Last week I wrote a post asking YOU what you want to read about on the blog. I got a lot of great questions/topics to cover! I will be answering one question per week. As we move forward, please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section of answer posts or regular posts. Today’s question comes from ilovecats:
“Are you involved with rescues or a foster program? I’m curious where you find the dogs you foster and how you got started.”
The cool thing is that this blog pretty much documents everything about this journey, including a lot about how it all started. Some of you might remember Zabora, the dog I co-fostered with Love and a Six-Foot Leash – but , as you can probably guess, it all started much before her.
I actually interned at this humane society when I was in high school to complete my senior year schedule of leaving in the middle of the day and heading to a science internship. The relationship I kept with my boss landed me the full time job I took after I graduated college (it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, kids!). It was during the time I interned in high school that I became interested in pit bull dogs. It wasn’t that I fell super in love with them at that point, I just started sticking up for them more because I couldn’t figure out why everyone thought they were so different. I guess I grew up with the value that beings shouldn’t be treated differently just because of the way they looked.
When I began working at the shelter full time in June of 2011 (yes, a whopping ten days after I walked across the stage at UMD’s graduation), I heard people talk about fostering and I even worked next to the foster department desk, but I didn’t think of it as an option for myself. I had an elderly dog Barley at home and, to be honest, didn’t know too terribly much about taking care of dogs on my own past the experience I had with him and a few others growing up. FYI – as an Animal Science major they teach you about cows, not dogs and cats :-). Once Barley passed away, Aleks from L&ASFL was able to convince me to help her out with Zabora. I figured it was an okay gig since the responsibility to get her adopted wasn’t totally on me.
Zabora’s story was a sweet and rather quick success. We pulled her through Jasmine’s House rescue, which was the first time I’d ever heard about Jasmine’s House. By the way – did you all know that Jasmine’s House was named after Jasmine, the little red dog who graces the cover of The Lost Dogs? Yeah, that Jasmine.
Once Aleks moved away, I was sort of on my own in this big wide world of fostering and advocacy that I stumbled into. By then the blog was kind of rolling, though I wasn’t posting five times a week at that point. I started to put my antennas up a little more at work, figuring out how this fostering and saving lives thing worked. Rumblings about a dog named Baxter needing a foster home began circulating – online I think is where I saw it. I remembered Baxter when I finally put his name and photo together: he was the scared, emaciated dog I had met briefly in our break room at the shelter just a few months prior. I made the connection that Jasmine’s House had pulled him and rehabilitated him to the point that his next step was moving to true foster home.
Catalina, one of the women who ran Jasmine’s House at the time, finally stepped up and asked me to foster Baxter. A bona fide foster dog, all to myself. I thought it through – though, looking back, did I really think it through? Did I really think about the fact that I’d have this dog for four months, no matter what? And that a black, generic looking dog can sometimes be tricky to place, especially when they’re maybe not the most affectionate of dogs? I’m glad I didn’t think about that, because Baxter was the opening to so much of what my world is now.
Jasmine’s House loaded me up with a crate, a kong and a big hunkin’ jar of peanut butter. Turns out, I didn’t need much more for Bax! Just kidding, sort of. More so, though, Jasmine’s house provided me with support and encouragement. So much of it. They cheered with Baxter’s victories, marveled at how happy he was in a home, and helped us through challenges. They are awesome. So, so awesome. It was because of how whole-heartedly they welcomed me as a new foster that I realized this was an organization I wanted to stay involved in. That and the fact that they’re totally not crazy, like rescue groups can sometimes be – in fact, they’re very much practical and responsible, two things I value in an animal welfare organization.
After fostering Baxter through Jasmine’s House, Otis came back to me. We all know how that went – but, in case you haven’t made the connection yet, I fostered him through the humane society, not Jasmine’s House. There were a couple different factors in that decision, but ultimately he ended up as a county shelter foster dog. The humane society has a great foster program that helps hundreds of animals per year in addition to the ones helped at the actual shelter, and it was nice to be able to go through that experience as well. Honestly, every rescue group/shelter has a different way of doing things, and if you’re interested in fostering you should find an organization that you mesh well with.
As far as the dogs I choose to foster, Zabora, Baxter, Otis and Johnnie all came into my life for different reasons. When you have a shelter full of dogs needing your help literally every day, it is easy to just go back and pick one out and bring it home. That would do worlds of good. But I let my dogs choose me. So far it’s worked well, and we’ll see who else weasels their way into my heart and home from now on. Judging by the past 18 months, your guess is as good as mine!