Today, December 19, Stephen McGovern is on his way to pick up a new foster dog. Mary, a Beagle mix, is scheduled to deliver her puppies on Christmas. It will be the first time that the McGoverns have been there for the birth of a litter.
Stephen has been described as "a Santa to puppies in need" and it's a title he and his family have earned. It's been only 5 months since they began fostering for Great Dog, and they've already saved around 24 dogs.
"I've lost track," said Stephen. "But that's what my kids say."
Even though Stephen is the proud owner of two Great Dogs--Tess, a Beagle/Chihuahua mix and Teddy, a Beagle/Chihuahua/Pit-bull mix--he was hesitant to begin fostering.
"I knew I'd fall fast and hard [for the dogs]," he said.
But when he finally relented, he realized that the hardest part was "not being able to do more."
In fact, Stephen does plenty--he's one of the hardest working volunteers for Great Dog. Even though he runs his own business in Waltham, he never says no to a dog in need. There have been up to 13 dogs in his home at one time (7 were puppies), and currently he's housing 3 large breed fosters, in addition to his own two pups. But with Mary on the way, there will be plenty more soon.
While fostering does take some time away from business, the customers of Stephen's Apparel have become used to the sign on the shop door that reads Back in 30 Minutes as Stephen rushes home to clean and feed and take care of his dogs during the work day.
"They're very understanding," Stephen said.
It could be because they're used to Stephen's desire to give back to his community. In addition to Great Dog, he also coaches a girls youth softball program, among other things.
"It's good to give back and do what you can for others. I make money for myself as I can," he jokes.
But he does have help. Juliana, age 13, and Stephen William, age 10, are Stephen's two youngest children (out of four) and they help take care of the foster dogs, including picking up the "presents"--which they are not a fan of--and going to Great Dog events, which they love. Stephen's wife also helps out, and as a registered nurse, she's prepared for their first at-home delivery.
So how does Stephen and his family get it all done? The motivation comes from the emails and updates from past fosters who have now been adopted into wonderful homes. And while it's sometimes difficult to say goodbye, the tears the McGovern family shed at the parting of a friend are worth it.
"I find a lot of comfort in my dogs," said Stephen. "And the fosters are treated like my dogs until they're gone."
From all of us at Great Dog, we wish Stephen and his family a Merry Christmas and hope for a safe and speedy delivery for Mary at the McGovern Manger!