On February 24th, two pint-sized pets – Ducky and her partner Bear – were surrendered to the Nova Scotia SPCA by their owner because they could no longer care for them. It didn’t take long for the Dartmouth SPCA veterinary team to find out that Ducky was pregnant with 4 babies and she would likely give birth in the next two weeks!
The call went out to find a foster home for Ducky, so she could feel calm in a loving home environment throughout the rest of her pregnancy and during her delivery. Maria McNeil and her family jumped at the opportunity to open their hearts and home to Ducky.
Maria shared “As soon as we bought our new home and were settled in, I signed up to be a foster parent. I‘ve loved animals since I was a small child and always knew that fostering was something I wanted to do.” She explained “I think our family has a lot to offer animals in need. We have experience with pets, a large house with safe spaces, a property in a wooded area and lots of love to go around! I would love to have more animals in our life, but my husband is a military member and is often away, we have a 5-year-old son, two border collies AND I work full-time.” Whew!
Ducky’s arrival at the family’s home was definitely a first. “This was the first time we’ve fostered a little critter and our first time fostering a pregnant animal! Seeing Ducky’s transformation was so rewarding and lovely. She was quite timid when she arrived, but within a few days she felt safe and content. She even started squealing every time I walked past the room she was in, so that I would come in and visit with her!” chuckled Maria. “I set her up on the desk in my office (I work from home), gave her little bits of treats all day and spoke softly to her, so she warmed up very quickly.”
Ducky eventually had 4 adorable babies. Maria told me “We named them after ‘The Mighty Ducks’..… Lester (the only boy), Goldberg, Charlie and Jesse. While all 4 were black and orange like Mama Ducky, each had their own unique personality right from the start! Two were outgoing, one was shy and the other was in between. We contacted the SPCA to learn how the babies should be socialized and their small animal expert provided us with detailed helpful information on how to do this.”
“We had the privilege of caring for Ducky and her babies for 4 weeks”, said Maria. “Our son Daniel was directly involved in the fostering process. He and Ducky formed a special bond during that time. Daniel was the ‘treat and socialization guy’. Each evening, he would give the gang some treats and we would allow them to play on the floor (and climb all over Daniel!)” Maria pointed out that fostering is a great opportunity to teach life-lessons to kids. “It encourages children’s natural desire to care for others, to be kind to animals. It also teaches kids responsibility (Daniel learned that little critters require a lot of work!) and thoughtfulness (Daniel would remind us when to get fresh veggies for Ducky and the babies).”
Maria shared “The weekend before the babies went back to the SPCA Shelter, we had a small crew of 4- and 5-year-old kids come for a visit with them. Our son was thrilled to show off his furry fosters to his friends from school. They had the best time giving Ducky and her babies fresh veggie treats and snuggling them. The kids didn’t even mind when the little critters pooped in their laps!” chuckled Maria.
“The SPCA’s foster model of ‘You supply the home and the love; we supply everything else’ works incredibly well,” exclaimed Maria. I asked what her advice is to anyone considering becoming a foster family. “It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do. It’s a short-term commitment but means so much to these animals’ lives.”
Maria and her family played a huge role in giving Ducky and her babies a second chance at happiness. We’re thrilled to report that all of these little cuties found loving fur-ever homes and are thriving! Ducky and one of her babies were adopted together and the other 3 babies were adopted together. Papa Bear also found a loving home with a family that already had pet guinea pigs.
Many of the animals that come into our shelters need a little extra TLC or are too young to be ready for adoption. Fabulous foster families provide a temporary home for these animals. We supply everything you need so they have a comfortable stay in your home.