JANESVILLE - Kathy Bradley is a retired nurse who took care of people for decades. She continues to put that caring demeanor to good use. But now she serves as a volunteer foster caregiver for the animals that come her way from the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.
"I've always had animals; as a child I used to bring home all the strays," she said recently from her Janesville home.
Presently, Bradley has a yellow lab and three cats as permanent pets. She also recently had a litter of young kittens temporarily occupying a bedroom in her home. They were the animals she was fostering at the time.
A foster volunteer for seven or eight years, "Last year I took in 39 baby kittens," she said. "Some I had from the day they were born."
Newborns still have their eyes closed for about a week and don't walk right away, she said. Some of the animals she gets are so small they are fed with doll-size baby bottles.
Her job is to keep them until they are healthy and old enough to go back to the humane society, usually when they are about two months old.
"I keep them until they are well enough or big enough to be adopted," she said. "You foster for different reasons: An ill animal needs medicine or you foster babies too young to be adopted."
The humane society works hand-in-hand with the volunteers.
"The humane society is wonderful. They supply everything you need," Bradley said.
That includes bottles, formula, food, litter, playpens, blankets and veterinary care.
Bradley's goal is to get the animals healthy and socialize them, she said. They are taken in to the humane society every two weeks to be checked out and they stay in one room of her home until they are immunized.
"After a while, you bring them out in the playpen to get socialized until they can climb out. The humane society has classes to teach people how to care for the animals," she said.
Kaitie Swedlund, volunteer & foster coordinator for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, appreciates the volunteers she has from the Janesville, Beloit and other areas, she said.
"Truly they are invaluable. They help in so many ways."
What she looks for in a volunteer is someone who is caring and compassionate and available to come on short notice. They don't have to necessarily have experience.
"We have people apply, we interview and train them. Then we give them a call. Each year, 500 to 600 animals go through foster care because of our incredible volunteers. Presently, there are 80 animals in foster care, but typically we have 100," Swedlund said.
Most of the animals are kittens. They are found as strays, sometimes along with the mother feline and sometimes not.
"The animals are kept from two weeks up to two months, depending on why they are in foster care," Swedlund said. "Usually they are adopted pretty quickly."
Bradley said she also appreciates the support she gets from the humane society and other foster volunteers with whom she networks.
Those who are interested in becoming a foster volunteer can contact Kaitie Swedlund at: kswedlund@PetsGoHome.org or call 608-752-5622. The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is at 222 S. Arch St. in Janesville. The facility is open to the public Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from noon until 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. It is closed on Wednesdays.