There are many jobs beside foster ing that need to be done in any rescue organization. The purpose of this article is to let people know how they might participate. Some of the functions I will describe are sub-jobs of other functions. But there is not just one right way to run a rescue group. Learn as you go along.
I wrote this in comtemplation of the Southern California Bouvier club's program. We serve a very large area, most of the team being located in southern California and myself handling northern California.
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We need volunteers to do many other jobs. Rescue has many jobs besides foster care, so you can help even if you cannot foster a dog at the present time. Too many people mistakenly think that if they can't foster, they can't help (except with money and prayers). Please think about what ways you could help. (And some information on techniques is on this site in the Rescue section.)
(SCBDFC has been seeking a new Rescue Chairperson, because our old one needs a vacation from the job).
The Chair's job is or should be to coordinate the work of the Rescue Team, not to do all the work herself/himself.. The Chair should also maintain files of information about potential adopters , dogs available, dogs adopted.
Chair and/or foster home should send out notices to potential adopters when dogs become available E-mail is a goddess-send for this purpose because you can send out to many for same small effort and same negligible cost as it would take to notify just one person : much easier and faster than phoning a dozen people for each dog.
I organize my lists of e-dresses by geography, but there are other ways to do it, eg one grouping of "only dog" homes versus one grouping of "multiple dog homes" , group "no cat" homes versus "have cat" homes, group "peoplel home a lot" versus "dog home alone many hours". An ideal way would be to set up a database that has fields for most of the relevant issues, so that when a dog becomes available the database can sort out those adopters who seem to be well matched. However it is possible that someone's situation has changed since they first contacted the club and the database might not reflect those changes. That's why I prefer to send notices to everyone who lives within a few hundred miles and who appleid in the past couple of years. Later I might extend that to larger area or earlier applicants.
The Chair is helped by Regional Directors (because this is a geographically spread-out organization). Ideally one or more of these would be getting prepared to become the next Chair. Or perhaps we need a specified Vice Chair who is being prepared to become the next Chair when the current one retires. ? The retiring Chair should be regarded as Emeritus Chair, able to advice current Chair as might be needed.
(Many of the people who have done the heavy lifting in SCBDFC's Rescue are getting old and some have ceased to get any older (euphemism for "died"). We badly need our younger members to step up and participate in Rescue and become the future of Rescue.)
Once or twice a week check the listings on Petfinder.com and/or PetHarbor.com as most shelters use one or the other or both of these. It's important to search for dogs listed as Bouvier or Bouv mix (which usually are purebreds not well groomed) and also search for breeds Bouvs may be mis-identified as.
It would be great if we had a person assigned to each local shelter site to look at photos of all the large and extra large dogs on that site, thus catching the really badly mis-identified dogs.
Perhaps also check Craigslist.com, though it's probably rare for a Bouv to be listed; Check weekend major newspaper classified or local classifieds or check monthly "pennysaver" type of paper for Bouv listings ; again these are rare except for litter sales by backyard and "oops" breeders.
We need to divide up this set of tasks so that each person has only a reasonable amount to do. Report any listings to club Rescue Chair and probably also to the Regional Director, who should then contact shelter, arrange for someone to see the dog..
The type of "watcher" assignment that your rescue needs may vary with how identifiable your breed or other area of interest might be.
We ideally should have one local person for each shelter.
Ideally a liason person visits occasionally or is a volunteer there and cultivates a cordial relationship with shelter director and key workers so that they will know and trust our club's Rescue program. At minimum, this person needs to become accredited as an agent for our club, thus able to "pull" dogs for us as a 501c3 non-profit Rescue.
The "eyes" job is to go in person to the shelter to identify whether a reported possible Bouv really is a Bouv or is something else ( eg Giant Schnauzer, Briard, Old English). Also you might take photos of the dog and e-mail them to the Chair so the Chair can have an opinion. Photos posted by shelters can vary in quality from excellent to totally useless so far as identiying breed goes.
If dog is Bouv or Bouv cross, bail him out , and hold him few hours or few days until Rescue can arrange board or fostering or transport to an already designated foster home or boarding kennel (or vet if sick/injured). If dog is not Bouv and you can figure out what dog really is, If possible help shelter to use search engines to find an appropriate Rescue group and to make phone calls or e-mails to appropriate Rescue for whatever breed dog really is. (Note: some rescues deine their area of interest other than by breed. For example there are rescues devoted to senior pets or to pets with diaabilities. Some specialize in small size dogs. )
Examples of this would include : take dog from foster to vet & back, to groomer & back, etc, transport dog from board/foster to adopter, transport dog from adopter back to Rescue if adoption fails. Often the foster home can do this, but not always.
For longer transports, sometimes we need to set up a "bucket brigade" or "overground railroad" of a series of two or more transporters. (note : there are also some professional long haul dog transporters.)
Many Bouvs arrive in very filthy and matted condition. In worst cases this needs someone to carefully and patiently "carve the dog out of prison". Usually, it's not quite that bad, and the need is to snip away the big ugly matts, then try to even the coat up enough that the dog looks decent. This does NOT require professional grooming skill, though of course such skill is always a bonus. The first goal is to make the dog comfortable and examine for problems. Often the foster home will be the person to do this, but extra hands can be very helpful.
As you probably know very well, the dog's temperament and behavior are the most critical issues in placing a dog, as these are what will make the adopter - dog relationship heaven or hell. A good match is crucial to the dog's long term welfare.
Ideally the initial evaluation would be made by the Chair or a Regional Director or some other who is an experienced trainer/behaviorist. On the other paw, evaluations in shelter settings or soon after intake to a new situation are not always good predictors of long term behavior when adjusted to an adopter's home.
So really the more predictive evaluation is of the foster home, especially based on observation once the dog adjusted to life there (after that first two week "honeymoon" when the dog may be figuring out the situation and may be "on his dating behavior").
We should always remind adopters however that the dog's behavior will continue to change in response to the behavior of the people (and other dogs , etc) in the adoptive home.
Usually the foster home will be doing the photography and digital cameras make it easy to shoot enough shots to get a few good ones ; but sometimes it helps if someone then Photoshops the photos to make them better represent the dog.
The web chores probably should be done by the club Webmaster if there is one or else by Chair or by the foster home.. I don't know if our club already has a Petfinder account, but if we don't we should get one, as Petfinder is probably the site most used by adopters seeking dogs. I have one and have found it helpful to have a Petfinder account. Some shelters and rescues in California use PetHarbor.com either instead of or in addition to Petfinder.com ; your area may have other sites that adopters favor.
This is normally part of the Rescue Chair's job and/or the Regional Directors, though the foster home will probably also want to talk to any adopter seriously considering that particular foster dog.
Some rescues like to have an Adopter Application on their site so as to gather basic information. Often it's desirable to follow up with an interview to learn more about some aspects.
Interviews can be done by phone or by e-mail or combination. Phone has advantage of being interactive.
The sub-tasks can include the following : Talk to potential adopters on the phone or by series of e-mails, tell them about Bouvs, answer questions, listen to them, take notes & report to Rescue Chair and/or the foster home. Rescue Chair should add notes and e-dress to the file of waiting homes.
You might invite potential adopters to my home to meet your own (well behaved) Bouvs, especially if they have never lived with one, and double especially if there are potential allergy issues. Show off simple training, like Sit and Down techniques. Maybe show them some grooming ? Alternatively take your own Bouv to potential adopter's home , interview & educate them, and discretely evaluate home & fencing, take notes and report back to Rescue Chair ; this fulfils same purpose as a pre-adoption home visit .
Purpose of pre-adoption visits is to evaluate adopter's and physical premises and to advise on any changes desirable before dog moves in (eg fence repair, move climbables away from fence, advise on stretch gates, advise on moving kitchen garbage can out of possible dog reach.). Also notice how the people behave with their own pets (if any) and how children (if any) behave.
Possible reasons for post-adoption include to give "hands on" help in training, grooming, etc or perhaps to bring your own dog for a "play-date" with the adopted dog. Or just to have a pleasant social time with the human adopters.
The main publicity is through club magazine, club web site, Petfinder.com, and the accumulated list of potential adopters who can be notified via e-mail. The Chair and the club Webmaster would be doing these.
But there are a few ancilliary modes, including posting notices about dogs available at local vets, groomers, etc ,posting notices at pet supply stores like PetCo and at your local dog parks, posting notices about dogs available to one or more Bouvier or other dog e-mail lists to which you are subscribed , and (low tech) making phone calls to potential adopters who are not "on line".
This could be for only a few days (till longer term arrangements can be made) or for several weeks or longer (until adoption is arranged).
Many people think they don't have the skills, but really if you have managed to make your own dog or dogs become well behaved housedogs, you DO have enough skills to manage 90 to 95% of Bouvs needing foster care. And doing foster care will improve your dog training and behavior mod skills a lot. In my experience 90 to 95 % of Bouvs rescued do NOT have serious behavior issues, but just need a stable home with clear leadership. In my experience 90 to 95% Bouvs rescued do not have health issues that would need skills beyond the normal responsible dog person.
Now if you only have dogs of one sex in your home, maybe start out fostering a dog of opposite sex. (ideally already altered, but if not, this shouldn't be delayed) as dogs of opposite sex almost always get along peaceully. If your own dog is mellow with dogs of same sex, then you probably can foster those. But start easy with your first project.
Adult dogs are extremely easy to housebreak, if that's a worry. One week or less of the same kind of methods used for puppies , but the intervals between potty breaks can be longer. If you have a dog door, show the foster where it is and how to use it, and chances are that housebreaking will require little further effort. Less than 5% of fosters require any serious housebreaking effort.
I do advise moving breakables and chewable valuables out of foster dog's reach. You may want to have stretch gates available to limit the areas the foster dog can roam when you are not supervising. The younger the dog, the greater the potential for problems from unsupervised roaming of the home.
The biggest fear I see potential foster people express is "what if I cannot bear to give the dog up (to an adopter) ?" My own mantra is "this is not MY dog : someone else NEEDS this dog more than I do and can GIVE this dog more than I can. And I NEED to have the "space" to take in the next one who needs that life-saving second chance". The first day or two after a nice foster leaves can be a bit hard, but then a phone call or e-mail from the adopter saying how wonderful the dog is , how much they love him , etc comes in and that usually is a huge reward.
But in addition to cash perhaps you can contribute equipment (eg crate , kennel run, grooming equipment, training equipment, etc..
If you are skilled as trainer or groomer, that's an obvious way to help the foster person. Or the foster person may need an "accomplice" or "stooge" to help work the dog through an issue : eg are you willing to ring a doorbell every few minutes so foster person can work on dog's reactions to that ? Willing to enter and stand passively (or lie on floor for timid dog) and leave and return, a dozen times in a row. Or bring your own very sociable dog to visit and teach foster dog how to play.
So many ways to help.
I hope I have succeeded in recruiting you into some Rescue job. Please let the club Officers or the Rescue Chair know what you are willing to do. Remember : ask not what dogs can do for you but ask rather what you can do for dogs !