Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Six.. oops, seven degrees of (foster) connection

Hi everyone,

Your favorite red-nosed princess here!  Sorry I haven’t written for a while.  I’ve been busy going to class, going to outings, meeting and greeting new people, and napping on my thrones.  My human friends have been busy, too, connecting people and dogs.  This is a story about the seven doggies of connection. 

1.  Meatloaf

Meatloaf had been at Alachua County Animal Services (ACAS) for a couple of months and was not doing well.  He was very unhappy and bored, and he expressed his unhappiness loudly.  Because of his kennel stress, he was at risk of euthanasia.  Helping Hands Pet Rescue pulled him, with the help of Plenty of Pit Bulls, but his new foster home was not a great fit.  His foster dog brother, Marty, was undergoing heartworm treatment and needed a quiet environment.  He and Meatloaf did not hit it off, and their conflicts made things difficult for both dogs as well as their foster mom.  In addition, Meatloaf did not do well crated at adoption events, but his foster mom could not “market” him in less traditional ways.  At just the right time, Stefani learned about the foster network and offered to foster a dog.  She took him on outings (wearing his “Adopt Me” vest) and within a few weeks, he found a great adopter. 

2.  Marty

Marty was rescued from a chain in Florida's Panhandle.  He had been terribly neglected and was suffering from heartworm disease.  When Meatloaf moved to his new foster home, Marty and his foster mom were able to have the peaceful home they both needed. Marty is now healthy and available for adoption from Second Chance Farms.

3.  Raven

Marty’s foster mom has a big heart and offered to take in another foster dog, as long as he could get along with Marty.  Second Chance Farms agreed to place Raven in the spot opened up when Meatloaf went to Stefani’s.  Raven had been at the shelter for almost five months.  Raven is an extremely sociable and easy-going dog, and he and Marty get along well. Raven is a wonderful boy who gets along with everyone he meets, canine and human, and has a very happy, resilient personality.  He is available for adoption from Second Chance Farms.

4.  Gatsby

Glaw was a shy older puppy who had been in the shelter for two months.  When Meatloaf was adopted, Plenty of Pit Bulls was able to pull Glaw from the shelter and place him with Stefani. We renamed him Tucker, because he was so shy at first that he kept his tail tucked.   In little over a week, Tucker met a wonderful couple who drove all the way from Orlando to meet him.  They fell in love with him, took him home, and have renamed him Gatsby, “because he is so great.”

5.  Buck

After Gatsby was adopted, Stefani was ready for another foster dog.  She needed someone special, however, because she was getting ready to leave town for the summer at the end of the semester.  She needed a dog who was known to be good with cats and other dogs, and also one who did not look like a pit bull, due to a breed ban at her apartment complex.  Just as Gatsby was heading to his new home in Orlando, Buck was heading back to Phoenix Animal Rescue after his potential adopter changed her mind.  We knew that Buck, a hound mix, was housetrained and great with cats and other dogs.  Within a couple of weeks, Stefani found a perfect family for Buck.

6.  Brittany

During the short time that Gatsby was with Stefani, her friend Colton helped take care of him.  He enjoyed having canine company so much that he offered to foster as well.  Unfortunately, he lives in the same apartment complex as Stefani, which bans pit bulls.  We knew the shelter was full of pit bull type dogs and wanted to be able to pull one who was in danger of euthanasia.  The perfect solution: place Phoenix Animal Rescue dog Brittany with Colton, opening up a spot in another foster home for a pit bull type dog from ACAS.  Brittany is an active, playful, outgoing hound mix – the perfect frisbee and jogging partner for Colton. Brittany is a happy, outgong dog who is available for adoption from Phoenix Animal Rescue.

7.  Scooter

Once Buck found a home, Stefani was ready for a new foster dog.  The timing was perfect for a very shy little puppy at the shelter.  He was so terrified that he hid his head in the corner and urinated whenever anyone approached.  However, he also craved attention and once he was next to someone, he wiggled and cuddled and kissed like crazy.  Shelter staff loved him and gave him two reprieves from the euthanasia list.  He was almost out of chances, however, when we matched him with Stefani.  Within a few minutes of meeting her, he was feeling more relaxed and happy.  "Shy puppy" now has a name -- Scooter -- and a bright future ahead of him.  Scooter will soon be available for adoption from Second Chance Farms.

And counting...

Stefani's initial decision to try fostering saved the lives of Meatloaf, Raven, and Gatsby, and it will do the same for her new foster dog.  The ripple effect is even bigger – Marty is safer and happier.  Buck found a perfect home, after months of waiting and some false starts.  Brittany is more adoptable because she is getting one-on-one attention, which was not possible in her former multi-dog home.

Stefani did not know she had super powers, but it turns out she is a Magic Foster Super Hero.  There are more of you out there.  Give it a try!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am a failure.

No, silly -- I have not failed in the ways of perfection. But I am a foster failure. That means that my foster mom cannot bear to part with me and is going to adopt me so I will be her official biological child, not just a foster pet (did I get that right?)

I bet you're not surprised. I am pretty irresistible.

And look what we got to celebrate!

But don't worry -- I will still be available to help other foster dogs and people and even foster cats. Next topic will be my class in learning Basic Obedience and Manners -- because even perfect princesses can still learn a few new tricks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

So, what is a “foster network,” anyway?

First off, it is not a rescue; we do not have space for pets and we do not adopt them out.

We do support the work of existing rescue organizations in our community, to try to expand their ability to help homeless dogs and cats. The main way we do so is by finding foster homes that can give temporary homes to animals who are put on the euthanasia list at the county shelter. Once in a while we are also able to help dogs from other places, like Hazel, when an extra spot opens up.

This can happen in many ways. In the past week, we’ve placed one long-time shelter dog, Meatloaf, in a foster home that opened up when the previous foster dog was adopted.


We found a brand-new foster home for another long-term shelter dog, Rocky. That foster home was found thanks to the good old-fashioned networking efforts of a current foster volunteer.


We placed another dog in a different kind of foster home. This big, beautiful American Bulldog mix was abandoned in a rural area. A kind-hearted neighbor kept him for a few weeks, but when she found his owners, they said they did not want him back. She told them she could not keep him and that she would have to take him to the shelter. They didn’t care. She took him to the shelter but was worried about him and called to check. It turns out he would not make it to the adoptable section because he had a common, treatable skin condition, demodex mange. The shelter staff asked us for help. We said that if the finder could foster him until adoption, we would try to match her up with a rescue organization that could advertise him on Petfinder, showcase him at adoption events, and process the adoption application. The finder was happy to do that, because she knew he already got along with her other dogs. And a local rescue organization was happy to take this friendly and good-looking dog into their program.

We’ve also recently recruited some special kinds of volunteers. The Humane Society needs short-term foster homes for dogs in their required seven-day quarantine period. A call for seven-day dog fosters turned up several people who cannot do long-term fostering but are happy to help with the short-term gigs. And another wonderful volunteer offered to foster cats with treatable medical conditions, who need a bit longer than seven days to be healthy enough for the adoptable section.

Most of our foster homes come from word-of-mouth, personal networks, and social media. We are exploring other ways to recruit more homes, including tabling at events and other media outlets. We are also hoping to expand our services to rescue organizations by marketing and advertising adoptable animals. The faster we move them into permanent homes, the better it is for the animals – and it also means we have a space to put the next animal who needs some extra time.

We frequently pull the animals from the shelter and deliver them to the foster homes, and we also try to help foster families by transporting animals to adoption events.

Everything is done by volunteers, without any funding. Please let us know if you can help – in addition to foster homes, we need people who can write, call, put up flyers, transport pets, and help in many other ways. Please contact us at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Looking for a short-term relationship?

Some of the crazy cat and dog women I know are trying to figure out how to find more people who want to foster homeless pets. Obviously, the best possible reason to foster would be to see a face like this every morning.

But for some reason, they don’t want to go with the obvious, and have decided to collect “Data.” I will let my foster auntie tell you about their “Results” while I rest up on my throne.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Both people who had never fostered and people who have already fostered answered the survey. Most people who had fostered found it a positive experience and would consider repeating it. We were most interested in what would encourage them to try fostering, either for the first time or again.

Of the possible answers to this question, one was chosen by almost all respondents: “Having all medical and food costs covered.”

Fortunately, this is easy. Rescues always provide food, supplies, and veterinary care. Many potential foster volunteers are not aware of this, however, which suggests that it would be good to emphasize that fostering carries no financial cost.

(Or a face like this.)

In second place was a tie between two responses that both suggest people are more likely to foster if they have input into which animal comes into their home: “Being able to specify conditions (e.g., housetrained, no medical problems),” and “Being able to help choose the animal.”

Rescue groups allow volunteers to indicate their preferences about conditions, so that they do not end up with an animal whose needs they cannot meet. However, groups rarely let foster volunteers participate in choosing the animal they foster. There may be logistical and other obstacles to this, but it is worth thinking about – people want to feel connected to the animal they are living with.

(Or this. That's right. This is a cat.)

Third place was also a tie, this time between two responses that reflect people’s desire to know about and help determine the animal’s long-term fate: “Being able to participate in placing the animal in a permanent adoptive home” and “Being able to learn about how the animal is doing from the adoptive home.”

Both answers suggest that potential foster parents see placement in a permanent home as part of the foster process and are eager to participate in it. This makes sense in light of the fact that one of the most common reasons given for not wanting to foster is fear of becoming too attached. Knowing that your former foster pet is in a good home and getting regular updates would go a long ways to alleviating that concern and may make fostering more appealing to a wider number of people.

(Seriously. How can you resist?)

In fourth place was “Having a relief foster home to take the animal when I travel or am sick.”

We thought this might rank higher. While it’s still a significant concern, it is not as important to people as being able to choose and help place their foster pets. Maybe willingness to foster hinges more on emotional investment than logistical matters. (And perhaps many potential foster volunteers already have their own animals and routinely arrange for their care while traveling and assume they would make similar arrangements for foster pets.)

(This one even comes with a matching toy.)

In fifth place was a tie between “Receiving initial training and advice” and “Having someone else transport the animal to adoption events.”

While these are not the most important concerns, these are both services that could be provided, and their availability might make it possible for some people to foster who otherwise could not do so. However, these are not services that rescue staff can offer, because they are constantly busy with administration, animal care, and processing adoptions. We’d like the foster network to be able to provide some of these support services. Experienced foster volunteers might be able to hold small orientation sessions or even one-on-one consultations for new foster homes. And people who cannot themselves foster might be able to provide transport to adoption events.

In last place (though still checked by about a quarter of respondents) were “Help with training and behavior issues that might arise” and “Having a specific limit on the time the animal will be with me.”

We’d like to look into having a pool of experienced foster volunteers and regular dog and cat owners, trainers, and behaviorists who can provide help as needed, to relieve rescue staff who are already overworked. This might help not only to encourage people to foster but also to enable people to keep fostering even when problems arise.

The time limitation is trickier, but we included it on the survey because we wanted to see how important it was. For a few people, this might be a major factor, and in those cases we might make use of a pool of relief/backup fosters, the same ones who might help when foster families travel. Perhaps most important to keeping stays relatively short, however, is marketing help to get animals moved into adoptive homes quickly. Foster families can be very effective adoption advocates, and they seem to want to do this. We can seek out ways to make them more effective and make this process fun and convenient for them – e.g., by organizing fun events for them to attend with their foster animals and by thinking of creative marketing and advertising ideas.

We’d love to hear your suggestions about what might make fostering more appealing, easier, and fun. The survey is still available. Please take it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

That was then.

Can you believe that was me? Back in the shelter in Clewiston.

That's okay. This is now:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

This is a Valentine's Card for my Foster Mommy. She is the bravest person I know. She wades around in swamps for a living (I know; she took me once), and for fun, she goes on “adventure races” and rides horses very fast over big fences. But the bravest thing she ever did was take me in. She did not know then that I was a Perfect Princess. All she knew about me was that I was a pit bull in a shelter in Clewiston and I was “Out Of Time.” She did not even know where Clewiston was. (She still doesn’t, in fact.) But when my Foster Auntie asked for someone to take me in for a few weeks, my FM said “Yes!” right away.

This was especially brave because my FM had never lived with a dog before. Never! She grew up in a foreign country, but I don’t think that’s the reason. She just had bad luck. But she liked her friends’ dogs and wanted to try it. And she didn’t want me to run out of time. And here I am.

My FM was really lucky to get such a perfect foster dog. But you know who was the most lucky of all? Me.

Thanks, FM. I love you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Good Morning.

As a princess, I have many social obligations. Sometimes my weekend duties begin early. On Thursday evening, for example, I had a dinner invitation. I took Foster Mommy along because she likes to get out of the house. Then we got back a little late but Uncle Chris needed some company, so I stayed up even later with him after FM went to bed.

So Friday morning I thought I would get to sleep in just a bit. But FM decided it was a great day for an early morning walk. I tried to decline politely by pretending I was not awake. She is not always good at taking subtle hints, however. Even though I kept my eyes closed tight, she put my leash on and tried to persuade me to leave my throne.

Um, FM, I don't think opening the door to show me that it is RAINING is a good way to persuade me to go outside. I'm a princess, remember? We don't get our feet wet. Please go away and come back when the weather is better.