‘Imperfectly perfect’: Foster failures praise Huntsville shelter pets

single-meta-cal April 28, 2022

Giving someone a second chance at life can be a rewarding experience, but the same can be said for the dozens of animals brought into Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) each week.

“Some weeks are worse than others,” said HAS Director Dr. Karen Sheppard. “We regularly ask the community to support us, and adopting and fostering are the best ways to help.”


Fortunately, there are always positive outcomes to share. In 2021, more than 5,200 animals were brought into HAS and over 5,100 were either adopted, fostered, reclaimed by an owner or transferred to a rescue group. HAS is inviting the public to help celebrate those efforts on April 30, which is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day.

“Our 95% save rate is not only a testament to our staff and volunteers, but also to those who are willing to open their hearts and homes to a dog or cat,” Sheppard said.

Christopher’s story

A woman in a black T-shirt lays with a large gray and white dog. There are pillows in the background.

Colett Robinson cradles Zola, a mixed-breed dog she adopted from Huntsville Animal Services.

Colett Robinson and her husband, Lance, are examples of those who opened their hearts and homes. They’re also known as “foster failures,” meaning they ultimately adopt a dog they are fostering.

Though they live in Limestone County, Colett Robinson said she felt a need to adopt from HAS because they had more dogs than their local shelter. They adopted Zola, a large mixed breed from HAS in November 2020, but decided to start fostering in January 2022.

“We weren’t sure we could add another dog, but then we met Christopher,” Colett Robinson said, adding he had been at HAS since November 2021. “We had him for roughly two months, and we were able to get him adopted out. Unfortunately, Christopher didn’t mix well with the family’s other dog.”

Two large dogs lay together on a couch. One is gray and the other is black.

Colett and Lance Robinson’s adopted dogs Zola, top, and Christopher lay together on a couch.

Christopher returned to HAS, but it wasn’t long before he was back with the Robinsons.

“We’re just so smitten with him that we’re making him a part of the family,” Robinson said.

When asked what National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day means, she simply said “it means everything.”

“Shelter love is imperfectly perfect,” she said. “These dogs all come with some little quirks, but they’re just so perfect. Their love is unconditional.”

Viola’s story

A woman holds up a white, cross-eyed cat. The woman is wearing a black shirt and has gray hair.

Julie Patton holds Viola, a cat she fostered from Huntsville Animal Services that she ultimately adopted.

Like the Robinsons, Julie Patton is a foster failure. Her cat, Viola, was rescued as a kitten by an animal control officer last spring. Though she had two other cats, Patton took her in.

It wasn’t the first time Patton had fostered cats during “kitten season,” a period in the spring and summer when the shelter takes in a higher volume of young cats.

“Normally, when you’re fostering kittens, (HAS) doesn’t expect you to keep them,” Patton said. “They want them to be around other cats to learn grooming and playing so they can be adopted.”

One of Patton’s cats, Bronwyn, became attached to Viola and took her on as “her own little kitten.” Patton said it was that bond that helped convince her to keep Viola.

Two cats lay in a chair.

Julie Patton’s cats Bronwyn, top, and Viola lay in a chair in Patton’s home. Patton says she kept Viola at Bronwyn’s urging.

Even though she’s a foster failure, Patton urges others to consider it because it’s a short-term commitment with HAS providing veterinary care, supplies and support.

As National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day approaches, she said Viola is now an irreplaceable part of her family.

“She just had her first birthday,” Patton said. “She has a very good life; she’s in the right place.”