Foster Parent Spotlight: Ashlyn and Mara Konrad

Kittens afflicted with ringworm make up one of the most vulnerable animal populations in overcrowded shelters across the nation. While not life-threatening, ringworm is a fungal infection that requires a meticulous treatment regimen. Many shelters euthanize animals with ringworm due to lack of space and ability to treat them.  

Seattle Humane is equipped with an isolation ward dedicated to treating pets with highly infectious diseases, but the number of animals needing help is greater than the space we have available. Additionally, given that ringworm can take a month or longer to clear, it is a far more enriching experience for pets to spend that time in a loving foster home than in a cubby at the shelter. This is where volunteer foster parents like Ashlyn and Mara Konrad step in. 

When Ashlyn and Mara hear there are kittens with ringworm who could benefit from treatment outside of the shelter, they open their hearts and home without hesitation.  

 Ashlyn and Mara started fostering kittens at the close of 2019 to support their community and keep them company while the young professionals worked opposite shifts. Ashlyn, a nurse by trade, worked overnight shifts during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Mara worked from home during the day. To learn more about the healing power fostering felines had on Ashlyn and Mara during a globally challenging time, and how fostering helped Ashlyn become a “cat person,” check out the following interview with the duo. 

Who was one of your favorite foster pets?   

Ashlyn and Mara's former foster cat, Tita.
Mara’s beloved former foster cat, Tita.

Ashlyn: My favorite is definitely our foster fail, Gilly (more on her later). 

Mara: My favorite foster has to be Tita. Tita was the foster we took on at the beginning of COVID. Ashlyn was a night shift nurse and Tita helped me cope. She was a great helper while I sewed masks for healthcare workers. When she was adopted, I cried hysterically, but was so grateful for the time Tita was in our home. 

What inspired you to foster pets with Seattle Humane?  

We are two working professionals that were looking for a way to give back to our community in a way that fit within our odd schedules and, honestly, we were both pretty lonely (one person on night shift and the other on days). We didn’t think we could commit to a resident animal, and our apartment at the time didn’t allow dogs. Fostering cats was the best opportunity!  

Foster kitten, Teeny, helps Ashlyn propose to Mara.
Mara accepts Ashlyn’s proposal with the help of foster kitten, Teeny.

What is the most rewarding aspect of fostering?  

We are one of very few volunteer foster families who willingly take on kittens with ringworm, so the most rewarding part for us is when we start with littles covered in lesions who are pretty scared – but as they start to clear, their fur starts to grow back and they become healthy, rambunctious little munchkins. We literally see them become healthy before our eyes!  

When/how did your love of animals begin?   

Mara: It might be better to address when Ashlyn’s hatred for cats ended! I grew up around mastiffs, cats and horses, so I can’t remember a time I didn’t love animals. 

Ashlyn: I grew up with animals but had vowed to forever hate cats after having a mean one as a child. When we started fostering, I realized that cats and I are basically the same personality type (the “independent” kind, if you know what we mean!) and now I love them! 

Are there any experiences that you feel helped prepare you for fostering (previous jobs, internships, schooling, residential pets, etc.)   

Both of us have taken care of ailing family members. Having the practice of checking medications at certain times, evaluating appetites and attitudes, etc., has certainly helped us care for kittens with ringworm.   

Ashlyn and Mara's foster fail, Gilly.
Ashlyn and Mara’s foster fail, Gilly.

Do you have any pets of your own?   

We have one resident cat, Gilly, who was a foster fail. Gilly was an aggressor at Seattle Humane, but she jumped right onto the bed with Ashlyn and snuggled. We couldn’t figure out why she took to Ashlyn so quickly. We tried hard not to foster fail – she even got adopted by someone else. When Gilly was returned for being too aggressive, we took that as a sign that she forever belonged in our home. She and Ashlyn are inseparable.  

Besides fostering, tell us about your hobbies. Do you have any hidden talents we might not know about?  

We like to travel and spent the past year taking on different nursing contracts around the United States (traveled to 10 different states and lived in three). Ashlyn has a photographic memory, which really helps when we forget the grocery list at home.  

Gilly enjoys a hike
Gilly enjoys a scenic hike in her fancy carrier.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking about fostering a pet?  

Giving up the first one you foster is the hardest and it does get easier as you watch them get adopted and go to great families. Ringworm and some of the other medical-focused fostering is not as difficult as it may sound/look at first. You’ll get the hang of it and there’s lots of support for you. Fostering is something that doesn’t need to take up your whole life but allows you to truly help Seattle Humane. It’s a way to add joy, compassion, and purpose into your life (without the commitment of a lifelong animal).   

Make a Difference  

Just like Ashlyn and Mara, you can make a difference in the lives of pets at Seattle Humane. Become a foster parent or check out other volunteer opportunities to help pets at our Bellevue campus and in the community. 

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