Tell us how you came to be involved with fostering dogs and at the Agoura Animal Care Center.
I got involved with the Care Center after being invited by a friend to join the volunteer team. As I volunteered I learned there were animals who needed a place to go to recover from surgery, a home environment being more conducive for recovery or might need some consistent behavior mod to help them become adoptable. There are many types of foster care...I've fostered post-surgical and hospice animals as well as have had Mama dogs and litters and dogs who needed some behavior mod.
What do rescues/shelters need help with or more of that they do not seem to ever have enough of?
Depending on how the rescue is run, they usually need fosters, then supplies...bowls, blankets, beds, collars/leashes, crates, xpens, and of course, food. If they take care of puppies/kittens, they're going to need formula which is very expensive. Sometimes we need goat milk for allergic puppies. Each rescue or Care Facility has a different set of needs, they can make that information available to you.
What would you say is missing in the dog rescue/rehabilitation industry that needs focusing on?
We had a meeting recently and every rescue at the table said medical care was the most needed thing. At this time, there are an extraordinary number of animals that are euthanized due to medical care needs. For example, if an animal comes in with a broken leg, they generally will need help from an outside vet but that costs money and a lot of the Care Centers just don't have the budgets for anything except for basic Vet care. The reason Healthcare for Homeless Animals (HHA)was started over 20 years ago was because animals with treatable medical issues were being euthanized. At the Agoura Animal Care Center they get the extraordinary medical care they need to bring them to good health and adoption because we have HHA, a nonprofit 501c3 to support the need. Many shelters do not have this kind of support.
Right now, what most of the Care Centers are sheltering are Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas and German Shepherds. More adopters for these breeds and help for the rescues who pull them would be wonderful.
What is something people coming to a shelter for the first time should know, or have a better understanding of when potentially adopting a rescue?
The first thing is they need to be really clear on is how much time they have to devote to an animal – then what their family fit is. Are you a couch potato family? Then you don't want to adopt a young Weimaraner - you might want to consider an older, calmer animal. If you have little kids in your family, a Chihuahua may not be the best animal. But how much time a family has to devote to an animal is a big consideration to assure the animal receives the attention it needs.
Parents sometimes come in and say we're doing this as a project for the kids. While the kids may engage fully in the first couple weeks it may ultimately be on Mom and Dad to care for the animal. But it does need to be a family commitment. Cost is involved with an animal such as yearly veterinarian visits and vaccines. And to consider even the most healthy animal can end up with a condition health-wise larger then basic care.
Research breeds prior to coming to the Care Center. For example, a lot of people love the look of the Australian Shepherd. But if they have small children these herding/working dogs will be nipping at your children's heels and herd them like sheep or cattle. It helps to come in with an idea of what might be a good fit for your family and then based on the family dynamics the Staff and Volunteers will do their best at the Care Center to match the right animal with a family for good fit and to avoid a return.
What would you say has been the most rewarding part of your work with at the Care Center?
I found working with very scared animals rewarding. A poor pup would be cowering in the corner shaking like a leaf. I would sit there for hours on a shift, in the open door of their kennel, throwing treats. Sometimes it would take a while but eventually the dog would very timidly start to move closer and closer to me.
I'd move in and sit down on the floor of the kennel and put treats on my leg to the point where they would finally take the treats and curl up on my lap. To see a dog that has arrived in this environment frightened by their new circumstances, or one who maybe had been neglected that doesn't trust humans, to see them turn around filled with canine joy and to be adoptable is heartwarming and rewarding.
Untrained dogs... being able to work with that dog, to help them to be a better trained pup and see them eventually adopted is rewarding.
But of course anytime a dog is adopted it's rewarding, especially when senior animals go out the door, they are not easy adoptions when they won't have as many years with an adopter as a younger dog would. But we are fortunate at the Agoura Animal Care Center to have so many community angels willing to adopt a senior animal.
(Robin continues and explains how they got their shelter to record adoption rates.)
I've been a volunteer with the Care Center for over 20 years now, as a group we've helped to make a lot of changes alongside staff such as increasing our foster parent numbers, training programs for the dogs, increasing support from HHA thus improving and enriching animal care and increasing adoption numbers.