Life in an animal shelter, even ours, where we diligently provide enrichment and interactive stress free opportunities for dogs that have no home to call their own, well, it’s still somewhat terrifying for some of them.
Dogs exhibit stress and show us they are uncomfortable or fearful of their surroundings in many subtle ways. Some behaviours such as pacing, barking, howling, cowering, flinching, pulling away on the leash are very obvious to even the novice dog handler. Other symptoms of stress in dogs, some of which we humans may not immediately recognize as a behavior dogs employ to calm themselves include lip licking, scratching, urogenital check, panting, yawning, shaking their bodies after being petted by humans, are canine clues all is not quite right in their world.
Acute awareness of the emotional well – being of our dogs – and cats – while awaiting adoption is a top priority at New Hampshire Humane Society. One of our best and often times most successful options: - time away from the shelter in a calm, comfy foster home, is exactly the right medicine for a lonely, overlooked canine.
Consider Casey, a four year old Walker Hound whom we showcased in April on our wildly successful Pet of the Week platform. It’s not by accident that acronym for this special fifteen minutes of fame via print media, radio, Facebook, local TV, flyers and word of mouth, POW, ninety percent of the time results in a speedy adoption. Sadly, for Casey, sweet and gentle hound girl, mistreated in her home of birth because she lacked the required hunting abilities, wasn’t so lucky when her publicity machine went into action.
Watching the daily rejection by the adopting public towards this lovely dog was more than any of us could endure. We reached out to one of our truly special volunteers, asking if they would consider fostering Casey for a while, since we felt getting her physically out of the building could only do her good. Casey went from being a shy, reserved, sad dog to one who greets each day with head held high; ready to accompany her temporary foster parents on whatever errand or trip they are planning. She’s enjoying all manner of outings, social interactions with others, sleeping on human beds, and best of all, boat rides on the Big Lake. Looking at the image of her standing tall as the boat cuts through the waters of Winnipesaukee, one can almost hear the haunting melody of “My Heart Will Go On’ from the blockbuster Titanic.
Fostering is a truly special part of volunteerism. Foster parents must be willing and able to lay bare their hearts and care for a creature that so desperately needs to bond and flourish in a safe environment far from the hub bub and noise of shelter life. As each day passes the attachment grows. Helping these innocents overcome the challenges of memories of abuse and neglect, never far from the surface, demands a very particular kind love and courage. Patience, calmness and consistency are traits all foster parents share, along with the ability to provide enrichment through playtime, cuddle time, quiet time. Observing the progress of a formerly hyper-vigilant and reactive dog blossom into a calm, centered, happy creature is so rewarding. Knowing you have given the very best boost for a canine embarking on their journey to a permanent home is a noble gift indeed. Sometimes this wrench is hard to absorb and therein lies our ulterior motive – hoping the match is so perfect and the bond so complete, that foster home and foster dog cannot be split apart. We don’t call those episodes ‘foster fails ‘it’s not in our organizational vocabulary, rather, it’s the very best possible permanent adoption placement we could have hoped for.
If you have the time, space, and interest, consider joining the foster programme, even if for one season, for one dog, with one or two specific needs, we would love to hear from you. Fostering might be short term – recovery from surgery, for example, or longer, an older animal in need of a more home like structure.
Either way, we’d be happy to discuss further. Call or email our Volunteer Coordinator, Andrea Bonner, she can fill you in on all the details. Andrea can be reach via email