Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sometimes you choose a path in life. Sometimes that path chooses you.

 Sometimes you choose a path in life. Sometimes that path chooses you. Sarah Brasky, Executive Director of Foster Dogs, Inc., has been working with dog rescue programs throughout her life. Professional training in dog rescue is not offered in graduate school, though putting together all of her experience with dogs over the years “has got to add up to some sort of PhD,” she says. Her studies led to a Masters degree in elementary education. She taught for three years after grad school. Eventually, her passion for dog rescue guided her to stick with Foster Dogs full time. “I was a teacher for a couple years. It was a great experience. I loved it. It helped provide me with more of a foundation of how to be a better educator and that’s a lot of what I do in my organization. Regarding dogs, dog care, and basic questions, education plays a big role.”
 Sarah has been running Foster Dogs since 2009. In the beginning, her organization was very small. She did all of the work, herself, with no volunteers. She made it a priority to keep the integrity of the mission. The mission statement from her website states, “Foster Dogs, Inc. (aka: Foster Dogs NYC) helps animal rescuers find temporary homes for their available dogs, while providing potential foster owners with the knowledge and resources to begin their foster experience.” She saw a void in the rescue system: connecting people who want dogs in their life with dogs that need homes. Over the years, she has built a foundation of trust with with dozens of New York City and national rescue groups. According to Sarah, “It has been a slow but steady process of creating a community. In 2016, we are trying to create more of a community nationally.” So far, Sarah has posted information about almost 3000 dogs to her site.
 In 2013, her organization started a foster/hospice program called Fospice. She started to encounter a large number of very elderly dogs. Fospice dogs aren’t always elderly, though; some are terminally ill. The focus is on what Fospice calls “forever fosters.” According to Sarah, “These dogs are not going to make a miraculous recovery, which can make this a challenging program. We make it as special, beautiful and positive as possible. We’re focusing on the fact that these dogs need you. They’re not going to live much longer. That’s a fact. What we do to balance that is by making a donation to the rescue group, helping the dog and foster parent feel supported and find joy through something that is emotionally taxing.” She has also found several wonderful corporations that are willing to donate goods to the dogs in her Fospice program.
 Through Fospice, Sarah only has the resources to take in an average of ten dogs at any given time. Her organization supports the rescue groups that originally save the dogs by donating to them. The rescue groups might have a Fospice-type dog in their care. Often with an elderly or terminally ill dog, their adoption fees are reduced. Sarah’s organization will donate specifically what the adoption fee would have been for a dog with several years left. Sarah says, “The beauty of this program is that we are supporting rescue groups that are already saving dogs. We try to help rescue groups and not cause them to lose funding by rewarding them for rescuing elderly and terminally ill dogs.”
 I asked Sarah if people contact her organization specifically looking for senior dogs. She replied, “Sometimes we get more demand for a Fospice placement than we have available Fospice dogs, which is a great problem to have. We had a great article on BarkPost.com about Fospice. After it was shared, we got several emails from people wanting to bring home one of these dogs. If we don’t have enough of them, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough of them in shelters. It’s more about what Foster Dogs is sponsoring. Too much demand for these types of dogs is a good problem to have.”
 I asked Sarah if she could tell me some positive aspects of fostering or adopting a senior dog. She said, “A pit bull might be eight years old, and even though they are a senior, they might not be that elderly. They might be spritely and getting around fine. That same pit bull at fourteen or fifteen is going to be elderly and at that point, they just want a quiet, calm place to live. The demands are much fewer than a young, vibrant dog.” She goes on to mention that walks are fewer, and that the elderly dogs tend to be gentler and are happy to have found a home. She also said, “It’s good to keep in mind they’re more fragile. Having another pet who is playful could be difficult. If a large dog is fifteen years old, they’re just trying to get from room to room. They just want a quiet place. That’s a big thing with our Fospice program: respecting their space and having a safe area. It feels really special to take in a dog that desperately needs a home, that’s had an entire life before it came to you. It’s a wonderful feeling to enhance that dog’s life.” Sarah mentioned that sometimes these dogs end up in shelters, and that it’s nobody’s fault. The owner might have hit financial hard times or passed away. They don’t blame the owners. It is more about the experience of helping that dog have a dignified ending.
 I asked Sarah if she had some suggestions for people that aren’t looking to foster or adopt but would like to get involved. She said donating to nonprofit organizations is one way to go. She also suggested volunteering at local animal shelters. There might be a dog there getting over a skin condition or that looks intimidating but is extremely friendly. Often, these dogs can be overlooked for adoption. She suggested sitting with these dogs and sharing their story. “Sometimes all people need to see is a picture and they’re hooked. Then, you’ve been able to save a dog by sharing with your network.”
 Because of Sarah’s dedication, her organization has received more donations in 2015 than all previous years combined. She said, “Now the bar is set even higher for myself as Executive Director. If we did so well in 2015 and are able to start more programs, what else could we do?” Although she said she doesn’t do the hard work like pulling dogs out of the shelter, her organization is unique in that no one else is doing what Foster Dogs does by creating an umbrella that connects “people who want to help a shelter dog and dogs who need help.” Her organization has already helped many dogs in need. I look forward to seeing how Foster Dogs evolves and sharing the story with as many people as I can.

 Thank you to Sarah and all the people involved in her organization. By making a donation or purchasing a mala, your contributions will go to support Foster Dogs and the many programs they have to offer. 


                                          

                                               

No comments:

Post a Comment