Walking through the rows of enclosures at our local RSPCA in Yagoona, NSW, I desperately wished I could rescue all the dogs.
My husband, Scott, and I had both grown up with animals and had decided to finally adopt one of our own.
We’d been searching for several weeks, but hadn’t found the right companion.
Then, during our third visit, the coordinator told us about a litter of six-week-old American staffy puppies that had just been rescued.
Crouching down where the puppies were playing, we were met with loving licks from the whole crew.
But when Scott laid eyes on a little blue puppy with distinctive white markings, his heart melted.
‘She’s the one,’ he beamed.
We named her Zura, based on the word azure, meaning sky blue.
Though the volunteers couldn’t tell us why Zura and her siblings were in the shelter, they alluded to her mum possibly having been involved in a dog-fighting ring.
How could anyone be so cruel? I wondered.
‘You’re safe now,’ I promised Zura.
Back home, our little bundle of joy fitted right in and had endless energy.
Like all puppies her age, she had a cheeky side too.
If she was ever left outside for longer than 20 minutes, she’d strategically pull a piece of clothing off the line to let us know she wasn’t happy!
But it was her soft and gentle nature that truly stole our hearts.
Snuggling up to Scott on the lounge each night, she considered herself the perfect lapdog.
Then, when Zura turned one, we thought it would be nice to have another furry friend for her.
Still, we didn’t feel ready to commit to another animal full-time.
‘A pet is for life,’ I reminded Scott.
So, we decided to foster animals instead.
After undergoing training through the RSPCA, we were asked to take in two kittens who’d been abandoned. Separated from their mother at just six weeks old, they were still quite cautious of the world around them.
Introducing them to Zura at home, they were nervous but they soon realised she was just a gentle giant.
Watching as Zura took on the role of their mum, it was such a beautiful sight to behold.
Sleeping in their own enclosure at night, they felt safe and protected as Zura rested nearby.
And as the two tiny balls of fur rumbled around together on the floor, Zura was never far away.
If they ever got up to too much mischief, she wouldn’t hesitate to put them in their place with a soft nudge.
When they were adopted, it was such a great feeling knowing we’d helped them until they’d found their fur-ever homes.
But the best part was seeing our girl flourish into a devoted paw-rent herself!
Though she’d been desexed before being released from the RSPCA, Zura possessed many maternal qualities that made her a great role model for other rescues.
‘We should call her Mumma Zura,’ I joked to Scott.
The name stuck and soon Zura’s loving nature was in high demand.
Helping to look after foster puppies from all walks of life, Zura took them under her wing as if they were her own.
Some had behavioural issues, while others had been abused.
Whether it was a litter of scruffy Maltese terriers or agile huskies with boundless energy, Mumma Zura never shied away from giving them the love, care and discipline they needed to grow into well-behaved, happy dogs ready for their new homes.
Though she was happy to sit patiently as puppies played rough and tumble all around her, she would also tell them she’d had enough by giving them a stern huff.
But the most special connection she ever formed was with Sebastian – an albino staffy who was born deaf. Showing him around, she would lead him outside to use the toilet and even guide him to his bowl at dinner time.
Then, when Zura was four, we adopted Olympia, a Dogue de Bordeaux.
We’d initially fostered her as a pup to help take care of her broken leg, but when it was time to say goodbye, Scott couldn’t let her go.
Despite the extra attention Olympia received from us, Zura didn’t mind. She’s always been the top dog in our house!
Now aged five, Mumma Zura has helped foster more than 200 dogs and four cats.
Earlier this year, the RSPCA suggested we enter her in the annual Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards.
In the entry, I wrote about all the dogs Zura had helped, and that she’d been through her own challenges, including a torn ACL ligament and spinal cord surgery.
But she continues to bounce back to be the beautiful Mumma Zura she’s always been, putting the needs of her pups before herself, I wrote.
Incredibly, in August, we learned she’d been awarded the Drontal Special Foster Carer Award.
‘We’re so proud of you,’ we told her afterwards.
Despite her new-found celebrity status, Mumma Zura has managed to remain incredibly humble.
After all, it’s all in a day’s work for a busy mum!