A Virginia animal shelter is in the process of developing an official foster program. In the meantime, they’ve become creative in how they discuss options with potential adopters, staff and volunteers — and are getting more dogs into homes because of it!
Dyanna Uchiek is Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at Chesapeake Animal Services, in Chesapeake, VA. Here’s her powerful story, shared with permission::
At the American Pets Alive! Conference, I heard Kristen Auerbach tell the story of a time a volunteer intervened on behalf of a senior dog, saying that the animal deserved to die in a home, as part of a family. I’ve been carrying that story in my heart since, and it motivated me to think of creative solutions for these dogs, instead of just euthanizing them.
My job description doesn’t include weighing in on animal outcomes (well, not exactly). But I’ve started writing names of animals that aren’t “easy” adoptions on a dry erase board in my office, to remind me to think of them in my promotion/social media/special programming duties.
So many wonderful ideas have come out of this board. Whenever someone visits my office, they say, “Why is that name on your board?” When I tell them I’m trying to think of creative ways to get them adopted, they always have an idea they’ve been carrying around, but hadn’t found an outlet to express.
This weekend, we had three very senior dogs get out of our shelter because we didn’t limit our discusssions with interested families to adoption. Instead, we had open discussions about the possibilities available to them, including different types of foster arrangements.
The first family was looking at a dog, Bennie (now Isabel, shown in the photo above), a stray hound who has heart/lung issues, possibly lung cancer, and several very suspicious masses. The family’s original intention was to foster her, and they went through the motions to become fosters, but when it came time to sign paperwork, they knew she’d never be coming back, so they chose adoption instead.
The second dog, Bandit, a Lab mix, is in foster with a staff member and his family. I don’t foresee him coming back to the shelter, but even if he does, we’ll have great information on what he’s like in a home, as he came to us as a stray.
The third is an elderbull, called Maude. Again, we were able to have a flexible discussion about the family’s options for being involved in Maude’s future, and they chose to adopt!
Below are some photos of all these dogs. I’ll keep them in my heart, and probably in my office, for a long time, because they are a reminder that every dog deserves a home.