COMMENTARY: Foster stays are much-needed way station to forever homes

We already have a list of such kind animal-loving folks on the island, but we need to find at least a few more.

Even though it sometimes seems like the dog-to-human ratio here on Vashon is higher than anywhere else on the planet, with a population of just 11,000 people we’re lucky to not have many dogs without homes.

But dogs do sometimes appear who need help from Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP) to find loving adopters – and foster families represent an important bridge to attaining that ultimate goal of a “forever home.”

Fostering can be very rewarding, as I can attest. My wife, Yulia Ivashchenko, recently became volunteer coordinator of the VIPP Dog Foster Program — and that made her (and, by extension, her lucky husband) a go-to person for urgent placement of dogs who either strayed from or were surrendered by, their owners.

In early December, a large and very friendly dog was picked up wandering around near Tahlequah and was taken to Fair Isle vet clinic. Since the clinic couldn’t keep him for the night, Yulia rushed into town to pick him up. It all ended happily: the dog’s owner eventually connected with VIPP two days later, but in the meantime, he settled happily into our household and proved to be a 90-lb snuggle bunny with whom we quickly fell in love.

Reuniting lost dogs with their owners is a service that VIPP has long offered on the island, but that sometimes creates an urgent need for an overnight foster home.

Then a week later a young female German shepherd named Luna and her two puppies were surrendered by an islander. VIPP found foster homes for the puppies and — you guessed it — we got the mother. After our own dog pointedly explained to Luna her position in the house, she quickly became integrated into our life and home; after two days you’d never have known she hadn’t lived with us her whole life.

She’s a wonderful animal: beautiful, playful, affectionate, and goofy. We’re working to correct her reactivity to people and other dogs, but like most shepherds she’s super-smart, learns quickly, and wants to please.

Add to this a sweet older pitbull named Petey who was the subject of an article two weeks ago, and our small house currently has a lot of doggage.

Right now, VIPP is looking for families who are interested in potentially fostering dogs while we search for their lost owners or for suitable adopters. We already have a list of such kind animal-loving folks on the island, but we need to find at least a few more. Not all such families can foster just any dog, and we recognize the restrictions some folks have.

Size, breed, activity level, and compatibility with kids and other pets are all factors that must be taken into account when pairing a dog with a potential foster home, and this is reflected among the foster families we currently have on the list. By the way, VIPP will pay for the food and medical care of any foster dog.

One important role of foster families is to have the opportunity to assess a dog’s personality. By learning more about the true nature of the dog (and identifying any issues), VIPP can better understand the animal and thus find the best home for him or her.

If you’re interested in being considered as a foster home for dogs, we’d love to hear from you. Please email Yulia Ivashchenko at and she’ll get back in touch with further details. Alternatively, you can find a foster application form on the website at

(By the way, Luna is available for adoption – but she needs a home with someone who has experience with shepherds, or who is prepared to continue her training. If your idea of a pet dog is something like a labradoodle, she’s probably not for you! To see more of Luna, go to

Phil Clapham is a retired whale biologist who lives on Maury Island.