A dog expert who falls in love with every pup she meets has been fostering dogs for 16 years.
But in the three years before the pandemic, Kimberly Freeman incredibly welcomed 155 dogs into her Central London flat – a rate of almost one a week!
The canine trainer and behaviourist has 18 years of experience under her belt, and has always wanted to use her expertise to help rescue dogs find their forever homes.
She said: “I come from the unique point of view where I can foster dogs with a few behavioural issues and set them up to succeed in their forever homes.
“Before the pandemic, I was taking in as many dogs as I could. I couldn’t just send a quid or two a week to rescue – I needed to use my skills and expertise to try and help as much as possible.
“I work with a lot of rescue groups and do private rehoming and it’s usually the more difficult cases that get sent to me. Any fosterer has a huge responsibility on their shoulders and I want these dogs to be set up for the rest of their lives.
“Through my business, City Sit Stay, I’ve launched free online preparation classes for fosterers to teach them about dog body language and training, and setting their rescues up for success in the future.”
Kimberly has always had a passion for rescuing animals, from her first family pet Sam, to five of her six Pomeranians that now help her socialise the dogs that come to her for fostering.
Kimberly – who runs the blog City Dog Expert – added: “It’s something that’s really important to me that people are rescuing and realise there are good dogs out there.
“Every time you fall in love with these little dogs and then they go on to their forever home so it’s a bit bittersweet.
“You give a bit of your soul to every single rescue, but they give you so much more in return.”
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But fostering isn’t always smooth sailing, and there have been a few situations that have surprised the dog lover – like the time she ended up with a dog the size of a pony in her flat.
She said: “I generally only take small to medium sized dogs as I live in central London with six of my own dogs.
“I was asked if I could take in a young malamute puppy, and in my head I was expecting a dog aged eight to 12 weeks – but when I went to pick her up she was six months old and as big as a pony! I was pretty tempted to keep her, but I have to think to myself that the more dogs I have, that’s less space for a foster dog.”
And sometimes it’s not the size of the dog, but the size of the litter that’s the challenge.
When Kimberly was living in New York, she found herself taking eight pitbull puppies under her wing in her Manhattan apartment.
She said: “Until I have a big house in the country with acres of land, I’m limited to how many dogs I can have. One day it will be like the scene from the Sound of Music, but instead of Von Trapp kids it’ll be dogs.
“Also whilst I was living in the states, there was an Italian greyhound that had been abandoned in a basement. The owners had just moved out and left her, and the supervisor of the building would throw food down to her.
“She was so old, frail and ill – we all put thousands of dollars into helping her and she had to live out the rest of her life in foster care because there was no way we could rehome her.
“Those end of life fosters are the most heartbreaking because you know they’re going but you have to show them what love is right until the very end. I have to give them everything.”
Following Freedom Day on July 19, the trainer and behaviourist hopes to see the UK become more dog friendly, but fears there may be an influx of young dogs in rescue as people return to work.
She said: “The optimist in me wants to say that the UK will become more pet friendly with pet friendly offices, restaurants, bars and transport. I’d love to see flexi working where people can work from home or take their dog into work – that’s what I hope.
“The part of me that has worked in rescue for 16 years is concerned, the trainer in me is even more concerned about the lack of socialisation these young puppies have had. Only 4-5 per cent of dogs have had any kind of training over the past year which is a terrifying statistic.
“We are probably going to see a rise in one to one and a half year old dogs with separation anxiety, issues with sound and noise phobias and dogs unable to deal with crowded situations. I’m hoping it’s not the case, but the priority just hasn’t been on training this year.”