Lending A “Paw”

Karissa Gonzales, Staff Reporter



Sirens and the sound of the city roar through his ears as he finds whatever scraps he could savage. People look the other way as he walks around, trying to find pure water to hydrate what’s left of him. That all changed when he met her: the one person who didn’t look the other way.

Senior Hillary Xu started fostering dogs during the spring of 2020. She found herself with an abundance of time to pursue her long-time goal of animal rescue. She felt compelled to start fostering when Austin Pets Alive (APA) sent out foster requests because the pandemic caused staff shortages and an influx of abandoned dogs.

“I didn’t have the experience with fostering to know what to look for when it came to adoption meet and greets, what questions to ask potential adopters and how to follow up on adoption inquiries to get the most success,” Xu said. “However the APA has a very helpful fostering handbook. Last year APA started a fostering shed, so you can grab donated dog beds, crates, toys, etc. for free to use for your foster dog, so the cost to foster is essentially free.”

Xu’s first foster was from Dog & Dash, a fostering program at Austin Pets Alive where foster “parents” can directly put an available dog that needs fostering into their car. Dogs that qualify for this program are either puppies or known to be dog and child friendly with no medical or behavioral issues. Xu’s first foster was Prada, a 2-month-old Lab-mix who was adopted in 3 days.

“My parents were hesitant at first because they weren’t interested in pets and were rightfully concerned with living with a random dog, especially some of the dogs I wanted to take home (strays, behavioral cases and injured dogs),” Xu said. “However, once we brought home Prada, they quickly warmed up and now enjoy her company. Both are much more open to fostering now.”

Gumball was a 2-year-old German Shepard mix who was roaming the streets with a shattered back leg when Xu took him in as a foster. Xu and her family took Gumball’s recovery gingerly, gradually building up his strength and confidence until he could go hiking with them. The family eventually had the entire leg amputated once his medical donation was filled, and afterwards he was adopted into a family with human and dog siblings.

“Gumball went through more pain than any dog should’ve, but he still forgave and let go of his past and is now living it up with his new family,” Xu said. “He made me realize that the capacity for suffering is second to the capacity for love.”

Even when Xu goes to college, she said she does not want to stop fostering in the long run.

 “I plan on fostering until I drop,” Xu said. “There’s no reason to stop–college is just a temporary obstacle.”

Xu said that every dog has their own story, and any amount of help can make a profound impact on their life. She said that even donating to a shelter or volunteering to feed the dogs can teach someone about animal rescue–and a lot about themselves.

“I learned that even though helping a dog doesn’t make a huge difference in the world, it completely changes the world for that dog,” Xu said. “There’s so many things we can do that don’t seem significant, but their impact definitely is. It’s given me a purpose and a philosophy that I apply to all aspects of my life.”