Lewes resident Sally Powell is a proud foster mom, but her children are slightly smaller, slightly furrier and bark instead of talk.
Powell is an area foster mom for Jack Russell terriers, a breed of dog she has been surrounded by her entire life. Powell grew up on a farm in Hertfordshire, outside London, and that’s where she first had Jack Russells.
“They’re very common in England,” she said. “Especially where horses and farms are concerned. They’re not fancy dogs at all; they’re kind of scruffy little things that people just have because they will go down and get foxes.”
Powell said the breed was created by Englishman Jack Russell in the 1850s, who liked to hunt foxes. She said hounds generally did not like trying to dig in holes where foxes would hide. So he bred a dog that would flush foxes out of their holes by crossing a fox terrier - for its feistiness - a dachshund for its short legs and a Staffordshire terrier for its ability to go into holes.
The mix involved in creating the Jack Russell led to its appearance, where no two Jack Russells are seemingly the same: some have smooth coats, some have fluffy coats, some have spots, some have short legs and some have long legs. Jack Russells can live to be up to 16 years old.
Powell, who has no children herself, came to view Jack Russells as her children. She arrived in the United States in 1985 with two Jack Russells, Tigger and Jo. Powell said when she first came to the U.S., she did not see many Jack Russells, but the breed gained in popularity in the 1990s, thanks in part to the NBC sitcom “Frasier,” which featured Eddie, a Jack Russell owned by Frasier Crane’s father.
After moving to the U.S., Powell and her husband, Frank, settled in the Mid-Atlantic, where she worked in education in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. They discovered coastal Delaware during this time, vacationing in Rehoboth Beach. They ended up buying a house in Lewes in 2009, and in 2014, they started fostering Jack Russells through Mid-Atlantic Jack Rescue, an organization dedicated to finding homes for Jack Russells.
Powell said she was inspired to start fostering after the death of a Jack Russell, appropriately named Jack. She said she was also planning to retire, and she and Frank planned to travel, so they didn’t want to get another dog and figured fostering allowed them to still be close to Jack Russells while not having one fulltime.
That changed with the arrival of their first foster, Griffin, a curious and affectionate dog with whom the Powells were immediately smitten.
“He never left,” Powell said. “He has a very sweet personality. Most Jack Russells are TypeAs. Griffin is a TypeB. He has a gentleness about him that isn’t common in the breed. He’s a great foster brother. He’s just a very sweet boy.”
Besides Griffin’s arrival, the couple grew to love living in the Lewes community.
“We liked it here. We very much enjoy the community, we like the place, we like the people. It’s all good,” Powell said.
The Powells have since fostered 24 dogs. They kept a second, Whiskey Jack, who was the 19th Jack Russell to come through their door. The newest addition is Remie, a curious and smooth-coated, 6-year-old Jack Russell who was surrendered by his owner.
Ardis Lukens, president of Mid-Atlantic Jack Rescue, brought Remie over Nov. 2 to begin his stay with the Powells.
Lukens said the organization usually hears from shelters when a Jack Rescue conducts an assessment of the dog before matching it with a foster parent.
“Sally is usually at the top of our list because Sally is one of our best fosters. She’s very Jack-savvy. She knows the breed. She knows what she can handle and what she can’t. We feel pretty comfortable with any dog we give to Sally,” Lukens said.
Powell said Jack Russells are not for everyone, so it helps anyone looking to foster to be familiar with the breed and know how suitable the dog will be within a particular home situation, whether the foster has children, cats or other dogs.
“People think because they are small dogs that they are easy. They’re actually not. They are very spirited, very feisty and high energy. They need exercise. They need amusement. There’s nothing worse than a bored Jack Russell terrier. They will find a way to amuse themselves. But they are friendly, they’re outgoing and they’re engaged. They like being around people. They are very affectionate,” Powell said.
For more information on Mid-Atlantic Jack Rescue, visit majr.org.