McCabe and Mack LLP Associate Tinamarie Fisco exudes joy, and there is no doubt that her infectious happiness is a direct result of all that she has gained from fostering dogs over the past two-plus years.
The attorney, who specializes in commercial litigation, estate planning, and trust & estate administration at the firm, has devoted her free time to caring for animals. It is a tradition that goes back to her youth; Tinamarie’s family raised Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds, and at one point lived with 7 dogs! They often donated the animals to local police departments to be trained as narcotic dogs.
These experiences shaped Tinamarie, and inspired her at the onset of the pandemic to get involved with an organization called Crate Escape. Here is more:
What inspired you to start fostering dogs?
I was working in Brooklyn, NY when the pandemic hit, and when I realized I would not have to commute every day, it freed up a great deal of time for me. I have loved dogs since I was young, and discovered an organization called Crate Escape (based in Wappingers Falls, NY). They were in desperate need of foster families. Since I knew it might be some time before I would have to return to conventional office life, I had the ability to help, so I applied to foster. After going through a full interview process and background check, etc, I got started. Since March of 2020, I have fostered 7 or 8 dogs. Typically, I only have one at a time, but my last one included 3 puppies who were siblings!
Tell us about Crate Escape.
Crate Escape is a rescue organization that is funded by donations – it places dogs who are at risk of being euthanized. If a foster home is available, Crate Escape transports the dog to a local airport or brings it up North by car (vehicle travel can be less stressful for the animals). At that point, the dogs get a new lease on life. And you can almost see their sense of self shine through when they come off a transport, as if they know that they are getting a second chance. It is really special.
Once they are given to a foster home, the dogs will stay for as long as it takes for them to be adopted. The longest time in foster care (that I have witnessed) has been about 4-5 months. The foster care transition is a positive one for them – it gives the dogs a chance to become more acclimated to humans as well as other animals. Sometimes Crate Escape will even provide behavioral and obedience training if they feel it can help lead to better outcomes for the dog and its adoptive family.
Tell me about the dogs who you have made part of your family.
There are three dogs who I adopted after fostering; I just got so attached and had to do it!
I adopted Poet first. A lab/boxer mix, he was only the second dog I ever fostered and was just six months old when we met. He came from North Carolina, and arrived here with “Double Cherry Eye”, which was sad to see. It is basically inflammation of the eyes, where blinking is painful and the dog has bulging tear glands, which Crate Escape had removed through donations. Ironically, I had donated to the medical fund for him before knowing that I would end up fostering and eventually adopting him.
Zooey, a Yorkie mix, is the second dog I adopted. She had heartworm, and when people heard that, they did not want to invest the time and money, even though the organization made sure to provide medical treatment prior to adoption. I understand that people are hesitant about past or current medical conditions, but Zooey has found her home with me now and I am very happy to have her!
My third adopted dog is Scarlett, a 9-month-old Beagle, who I fostered for about two months. I just fell in love, and even though I had no intentions of adopting Scarlett, she had such a pleasant demeanor and when I realized that nobody had applied to make her part of their own family, I wanted to give her a home. In a few months, I will begin attending training with her so that she can become a therapy dog. My hope is to take her to hospitals to see patients, and since I am also a volunteer with the American Red Cross, there will likely be opportunities to help people they serve as well.
What do you most love about the experiences you have had?
Seeing the dogs come out of their shells is rewarding and wonderful. Knowing that they feel safe and comfortable and at home – it is hard to put into words what that feels like. The first dog I ever fostered was a German Shepherd mix; she was a beautiful, unique-looking puppy who had no human contact in her life. She was found on the side of the road with two siblings, and was so afraid she did not want to even come out of her kennel. When she started to bond with me and with the dogs I had at that time, it made me feel so happy.
The experience of seeing the animals connect with their new adoptive families is incredible. I had one black lab named Tucker who went to a family in New Paltz. When I brought him home to them, I saw how he interacted with the children and although it was heartbreaking to let him go (as it is with all of the dogs), watching them click with a new family as Tucker did, is just amazing.
What lessons have you learned along the way, and how have those lessons helped you in your profession as an attorney?
I have learned to be more patient and to really take the time to observe. Both patience and keen observation have helped me as a lawyer too. Being patient as a dog gets acclimated to his surroundings is no different than being patient as you go through the steps of a legal process. And observing the way a dog interacts and behaves – it parallels that which needs to be done with clients and in the courtroom; I need to look closely at body language cues from the judge or opposing counsel, and I also need to be mindful of how a case is impacting clients in and out of the courtroom.
I would also add that you strengthen your sense of empathy when you foster animals. These dogs did not ask to be in these situations (just like our clients who are dealing with circumstances that they probably never imagined). They might be fearful and do not know what to expect. Little by little, day by day, I can offer reassurance by being sensitive to what they might be enduring, just like I try to do for our clients.
Any advice for people who are considering fostering animals?
It is a big responsibility and time-consuming, but worth it! And if you do not have the ability to foster, you can still support these animals and rescue organizations by becoming dog walkers or making donations to show support. I highly recommend fostering if you have the time and energy. There is a high demand for foster families right now. Many people adopted during the pandemic, but now that everyone is back to work and resuming some more normalcy, more and more animals are coming back to shelters. They need help.
Learn more about Tinamarie Fisco, Associate at McCabe and Mack LLP, by visiting https://mccm.com/tinamarie-fisco/ . Or call to schedule an appointment: 845-486-6864.