Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Animal Jackpot

Posted 12/07/2022 by Merry Shukert

The newest Shukert family member, Gigi. photo by Merry Shukert

After lots of experience with different pets, my family foster failed a terrier mix puppy, and she’s the perfect fit.

From a young age, I was raised to be a very passionate animal lover, just like my mom. When presented with the opportunity to foster 8-week-old puppies for a rescue, we jumped on it. However, this wasn’t the only reason I formed a strong love for animals; it began when I was an infant, with my first dog, Ginger. 

Lily, a Bichon-Poodle mix I’ve loved since age 5, is my lifelong friend. Having had her for over a decade and the majority of my life, it is clear how important she has become to me. Now 12 and developing arthritis, she somehow still acts like a puppy, chasing birds at full speed in the park and playing with dogs less than half her age and size.

Although Lily was more than sufficient for my childhood, my brother and I began to yearn for a new pet, which is when Patches the mouse came in. A few years later, Patches sadly passed on, and what better way to cope with that loss than getting another pet? After begging for a while, my 9th birthday present was a guinea pig named Carmel, who had the most adorable cowlick on his head. After Carmel died suddenly when I was in 8th grade, I was somehow less devastated, having dealt with the loss of a pet once before. 

When winter 2020 hit and the pandemic rolled around, we made an impulse decision to adopt four pet rats from an eccentric breeder. Soon after, my mom heard about the opportunity to volunteer as a foster with Colorado Puppy Rescue, an animal rescue not five minutes from our house. As animal lovers, we jumped at the chance, not thinking twice about having to care for puppies along with our four rats. 

We fostered our first 8-week-old puppy, Cola, in early January of 2021. Cola was a small pitbull mix, and although we only had her for a couple days, we fell in love with the sweetheart. Returning Cola to the rescue was devastating, but after that heartbreak, it got easier. After Cola, we fostered a black lab in late February of 2021, naming him Blizzard on the snowy drive home. We had Blizzard for only two full days, returning him the following Saturday morning. 

After Blizzard, my mom decided she wanted to start fostering puppies that would grow up to be smaller dogs, in hopes of eventually adopting one ourselves. That’s when Coco and Dipper (and the one whose name I forgot) came into our home. These chihuahua mixes were the definition of little, and they sure were cute. Although we quickly fell in love with these babies, a chihuahua wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. So, we repeated the cycle, returning them and later that month getting a new pair of littermates. 

These were also chihuahuas, and the closest we got to adopting since we started fostering. Initially, we had Brownie and Siri, two beautifully colored female chihuahua mixes. When we first received them, they were a week too young to be adopted, which meant we needed to keep them for an extra week. One extra week turned into two, and two turned into three when Siri didn’t get adopted. Although obviously devastated after the connection we had formed with her, we had to return Siri when the next adoption event came around, and the process restarted. 

Next up was KitKat, the chocolate lab with beautiful green eyes. From first sight, we realized that KitKat would grow up to be a much larger dog, which wasn’t what we were looking for at all, so we knew not to get attached. 

After KitKat, we fostered a black lab mix who we named Taz, famous for his sharp teeth and Tasmanian Devil-like instincts. Biting constantly at your ankles and hands, we knew we couldn’t keep him either, let alone the fact that he would also grow up to be a large dog. We did however have Taz for longer than usual, and fell in love with him. Sadly, he still wasn’t what we were looking for, and we had to return him at the next adoption event. 

After nine “trial” puppies, we finally hit the jackpot. On October 26th, my mom decided to take the trip down to Raton, New Mexico, to collect the latest batch of puppies from the local shelters to bring back to Colorado. After arriving at the meeting point in Raton, my mom immediately saw Gigi, an adorable Yorkie/Terrier mix. She quickly grabbed Gigi and another littermate and held them on her lap for the long drive home, falling instantly in love. As they were only six weeks old, we knew we’d be able to foster Gigi and Maisie for two weeks . . . unless we decided to adopt. 

During the previous month, we had to put down three of the four rats that we’d had over the past couple years. As devastating as it was, we felt we needed consolation for losing most of our rats, and knew we were ready to get another dog as soon as we brought home Gigi and Maisie.

At first, we were hoping to adopt both. Gigi, looking more like a yorkie, was clearly the cutest, but her sister Maisie – a chihuahua terrier type – also held a very special place in our hearts. Unfortunately, the rescue wouldn’t allow us to keep both due to the possibility of Littermate Syndrome, which can result in aggression. We were attached to both, but made the difficult decision to choose Gigi as our new family member. Our heartbreak was tempered by being able to meet Maisie’s wonderful new family when they came down from South Dakota to pick her up.

It has now been over a month since Gigi came into our home, and she has brought so much joy to our family. Despite having adamantly argued against adopting a second dog, my dad and brother quickly fell in love with her as well. I am forever grateful that the love of animals my mom and I hold so deeply led us to fostering rescue puppies and making a small contribution to helping dogs in need. Finding one that fits perfectly into our family was just the icing on the cake, but we definitely hit the puppy jackpot when we found Gigi. 

Ever since that first foster, we realized how important it is to volunteer and help the animal community in such a unique way, especially if you don’t have the time on your hands to adopt. If you are interested in volunteering with a rescue or fostering animals with Colorado Puppy Rescue or the Dumb Friends League, you can find more information at the links below!