Adopters, keep in touch with Rescue
(role of the telephone and e-mail)
One of the secrets to being successful in adopting a dog who will become a treasured member of the family is to keep in touch with your local Rescue person and make it as easy as possible for that person to contact you. If you don't do this you will not learn about dogs that become available for adoption after the time of your initial contact. Dogs enter the program unpredictably, and nice dogs sometimes get adopted very quickly. So if you don't stay in touch, you will miss out.
Our old friend the telephone and our new friend the Internet e-mail and Web access both have a vital role to play in essential Rescue communications. In this article I present the need for you to be contactable by e-mail as well as by phone.
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There are only 4 secrets to adopting a dog who will become a treasured member of your family :
The purpose of this article is to cover this fourth area, keeping in touch with Rescue and making it as easy as possible for Rescue to keep in touch with you. If you fail to do this , you will not learn about nice dogs that come into Rescue and become available for adoption after the time of your initial contact. Dogs enter the program unpredictably, and nice dogs sometimes get adopted very quickly.. If you don't hear that the dog is available, clearly you will miss the chance to adopt that dog. You will in fact miss the chance to adopt any dog. Because basically most Rescuers aren't going to keep on phoning you and phoning you and phoning you. You have to take the responsibility of being easy to contact, and e-mail has become the method of choice for many Rescue coordinators. Both the telephone and the Internet (e-mail and Web) have a role to play in the communications nescessary for the adoption process, and the role of e-mail has become nearly indispensible as Rescue moves into the 21st Century.
It's important that you understand that the "inventory" of dogs in foster care in Rescue is constantly and upredictably changing. Dogs come into Rescue unpredictably. I often say it's a case of "flood or famine." Sometimes there is a long period when none come in and then several will come in at once. So the list of available dogs the week after your initial contact may be the same or it could be very different. That is why you must stay in touch to keep up with news of incoming dogs. And why you must be prepared to respond promptly when one meeting your prioritized "wish list" becomes available. And if your "wish list" includes anything that is uncommon, such as a Bouvier with a history of being good with cats, you must be prepared to act immediately.
I also should make clear that for Bouviers, in my part of the country we usually have many more people seeking to adopt than we have dogs. This is probably also the case for most of the less well known and less over-produced breeds, for any breed less apt to be "bought in haste and repented at leisure." In some other breeds, those unfortunate enough to have been over-publicised or over-popularized, it may be quite the opposite. When adopters far outnumber foster dogs, the Rescue people have the luxury of being very particular about the quality of homes, passing up the merely "acceptable" (mediocre) in favor of the excellent. When dogs far outnumber adopters, there is a need to get dogs adopted as fast as possible so long as the homes are "acceptable" in quality. In both situations, the adopter who is prepared to make a commitment to a suitable dog right now, ASAP, is going to get the more desirable dog than the equally good quality adopter who delays about making a date to meet the dog or who asks to wait until after his three week vacation next month before the dog moves in.
When I first started doing Bouvier Rescue many many years ago (and it is not true that I got my Rescue start doing Dire Wolf Rescue), the only real ways I had of notifying adopters of a new foster dog was by telephone or by post card or letter -- you may remember the kind of mail that has stamps on it ? Because this was time consuming and / or expensive (my pnone bill was often larger than the military budget of a third world country) , I usually only contacted someone if I thought the particular dog was a good match. And I got into the habit of keeping track of how many "Rescue Updates" I had made to a given person. If I had made two phone calls or three mailings without that person making an appointment to meet any dog, I had to figure that they were not really interested in adopting, so I ceased to contact them. If they phoned me again then they got to hear the latest news.
Time marched on and personal computers began to be available and began to be easy to use , or at least easy enough that anyone smart enough to stay ahead of a Bouvier could mangae to use one. At first all this did was make it easier for me to type up a mail out on dogs currently available and have it come out correctly spelled and looking good. I also had a second way to organize and keep track of my potential adopters.
The big change came when e-mail became available and widespread , and that change got even better when Internet access became available for those who don't speak Unix , and got still more wondrous when the World Wide Web got available and easy to use and easy to post stuff upon.
Adopters, the Revolution is over and the Internet has won ! Today everyone in Rescue uses e-mail and Web pages to announce the availability of dogs for adoption.
I personally am no longer willing to phone people to tell them that their dream dog has just come into my hands and they should phone me ASAP to make a date to meet the dog. The response rate is just too poor from the usual adopter applicant. (I do do it for some of my very special favorite "repeat customer" adopters, and I do do it for some adopters who have very special needs.) For the effort that it takes me to make one phone call to one adopter or to write one postcard to one adopter , I can send out the news by e-mail to everyone who has contacted me in the last year or more. It's as easy to send the news to 100 people as to one. It does take more effort to post the dog's description and photo onto my website (or to the club's site or to other Bouv sites), but that can reach people who have not yet made their first contact with me. So those few of you who still don't have an Internet connection, it's time you bite the bullet and get with it. Jump into the 21st Century or at least be prepared to get your toes wet.
You don't absolutely have to own a computer or have one at home and you don't absolutely have to sign up with an Internet Service provider and cough up your monthly fee (less than half the price of cable or satellite TV and you get so much more that is of value). Just about every Public Library in the USA has available any number of computers that are connected to the Internet. Yes, you do have to wait for a seat to open up during the busier hours. Or take the trouble to find out which are the unbusy hours. You can easily use the Public Library computers to check out the sites that post information on dogs available for adoption; whatever site your Rescue person told you is the one to keep checking -- bring the URL with you written down and spelled correctly (spelling counts -- I just hate that because I am terrible at spelling.). You can ask the Librarian or the ten year old child sitting next to you if you need help figuring out how to do it. You can also sign up for a FREE e-mail account on Yahoo or on Excite, and then you can check your mail and send replies from the Public Library computer. In most cases you can print out the info for a modest fee; but if not, bring a note pad to jot down what you find that interests you.
If using the computers at the Public Library is too scary for you, and if you can't get permission to use the computers at your workplace ( DO ask, because some employers frown on conducting any personal communications on company machines -- often because the priviledge gets abused by some employeees), then ask your ten year old child to do this for you from the computers at school. Most public schools do have computers and Internet access , though they may not allow e-mail to be sent and received. Or ask some adult friend who is not a Luddite to do your chores for you and phone you with the results -- or send them by carrier pigeon if you don't have a telephone.
Finally if you really are a total technophobe, you can ask your Rescue person to phone you COLLECT the next time a suitable dog becomes available. Or you could phone the Rescue person once a month (having first asked what day and time is the least inconvenient for that person) to ask if there are any new dogs. Recognize that you are taking up more of the Rescue person's time and energy than are the other adopters who recieve their updates by e-mail. So you had better be serious about adopting.
However you receive your dogs available update information, as soon as you hear about a dog who meets your two or three highest priority "wish list" items, you should leap to the telephone to call the foster home to get more information about the dog. Yes, I did say the telephone. At this point both sides need the advantages of interactivity, ie of you and the foster person being able to ask and answer questions of each other about the dog and how it would fit into your home and how your lifestyle might have to change temporarily or permanently to accomodate this dog. If this phone call shows that the dog sounds like one you might want to adopt, make a date to meet that dog at the soonest mutually convenient time and decide whether that meeting will take place at your home or at the foster's home or perhaps some other place. Meeting a dog does NOT commit you to adopting that particular dog, only to giving that dog the most serious consideration. Some Rescue people will expect you to be prepared to decide at this meeting whether or not this is the dog you want to adopt, and if so the dog may then go home with you to begin the adoption. I myself think it is not a bad idea to go home and reflect for a day or so (and to have family discussions in homes where there is more than one human) before making a commitment; and sometimes I am the one who needs time to reflect whether this is a good match or not. Other Rescue people will want to make a home check visit to your home before the dog moves in. (sometimes the Rescue group has a policy of requiring a home visit first.) See my articleHow to do a Home Check on Prospective Adopters so you can appreciate the Rescuer's viewpoint. Many, but not all, Rescue groups have a policy of the first several weeks of the adoption being considered a "try out" period before the adoption becomes final. Be sure to ask about the policy of the Rescue from which you are about to adopt.
Note that many Rescue people also consider the telephone to be the best way to conduct the initial information gathering interview with you to determine the criteria for matchmaking you to a compatible dog and for educating you about the breed and about dog care issues. I know I certainly prefer the telephone for this. See my article on Interviewing Adopters to understand the interview process from the Rescuer's standpoint. But many of us also want potential adopters to hop on the Internet and go to a particular Web site to fill out an on-line Adoption Application which is a match-making questionaire. So again, you do have to be willing to take one ride on the Information Superhighway. Don't let it scare you : it's much safer and more scenic than the city streets !
And of course after the adoption has begun, every foster person will want you to make a few reports as to how things are going. I want to hear from the adopter within the first two days, then again in another week and again at the end of the month. Plus whatever the adopter fels is needed, of course. I like to get the first few reports by telephone, as it allows discussion of any potential problems, what options are available for doing something the adopter wants to do with the dog, etc. Also it is very rewarding to hear fondness and joy in the adopter's voice when describing the new relationship that is forming with the dog. That first phone call , for me, is the antidote to my immediate feelings of loss and of missing the dog that afflict me during the first few days after a foster dog leaves me. And of course many adopters will continue to keep in touch over the years by e-mail or will use e-mail to send photos. I also encourage adopters to join one or another of the Bouvier e-mail lists, which allow sharing of information and questions and brags amoung a larger group. Some of my adopters have put their pets onto their personal Web sites ; some pets have a better Web presence than some small corporations.