Erin Hiltner is currently fostering nine puppies and their mother through the Van Wert County Humane Society. (Photo via Jess Ritchey)
Erin Hiltner is currently fostering nine puppies and their mother through the Van Wert County Humane Society. (Photo via Jess Ritchey)

VAN WERT – Cloverdale’s Erin Hiltner has always had a passion for animals. Her desire to help them led her to become a foster with the Van Wert County Humane Society; currently, she is fostering nine puppies and their mother.

Hiltner has three dogs of her own and had fostered before opening her home to 10 extra dogs. She said she had a lot of free time, a love for animals, and wanted to help.

“I didn’t really know about fostering,” said Hiltner. “I had done some research and I wanted to be able to take care of more than just my babies.”

The first time she fostered for the Humane Society, she fostered two Shih Tzus.

“It was really good; they were super good dogs,” said Hiltner of her first experience fostering. “It was a bit of a slow transition to get along with my dogs. It was new and exciting for everybody, I think, but when they came in they were really shaggy. They need a hair cut really bad; they needed a bath really bad.”

Hiltner ended up adopting one of the Shih Tzus she was fostering.

“My husband fell in love with her,” said Hiltner. “We had to have her.”

Hiltner was more than ready to foster again when the chance arose. The puppies and their mother came from Celina and were in need of a temporary home before they could be spayed/neutered and adopted out.

“I was so ready for babies,” said Hiltner who now plans to adopt one of the puppies. “I wanted to have more to take care of and more to love. I’ve been an animal person my entire life. The more the merrier and once you have three, what’s another nine?”

Hiltner encourages others to consider becoming a foster because of the benefits it brings the dogs.

“It’s a huge benefit for them being able to socialize a lot more out of the shelter and being able to have one-on-one time with people, my other dogs and my cat,” said Hiltner who said she’s been able to learn how shelter dogs react to new and different experiences outside of the shelter.

Hiltner had adopted from the Van Wert County Humane Society prior to becoming a foster. She said seeing her dog, now named Rudy, outside of his shelter cage was important.

“Rudy was very aggressive in the shelter,” said Hiltner. “He would bark, growl, and show you his teeth in the cages but there was something that made us keep going back to him. We took him outside and he was a completely different dog. When you adopt, taking them outside and seeing what they are like outside of the cage can be totally different; he’s a big baby now.”

Hiltner said she plans on jumping right back into fostering again after the puppies are adopted.

“It is so much fun,” she said admitting that at times it can be difficult. “But, it’s so worth it.”

“There are definitely ones where it’s like, ‘I’m ready for you to go back’ just because they may not fit [you],” Hiltner continued. She said it will be difficult for her to see eight of the puppies be adopted and to see their mom go back, but she said she knows they will go to good homes. “I like just knowing that someone else is going to be happy too.”

Those who wish to foster a dog or cat are encouraged to contact the Van Wert County Humane Society to fill out an application.