Applying for the Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

Applying for the Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

For those of you that may be considering becoming foster parents to a lucky shelter dog… first of all, THANK YOU! It is a wonderful gift to be able to assist the rescues, the shelters, and the dogs themselves. In a previous post, I spoke with you about how we are preparing our family and our home for our foster dog. I thought I might give you a bit of background on the process of becoming a foster family.

1. Research Reputable Rescue Groups

I was first introduced to the world of fostering by my friend Francine, whom I mentioned in yesterday’s post. She would share photos on facebook of dogs from the shelters in New York City that have a high kill rate, and I was desperate to find a way to help these highly adoptable dogs before it was too late. You can check them out here, and I urge you to do so if you think it might be the right fit for you. She has even fostered a few pups from there, with the help of this rescue. The problem with this process, is that the dogs have very little time between when they are listed on the website, and when they are euthanized. Added to that, you need to be able to pick the dog up in person at the NYC shelter, within 48 hours of reserving them. With a hectic personal life and work schedule, this was not an option for me. In that case, you can fill out applications through certain rescues that have been approved to pull from the shelter in NYC. These rescues will then typically pick the dogs up from the shelter, and hold them for you until you can arrange transportation. Usually, you will then serve as a foster family for their organization, so before you can select the dog, you must pass their stringent application process.

The problem with this process, for us, was that our applications seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle, even though we submitted them to 4 different approved groups. Knowing what I know now, I should have then gone to the extra effort of finding phone numbers or contact information for individuals within the group, and pursued the matter further. However, being new to the process, I assumed that the rescue would contact me if they had interest in our application.

We also visited a few large, well-known rescues in our area. We attended tours of the facilities, as well as meetings for volunteers and informational sessions for foster families. We were very impressed by their organization, funding, and sheer numbers. However, we felt as though we should search for a group that was smaller, and had a greater need for us.

2. Select the Right Organization for You

We will be working with LCPO, or the Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners, Inc. You can visit their website here, and check out their precious adoptable pooches here! You may be wondering why we would choose an organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania, when we live in Pittsburgh. I asked myself the same thing! I do not want to bash any rescue organizations on here. Every group does the best that they can, with likely limited resources of staff and finances. However, we were very disappointed in the lack of response we got for many of our applications. LCPO was one of the only groups that got back to us right away. Not only that, but they sent us a welcome packet of information, letting us know what their organization was about, important contacts, and what to anticipate when fostering a dog through them, as well as their expectations of their foster families. For a nerd like myself, this influx of information was exactly what I needed! They are a very well-run and organized group, and I feel very lucky to have not only found them, but to have been so warmly welcomed. You can also check them out on their facebook page.

The high level of communication and strong organization of LCPO is what most attracted us to working with them, but when considering the many rescue groups, there are a multitude of important factors to consider.

The financial aspect is vital, as it can vary between rescues. You need to ask yourself what you can afford to contribute financially. Most rescues will cover the animal’s veterinary care, at a minimum. In our case, we are electing to pay for all other costs, including the crate, collars, leashes, food, bed, toys, etc, although this is not a requirement through LCPO. We have budgeted this money into our financial plan, and feel that it is one more way we are able to give back to the rescue group. If this is the route you choose, it is important to save your receipts, as they can serve as a tax-deductible donation to the rescue. Be sure to consider all costs thoroughly, before agreeing to take on a foster animal. The last thing anyone would want, would be for you to have to return the animal because of financial constraints.

Another important consideration will be the time commitment. I am not just referring to how many hours per day of your time that the dog may require. Rather, you must consider how long you are willing to keep the foster. The stay can range from a matter of days, to many months. It is important to be up front with the rescue about what sort of time frame you are able to accommodate. Do not assume that if you can only hold a dog for a few weeks, that you will not be considered. This can be the perfect amount of time for a puppy to get out of a stressful shelter environment, learn some basic manners, and become house-broken. There is usually an ideal dog for every situation, so select a rescue that is willing to work with you to find a scenario that is mutually beneficial.

3. The Application Process

The applications for each rescue we worked with were largely quite similar. One thing that stood out among all of them, was the sheer length! Our final submitted application for LCPO was over 7 pages. To me, this shows that they are thorough in wanting to find out as much as possible about their foster families. However, I did walk away feeling as though they knew more about me than my own employer!

It can be tempting to stretch the truth on the applications you submit. You have high hopes for your plans with the foster, and want to convey this to the rescue organization. However, it is vital to your fostering experience, and for the well-being of the animal they place with you, that you maintain honesty at all times. It is especially important to list the proper information about your own pets, as well as their compatibility with other animals, to ensure the safety of all involved. The rescue will then analyze all of the information that you provide, and match you with a dog that is best suited to your lifestyle.  For example, f you have young children and a busy work life, then a puppy may not be the right fit. Most rescues are not looking for the ‘perfect’ application. They should not turn you away simply because you work, or because you do not have a fenced-in backyard. However, they want to see that you have a knowledge of how a dog should be cared for, and priorities that are in line with their own.

4. The Home Visit

Our own home visit will be occurring this Monday, so I can’t offer much first-hand experience. I should confess that I am feeling a bit nervous about it! Of course, I think that our dogs have the best life any pup could ask for. With lots of room to run, toys to play with, ponds to swim in, and comfy beds for cuddling, it’s pretty much their idea of doggy heaven! However, it may look different from the eyes of our reviewer.

I brought my questions to some other members of the LCPO group, and they assuaged my fears by assuring that it is “to make sure you’re not a crack-head or hoarder“. Whew! After some NA meetings and a deep spring cleaning, I can cross that off of my list. Kidding!! But in reality, they have had instances where potential foster homes were denied, based on their home visit. The main point to keep in mind is that they are wanting to verify that your living situation reflects your application. If you followed my point above, and maintained honesty in your application, then there should be no cause for concern.

Amid the unnecessary butterflies, I am looking forward to our home visit on Monday. It will serve as a great opportunity to get an outside perspective on how to make sure our home will provide the proper shelter for our special pup. There is a precious girl we have in mind, and I want things to be perfect for her. She hasn’t had the easiest life, and she really deserves to share the love that I believe our family can provide.

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In yesterday’s post, I promised to include a new highlight on our blog! Until our own little foster baby arrives, we will share a daily update with you all that will feature some really special adoptable pit bulls. Introducing….

Lilo

You know you want me…

At a mere 14-weeks old, Lilo boasts a pretty impressive resume. His foster mama describes him as ‘calm, and totally sweet.’ He is a professional cuddler, and already successfully house-broken! By adopting Lilo, you get all of the puppy charm, with a head start on training and veterinary care, and little risk of stained carpets! Lilo is extra-special in that he is known as a blue-nosed pit bull. He loves his four-legged foster siblings, has been properly socialized, and gets along well with everyone. LCPO was able to pull Lilo and his siblings from a no-kill shelter when they were 10 weeks old, so information of his early life is limited, but his foster mama has been dedicated to making him a responsible member of the bully society ever since. She is doing a fabulous job of sharing his story, and he has had 146 views on his Petfinder profile this week alone!  If Lilo sounds like the perfect addition to your family (of course he does!) then check him out here. If you love Lilo, but aren’t able to add a pup to your home at this time, we would greatly appreciate you sharing his page and this blog to help him find the forever home that he deserves. Thank you for looking!

How could you say no to those eyes?!

Black, White and Naughty all over!

Anyone who knows me would quickly categorize me as an animal lover. And not just any animal lover. I’m the type to look along the side of the road for injured animals, volunteer at shelters, and offer my services as dog sitter to any of our friends. When I first met Jonathan, who is now my husband, I wasn’t so sure how this would work. Sure, he had a mother and sisters that were almost as animal crazy loving as I. However, he quickly made it clear that he was a ‘No Pets in the House’ kind of guy.

Don’t worry. I quickly reformed him 😉

Fast forward to a year or so later. We had both graduated from Penn State, and were living in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Our property had lots of acreage, and my dog Tonka (who was not only allowed in the house, but even occasionally onto the sofa or bed) needed a friend. Jonathan and I had been talking for a few weeks about getting another dog. A puppy, to be precise. We had a few qualifications;

1) We would get the dog in the fall, once things in our lives had slowed down a bit.
2) It would be a male, as we both thought females were more difficult to train.
3) Jonathan’s stipulation was that the dog be a large pure-bred, as he thought mutts & rescues were too unpredictable. (More on that later, I promise!)
4) The dog would be a young puppy, so that we were able to start from scratch with the training.

I was on my way to work, one early Saturday morning in the summer. Rushing down the highway, I was anxious to get my day started, when I saw a little black tail wiggling above the high weeds beside the busy road. Of course, I immediately pulled over, no doubt angering the driver behind me. As I got out of my car, another vehicle stopped to see if they could help. As I stood, still holding on to the open door of my SUV, a little flash of black launched itself into my car, and promptly made itself comfortable on the passenger seat. The other driver chuckled and said, “Well, looks like you have this under control!” I got in my car and began down the road with my new co-pilot, wondering what I would do with this pup during the work day. Of course, I immediately called Jonathan. Our conversation went something like this…

Jonathan: “Hello?”     Stephanie: “You’re going to kill me.”
J: “Why, what did you do?”
S: “No, you’re really going to kill me. I found a puppy.”
J (ever-practical, problem-solver that he is!): “Ok, well what does it look like? I will start calling the shelters to find its home.”

We hung up, with the agreement that we would not, under any circumstances, be keeping this dog. I looked ‘it’ over, and quickly came to the determination that this dog was everything we had decided against. She was, in fact, a she. She was also on the smaller side, obviously not pure-bred, and had some influence of pit bull. She was young enough to be a hand-full, but of age where she was not still dependant upon her mother. She was stinky, skinny, and obviously neglected, due to a skin infection and fleas. What did this all add up to? She needed me. Still off the clock, I gave her a quick bath, to which she offered much protest, a bowl of water, and some makeshift ‘toys’ to keep her busy (plastic bottles, etc). I placed her in an empty stall at the equine veterinary hospital where I worked, and set about my morning chores.

As I worked, I heard some strange noise coming from the back of the barn. These sounds could not possibly be made by a dog… something must be attacking her! I ran to the stall, and found the puppy stalking her prey… a piece of baling twine. The ferocious noises she made seemed incompatible with her size, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her. She would definitely be a challenge for whomever welcomed her into their home…

Sure, the picture of innocence. But don’t believe it!

Throughout the day, this puppy gave me my fair share of trouble. Nothing was easy with her around! I touched base with Jonathan before I left for the morning, and he told me he had spoken with a number of shelters that were willing to take her. He had also looked on craigslist, but found nothing relating to a missing black puppy. I was expecting that to be the case, as unfortunately, she didn’t look as though anyone who might have had her, had cared enough about her to miss her. My guess was that she had been dumped along the side of the road.

Her seat for the first 5 minutes…

I made the trip home, which normally takes 45 minutes, with the little puppy beside me. Or, should I say, rarely beside me. The commute ended up taking over an hour, as the dog would. not. sit. still. If she wasn’t trying to crawl under my feet, she was launching over the back seat into the trunk, climbing into my lap to lick my face, or digging through my designer purse to find something to play with. Shortly after we departed, I made the smart decision to pull over, and carefully harnessed her safely, so that she could not hurt herself. This lasted all of about 10 minutes, until she had wriggled out of the leash and plopped herself down… right here…

Convenient spot, smelly dog.

When we finally got home, I was exhausted from the trip. I opened the door to my car, planning to walk around to the other side and make the puppy wait to get out of the car. She launched herself over me, leapt out the door and….
Ran. Right into Jonathan’s arms.

He picked her up, looked down at me, and said…
“We’re keeping her.”

Needless to say, the rest is history. The big, tough guy fell for the little, tough girl. She has flourished after ….

 

 

routine vet care…

 

 

 

Daddy loving on his sick little girl…

 

 

A quick and easy spay, for a pathetic patient…

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Pictory Productions

 

 

Play-time with her big brother and best friend, Tonka…

 

 

No pups on the couch, huh?

 

 

And some good, old-fashioned cuddle time…

 

 

 

Gaige has since become the bright spot in our lives. For every bit of mischief she causes (and believe me, there is a lot!) she is right there to lick you in apology for her transgressions. She has taught us so much about raising not just a puppy, but a pit bull puppy. Like, when you buy brand new, $400 insulated steel-toe work boots, do not leave them in the basement to dry, Dad. Puppy will chew them to an unwearable state, the same day they were purchased.

On a serious note, we quickly realized that dogs like Gaige are commonplace in shelters across the U.S. We strongly believe that had Gaige not ended up in our loving home, she would have found her way into a bad place, either of neglectful or frustrated owners, life in a shelter, or even worse, euthanasia. She was a handful to raise, and easily misunderstood. We know that by giving her a chance and raising her with strict but positive guidance, she has repaid the favor to us ten fold. We want to spread that knowledge to others, and maybe make a difference in the lives of a few shelter dogs just like Gaige. We love our pit bull for so many reasons, and we know you would, too… at least now that she’s trained!

Copyright Pictory Productions