Monday, June 20, 2005
That's Not How Mom Does ItSo, I'm fostering a dog for another rescue organization. I could give a lot of "high and mighty" reasons why I chose to do this despite owning 3 dogs of my own, but the down and dirty truth is this dog happens to be a member of my very favorite breed. I saw her online and despite all common sense, went to visit her at the rescue organization's bi-monthly mobile adoption. "I'm just going to look," I told myself. "I certainly cannot adopt dog number four." And there she was in all her underweight glory, wagging her tail for strangers and flirting with the other available dogs.
Really, I should have turned around right then.
Instead I sat down next to her handler and we opened a discussion about small dogs, adoption policies, and the desperate need for fosters; my little foster-to-be occasionally interjecting by trying to get her tongue not only in my mouth but down my throat.
"So, um, what are your adoption procedures?" I asked nonchalantly. Our own adoption procedures ask that every member of the household and all other dogs meet a potential canine before an adoption can occur. This is to make sure no one's surprised and all canines can peaceably co-exist in the same home.
The handler grinned wide, clearly seeing a golden opportunity that he wasn't about to let go to waste. "Well, you just fill out that form over there, and you can take her home right now."
"Well, okay, I see. But I have other people who live with me and other dogs too. Shouldn't they meet?"
"Oh, she's been in a home with other dogs before and did great. And, she's been trying to meet every other dog here. I think she'd do just fine living with other dogs. Or you can foster."
"Foster? Like foster-to-adopt?" Maybe this was something similar to the East Bay SPCA's own Paws to Consider program.
"No. Just foster. We really need fosters right now, and she needs a foster home." He reached out to pet his charge who had briefly settled in his lap.
"Well, what are your procedures for becoming a foster?" I asked. Would there be any orientation involved? Many rescues did home checks and wanted detailed histories of past and current pets owned. Our own foster volunteers were asked to attend an orientation, fill out an application, have an interview with our Foster Co-Ordinator and read through our Foster Manual which details our foster policies as well as providing general animal care information.
"Well, you just fill out that form over there, and you can take her home right now."
I sat and watched for a few minutes, observing other handler/dog pairs as well as the people stopping by to pet the dogs. Owned dogs were encouraged to mingle with the ones up for adoption. Interested parties crowded around potential pets. A bus driver off her shift, who was clearly familiar with the organization, was chatting up the gentleman next to me and trying to convince him that adding an 8th dog to his home would be an excellent idea. This style of rescue was far more chaotic than I was used to.
I stood up and walked over to a small table where a woman in a t-shirt sporting the rescue's logo was answering questions. I mentioned that I was interested in possibly fostering the dog I'd been visiting. I noted that I did own other dogs, but also worked in animal welfare. She seemed impressed by this, but I'm pretty sure I had her at the word "foster". I did indeed fill out a form that asked for contact information, a list of my current pets and if any were aggressive. I was given a sheet with the expectations of a foster (to bring the dog to mobile adoptions twice a month, to get the dog fixed and vaccinated if necessary at the rescue's expense, to place a photo and brief description on their website if one wasn't up, to acknowledge that final adoption decisions were made by the rescue and not the individual foster, to keep the dog leashed outdoors, to keep the rescue's ID tag on the dog at all times, and to notify the rescue contact immediately should the animal become injured or lost), and then given dog, leash, and crate.
"I'll call you in the middle of the week to see how it's going and you can call me sooner if you want," said the woman in the t-shirt. She pointed out her phone number on the contact sheet.
And then off I went, puzzled little ward in tow. I'd become a foster parent in about ten minutes.
The East Bay SPCA is a comparatively large organization. It has two adoption centers, three clinics, and paid staff. This rescue was a small collection of volunteers pulling dogs from shelters even before they had anywhere to put them. Many adoptions for them were literally people walking down the street who then walked away with a dog. I knew styles and policies varied widely from organization to organization, but this was the first time I'd really been in the thick of it.
What would I have felt like, I wondered, if I'd not been a dog trainer? I felt a little overwhelmed as it was, walking down a city street and suddenly responsible for a dog I'd met only minutes ago. And was it really the way this organization handled it, or just the sudden jump from no-dog to dog? What did our adopters feel like when they brought their new pets home? At our shelter, many adoptions happen after a client has spent perhaps a half hour with a dog or cat. Although our procedures are slower and come with oodles of information, in a matter of an hour a person becomes a pet owner.
I found myself more impressed by potential adopters than I had been in a long time.