Fostering By the Numbers

Nelson went home on Saturday morning.

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His story illustrates how the foster dog system works when all goes well:

  1. Nelson is selected from the dogs in a shelter in Virginia as an adoptable dog that just needs more time than a shelter has room or funds to provide. OPH pulls him and after a vet determines there is no medical treatment needed for his eye (it was an old trauma), he is neutered, tested for heartworm (he was negative), vaccinated, and microchipped. Then he waits in a local foster home until he can catch a ride north with an OPH transport.
  2. I pick Nelson from a list of dogs in need of fosters, but can’t meet the transport van, so other OPH volunteers step in to pick him up and house him for two nights until I can take him. (Thanks Karie and Evan!)
  3. Nelson arrives here and we assimilate him into our home, walk him, feed him, and get to know him.
  4. I write up a bio about him saying that yes, he is housebroken and yes, he is crate-trained, and no, he isn’t a threat to cats. I write that he’s an easy-going sort of dog who is very lovable to everyone he meets but can counter-surf despite his size. Information like this is something you can’t get when you pick a dog out at a shelter. (And not to discourage ANYONE from adopting from a shelter, I’m just pointing out that there is much good about the foster system that makes an adoption match more likely to be an informed one.)
  5. Nelson is with us for just under two weeks. He is adopted by a family who discover him via the OPH website and have already applied and been approved to adopt a dog. They bring their current dog with them to meet him at my house, adore Nelson on sight, and take him home.

Many, many foster experiences happen just like that. But a few don’t. Continue reading Fostering By the Numbers

A Fixable Problem

WARNING: This is not a happy or funny post. It might bum you out, or maybe it will inspire you. I’m taking my chances sharing my grief and frustration.

IMG_3629Today is the day Ginger will leave. I feel unprepared. Every other time, when a dog was leaving that I knew would break my heart, I had a plan in place. A new foster on its way or already in our house, or I had somewhere to go or be that would distract me. Not today.

Because I’m still waiting to see a doctor who will have the answers, I can’t commit to a new dog/puppy. I’m not a good patient or a patient person, so my hurting knee is dragging me down. Lucy is still here, but we’re finding our routine and she’s ready to go to a forever home as soon as her people find her.

Today is different than other adoption days. Without my usual props in place, I already feel the tears gathering and I hate that. This is the hardest part of fostering. This heart-cratering pain that is so completely unavoidable- if I just didn’t foster dogs. It’s self-inflicted, preventable, and yet, I know it’s nothing compared to the pain of all the dogs that never make it out.

I’m currently reading Rescue Road, the story of a man named Greg Mahle, who drives a tractor-trailer full of rescue dogs from the deep south, to foster homes and adopters in the north twice a month. He’s helped rescue over 30,000 dogs and driven a million miles.

I’m trying to read it as fast as I possibly can because it is unbearable. Every time I have to close the book and move back into my world I feel sad, unmoored, frustrated. How can there be people in this world, in this time, who would dump a litter of newborn puppies in a trashcan or worse yet, set that trash can on fire?

How can there be state-run ‘shelters’ that are no more than concrete holding pens completely exposed to the elements where dogs are dumped all together (young, old, sick, neutered or not) to wait for no one (or maybe a rescue) to claim them before they die of preventable diseases or state mandated euthanasia? This book breaks my heart. Reading it this weekend, knowing it was our last with Ginger, made for a sad, sad few days.

Yes, I know, Ginger is going to a GREAT home. It’s the only happy thought available for me to hold on to. Only that great home isn’t mine. It can’t be. Technically, it could be, but reading Rescue Road this weekend underlined again for me exactly why it can’t be—there are too many dogs still down there. Too many dogs dying every day because of ignorance, cruelty, apathy, and lack of resources. This is a fixable problem. Maybe that’s what makes me most crazy. Parvo, mange, heartworms, overpopulation—these are ALL preventable or treatable.

All of my mixed feelings and sadness is complicated by the fact that my knee is not healing. It limits me. Just this morning, I fell, once again. Even though I had on my brace and my new super grippy shoes that my husband insisted I buy, my unstable let still slid out from under me on a stick that fell in last night’s storm as I made my way down the hill with Lucy. Ouch.

And then there’s Lucy.
Continue reading A Fixable Problem

Getting Serious About Dog Rescue

Are you as afraid as I am to turn on the news? I feel obligated, but at the same time a heart can only take so much. This past weekend I finally heard some GREAT news. I was privileged to attend OPH’s seminar for volunteers. I learned even more about this fabulous organization I’m a part of and left feeling motivated to do more.

The highlight for me was a presentation from two women from one of the shelters that OPH partners with in south western Virginia. I went to school in southside Virginia a million years ago, so I remember that part of the country as rural, blue-collar (when there are jobs) with field after field of tobacco. I worked at a pub in Danville where I served mill workers who called me “Yankee Girl” and never missed an opportunity to remind me that Danville was the last confederate capital of the south!

Rachel and Ashley traveled north this past weekend to share with OPH the impact our organization has had on their shelter in Scott County, VA. I couldn’t hold back tears as I listened to the statistics they shared. I think it was the best news I’ve heard all summer, actually all year, and it renewed my desire to help more dogs and my admiration for the people who work so hard to save them.

OPH began partnering with the Scott County Human Society shelter in mid 2015. Take a look at the impact we are having on this one shelter- Continue reading Getting Serious About Dog Rescue