Sherry Thomas has rescued hundreds of dogs and seen them adopted into loving families.

A lead volunteer for Cherokee Humane Society, she fosters many of her own animals and enlists the help of over a dozen others.

There are different types of fostering, from temporary fostering, to puppy fostering and longer-term fostering with more specialized care. The humane society can provide crates and other materials to help take care of pets, and foster families provide a loving home.

For her group of fosters, Thomas provides booster shots and works with area veterinarians to provide for the dogs’ health needs. The fosters feed, socialize and often train the dogs in their care. On the weekends, they bring the animals that are ready for adoption to the humane society adoption events at area Petsmart stores.

She gets dogs from shelters from across the state, some of which keep animals for a limited amount of time. Some of the dogs she’s rescued came from places where animals were being hoarded. Others were pregnant dogs that were taken in and had puppies. Wherever they come from, it’s Sherry’s mission to make sure they end up happy and loved.

Thomas says she’s fostered animals for about a decade.

“I just wanted to help. I’ve always wanted to help dogs. Even when I was in high school, I would cut school and go to the shelter and bathe dogs,” she said.

Thomas is open with potential fosters that taking in a new puppy or dog is not always cuddles with a perfect animal: puppies make messes, dogs get sick and they don’t come 100% trained.

“The thing about fostering, you probably need to go with a blank slate, not an expectation,” she said. “When the dog comes from the shelter and it goes to the foster home, it’s going to be dirty, it’s going to have fleas, ticks, parasites. It’s going to stink and need a bath. That’s a foster’s responsibility is helping get that dog more toward adoptable.”

It’s rewarding, though, when they do find their forever homes. Every once in a while, a family will reach out to Thomas with pictures and videos of a dog they adopted from her. Sometimes, they’ll return to an adoption event, and it’s a happy reunion for Thomas and one of the animals she’s cared for.

“I probably feel like quitting once a week. But I get feedback, somebody might call me up, text me, email me or post on my Facebook page, that adopted from me a year ago, and they’re like ‘my dog’s birthday is today, thank you so much, we just love him,’ and they’ll send me pictures and stuff like that,” she said. “I think that keeps me going.”

Some fosters and other rescue organizations have difficulty finding even temporary homes for dogs with medical issues. A couple of black Labrador puppies were passed up by other homes because they had mange before Sherry took them in, she said.

“I found them a foster. The foster kept them an entire month, so then they were four months (old,)” she said. “I got them healthy and got them adopted. They were really good dogs.”

One dachshund was taken in by one of Thomas’ fosters after he was run over by a lawnmower. The dog is between surgeries, but recovering well.

“His first surgery has all these zigzag lines from where he got run over, they look like zippers, so they named him Zippa,” she said.

Some of Sherry’s dogs have gone on to be trained to be service animals, and a couple have gone to police departments’ K-9 units.

Ottis Moore, longtime volunteer for the humane society, said at any given time they have about 100 dogs, puppies, cats and kittens in their care. Because they don’t have a shelter facility to house them, the organization relies on fosters to rescue pets. The more they adopt out, the more they can take in to remove them from neglect and abuse and from crowded shelters.

“It’s fun, and it’s self satisfying. There’s nothing like taking a litter of kittens or puppies and providing care and TLC,” Moore said. “They make our lives richer.”

Potential fosters for the humane society complete an application with information about any current pets, their housing and other members of the household. They also receive a visit from a CHS volunteer.

For more information about Cherokee Humane Society,

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Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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