How to save a life

Alfie, enjoying a weekend outside of the city in Barkmere, Que. Courtesy of Sabrina Prosser.

Opening your home and heart to the SPCA goes beyond helping animals in need

“I went into this saying to myself: I’m going to gain companionship, and I’m going to look for a dog that really needs me,” said Concordia student Sabrina Prosser. She is the proud owner of Alfie, a rescue Siberian husky from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “I didn’t realize I was the one who needed zootherapy,” she said.

Although Prosser didn’t officially adopt Alfie for six months, she said she knew after one month of fostering him that she wanted to adopt him. Courtesy of Sabrina Prosser.

Prosser met Alfie through the Montreal SPCA’s foster care program, and became his foster parent toward the end of October 2016. If you’re an animal lover who isn’t quite ready to commit to a pet long-term, this program gives you the opportunity to have another heartbeat in the house without having to plan much ahead.


“The foster care program helps us save more lives,” said Anita Kapuscinska, a Concordia John Molson School of Business graduate and media relations coordinator for the Montreal SPCA. Kapuscinska described it as one of the best tools the SPCA has for volume influx management, and in terms of potential foster parents, “university students are just such a perfect fit.”

Although each animal’s case is different, a typical fostering period can range anywhere from one to three months, explained Kapuscinska. The SPCA works with aspiring foster parents to find an animal that best suits their living environment, caregiving abilities and financial situation, she said. “We’re in this together.”

“If I had a question about [anything],” said Prosser, “I just called them, and they gave me all the information I needed.” All veterinary assistance is also covered by the SPCA, she said.

Both Kapuscinska and Prosser are Quebec natives who moved to the island of Montreal to attend CEGEP. “I grew up in a household where we always had pets, and we’re also an Italian family,” explained Prosser. “Going from that to living completely alone was really intense and quiet.”

Starting university can be a daunting experience, especially if you’ve just moved away from home for the first time. I’ve had pets ever since I was young. As a toddler, my parents owned two large dogs, after which my mom got a black cat, and my dad got two English bulldogs. Not all in the same house, though, thankfully.

Three years ago, when I packed up my prized possessions and relocated from Toronto to Montreal to start university, I didn’t miss my family nearly as much as I missed my family pets. (Sorry mom). Two years ago, I decided to get myself two rats, and have since shared two foster cats from the Montreal SPCA with my roommates.

My current foster cat, Myr, who I share with my current roommates. Photo by Hania Kerr.

“We really wanted a dog in our lives,” explained Olivia McFarlane, a Concordia student and active foster parent with the SPCA, “but we knew we couldn’t support a dog for an extended period of time.” McFarlane and her two roommates have fostered three dogs through the SPCA over the past year and a half. McFarlane explained that one of the hardest parts of fostering an animal is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. “The SPCA will inform you as much as they can,” she explained. But with a dog that may have a slew of behavioural issues, “you’re not going to know what to expect all the time.”

Prosser recalled the late day in October when she brought Alfie home from the SPCA. “He ended up peeing all over my apartment. He chewed everything, and he had no idea what furniture was,” said Prosser, with a smile. “And somehow that charmed me.”

After a lengthy court battle between the Montreal SPCA and the dog’s previous owners, Prosser officially adopted Alfie in April 2017. While Prosser ended up adopting her foster pet, both Kapuscinska and McFarlane continue to foster animals. Kapuscinska said her first foster pet was the most difficult to say goodbye to, but afterwards, she described always having a feeling of accomplishment. “We saved this animal,” she said, “and you helped them find a forever home.”

Belly-up and covered in lipstick kisses, Alfie grins sheepishly at the camera. Courtesy of Sabrina Prosser.

Prosser explained that she often receives praise for having saved an animal in need. “I’m like, no no no, he rescued me,” she said. Prosser explained that she struggles with anxiety and when it is more pronounced, she can spiral into slumps of depression. However, Alfie’s high energy and demand for attention “really forced me out of my vicious circle,” she said. Prosser explained that there were many days when Alfie pushed her out of bed with cuddles and kisses. “I love him so freaking much,” she said.

As university students, it often feels like we’re perpetually stressed about something, and it can be difficult to maintain a positive morale. Given that our financial and living situations are typically fluctuating, adopting an animal isn’t always viable. Temporarily fostering animals through the SPCA will not only give you access to animal companionship (re: infinite snuggles), but you’re providing a home to an animal that would otherwise await adoption in a cage. Be warned, though, falling in love is known to occur!

Feature image courtesy of Sabrina Prosser.

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