Manissa Pedroza is a superstar foster volunteer. Caring for over 60 litters since 2015, she has acted as mother and savior to hundreds of kittens who would have been at risk without her love and attention. Providing care to moms with their babies, babies that didn’t have moms, and an assorted few that were adults who needed medical care, Manissa, has opened up her home to shelter animals in need.
Back in 2008, Manissa was working in health care management and was feeling like she needed to experience something new. Wanting to give back, she decided to join the Peace Corps and deployed to a small fishing village in Belize called Sarteneja. Almost immediately, she noticed the hordes of stray cats and dogs in the village. She quickly learned that there was no access to veterinary care or spay/neuter services to help control the population and to keep the animals safe. She noticed how much the children cared for the animals, but they did not have the education or tools to provide for their needs. Banding together a group of locals, Manissa created a program that attracted local veterinarians and others to deal with the overpopulation crisis. Through spaying and neutering, humane education programs, and foster and adoption opportunities, she saved the lives of more than 1,000 animals. “I still go back once a year to assist with a spay/neuter clinic.” Says Manissa. “I am honored and humbled to be part of a program that is increasing the quality of life for the people and the animals in this village.”
When she arrived back home to Sierra Madre, she knew she wanted to continue fostering and contacted her local animal organization, The Pasadena Humane Society (PHS). She immediately enrolled in the organizations foster program, took the training, and was placed with a group of kittens. “I was struck by all of the support that PHS gave to the volunteers,” says Manissa. “Back in Belize, there were no resources, or support, you always had to just figure it out. PHS gives you everything you need, with supplies and medical care, and the staff is always available day and night to help with emergencies.”
At first, it was a few litters without moms. She provided a warm place to sleep and food. They grew and were brought back to PHS to be placed for adoption.
“It was amazing to be part of these animal’s journey,” says Manissa. “I know I am giving them the best chance for a forever family. They are on loan to me temporarily, but the real excitement comes when they find a new home. When I bring them back for adoption, I whisper to them, ‘you got this, good luck!’”
As time went on, she cared for dogs and cats that needed some medical TLC including; a litter of puppies that were found in a park in Monrovia; a dog named Wonder that came to the shelter emaciated; a dog named Jada who had a knee problem; and Edgar, a cat with a congenital heart murmur.
“There is nothing better than to wake up to the love that these animals give you every day,” says Manissa. “Even when they are super tiny or ill, you get to see them grow and change. When there is a mom involved, you get to watch her in action. It blows my mind how incredible moms of all species can be.”
Manissa recruits everyone in her circle to assist her with her rescue efforts. A yoga instructor friend recently came to her house interested in adopting a kitten for her children. They immediately feel in love with the mom. Another friend with kids regularly drives to her home from Manhattan Beach to help socialize the babies. Manissa also enlists the help of her 8 year old whippet mix Bella, and 9 year old shepherd mix Sam (dogs that she brought home from the village in Belize), who regularly act as socialization surrogates.
“As a foster parent your capacity to love and give is endless.” Says Manissa. “There is no cap to it, and what better way to spend your time on this planet than to give back?”
A special shout out to Manissa and all of the other foster volunteers who open their hearts and homes every day. This is the time of year when shelters get flooded with baby animals that need your support. Get involved and become a foster volunteer today. Visit pasadenahumane.org or, check with your local shelter.