In the wake of Chicago’s stay-at-home-order, Two Rogers Park residents, Teresa and Minnie Stinaldi started fostering Shipwreck — a three-year-old medium-sized mutt who got his name because he was in such bad shape when he arrived at the shelter. After just three days, the pair became self-described “foster-failures” and permanently adopted him.
Shipwreck, who they now call Buddy because he no longer resembles a disaster, is a “clown.” He appears anytime he hears someone has food, Stinaldi, who’s self-employed in wallpaper, said. The other day, Stinaldi baked a loaf of bread and in the few minutes she turned her back Buddy knocked the bread onto the ground and devoured some.
“It’s just been such a relief to have this comical thing take over life instead of what’s really going on,” Stinaldi said.
The Stinaldis are just one of many families who have invited new pets into their homes in the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home-order — which required non-essential businesses to close and residents to shelter in place.
Between March 20 and April 13, 542 animals left Chicago’s Animal Care and Control (CACC) ( 2741 S. Western Ave.) due to adoption, transfer or return to their owners. Between April 5 and 12, there were no animals available to adopt, according to acting CACC Executive Director Mamadou Diakhate.
“It’s not like you can run out of animals to adopt every day because as animals are walking out of the building, there are more coming in,” Diakhate said.
Nowadays, the shelter population usually hovers around 50 dogs, 8 to 11 cats, and even 3 roosters.
Megan Baldeshwiler, another Rogers Park resident who decided to foster a pet, said her husband saw some articles online about rescues looking for more people to foster animals. She said the experience was different than when she adopted her first cat.
“It was just kind of a surprise because usually when you go adopt a pet you meet a couple and then you pick one,” said Baldeshwiler, who works as a bookkeeper. “It just felt like she picked us. It was like, here’s a cat that needs a place to crash.”
Despite the different circumstances, Baldeshwiler brought home Pandy, a “fantastic little cat” who was on a euthanasia list at a shelter in Kentucky because of a cloudy eye. Now, she enjoys being held in Baldeshwiler’s arms.
“If anyone’s on the fence about fostering, I’d say that ‘you could just see this animal be who they really are,’” Baldeshwiler said.
In addition to the pets leaving the shelter for new homes, CACC now offers resources for pet owners who have fallen on hard times whether it’s because of the pandemic or for other reasons.
Diakhate said when people come in to give up their pets for financial reasons, CACC instead offers to provide them with food so they can keep their animals at home.
“Most people love their animals but when things happen you just don’t know what to do,” Diakhate said. “We’ve seen many times in the past people walking in with their dog on the leash crying because they don’t want to give up their dog. We want to say, make the animal happy and that’ll make you happy and us happy.”
Loyola students are also taking in new pets as they’re spending more time at home due to campus closure.
Kayelynn Smith, who’s at home in Michigan, adopted an 8-week-old Boston Terrier puppy with her family. Similar to Baldeshwiler’s experience, Smith said the process of adoption was faster than usual and only took three days from when they first found him online.
“It’s been nice since we’ve all been home for quarantine because we have more time to train him,” Smith said.
Smith and her sister had been asking their parents for a second dog for a while, but because everyone’s been stuck in the house Smith said the constant begging was “amplified.” Their new puppy doesn’t have an official name yet, but they call him Oso which means “bear” in Spanish.
“[Bear] describes his personality pretty well,” said Smith, a 20-year-old junior studying environmental policy and Spanish. “He thinks he’s a big tough guy but he’s tiny and stinky.”