La Verne Magazine
Man's Best Friend Gets Second Chance
by Kelly Serrano
photography by Natalie Fowle
Denise Draper is holding her foster puppy Molly who is waiting for a
home. Draper volunteers with the Inland Valley Humane Society. Fostering
Molly, Denise takes numerous trips to the Humane Society for Molly's shots
and check ups. Many of the animals for which Denise is a foster parent are
full bred, will have their shots, and be will neutered. The Humane Society
animals offer an alternative to high-priced pet stores.
Denise Draper talked at her home for at least 20 minutes before she
had to put the baby down. The baby girl had already gnawed on the nipple
of a four ounce bottle of formula, drinking it in a matter of minutes, then
she tried to crawl out of the white infant blanket onto the table, but Draper
kept a tight hold on to the baby. After realizing she had no where left
to go, the baby cried too loud for her to carry a conversation. So, with
a smile of patience, Draper put the baby down in her pen to play on her
She barked and yelped in the background for a few minutes until finally
The baby Draper is currently caring for is a 3-week-old, black-bodied,
brown-pawed, furry rottweiler, momentarily named "Molly." Molly
has depended on Draper since she was a day old, after her mother, brothers
and sisters were abandoned. Once old enough, Molly will be given to a loving
family who will adopt her. At that time, Draper will invite another orphaned
puppy into her home and start the process all over.
This has been the norm at the Draper home for the past four years. Draper
is a volunteer for the Inland Valley Humane Society (IVHS) and is a foster
parent to abandoned pups. She went into the center to donate towels and
blankets, and decided to become more involved, having always had a love
"I've always, as a kid, picked up stray dogs and brought them home,"
Draper says. "I just got involved with their volunteer program, and
fostering was what I really wanted to do."
For the past four years, Draper has helped raise more than 75 pups and
kittens, but specializes in the care of pups. When the IVHS finds a litter
of pups, Draper takes up to five home, depending on the situation, and cares
for them as though they are children. Her La Verne home is a puppy wonderland,
equipped with various-sized pens for the fosters to sleep in and an exercise
pen for them to scamper in. The pens serve as a nice background object,
because most of the time the pups are free to run about the house with the
other family pets. Although Draper has invested in her own products, the
Humane Society provides all formula, food, bottles, bowls and blankets necessary
in raising a growing pup. Draper gives each of her foster pups a teddy bear
to sleep with, in which they often bond and take to their adoptive homes.
Molly has become attached to a small fluffy teddy bear that was once white,
but has become dirtied through weeks of play.
Taking care of infant puppies is not easy work. She bottle feeds the
infants that are less than 3 weeks old, sometimes every two hours. Draper
recalls many nights of sleeping on her couch, only nodding off every couple
of hours in order to keep regular feeding schedules. The puppies are nourished
to good health and learn how to socialize with humans. She is also responsible
for taking the pups to the IVHS veterinarian for their shots and check ups.
She then helps find the puppies a loving home and usually keeps in contact
with the new owners to check on each pups progress.
Sheila Beattie, IVHS Volunteer Coordinator, says nine out of 10 people
who adopt animals from the center prefer a puppy who has been fostered.
"These animals are handled right from the beginning. There is a lot
of human contact, nurturing and beginning of the housebreaking has begun,"
Beattie explains. "By the time they are placed in another home they
are already used to other animals, used to being in the house, used to being
around a family."
The entire Draper family joins in on fostering the abandoned pups. Waking
up first in the house allows husband Alan Draper to help with many of the
early morning duties. Hearing the sound of a whimpering pup first thing
in the morning could only mean one thing-bathroom calls. This training,
designed to teach growing pups how to go outside to use the bathroom, begins
by the pup's third week.
"I'm the only one up so I'll potty them and change the papers,"
Alan explains. "I'll play with them a little bit, put them back to
bed, then they'll sleep for another half hour until the next person gets
Draper gets a well deserved break when her daughter, Jennifer, 19, helps
out by taking the foster pups whenever her schedule allows. Taking the pups
with her to her boyfriend's house on a Saturday night or out during the
day allows Draper to do the laundry or make dinner without interruptions.
Once in a while, Draper gets enough time to meet a friend at the mall for
Always willing to help out her mom, Jennifer explained, "I know
that she gets tired and I stay up later than her practically every night,
so if I'm up, there is no reason for her to get up just to feed the dogs."
Jennifer shares her mom's love for animals and desire to help abandoned
pups. "There are days when you're tired, but because you care about
the animals you just keep doing it."
Teenage sons, Jim, 17, and Ray, 15, are always willing to help play
with and entertain the pups.
The family dogs also assist raising the puppies. Brutus, a small terrier,
who was once one of Draper's foster pups, jumps around while Eddie, a tall
terrier, who was also rescued from the shelter, loves to protect. Brutus
and Molly have sparked a playful relationship, play biting and rolling around
on the floor together. Mandy the cat likes to keep her distance from all
When not caring for puppies, Draper works as an assistant teacher to
Lori Bell-Ramos at Gladstone Street Elementary school in Azusa. They work
together to teach children with learning disabilities. The small class size
and supportive school staff are beneficial to Draper's fostering projects.
She often brings in her foster pups to sleep in a pen, allowing them to
keep their regular feeding schedules. It also allows the children to become
familiar with animals.
The children observe Draper hand feed the puppies, and when the pups
are old enough, the children participate in holding the bottle. Often, older
puppies run around the classroom with the children and sit with them during
story time. This provides a great opportunity to teach the children about
the importance of responsible pet maintenance.
"The animals are very positive for the kids," says Emy Perry,
a Gladstone Street Elementary school clerk. "Some kids aren't exposed
to animals and some kids are scared at first but then look forward to them
coming in." Perry now shares her home with a much loved cat that was
once fostered by the Drapers. "My cat came to me well-trained and loving."
Draper loves her fosters and is completely dedicated to them, but at
the same time wishes there was not a need for her. She spends most of her
free time at the IVHS working with the staff to help animals. Nine cities
worth of abandoned and mistreated animals are brought into the IVHS. It
is estimated that 20 to 50 animals are brought in daily. Draper commented
that in the last year she has seen an increase in people abandoning pregnant
dogs, leaving them alone and scared to have their puppies. Working at the
IVHS can be traumatic.
Often, the staff find themselves emotionally attached to the deserted
dogs who occupy a seven by five square foot concrete cage, or the cats who
lay in a two foot square pen searching for an owner. At the same time, the
staff has to remember that most of the innocent animals will undergo euthanasia.
Beattie said she believes that this is where the IVHS volunteers come
in handy. There are about 20 other volunteers who foster animals, some taking
whole litters of dogs or cats. She says the staff gets positive reinforcement
out of knowing that the animals will be raised and put into a good home.
Foster animals never undergo euthanasia.
Draper always knew she wanted to reach out and help animals, and found
the perfect way to do so in fostering. She loves to plan her life around
a foster and "make it part of the family." Her generosity has
helped save the lives of the 75 animals she has fostered.
When asked if Draper sees her animal fostering as work, she replied
"Actually I do this for my sanity!"
Jack Koziol, a retired missionary, and Denise Draper have been neighbors
for years. Koziol often stops by her home to check out the new arrivals
and show the animals Draper has brought home to his grandchildren.