Volunteer Spotlight: Nate and Lisa VanRaemdonck

Nate and Lisa

by Deb Marsh, volunteer writer

There was no behavior foster program before Nate and Lisa VanRaemdonck took home four scared kittens in 2011. “All it took was that first experience to realize how rewarding it was to foster and especially to see the change we could make with the scared little kittens,” Nate says. “In many cases, we were their last hope.”

Most of the kittens they foster are already four or five months old, and fearful of humans. Both Nate and Lisa are experts at clicker training, although Lisa works more with canines. Their three cats, including Vader, “the one and only foster that we just couldn’t bear to let go of,” according to Nate, occasionally help socialize the fostered animals, which are kept in a bathroom or spare bedroom.

One foster cat they’ll never forget was Mooney, a white, deaf adult who had grown up with dogs. Although he was happy and affectionate, he would play like a puppy, tackling arms, legs and heads with equal vigor. Nate and Lisa were able to subdue those old habits, but they would reappear at random moments, and the couple were worried that his rough, unpredictable behavior would render him forever unwanted.

That’s when an older man began visits to the Dumb Friends, looking for a buddy to share his home. Despite (or perhaps because of) some very physical play sessions, the man picked Mooney to be his companion. “That day, there was relieved rejoicing,” Nate says.

What makes a good foster home? Patience, acceptance and compassion, the couple agrees. And while at first it was hard to bring fostered animals back to the shelter, “we always told ourselves that the more we hang on to them, the less we can help others in need,” Nate says.

“The real reason we keep fostering,” Nate and Lisa agree, “is to see those moments when they finally come around and go from being afraid to being trusting, affectionate and happy. Fostering is a true win/win situation. Very few down sides and happy, positive stories all around.”