A Month (or two) In the Life...
I am a volunteer for New England Border Collie Rescue. I first become involved by adopting two border collies in October of 2001. In June of 2002 I agreed to begin fostering for the group. Little did I know how busy I would become. I am a foster home; I presently have two adoptable foster dogs and one foster dog that is not adoptable plus five of my own dogs. We have a dairy farm in a very rural area so we are able to do this without annoying any neighbors. I am also the applications coordinator, sending applications to a committee for review and then responding with different letters for different potential adopters. We have our standard letter that says they are eligible pending a home visit, a letter that says we seldom receive “child safe” dogs, and many other letters go out requesting further information before we can make a decision.
The need for foster care is great. There aren’t enough foster homes available to help with all of the “incoming.” We are scattered throughout New England so the physical separation from one another makes things difficult. We communicate through a Yahoo Group to keep each other posted on fosters, adopters, and incoming. I “supervise” a foster home that is 224 miles away in western New York. We have a meeting spot in Utica which is the half-way point.
The time period between December 2003 and January 2004 has been an exceptionally busy one for me. Here’s how it went:
December: Slow month for applications - thankfully - Only 3 new applications processed. Home visits were completed for 4 applicants. Two in New Hampshire, one in New York, and one in Massachusetts. All done by volunteers in those states.
December 1: Month begins sadly as a family euthanizes a dog that I said I would foster. Crime: dislike of a visiting toddler and family’s inability to keep dog and child safely away from one another.
December 3: Foster dog Brendan to vet. He hasn’t seen a vet in 3 years. He gets caught up on his shots and tests negative but needs to return when the vet is back from National Guard duty.
Weekend: December 6-7: Writing BCSA Rescue Grant - snowed in! Sandy from our group is a member and she agreed to sign off on our application for us.
Weekend: December 12-14: Attended agility meet in Long Island - caught in ice storm on way home - emergency overnight in scary motel. Handed out lots of NEBCR brochures this weekend. These are designed and printed by another NEBCR volunteer, Monique.
Friday, December 19th: Pick up two foster dogs, Galen and Sophie, from a volunteer who quit.
Saturday, December 20th: Drive to Utica to pick up foster dogs Glory and Gypsy Rose from Sue who have adopters awaiting and leave Sophie with Sue. Drive to Holyoke, MA for adoption of Glory. Drive to Otis, MA to deliver Galen to his new foster mom, Trisha.
Saturday, December 27th: Pick up foster dog Galen from Trisha as he’s being an “idget” in her household:) Drive to Vermont to meet the folks adopting Gypsy Rose. She goes home with new family.
Monday, December 29th: Speak to Gypsy Rose’s new family about some behavior problems they are seeing. Gypsy Rose has a “troll under the bridge” routine where she reacts fearfully by ducking under the closest table or chair, rolling onto her side, and making the ugliest face complete with bared teeth and protruding tongue at whatever she feels threatened by. In this case it is the family’s other BC, who doesn’t seem to notice. I put new mom and dad in touch with NEBCR’s resident behaviorist, Nancy, who talks them through their problems over the next couple of weeks.
January: Applications - We have processed 27 applications and 7 home visits have been completed.
Saturday, January 3rd: Brendan to vet where he is pronounced healthy. The chubby guy has lost 2 pounds since coming into foster care and his heart is sounding like an athlete’s. Brendan was turned in by a family in Boston who had no time to exercise him after their son left for college. I meet Brendan’s new family at the truckstop in Canaan, NY and they follow me home to complete the adoption process.
Sunday, January 4th: I drive to eastern Massachusetts to pick up new foster dog, Eilidh. She is given to us by the ARL of Boston. She is in a foster home but the foster home does not have a fenced yard and she is not getting the exercise she needs. I also drop off the box of NEBCR goodies at the director’s house and bring home some soda to be used for our spring reunion. While there I visit with Jade, our very special needs girl. Jade was removed from a puppy mill where she spent the first four years of her life in a small wire cage producing puppies. As a result of this she has numerous problems including obsessive compulsive disorder. She is very sweet and loving and deserves a chance at a normal life. It cannot be easy for Carole and her husband Pres to foster such a dog but they do it. Carole and I drive to a home in Lowell where we’re supposed to evaluate a dog but the family is not home.
Saturday, January 10th: Agility Run Throughs with my own dogs in Schenectady
Sunday, January 11th: Home visit to a family with 4 young children in central Massachusetts. I have another reason for doing this visit, I want to see how little Eilidh is with young children as she seems like a sweet gentle soul. She does well:)
Saturday, January 17th: I drive to Utica to meet Sue and pick up Sophie. I then drive to Holyoke, MA where Sophie meets her new family and goes home with them. I then meet Jalyn, another volunteer and pick up foster dog Clancy to go to volunteer Jen in Argyle, NY.
Sunday, January 18th: Jen comes over to meet Clancy and bring him home. We go out and play with all the dogs and catch up on our own dogs’ foolishness. We’ll see each other again at an agility match in late February.
Monday, January 19th: Galen and Eilidh to the vet. It is determined that little Eilidh is not yet spayed so the vet keeps her and does that. I go back at 4 to get her. The vet questions if Galen could have hip dysplasia as he is walking rather stiffly. We set up an appointment for x-rays for Tuesday.
Tuesday, January 21st: Galen in for x-rays. Hips are fine:)
Saturday, January 24th: I go to a shelter in Pittsfield, MA where I pull a darling 16 month old red smoothie. I re-name her “Bri” after a fellow volunteer’s “prickly red-haired great-aunt.” Bri prickles with excitement whenever she sees something new but she is not aggressive, just experiencing goosebumps. She has already lived in two homes and seems to need someone who will appreciate her energy.
I then go to meet new volunteer, Roberta, in Albany. We jump in her car and drive another 83 miles west to a very poor shelter in Sprakers, NY. There is the saddest border collie I’ve ever seen. His name is Gabriel or Gabe, named for the angel that watched over him the night he was left in an outdoor run in sub-zero temperatures in December. He’s clearly traumatized and the shelter has done their best to help him but he can’t stay in the shelter environment, he comes with us.
Sunday, January 25th: I meet the new volunteer again and drop off Bri. She is bringing both Bri and Gabe out to Sue who will foster them.
Saturday, January 31st: Agility Run Throughs with my own dogs.
During the month of January we also lost a wonderful volunteer, Pat Sides. In her honor, Carole Presberg, President of NEBCR has started a Senior to Senior adoption program. We presently have two qualified applicants who have expressed an interest in this program. We are hoping that this will help us find the harder-to-adopt older dogs some good homes.
The work seems to be never-ending, but it sure does make you feel good! I’ve received five great updates from dogs that I’ve helped this month and have “met” so many good people through the applications process. Our family of volunteers is the best and I am continually thankful that whenever I need a hand for transport or a home visit that there is always someone to count on.
Just one of the many NEBCR volunteers
This article was written in February 2004 and appeared in Borderlines, the magazine of The Border Collie Society of America in the summer of 2004.