You know how sometimes you meet someone and right away you can tell they are a little different than everyone else, in a good way?
Lori Mason is one of those people. Her commitment to homeless, injured, and sick animals is something that impressed me from the first moment I met her, when I signed up to be a foster parent for the county animal shelter in Kent, Washington.
Lori works as a veterinary technician for the Regional Animal Services of King County animal hospital and also coordinates their foster care program.
One of the things I love about Lori is her passion for shelter animals, and her advocacy and empathy for society’s most overlooked animals. She recruits foster parents to care for the very young, injured, nervous, or sick animals who otherwise would not thrive in a shelter setting. I see her as a modern-day heroine and an excellent role model for anyone interested in animal rescue.
Kezia Williams for Dogster: What led to your interest in animal rescue?
Lori Mason: I have always had passion for animals. Even as a child I brought home every stray I could find, and my parents allowed me to keep them all. Once I came to Regional Animal Services of King County, I saw how bad overpopulation was and how many sick and injured animals came in. I knew I had to step in and help.
Tell us about the Angel Fund at RASKC and what led you to create it.
The Angel Fund started to help the sick and injured. This money we receive is by donation. When animals would come to us injured, because of no funding they were euthanized. So one day I just decided to do something about it and approached a nonprofit organization to see if they could help, and they agreed. After that, every animal gets the help they need by outside vets.
How many animals has the Angel Fund helped since it was created?
I don’t know the exact number, but hundreds.
Is there a particular story you’d like to share about an animal the Angel Fund has helped?
There’s one about a little dog named Franki, who was kicked in the face so hard that his jaw was shattered, and now he is blind. He was taken to a vet and they were able to fix the jaw, and he’s now Franki is living in a loving home. That surgery alone was close to $6,000.
How can people donate to Angel Fund?
On the King County website, there is a place where you can donate. Sometimes Girl Scout groups will do fundraising. Also, when people renew their pet licenses, there is also a place on the form where they can donate. Or they can just simply stop by the shelter and donate at the front counter.
How did you become the foster coordinator at RASKC?
When I started at RASKC, my job was the technician in the spay and neuter clinic. The employee who was in charge of the foster program went on medical leave and they asked me if I would run it until she comes back. Well, 13 years later, I am still running the program! Our volunteers foster more than 2,000 animals per year.
I will normally take the really sick ones home to get them over their illness and then place them into another foster home, so my home will be available for the next sick animal.
The ones I take may not make it, so I would rather have my heart broken instead of a foster parent having to go through that trauma. During the summer months I usually have a foster in my house every day. Of course, when I am able to, I try to take breaks to avoid burnout.
What is your best advice for someone who is interested in getting started as a foster home?
First, make sure your own pets are current on vaccines. Then get on the King County website and fill out a application and get signed up for a training.
Fostering is very rewarding, but if you foster I do recommend that you take breaks in between animals, just so you don’t get burnt out and quit the foster program. There are so many animals in need of fostering.
Would you like to share a fostering success story?
Gosh, there are so many wonderful stories, I don’t know where to begin! All I can say is thousand of animals lives have been saved due to the foster program. The compassion the foster parents shows is overwhelming.
What are two favorite accomplishments you’ve achieved during your career in animal rescue?
Of course, the Angel Fund is No. 1. And I took the foster program and made some changes and took this program to a whole new level.
Now I am starting a new program called Seniors for Seniors, designed for old cats who sit in the shelter, not getting adopted. I hope to place these animals into homes, so they will get to live out their golden years with a person and not in a kennel. We will still provide everything for this animal — food, litter, medical care. This way, if a senior citizen needs companionship but can’t afford the care of an animal, it’s a win-win for both human and animal.
What keeps you going on bad days?
Knowing that I have become a voice for the animals — or even just looking into a face of a kitten. I know that sounds silly, but they are so darn cute. Just looking at them puts a smile on my face.
Also, I have such great support from the foster families that I could not imagine doing anything else. They are the most amazing people, and I feel so very fortunate that I get to work with them.
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About the author: Kezia Willingham works for Head Start by day and is a freelance writer on the side. She lives with her family, which includes 6 cats and 4 dogs, in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has appeared in xoJane, Literary Mama, and the Seattle Times. You can follow her on Twitter.