Students support Evanston Animal Shelter by providing foster homes amid COVID-19


Courtesy of Eric Zalewski

Communications senior Eric Zalewski fostered Pork Chop, a ten-month old dog, amid the pandemic.

Carly Schulman, Design Editor

Evanston Animal Shelter has relied on foster homes to house their animals and bring their shelter capacity down to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. In response, an unusually high number of people in the Evanston community have volunteered to foster pets since March, including many Northwestern students.

The shelter usually relies on volunteers to take care of their animals, said Vicky Pasenko, co-founder and co-director of the shelter. Evanston Animal Shelter typically houses around 12 to 15 dogs and 30 to 40 cats at a time, but regular volunteers have not been able to come in due to social distancing restrictions.

“Before COVID-19, we used to have over 150 volunteers who would come to the shelter. Every day we would have two shifts of volunteers who would walk the dogs, socialize the cats, do feeding, training and all kinds of things,” Pasenko said.

Because the animals in the shelter cannot be properly cared for without her team of volunteers, the animals had to be relocated to foster homes to receive proper care. However, Pasenko said the shelter had no problem finding temporary homes for their cats and dogs.

“When COVID(-19) hit, we got so many offers for foster homes, so since the middle of March… the most dogs we’ve had in the shelter was four, but usually we have only one or two,” said Pasenko.

Pasenko said the shelter has received hundreds of applications to foster since March. Communication senior Eric Zalewski and Alexander Wolfsohn (Weinberg ’20) are among the NU students who have fostered dogs amid the pandemic.

Pasenko said the shelter has seen many students come to Evanston Animal Shelter over the years to both foster pets and volunteer with the animals.

Alex Wolfsohn has been fostering dogs throughout his time in college. His current dog, Hawkeye, is his sixth foster dog but first from Evanston Animal Shelter. He said he loves having a dog around while being in college.

Hawkeye is Alex Wolfsohn’s sixth foster dog, but his first from Evanston Animal Shelter. (Courtesy of Alex Wolfsohn)

“I think dog fostering fits very well into the college lifestyle,” Wolfsohn said. “All your friends will love to come over to hang out and play with the dog, and the dogs love the attention.”

Although they have only been fostering Pork Chop for around two weeks, Zalewski and his roommates say they have already formed a close bond with the ten-month-old pup. He describes the pitbull mix as a “crazy, energetic puppy with little training” but an overall “very good boy.”

“We kind of feel like we’re just the middlemen for finding him a home,” Zalewski said. “All we want is for him to not have to go back to the shelter and be able to find him a good family.”

Although both foster families say they want their pets to be placed in a permanent home, Zalewski says he anticipates it will be hard to let Pork Chop go.

“When we have to say goodbye to him it’s going to be tough… but the whole point of fostering is to find a permanent home, so it’ll definitely be bittersweet,” Zalewski said.

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