By Ronda Gregory
News & Journal Staff Writer

Karen Scott, a volunteer foster "mom" with Pet Helpers, Inc., and her new foster furbaby, Stella Blu, out for a run in the park. This cattle dog mix breed is just one of many lovable pets waiting to be adopted into a happy forever home.
Karen Scott, a volunteer foster “mom” with Pet Helpers, Inc., and her new foster furbaby, Stella Blu, out for a run in the park. This cattle dog mix breed is just one of many lovable pets waiting to be adopted into a happy forever home.

For people who love cuddly canines and frisky felines, Pet Helpers, Inc. is offering a chance to win a Western Caribbean cruise for two aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Oasis of the Sea and an opportunity to help these precious creatures who need care and a permanent home.
Pet Helpers, an all-volunteer foster-based nonprofit pet rescue, is hosting a raffle for seven-nights at sea in a superior cabin with a private exterior balcony. Exotic ports of call include Labadee, Haiti, Jamaica and Cozumel. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20 for a vacation package valued at more than $2,300.
Money raised goes directly to the Fairmont-based but regionally-served organization in its mission to prepare and provide pets for adoption, to the support of a low-cost, on-going community spay and neuter project, to help pet owners in caring for their pets, to provide educational support to local schools and to support many other pet-assisting efforts.
“Our group was established in September 2008 by five individuals who saw a need for folks needing to rehome their pets,” said Pet Helpers Vice President Terry Buretz. “Since 2008, we have placed more than 2,700 dogs and cats as indoor pets all across West Virginia and in 12 other states. In addition to taking pets from the public, we also pull what we can from facilities that have to euthanize due to space concerns.”
Buretz, who has been with the nonprofit from almost its beginning, reports that caring and devoted fur-foster parents are vital to its existence. Because Pet Helpers pets are totally housed in foster homes (there is no housing facility), their team of 30 fosters is the backbone of the agency.
“We rely strongly on our fosters,” Buretz said. “We get people who have experience with animals. We want the pets treated by the fosters like they treat their own pets.”
Morgantown resident Karen Scott is one of those loyal volunteer fosters who cares for and loves her fosters as her own. Just with the organization for more than a year, Scott has already fostered 10 dogs. Presently, she is taking care of one-year-old Stella Blu, a cattle dog mix breed.
“She’s really well behaved, totally housed-trained, and she still has a lot of puppy in her,” Scott reported grinning. “She’s very curious and has tons of energy to investigate things.”
She said Stella Blu is smart and easy to train, “I told her to sit just about three to four times and she did. She learned it fast.”
Scott explained that one of the most interesting aspects of being a foster “mom” is figuring out the specific needs of each dog in her care, i.e., what type of home they’d best thrive in and preparing them for that special, tailored-for-them choice of a home.
“I love it,” she exclaimed. “It’s a fun challenge.”
Buretz said Scott is an exceptional foster for their Pet Helpers pets, “She takes the ones that may need special attention and training, she’s successful with them and does that wonderfully.”
Most of their volunteer fosters have full-time jobs and their own permanent pets to care for. “It makes for a busy life,” Buretz said.
Both Buretz and Scott believe that for someone who loves dogs and cats but cannot commit to a forever home for them, fostering is a wonderful option. Helping them get placed in a perfect permanent home, while enjoying their company along the journey to that, is very rewarding, they both agree.
Pet Helpers support all volunteer fosters with any pet needs, from veterinary care to pet items. “It’s a great way to have a pet,” Buretz said. “We provide all they need.”
She added that while attachment to the fostered pets is inevitable, the volunteers report the reward of seeing their temporary pet get a wonderful loving home is worth it. Seeing a broken pet become a loved one; excited and wagging its tail or just an already happy one that needs a home get one is rewarding.
“It’s all very heart-warming,” Butetz said.
Including the direct-care fosters, the Pet Helpers have a volunteer base of 60 to 65 people all helping in several areas of animal-loving efforts.
Pet Helpers hosts Adoption Day on the third Saturday of the month in front of Petco at the University Town Centre in Morgantown for people to come out and meet the dogs and cats in person.
“Without the generous support of the community and the ongoing support of our fosters and volunteers, Pet Helpers would not be able to function,” Buretz stated.
The drawing is set for August 15. And the cruise departs January 30, 2016. The winner may opt to exchange the planned cruise for another Royal Caribbean cruise of their choice by paying any cost difference, reported Buretz. Or a winner can also accept a $2,000 cash prize instead of the cruise.
Though the organization is based in Fairmont in Marion County, it works regionally in its mission, so raffle tickets can be purchased at other locations as well, including those in Harrison and Monongalia counties.
For information about purchasing cruise raffle tickets, making a donation, or becoming a fur-foster parent, call (304) 672-7387; or visit either pethelpersinc.org or on Facebook at Pet Helpers, Inc.