Born and raised in San Juan City, Philippines, Mirell Macalinao is a 30-something bank employee who fosters independently with the help of a private online community. Mirell says, “All my fosters were also my rescues. My fostering became a requirement post-rescuing since it is not easy to find other shelters or homes who have space and resources to take my rescues in, except for a few instances where good friends offered to foster my rescues.”
Rescuing animals since 2014, Mirell shares what it’s like to be a paw parent to cats and dogs while fostering kittens.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Can you share your first dog rescue experience?
Mirell Macalinao (MM): The first time I rescued a dog and meant to foster him till he was adopted was in 2014. Brownie was a dog that used to roam a busy street near my home. I first noticed him on my way to work because he was so skinny, and he limped because of an injured foreleg. I wondered how an injured stray dog could survive the streets.
That day, I went home early and looked for him to give him food. I thought he had poor chances of finding good food with one bad leg. I wished for him to be safe, but I didn’t think I could easily bring him home because other people I lived with would definitely object. Plus, I had no idea how to care for a dog who I just met in the streets. I have never befriended a street dog prior to him.
It became inconvenient to keep looking for him on the streets daily to feed. I had already gotten attached to him. When I had a weeklong out-of-town trip scheduled, I worried he would starve without me. I decided to contact CARA who helped me catch Brownie and transport him to the vet. I am so thankful for their help because I would never have captured Brownie by myself. Brownie stayed at the vet where they gave him medicine to help suppress the swelling on his injured leg and do other things to make him healthy again, including neutering.
At that point when he was boarding at the vet, I was just thankful that he had regular meals and shelter. I asked around for adopters but there were none. So I finally told my mom (we shared a home but she wasn’t fond of animals) that I was going to bring home MY dog and that he would be no trouble at all. I bought Brownie a 3 x 3 cage and initially thought he would have to stay in there every day. I didn’t have much experience with dogs and did not know what kind of personality Brownie really had. But eventually, we discovered that he was such a well-behaved and gentle dog that he could be set free to roam our garage. He also knew that though he could be absolutely crazy with me, he should keep a respectful distance away from my mom. Brownie was the perfect wise old dog and I loved him so much. He was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 2017 and passed away a few months later.
WF: What about your your first cat rescue experience?
MM: The first time I rescued a cat and intended to adopt him out was in 2015. I heard him crying loudly outside our house. When I went out to check, I saw a dirty, grey-coloured kitten crying and looking for food in a garbage pile. I was trying to write something important, but his pitiful cries were so distracting. So I got him and took him to the vet for basic checkup and boarding for a few days. I ended up keeping him because I didn’t get any offers and gave up asking around. He was formally named Percy (from the persimmon fruit on the vet’s table when I couldn’t think of a name for the vet form I was filling out), which became Perchy, and then Pahchee.
In 2017, I started getting my rescues adopted out by very amazing, sincere, and loving hoomans who provided better care than I could have ever provided.
WF: What did these rescue experiences teach you?
MM: It taught me that there are too many animals on the streets in need of homes. Or they need help finding homes. I just have to try to do what I can or make sacrifices to accommodate them because sometimes, there is no one else to pass the responsibility over to.
WF: Aside from Brownie and Pahchee, do you have other foster fails? What made you decide to keep them?
MM: I have a couple of foster fails! They are:
Mandy – She was such a happy and sweet dog, and I realised she was goodcompany for Brownie. She was also a very hyperactive and destructive dog at that time (chewing on anything and everything) that I was afraid any adopter would lose patience with her.
Patras – When I brought her home, she instantly clicked with Mandy. They just ran around playing immediately. Plus, Brownie also easily accepted her. I had two wonderful people who were willing to foster her, but I realised she had a tendency to get too anxious and traumatised by change so I decided to just keep her.
Panda – I meant to adopt him out, but he growls and howls a lot when he’s excited, nibbles on clothes, and marks a lot of spots with pee even after being neutered. Again, I worried that he might not be the perfect dog that adopters are usually looking for. He got along well with the other dogs too!
Chachito – I was determined to get him adopted even if months had passed without any good offers for adoption. Suddenly, he got seriously sick. I told him I was adopting him already and asked him to fight. He still left for the rainbow bridge though.
WF: Aside from your foster fails, how did your other pets come into your life?
MM: All of them were rescued from the streets and their stories mostly start with “I heard crying outside…” Haha!
Miumiu – One night, I heard meowing outside. It sounded like a kitten and I wished the meowing would stop because I didn’t feel ready to have another cat then. I had an FIV+ cat whose care required a lot of my time and resources. But the meowing was so loud that I decided to look outside. I was surprised to see a young cat—not a kitten as I initially thought—crying inside our yard. Because she seemed clean and healthy, I wondered if she was a lost kitty. I offered her food, pet milk, and a pillow, but she was too scared to accept any of them. Then, I left her alone outside, hoping she would eat. The next day, she was gone.
Two weeks later, I found her living at the rusty rain gutter of our storage shed. She had gotten skinny. I befriended her and took her to the vet to be spayed and vaccinated. At first, I let her live in the yard, but I eventually took her inside to stay in my room. She is such a chatty alpha cat! I named her Miumiu after her loud meows.
Chacha – I drove past a crying kitten on the street and decided to circle back and get him. I brought him home in a paper bag. He’s a strong boi who survived my basic home care because I didn’t know much about vets then.
WF: Do you care for the animals by yourself?
MM: I am mainly responsible for the care of my pets. My mom is a big help in caring for my dogs, but she really isn’t an animal lover. Despite that, she has accepted the ones that I have. She even buys biscuits and treats for the dogs. The funny thing is, I’m the one who does all the hugging and playing with the dogs, but when it comes to commands, they obey my mom more. For example, when the dogs rush into the house when they’re not supposed to, I can tell them to get out in various voices and tones but they would just ignore me. When my mom comes to tell them to get out, they immediately run out. I know she seriously and honestly doesn’t like being in contact with fur, so I appreciate how much she helps me when she can.
WF: What kind of animals do you rescue and foster?
MM: I have mostly fostered kittens I’ve rescued from the streets. I don’t think I have enough space and time to foster dogs or adult cats. Honestly, I prefer to foster kittens because they are easier to integrate with my adult cats at home. I also have limited space and long-term isolation is not possible.
WF: How do your own pets feel about you bringing in other cats temporarily? Is there a technique you do to keep the peace at home?
MM: I have a small space so I let fosters stay in the bathroom or in a cage for a while. I make everyone get used to each other’s scents first.
I have been lucky that the ones I have brought home mostly blended well with my cats. Pahchee is every kitten’s playmate. He’s a big boi who thinks he’s still a kitten. Miumiu grooms the kittens to assert her alpha catness. My introvert cat Chacha though could sometimes be stressed out when fosters become too rowdy. I just give him some me time outside our room and away from all the other cats for an hour or so every day.
WF: What’s the most number of fosters you’ve taken in at one time?
MM: I fostered three at the same time. Considering that I already have my own pets to take care of, it’s CRAZY. I am glad they all got adopted eventually.
WF: What do you love most about fostering?
MM: I love being able to give abandoned/unwanted animals the safety and love that they all deserve.
WF: When it’s time to give away the foster kitten, how easy or difficult is the process for you?
MM: There were a few instances when I got anxious and had second thoughts when I wasn’t sure if I had screened the adopter enough. But generally, I have given away fosters with a happy heart and only a little anxiety at being separated. I was confident that they were going to get better lives with their new hoomans. I love my fosters like my own, but it’s just easier to be separated from them when I know I could not provide a better life than what they will get at their new homes.
WF: What’s the best tip you can give for first-time foster parents?
MM: Introduce new fosters into the household slowly. Screen adopters well and be very careful in choosing a forever home for your foster.
WF: How has your life changed after fostering?
MM: Through fostering, asking around for adopters, and eventually finding homes for rescues, I have met different sorts of wonderful people who have so much love and compassion for animals, especially those in need of it.
WF: Why would you encourage people to foster and adopt animals?
MM: I would personally encourage people to foster and adopt animals because it saves lives. Shelters and rescuers can rescue more animals when there are more people willing to share the work of fostering animals and when there are more people willing to be forever homes to rescues.
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