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Photos by Heather Ransley

Peering out between cage bars, an animal’s face looks sad, even desperate. Fortunately the launch of a promising program at Kaua’i Humane Society presents shelter dogs in a whole new light; a light that more accurately captures their temperament and personality.

Foster parents traipse the island showcasing canine ambassadors from the island’s only animal shelter, located in Puhi.

“In most shelters, foster programs are primarily used for animals needing time to become healthy. Or they’re underage animals needing time to grow to eight weeks to be put up for adoption,” said Shelter Operations Coordinator, Brandy Varvel.

It’s likely you’ve seen them rollicking on Hanalei Bay or racing you to the summit of Sleeping Giant, dressed in their “adopt me” vests. Through the foster program, healthy, socialized dogs are entering the community better able to sell themselves to potential adopters.

“Foster parents are able to assess the dog’s personality better than we can in the shelter.” Varvel said. “There’s only so much we can learn in a kennel environment.”

Andrea Erichsen of Koloa, began fostering dogs while living in California, where she found homes for ten animals. She just celebrated having her second Kaua’i foster dog, Belle, adopted.

“Intelligent dogs can get really shut down in the shelter. When people come see them there they don’t really “see” the dog,” she said. “That’s why the foster program is good;  Belle was so shy and now she just glows and becomes more radiant.”

Foster parents are not only saving the life of the animal they invite home.

“Through fostering, these people are saving two lives by taking one dog and creating space for another,” Varvel said.

The week the program launched nearly a dozen dogs left the building with foster parents; the shelter providing all food and medical support, as well an “adopt me” vest for proper exposure.

Daniel and Nikola Bishop of Lihu’e(?)had both their foster pups adopted within 10 days. A common question the newlyweds receive is how to not get attached?

“It’s not for the good of you but for the good of them,” Daniel Bishop said. “As soon as you get that concept it’s easier to deal with having to part with them.”

That said, fostering is for the good of all concerned. Erichsen has two young children reaping the benefits of the program.

“My kids have been fine with knowing it’s a  temporary thing,” she said. “I explain we’re fostering and that’s what this is about. This is an opportunity to teach the animal a lot, plus they have fun doing it.”

Erichsen began fostering in 2004 after losing two dogs in a short period.

“Every dog I’ve met fostering, they’re like little jewels on an invisible necklace I wear. They are with me even if they are not with me anymore.”

Bishop works with his fosters on how to wait, sit and walk nicely on leash.

“It makes the dog more appealing seeing the dog out in town and with someone who can speak with accountability about their temperament.”

Varvel attests to the success of the program: seven out of 10 dogs are adopted by their foster parents and 20 percent of the foster parents find homes for their animals.

Not only is this a life saving program but also it raises awareness of the shelter when the dogs are seen dressed in the “adopt me” vest, Varvel said.

To become a foster parent schedule an appointment by emailing Visit to see a few candidates or visit Fridays, to meet adoptable animals in a new section titled, Pet Personals.

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