2020 Petco Foundation Foster Hero Nominee: Rachel Erath

The call for help came in the wee hours of a cold January morning in 2020. A dog had been thrown from a highway overpass landing 30 feet below and left to die. But, as happenstance would have it, an officer had parked his Knoxville Police Department cruiser close by.

The officer brought the dog to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center for emergency care for multiple broken bones and other injuries. The dog then was released to the care of Young-Williams Animal Center, the official intake center for Knoxville and Knox County. Shelter staff knew the next step for the brown and white mixed-breed dog – who was called Good Sam in honor of the Good Samaritans who helped her – had to be the healing hands of an experienced foster.

Rachel Erath, who is an accountant by trade and an angel for animals at all times, took in Good Sam and gave her the name of Daphne, which means victory. Despite the severe injuries and the emotional trauma from such a horrifying situation, Daphne’s sweet personality began to emerge. She already was housebroken and became a loving, affectionate, gentle and calm dog.

Rachel Erath has been fostering for Young-Williams Animal Center for 7 years.

Rachel has fostered animals for Young-Williams Animal Center who arrive terrified and full of fear. She fostered one dog who needed six weeks to build enough confidence to be around other people and even go outside. Rachel earned the dog’s trust, and he eventually went to a forever home.

She moved to Knoxville in 2013 from California and started fostering pets almost immediately. Young-Williams Animal Center has been the grateful beneficiary of her compassion and commitment. Rachel has fostered dozens of cats and kittens – many of whom have required intense care – and more than a dozen dogs. She also helps a local ferret rescue. She serves as an adoption ambassador to help Young-Williams Animal Center find homes for her foster animals, so the pets leave her house and go straight to their new family rather than going back to the shelter to await adoption.

Rachel focuses on housetraining, socialization with other people and animals, and behavior issues. She also has three dogs who help her foster pets on their path to wellness. Through Young-Williams Animal Center, she uses resources, such as trainers and behavioral experts, who can help with the myriad of issues an animal in her care has – even the most hopeless cases.

One particularly challenging dog turned a corner and became housebroken and adoptable, which “is the most rewarding thing in the world to me,” Rachel said. “It’s just full circle when they go to a loving home. I’m preparing them to be good pets, which gives them the best possible chance of finding a forever home.”

Fosters open their homes and their hearts knowing the pets ultimately will leave for a new home. Rachel has accepted that tradeoff because she knows that every foster pet she welcomes into her home is one with a second chance in life. Her lifelong love of animals keeps her going and embracing the emotionally tough cases like Daphne.

Rachel was not able to have children, so she took all of the love inside her to help animals heal and learn to love and trust again.

Daphne found her forever home in mid-April and is now called Lindy. She went from a dog who was literally thrown away to die to living with a loving family, going on walks and posing for photographs in her new yard. Her injuries healed. Her heart healed. And it all started with a call for help and the answer of yes by Rachel.