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For more than two years, Lorelle Selinger has managed to combine an executive career with a commitment to fostering animals for the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Many people might find such a commitment taxing, but in May of 2023, Lorelle doubled down on her volunteering with the WHS. She and her almost four-year-old Siberian Husky named Meika took the required training and testing and Meika began work as a therapy dog.

A few times a month, Lorelle and Meika visit with people in nursing homes, Stony Mountain Penitentiary or the Eagle Urban Transition Centre, a facility for people who have moved from their First Nation into Winnipeg.

“Meika is a working dog who needs something to do,” Lorelle explained. “This gives her that opportunity. She needs a purpose and this is something that I could do with her that gave her a goal to work towards. She does like the attention.”

Visits are usually a couple of hours, and Meika will generally do whatever the person she’s visiting wants. It may be sitting together on a couch, playing, or going for a short walk. “It’s a chance for these people to bond with an animal,” Lorelle said. “A very calming experience for them. Many of them may have had pets before but no longer have a chance to be around them, so it’s an opportunity to get some unconditional, unbiased affection.”

Most visits are relaxed, but Lorelle noted that on one visit to Stony Mountain, Meika became convinced a black fly in the room was her arch-nemesis. Meika spent some time chasing the fly from wall to wall.

Lorelle’s began with her fostering cats on September 20, 2021. Since then, 46 cats and kittens have stayed with them temporarily.

Right now (and until January) six kittens are staying in the McGowan-Selinger household, as well as their two Siberian Huskies and three cats, two of which were adopted from the Winnipeg Humane Society.

(Yes, she warned this writer, there is a barricade going up around the family Christmas tree.)

Fostering has very much become a family project for Lorelle, her husband Kirby McGowan and their son, Duncan. “I travel a lot for work,” she pointed out. “I started fostering because I wanted to do something, but my schedule is not always under my control. So, fostering was something I could do on my own time.” Because she occasionally needs to travel with little notice, she could not take a volunteer position with a set schedule with shifts on specific days. Fostering was a better fit for her – and her family.

“I’m very fortunate that both Kirby and Duncan are animal lovers,” she explained. ‘If I’m traveling for work, I have a back-up to care for the animals. It’s a family commitment.” In addition to caring for them at home, Kirby will bring in foster cats to the shelter for their appointments. And Duncan, 17, volunteers at kids’ camps at the WHS.

The whole family enjoys having the foster cats around. A dedicated room is used for the foster cats, with beds, food, toys, and cat trees. “Everything is set up for them in there and they can have quietness if they want,” Lorelle said. “Over time we decide if they’re going to get introduced to the rest of the crew, or if they’re happier just staying in there.” The two dogs love the foster cats, and the family cats are used to having visitors.

Lorelle credits the WHS for its help during her volunteer journey. “The support that I’ve got on the Foster side and the Education team has been really good all along,” she said. “Volunteering here was an opportunity to work with animals and give them the care that they deserve. It was something I wanted to be a part of.”