Foster Parent Spotlight: Jeanette Whitmire

Jeanette with her dog, Hank.

Jeanette Whitmire started fostering pets with Seattle Humane over 25 years ago. Yes, you read that right! To date, she has fostered well over 200 cats, kittens, dogs, puppies, rabbits and even guinea pigs.  

Even with two dogs (Hank and Abigail) and a cat (Humphrey) of her own, Jeanette continues to open her heart and home to pets who need a little extra TLC. Jeanette takes it upon herself to learn about best practices, such as positive reinforcement methods, to support dogs struggling with behavior challenges so she can best meet their needs. She has even learned some sign language to effectively communicate with a deaf foster puppy! 

And for the other critters, Jeanette goes above and beyond to set them up for success finding and thriving in adoptive homes. For her last litter of guinea pigs, she set up an adorable picnic- themed photoshoot for their online pet profile pictures to help catch the eyes of potential adoptive families!   

Since March is National Guinea Pig Rescue Month, Jeanette shed some light on fostering the little critters who are not typically the first species one thinks of when they consider fostering pets. Jeanette recommends the low-maintenance critters as a great way to dip your toes into fostering since they don’t take up much room and don’t need to interface with any resident pets.  

Jeanette’s commitment to the pets of Seattle Humane allows us to continue carrying our mission forward, saving and serving pets in need. We are so grateful to be able to count on Jeanette’s support time and time again. Thank you, Jeanette!  

Learn more about Jeanette, including what initially inspired her to begin fostering over 25 years ago, what keeps her coming back and her best tips on beating the “foster fail” odds in the interview below!   

A few of the many guinea pigs Jeanette has fostered enjoying a picnic photoshoot.

Tell us about one of your favorite foster pets from Seattle Humane or another organization: 

This is hard because I’ve fostered hundreds over the years and have fallen in love with a lot of them. I don’t even really have a favorite species to foster. I love pregnant cats, cats with kittens, cats, dogs, puppies, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.  

I do have one that stands out. It was a foster from Three Little Pitties. The dog’s name was Angel, and she came to me with two siblings. Once the siblings were adopted, we found out Angel was deaf. I hadn’t even noticed because she followed her siblings everywhere. I read up on deaf dogs, taught her several tricks using signs (sit, lay, shake, crawl) and learned the do’s and don’ts for deaf dogs. She slept in her crate well and was so sweet.  She was adopted by a nice family who sent me videos and pictures for several years and also let me pet-sit her when they went out of the country. 

What inspired you to foster pets with Seattle Humane?   

Animals give me so much joy that all I want to do is help make their lives better. When I got my first house and was able to start fostering about 28 years ago, Seattle Humane was one of the few shelters around. I was so impressed with their compassion and devotion to helping animals, that even though there are now opportunities to work with an organization closer to my home, I feel connected and proud to be a part of Seattle Humane.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of fostering?  

Knowing they are living in a good environment, with people that love them and will care for their needs until they are able to be adopted. And the endless joy they give me with their various antics and personalities! 

When/how did your love of animals begin?   

The first animal that I remember feeling attached to was when I was probably around 7 or 8 years old, and I found a wounded crow in the road that I brought home. I didn’t know how to take care of it (this was in the early ‘70s, when it wasn’t as easy to get help with wildlife), and it ended up dying. I was so heartbroken, my parents bought me a hamster and I haven’t been without some kind of pet since.   

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

Not really. In the beginning, it was the training Seattle Humane provided and a lot of “on-the-job” training as different situations came up or as I fostered different types of animals. 

Do you have any pets of your own?   

Two dogs, a golden retriever, Hank, a border collie, Abigail, and a tabby cat, Humphrey. We recently lost our beloved cat, George, who we had for 16 years. He was the first foster I had in the house we now live in, and he was so goofy and funny that we ended up adopting him.   

Hank lends a paw and helps Jeanette care for a litter of foster kittens.

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

Ha! I wish I had some hidden talent. I love the outdoors and take my dogs hiking several times a week. I love history and do a lot of research of local history and visiting interesting places that still exist, such as the many ghost towns we have in our state. My husband and I travel a lot, especially now that we are retired. We just got back from a road trip with our pups through Nevada, Arizona and a little bit of California. I’m not sure if this counts as a hobby but I keep really busy with an animal technical rescue group I’m in called Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART). I’m secretary to the board, chair for the sheltering committee and on the outreach committee.   

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

Seattle Humane has terrific resources any time you have questions about an animal you are fostering.  Between the Facebook groups and the staff, you will get some very good advice and help. One of the hardest parts of fostering is saying goodbye – I still have a hard time sometimes, but I also know that I can’t keep too many animals because then I don’t have the space to foster. Every animal I’ve fostered has taught me something new that helps me with my next foster and has brought my family laughter and joy.   

Fostering Angel was one of my most rewarding experiences. I fostered her shortly after fostering a dog I completely fell in love with and was heartbroken when they got adopted. Anyhow, I always remind myself of when it’s time to say goodbye to a foster, if I had kept that other dog, I would not have been able to foster again for a while and would never have met this incredible pup and learned how amazing deaf dogs are. 

Make a Difference   

Just like Jeanette, 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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