Community: The Puppy Lady
by Dr. Sandra Black, DVM
The Puppy Lady
by Dr. Sandra Black DVM
Jean Lewis’ introduction to Jackson County was a new neighbor’s dog that wandered over and bit her in the bum! Her introduction to fostering started with a husky who wandered into her yard without identification. Neighborhood inquiries yielded no owner, so Jean and her husband David contacted ARF and ultimately got him adopted. Jean knew then that she could help stray animals through ARF. And help she did. Since 1999, she has fostered close to (or maybe even over) a thousand dogs and a few cats. In one year alone, she fostered 129 pups!
As is common, Jean had a few “foster fails.” That’s when the foster person falls for one of their little friends and ends up adopting them for their own. Catscan is the most memorable. A rather large dog had a litter of 8 pups under one of Harris Regional Hospital’s outbuildings. All the pups got medical names, and Catscan, who was enormous, got to live his life with Jean and David. Maggie May, a terrier mix, and several other fosters have also lived the rest of their lives in the comfort of the Lewis home over the years.
Jean hasn’t just fostered pups for ARF. She has been ARF’s’ Secretary since 1999, did a stint as the treasurer, compiles statistics for the various organizations that ARF interacts with, has written several grants that have allowed ARF to sponsor low/no cost spays and neuters, and for several years was the vet check coordinator. All the animals transported to Pinellas County, Florida, for adoption have to have a veterinary exam as well as a host of other shots and tests before transport, and that can be a logistical challenge for 20-30 dogs and 8-10 fosters per transport. Up until Covid, Jean was at every vet check, keeping the foster parents and their charges in line.
Through all this, Jean has endured a serious dog bite that required a skin graft, a broken ankle tripping over a puppy, and two falls with dislocated shoulders, all foster related. And she had two knee replacements, lost her husband to brain cancer, and lost most of her house to a fire. Some of these slowed her down, but they never stopped her from helping ARF.
She laughs when she recalls a transport that she and Jane Finneran took to Atlanta. They had multiple puppies in crates, and with puppies comes poop. So, Jean stepped on it to get there quicker. A cop pulled them over, and when he leaned in to see what they were transporting, he got a whiff of what they were trying to outrun. He just as quickly backed away and said, “Have a nice day.”
Along the way, Jean took on the nickname of Puppy Lady. Jean LOVES fostering puppies because, well, they are so darn cute, and they have puppy breath, and they are small enough to handle easily. And she enjoys naming the litters: there have been flowers, trees, weather events, presidential candidates, foods, and beer varieties—to name a few.
Another bonus to fostering is the attention: Jean always gets calls and emails and even stops in the grocery store from those that have adopted a pet from her. They tell her they have had “the best dog ever” and thank her for making it happen. To be clear, it is not always as fun as puppies’ kisses. There is the poop, and lots of it. And there are losses. Sometimes the puppies don’t have enough oomph to make it, despite veterinary care, medications and an incredible amount of TLC. But always, the “Goods” outweigh the “Bads.” And so she will continue on, the Puppy Lady, naming and fostering cute and adorable puppies.