VOLUNTEER OF THE WEEK: Bowers’ temporary home leads to forever families

Published 8:00 am Sunday, April 9, 2023

This week’s Vicksburg Post Volunteer of the Week is Elizabeth Bowers, who fosters for the City of Vicksburg Animal Shelter. Bowers is a Vicksburg native and currently works as the Assistant General Manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites.

How did you hear about the foster program?

I began my love for fostering animals through my aunt, Jill Waring Upchurch, with my first “foster fail,” Sadie. She was a three-legged German Shephard/Golden Retriever Mix that needed a very particular home. Once I realized we were each other’s “person,” I knew in my heart she was already home. Sadie lived her best life with me for approximately 10 years before passing away. Because of Sadie and Jill, I guess it became more apparent to me how big the need was for fosters and volunteers in our community, primarily due to the lack of spay/neuter in the South as well as the overgrowth of backyard breeding in Mississippi. One day I saw (fellow volunteer) Dianne Gargaro, who was pleading for all available fosters via Facebook. I reached out to her and got my first foster through her program, named Dennis. 

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How long have you been in the foster program?

Approximately four years of fostering, approximately 40 dogs and puppies, and one amazing friendship.

What is your favorite memory while fostering?

Perhaps my favorite memory would have to be my second foster fail, Dixie. She was a very wormy and sick puppy from the pound. All her siblings had been adopted ahead of her. She was very shy and for that, often looked over when people visited the pound. (Shelter Director Kacie Lindsey) and (Gargaro) thought it would be best to give her a shot at a foster, try to get her healthy and send her up North to be adopted out. The first night I had her, she was balled up in a towel, and would only peek her eyes out. She was terrified of everything. She was skin and bones, to the point you could count the disks in her spine as well as each rib, with a large worm-bloated belly. We did not realize just how sick she would turn out to be. The first night, she got to the point that I thought she would not end up making it. The next day she spent the day and night at the vet on an IV. On the third day, she came back to me. For about two weeks after, she started to get healthy, gain weight, sleep in the bed with me, learn to run and play, wear sweaters, develop a very lovable personality, and even learn manners such as sit, shake, and walking without pulling on a leash. She learned to gain some confidence and trust a few. She would follow my every move. The time came for her transport, and I quickly realized we were too bonded and neither of us would be able to let go. So I called Dianne the night before and convinced her to let me keep Dixie. She turned 3 last month and has been one of the best companions and dogs I have ever had.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about fostering?

Fostering is something you have to go into knowing that you are just the middle-man to that sweet animal’s brighter future. You are solely the temporary mom or dad for a few weeks, to show the neglected or malnourished or unloved animal (a lot of times it would be all of the above), just what true love can be like and what an actual home is supposed to be, until they reach their forever home. I know you probably think you aren’t cut out to foster, because it will be hard or even heartbreaking to “give them up.” I won’t lie, it 100 percent is, with some. But, it is so very rewarding to see what the future holds for them and the success stories so many of these sweet babies get to experience, in the long run. 

What are your activities and what do they involve?

While fostering, they provide you with all vet care, food, and supplies that you may need. You simply just take the animal home and show it love like you would your own pet. Sometimes they leave in a couple of days and sometimes they leave in a couple of months. You really just have to go into fostering knowing this is temporary and their new family is out there waiting for them. 

Any additional comments?

Go for it and you will not regret it. You will see and feel the most humbling and rewarding experience of your life. It will turn into a lifestyle and a habit. Somedays will be hard and you will feel burnt out and may even feel like giving up, because you will have occasional bad days, like everything else in life. But as soon as you get that feeling, along comes another baby to brighten your day and remind you why you keep doing it all. My last bit of advice would be this. If you can’t foster, for whatever reason, give or donate or even volunteer your time. Every little bit helps. Spend some time researching the root of the issue in our community and talking with these amazing people that devote their lives to fostering and volunteering and you will see just how big of a need there is. 

If there is a volunteer who should be featured, please submit their name and contact information to volunteer@vicksburgpost.com.