For the Love of All Creatures

How could I let them sit in a shelter?

Lori Paape of Fredonia has fostered hundreds of animals the past 35 years and is not slowing down despite having heart surgery. She has six lop-eared bunnies now that she says are messy. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Lori Paape has a motto: Get more pets, get more pets.

She’s not a hoarder. She’s a foster mother who has become a pet adoption ad in human form complete with Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” playing in the background.

Paape has housed hundreds of animals between her homes in Milwaukee and Fredonia the last 35 years, and recent heart and thyroid surgery aren’t stopping her.

Paape doesn’t foster just any pets, although she would love to take them all. She chooses the underdogs that nobody else wants, and she sometimes adopts them herself.

Paape has a chihuahua named Tee Tee who came with two broken legs.

“I thought, no one’s going to love him like me,” she said.

Tee Tee has healed and gets around just fine now but he’s yappy and doesn’t trust strangers.

Her cat is a 20-pound orange tabby named Phat Phat who struggled to walk as a kitten. When Tee Tee heard Phat Phat crying, he would pull him away from his siblings and drag him into his basket with his heated blanket.

Paape wasn’t going to give those furry friends up. She also has a hamster.

The current temporary residents are a new venture — six lop-eared rabbits. She had seven but the mother was adopted, and these, Paape said, will be her final foray with bunnies.

She has had dogs, cats, guinea pigs and hamsters, but rabbits are “the biggest pig animal I’ve ever met.”

They use their litter boxes, but they kick litter all over the place. Paape vacuums multiple times a day.

“I’ll take puppy poop over bunny poop anytime,” she said.

Paape got a quick education on bunny behavior. She was at first worried they weren’t eating but learned they only nurse at night, just like wild rabbits.

Her favorite pets to foster are cats.

“They’re mellow. They don’t need you for a whole lot, except for attention,” she said.

She started with a mother cat and four kittens back in 1986 after hearing about fostering.

Paape always wanted to get a dog but money was tight. She and her six foster children went to the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee to pet the animals when Paape overheard people talking about fostering.

She said she couldn’t afford the food or supplies, but was told, “‘We supply all that.’”

“So that day I signed up,” Paape said.

She had the five cats for a month before getting a dog, and she quickly became concerned and called the Humane Society.

“I don’t know what the dog got into but the tongue is black,” Paape said.

She was told it’s normal; that’s how Chow Chows’ tongues look.

She was off and running, fostering one animal after another, along with 61 children, 12 of whom she adopted. She has 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild who practically lives at her Fredonia apartment.

She made the decision in the mid-1980s not to have children of her own since so many youngsters need homes. She had the same philosophy in fostering children as she did pets — she wanted to bring dying babies home. Two of her 61 foster children passed away but not before they were loved.

“At least they know a hug or a kiss, the smell of dinner,” Paape said.

One of her adopted sons weighed 15 ounces and was addicted to cocaine when he was born. He wasn’t supposed to last a week, and he’s now 31.

She feels the same about animals.

“How could I let them sit in a shelter? They need a home where they can mess up someone’s room,” she said.

“If we all turned our backs, where would they be?”

Some of her dedication to fostering comes from her father.

“My dad always said if you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t do it at all,” she said.

“Then he said, ‘Stop because you take it way too far.’”

“I’ve done my part, I think.”

She continues to do her part. While the Humane Society pays for food and supplies for foster parents, Paape now buys her own.

“It’s my way of donating to them without donating,” she said.

“I can’t give that much that we’ll never have, but I can give if we have enough.”

Each foster animal starts in Paape and her husband’s bedroom. She bottle feeds them.

“I never realized how much momma does until I became momma,” she said.

Tee Tee is good with puppies, she said, but Phat Phat hisses at kittens at first before accepting them.

Most pets don’t stay for longer than a few weeks. Paape often has animals after they’ve been spayed or neutered before they find homes.

She has become so good at fostering that the Wisconsin Humane Society mostly lets her decide if prospective pet owners are good matches during visits to her home.

When adopted, each pet leaves Paape’s apartment with a basket or box of goodies and a toy or blanket, along with a note about what the animal likes and its personality. Seeing pets go to their forever homes is never easy.

“I cry and cry and cry,” Paape said, but she keeps her purpose in mind.

“I do everything for a reason. I’m doing it to get them ready for a home where they’ll be loved.”

Even Paape’s profession involved helping people. She was a registered nurse and a hospice nurse for six years.

Paape also cares for her husband who has health issues and is OK with the foster pets since they’re not permanent residents.

After Paape had heart surgery in June and her thyroid removed in July, she was put on the do-not-call list for fostering and told her husband she was done.

“The day I got out (of the hospital),” she said as she reached for her tablet on the dining room table and started to scroll down the screen. “OK, who needs fostering?”

It turns out many animals need foster homes. The Wisconsin Humane Society website has a list at

“Just do it. They need you. You’ll love it. It’s free,” Paape said. “Change a life. Make yourself feel good.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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