for RPM?

LC: Without a doubt, it’s the unconditional love and appreciation you feel from a dog who finds refuge at your home. They know they’re being loved by someone who wants the best for them. It’s amazing to me how quickly they can acclimate to new surroundings and the new people entering their life.

What has been your favorite memory fostering for RPM?

LC: So many. I think the transformations. For example, seeing a frightened pup who just wants out of BARC so badly and then fast forward a few days and they’re clean, happy, sleeping, and eating well. The relief they feel is something you can sense, too.

What’s something you wish you would have known before you started fostering for RPM?

LC: How easy they make it for you. From a vet and vet techs at the ready to help if a situation arises to the community of people anxious to lend their support.

What has been the most difficult part about fostering for RPM?

LC: Of course, transport days. I cry like a baby all the way home and think about them for many days and weeks, praying they’ll be okay.

Interested in learning more about fostering for RPM, or ready to apply to become a foster? Head over to our Foster page to learn more and fill out the foster application here.

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