By Christine D'Antonio

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – So many animals left abandoned or rescued from deplorable conditions sit in area shelters waiting for to the chance to be adopted.

But, not all rescues are able to actually be in a shelter and that’s where foster pet parents come in.

Some foster homes for animals are reserved for some of the most challenging cases.

They’re dogs, cats and rabbits who without the loving care of these local pet owners, would have a very uncertain future.

Many times, these animals are passed over by a potential owner because they’re not at the actual shelter for people to play with and get to know.

For four years, Ron Papik and his family have been trying to help Cleo find a forever home.

“You have to have the quality of, ‘Hey I’m going to bring this dog into my home. I’m going to see how it acts. I’m going to try and nurture it and get it into a better frame of mind and get it into a home of its own,’” Papik said.

The 6-year-old brindle mixed breed was found wandering in Lawrence County. She was friendly, but nervous with a lot of energy and anxiety. So, the shelter environment at Animal Friends wasn’t the right place for her.

“They would not do well in a shelter setting. Whether it be kittens who have lost their mother, a rabbit that needs more space or somewhere like a quieter environment like the case of Cleo, it’s really, really great for the animals because our foster parents provide around the clock care,” Shannon Tremblay, of Animal Friends, said.

One of the most important aspects of the foster program is to be able to give these animals up for adoption the ability to let their true personalities shine.

“We’ve put a lot of great dogs into a lot of great homes,” Papik said.

Papik, who heads up the foster program at Animal Friends, has housed foster animals for 13 years. He’s helped over 80 get into permanent homes and deals with the toughest cases. It’s a challenge he enjoys and he credits it to his 26 years in the military.

“So maybe it’s the discipline and the structure that I learned there. That I try and transfer into these dogs. Give them a structured environment and get them into a structured environment that they can proceed on into another home,” he said.

The shelter pays for food and all medical costs until the pet gets adopted and is always looking for volunteers who go through a training program first.

Cleo is part of Animal Friends’ “Mission Adoptable Program.” That means her adoption fees are waived with discounts on obedience classes.

Papik, who’s formed a bond with Cleo, is hoping his training will pay off.

“Somebody that wants a warm loving animal in the house and wants to relax and doesn’t want to take her places,” he said.

He feels confident she’ll get the loving home she deserves.

“I think there’s one out there for her, I really do,” Papik said.

Becoming a pet foster parent can be as simple as really having the desire and space to do so.

You can contact Animal Friends for more information, or if you’re interested in adopting Cleo or any other animals in foster care.

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