Newberry Observer

You can save a life! More than one! More than once!

In Newberry County, you can choose to be a hero. You can save a life, more than one, more than once! If you care about lost and unwanted and abused dogs, you can help the Humane Society and the Animal Control officers save their lives and get them ready for their new homes in other places. We need your help.

In recent years, small shelters like ours have come to depend on rescue organizations from other parts of the country to help in the redistribution of shelter dogs to areas where they are in short supply. When a likely dog comes in the shelter, the adoption coordinator sends photos to the rescues who have served us well. There are three rescue organizations which pull dogs from the Newberry County shelter on a monthly basis. Many other rescues pull breed specific dogs such as hounds and other apparent purebreds. Some only take puppies.

Whenever a dog is chosen by the rescue, a sign is posted on the kennel, and the shelter begins the process of getting appropriate vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries. The rescue organizations pay the regular adoption fee for each dog and provide a regular monthly transport to their base of operations.

There may be as many as twenty dogs in the shelter undergoing the vetting process, or waiting for transport. That means that twenty of the available 47 kennels are taken up by dogs that are already promised. Twenty of the 47 kennels cannot be used for all the other adoptable dogs that are surrendered or picked up as strays. The older dogs, many of the pitbull crosses, black dogs, shy dogs, and dogs with heartworm may be killed for lack of space.

We desperately need a whole network of fosters who would be willing to take those dogs already claimed by a rescue, being vetted or waiting for transport. The time committed might be as long as a month, but is usually considerably shorter, a couple of weeks. Each foster who takes a dog from the shelter provides more time and space and hope for the other dogs waiting for adoption.

In addition to helping all the dogs that are not leaving, a foster has the opportunity to help the fostered dog make the transition from the noise and stress of the shelter to the security of a quiet home. For example, many of these dogs were house trained (toilet trained) before they came into the shelter. They will be confused, at best, when they are released and may require some additional training. Or there is the question of the bath. Many of the dogs have never had a bath, and all of them need one now.

Teaching dogs how to live with us is, in fact, the foundation for all that we do in fostering. We are their teachers first, and our first duty is to do whatever we can to insure that they will be successful with new owners in new homes. Most of all, best of all, they begin to learn to trust again, or for the first time. There is joy in this work, and service, and satisfaction of the highest order. If you love dogs, you owe it to yourself to try fostering.

The qualifications that we are looking for in a foster are very basic. We want people who are patient and kind. These dogs are afraid, and many are heart broken. If they have had good relationships with people before, they cannot understand why they were left behind. If they have been cruelly treated, they do not know what they need to do to please you.

We want fosters who have the time and the space for these dogs. A fenced yard is a real advantage, but you can get by if you can handle the dog on a leash. If you have your own dogs, be prepared to keep them separate at first, or perhaps altogether.

When you are a part of a family unit, make sure everyone is on board. These dogs will be aware of any negative feelings about them. If you have small children, you would do best to wait until they are older before you try your hand at this. Dogs, especially these dogs, are not toys and they are not yet equipped to deal with young children.

If you want to try fostering, and it doesn’t work out, you can quit at any time, no fault, no blame. If you can foster once or twice a year, that’s fine. If you happen to choose a dog you can’t handle, just bring him back to the shelter and look for a better fit. We would love to have you be a part of this mission to save lives.

For more information, call Jay Booth at (803) 924-4029. We will meet as a group for introduction and any training you may need.

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Jay Booth

Contributing Columnist

Jay Booth is a retired university professor, a retired newspaper columnist, and the vice-president of the Newberry County Humane Society.