Yappin’ About Cool Kids: How One MN Family Fosters Responsibility

When it comes to raising kids, most of us parents are on the lookout for opportunities to teach responsibility. We at Sidewalk Dog love yappin’ about when this involves dogs, and in one local household, fostering homeless dogs is central to their family mission.

Andria Bertucci and Donna Hellman of Chaska, along with their three children, have fostered 15 dogs in the past few years – eight in the past year alone – through the foster-based rescue and advocacy group A Rotta Love Plus (ARLP). Kids Jaden (age 12), Ashlyn, and Olivia (both age 7), aren’t just along for the ride: they actively provide day-to-day feeding, exercise, and clean-up for the dogs.

When asked whether they receive allowance for caring for their foster dogs, the kids’ answer was an unenthusiastic “nope.” Donna explains, “They receive allowance for chores, not for responsibilities. They’re learning the difference!”

The kids with a recent foster pup, Lilly

Jaden has taken an especially large proportion of the doggie doo-ties in the form of poop patrol and entertainment. “Almost 90% of their care!” Andria told us. His dedication counts — Jaden’s favorite foster dog, a lovable, playful Rottweiler named Falkor, came to ARLP from a neglect case in Indiana. The poor pup didn’t even know how to play, but with Jaden’s skill and patience, Falkor soon got the hang of life as a family dog.

Shares Jaden, “I feel great that our foster dogs have a better home than they did before they were rescued.” Happy ending: Falkor was adopted into a loving, two-kid family in Minneapolis.

Andria adds, “Our kids understand that they are making a difference every day. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience.”

Falkor, before and after. Photos: Kellie Chauvin Image (L), Angela Schuester (R)
Falkor, before and after. Photos: Kellie Chauvin Image (L), Angela Schuester (R)

Michelle Klatt, a director at ARLP, notes that families such this one make for outstanding foster homes. “Many potential adopters have kids, so they’re going to look for a dog that has lived as part of a family and enjoys life with little ones. Being able to say that a dog has a stamp of approval around kids is an incredibly valuable thing for a rescue and its adoptable dogs.”

Lilly and Jaden

Beyond learning responsibility, fostering dogs can also bring up challenging questions for kids, such as “Why are some people unable to take care of their pets?” and “How do dogs end up homeless?” The answers aren’t easy, but by caring for these dogs — aided by their parents’ insightful guidance — the kids have learned to talk about such matters with maturity and compassion.

(And fostering has taught the kids an answer to a far easier question, too: “What happens when I don’t pick up my toys?” Let’s just say one foster dog was responsible for eating the eye off of a brand new Hello Kitty doll, now affectionately referred to in the household as ‘Pirate Kitty.’)

The kids also volunteer with ARLP’s training program and adoption days, and attend other ARLP events.

Says Michelle, “Thanks to Andria and Donna and their kids, and other families like them, ARLP has been able to match well-socialized dogs with equally terrific forever families. At the end of the day, what could be better?”

We agree, kudos all around! Do you know any dog-lovin’ kids worth yappin’ about? Let us know!

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