PHOTO/JANICE HOKE: Teddy, a 9-year-old border collie mix, has a new, permanent home through the efforts of Elizabeth Grimm of Reno, one of 10 participants in the Foster for the Holiday program.

Teddy is a very lucky dog.

Forty-two pounds of sweetness and resilience, the 9-year-old border collie mix has a new, permanent home through the efforts of Elizabeth Grimm of Reno, one of 10 human participants in the Foster for the Holiday program during the Thanksgiving holiday period. 

But maybe luck had little to do with Teddy’s good fortune.  The Nevada Humane Society has come through with an organized, innovative solution for its long-time shelter animals.

The new holiday program is the brainchild of Megan McCalister of the Nevada Humane Society.  The manager of the NHS volunteer and events program said she was addressing not only the need for animals to find homes, but also a way to help relieve stress on the shelter staff during the holidays.

‘Adoption ambassadors’

For two weeks around Thanksgiving, the program placed five dogs and five cats that had been long-time (one month or more) shelter residents with selected community volunteers. Willing foster parents submitted an application and the animals were placed with families in mid-November. 

While NHS arranges fostering of animals year-round, the holiday program asks the short-term families for an extra effort – to be “adoption ambassadors,” marketing their foster dog or cat on social media to their friends and families to encourage a “forever” adoption into a loving home.

Grimm, who has a marketing and communication background, posted photos of Teddy online and kept a journal about their experience together. 

“I received messages from quite a few friends,” Grimm said.  One of those friends has been selected to adopt Teddy permanently, a result that thrills Grimm.

How to get involved

Foster for the Holiday program Prospective foster parents can file an application at the NHS website, nevadahumanesociety.org, for the 2021 Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.   Applications should be made before the next placing on Dec. 20-22, McAlister said.  The placements will last until Jan. 3 or 4, 2022. All supplies for basic care are provided, such as food, a bed, leash, litter, etc.  A how-to sheet on marketing is included, as well as holiday tips on foods and avoiding stress.  Foster parents provide a calm, loving home environment to help animals relax and decompress from the stresses of the shelter. Foster parents are asked to become an ambassador for their foster animals through use of their social media for the purpose of finding a permanent home for the pets. For more information, locate the EVENTS tab on the website and choose the Foster for the Holiday event.  The application can be accessed by clicking on the word “here” in blue located in the last paragraph of the Event Details page.  

A ‘special needs’ dog

Both Grimm and Teddy have benefitted from the program.  Teddy came to the NHS shelter in Carson City from Lyon County Animal Services.  After a mass was removed from his leg, he received follow-up treatment before he was placed with Grimm. The two-week program gave Teddy two weeks to recover in a calm, caring home.  Grimm, who had never before fostered an animal, said she relied on the NHS veterinary team and emergency services to assist her with Teddy’s recovery.

“They were wonderful,” she said. “(They had) many helpful tips.”

Grimm said Teddy is a picky eater.  “He has dental issues and needs soft food,” she said. So she prepared  meals of boiled chicken and brown rice. In her blog about Teddy, she recommended that his permanent parents consider canned food or home-cooked food.

Gaining Teddy’s trust was a priority, she said. At first he was undisciplined on the leash, but he will now run smoothly with her.  “He is seeing me as the leader,” she said.

First-hand experience

Information gleaned first-hand from the foster parent is invaluable for placing an animal in a home suitable to its needs and personality, McCalister said.  For example, Grimm wrote that Teddy loves having a soft blanket and has a talent for snuggling with his human.  Teddy is an older dog and his energy is limited, but he enjoys walks, she said.

PHOTO/ELIZABETH GRIMM: Teddy

“We can better share the pet’s personality, which usually doesn’t show in a shelter environment,” she said.  More mature pets have predictable personalities, sizes and needs, possibly have received training, and may be calmer and more ready to relax near their human than a high-energy puppy or kitten.

Grimm said her experience as a canine foster mom us an opportunity to serve her community and to offer a safe and healing home for an older dog for a couple of weeks.

“Older dogs have an old soul,” Grimm said.  “They don’t need to prove anything to anybody, they just want calm and quiet, just like Ted Lasso or a teddy bear. He brought me so much joy.”

Forever homes

 “Teddy will be the best companion to his future family, and that feels like I’ve played a small part in making a big difference for someone else.”

All five dogs and three cats fostered over Thanksgiving now have permanent homes, McAlister said.  Five more dogs and five more cats will be placed over the Christmas/New Year holiday with hopes of similar success.

The Nevada Humane Society, with branches in Reno and Carson City, is the only open-admission, no-kill shelter in Nevada.   In 2020, the shelter arranged 6,262 adoptions of cats, dogs and small animals.  In 2021 to date, adoptions number 5,908 animals.  Most animals are adopted out within a few weeks.  Contrary to national trend reports, NHS saw no increase in numbers of pets returned during the pandemic, according to McCalister.

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