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"Stop eating me," I whine at Taz. The black fur ball of a pup pauses to stare at me for a moment before continuing his arduous task of slowly but surely devouring my face.

Taz isn't my dog. He belongs to Blue Moon Meadows, a not-for-profit rescue organization in Honeoye Falls (near Rochester) that takes in orphaned dogs and fosters them until they can find permanent homes.

Blue Moon, started by Dee Herzog and two other former members of Brightstar German Shepherd Rescue, is run solely out of the homes of private fosters, as it currently does not have a full-time facility to house the dogs it takes in. This method helps the dogs become accustomed to people and other animals as well as learning how to live in a home with a stable routine and one-on-one attention.

Rescues like Blue Moon are on the rise, popping up all over Western New York. Herzogbelieves this is mainly brought on by the Internet and word of mouth, as good rescues are recommended by past adopters.

While shelters take in local animals, rescues often try to reach out farther, to out-of-state areas where there are many more homeless animals with dismal chances of being adopted. Blue Moon often works with shelters in rural areas of Ohio and Kentucky, where animals often aren't spayed or neutered and the shelters are overrun with dogs and cats, forcing them to be at high risk of being put down because the shelters lack the funding and space for so many animals.

The one thing that sets shelters apart from rescues is that rescues often have the animals housed in the private homes of volunteers. Fostering can be a highly rewarding experience and is a good way to help out local pet rescues. But before you run off and beg your parents to let you take in a foster, you need to consider a few things.

Fostering, while fun and enjoyable, is a lot of work. Not only must you provide for the basic needs of the animal, but you have to provide them with a lot of attention; many fosters aren't used to human interaction and need a lot of TLC to adapt to humans before they can be adopted.

You also need to consider that many dogs aren't trained. If you're lucky, you may take in an adult dog who's housebroken and knows a couple of commands, but they might know nothing more than a newborn pup.

After fostering 13 puppies in the last year, I can say that it's one of my favorite things in the world. Puppies are always adorable, and a lot of fun to play with. But are you ready to listen to them (or even an adult foster) cry all night in a crate? Are you ready to sacrifice your sleep to get up with them at 3 a.m. to take them outside? Are you willing to clean up any and all messes that your puppy makes and possibly lose a few belongings to chewing?

The biggest issue with fostering, and the question I am asked most often, is how do you give up the dog? It's because you're proud to say that you helped this dog find a loving home, and you realize that once this dog is adopted, you're now free to save another life by fostering another dog. That's what makes fostering so rewarding.

So maybe you can't foster a dog. Rescues and shelters can always use help. Local shelters often need supplies, including pet food, toys, bedding, old towels and more. Rescues such as Blue Moon or Buffalo Humane can mainly use fosters and cash donations but are always thankful for leashes, collars, crates, blankets and food. Rescues accumulate a lot of vet bills, so having a fundraiser is another way to help.

To volunteer, check out the websites of different local shelters and rescues. Some, such as the SPCA (www.yourspca.org), require an adult to be present with all volunteering minors, and has a very helpful guide to how kids and teens can help out.

Buffalo Humane's policies can be found on its site, www.buffalohumane.org, and Blue Moon can be found at www.bluemoonmeadows.org.

To look for an animal in need of a home near you, check out websites such as www.petfinder.com or www.adoptapet.com.

Helping out a rescue or shelter is not only rewarding, but it leaves a smile on your face and countless memories. And to know that you helped save the life of an innocent pup like Taz is, I'd have to say, the best feeling in the world.

Taz has been adopted to a loving family, who now call him Scout.

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Kristen Brown is a sophomore at Lancaster High School.