Fantastic Friends Feature

Fantastic Friends Feature: Megan S

meg s foster mom wake county animal center raleigh nc friends of wake county animal center

Name: Meg S
Real Job: My husband and I decided that I would give up having a full-time job, so we could dedicate more time to volunteering and fostering. Our thought was, life is short...so why not spend more time trying to make the world a better place if you can? Along with being foster parents for Wake County, one of our favorite organizations to work with is GreaterGood.org. GreaterGood.org helps renovate Animal Shelters/Sanctuaries and update Domestic Violence Shelters and Homeless/Veterans Housing to be pet friendly.
Volunteer Position(s): Dog Foster Mom Extraordinaire, New Foster Parent Orientation Instructor

How long have you been a volunteer / foster?

I actually started out as a dog walker for WCAC in 2012. In 2013, we decided to also start fostering. Once we started to take 3, 4, or 5 foster dogs at a time though, we transitioned to mostly fostering. I started teaching orientation class for new, incoming foster parents in 2014.

What attracted you to volunteering / fostering at the Wake County Animal Center?

On July 11, 2012, my husband and I walked into Wake County Animal Center for the first time. We had been wanting to adopt a dog and were excited about the possibility of finding a new little family member to love and spoil. And then, we saw her...in the first dog room, the second kennel from the back, our must-adopt baby girl. We knew almost immediately she was the one: a beautiful white-and-brindle girl with a butt that couldn't stop wiggling and big brown eyes that pierced through our hearts. We put a deposit on her, but had to wait five days because she came in as a stray. During that agonizing week, one of us visited her every day. We knew that people weren't allowed to go in with animals who had deposits and we hated the idea of her being lonely. At the end of a long week, no one came to claim her and we got to take our Brooklyn home. She is 100% the best thing to ever happen to us and little did we know just how much she would impact our lives. We were incredibly grateful that Wake County Animal Center had brought this little angel into our world. We wanted to pay it forward somehow. That's when I became a volunteer. I wanted to do everything I could to help repay the gift they had given us. I wanted to help care for someone else's future pet the way the amazing staff and volunteers had cared for ours.

What is your favorite breed or dog type (fluffy, small, big, chunky, etc)?

I don't have a favorite breed. I actually really dislike the focus people put on breeds. They don't matter in my opinion. Dogs are individuals and I think it's foolish to try to generalize every dog within a breed into a certain "type." In my experience, finding the right dog for you, whether it is for fostering or adopting, is about finding a dog with an energy level and temperament that match your family. That's one of the beautiful things about adopting a dog in foster care: you get to know what their personality is like in a home environment before adopting. I suppose I do have a physical type that I have a special soft spot for though. Unfortunately, a lot of people discriminate against dogs with certain bulky body types and blocky head shapes. I love to take those dogs out in the world as ambassadors and show people you can't judge a dog on their physical appearance or even their past experiences. When it comes to fostering, I tend to prefer the adult dogs. However, my husband is a sucker for a puppy belly and puppy breath. We take a balance of both so everyone is happy.

Tell us your favorite moment to date as a volunteer / foster?

There have been quite a few wonderful/crazy moments in our six years of fostering: helping a malnourished Mom by bottle feeding her 15 newborns, warm compressing a dogs ruptured scrotum multiple times a day for 20 minutes, and most recently learning sign language with our deaf foster dog. One of my favorite/proudest moments has to be with our former foster dog, Ruby. Ruby came in as a cruelty case. She, her babies, and her mother, were found chained to a car. Ruby had been through a lot and, when the Wake County Animal Center finally gained custody of her, she completely failed her dog test. We asked if we could attempt to work with her and her reactivity to dogs. We started by watching other dogs at the shelter walk with volunteers from at least fifty yards away. Every time she saw a dog and reacted appropriately, we would reward her with a high priority treat. Every session, we would move a tiny bit closer and if she ever reacted inappropriately, we would move back to a distance she was more comfortable. We worked with her daily for 2.5 months straight and the day she was able to sniff a dog's butt and keep walking was one of the proudest moments of my whole life. She even got to the point where she found herself a best friend who she loved to wrestle with! Ruby is proof that many dogs with behavioral issues just need consistent and slow practice, patience, and, in Ruby's case, some desensitization and reconditioning.

Of course, most volunteers have their own pets. Tell us about them!

I love any excuse to talk about our babies! I already mentioned a little bit about our first dog who started it all, Brooklyn. She is brave, adventurous, sweet, loyal, and the best big sister. She's now eight years old and the grayer her face gets, the more beautiful she becomes to us. She loves tackling her brother, giving her Dad lots of sloppy kisses, and being our personal trainer. Brooklyn ignited a passion in us and gave our lives purpose. We tell her all the time that it's because of her that all our foster dogs get their own happily ever afters. Symon was actually our very first foster. I met him during my foster orientation. Symon had come in as a stray after being hit by a car. Unfortunately, there was so much damage to his back right leg that the vet team needed to amputate it. He was still a little loopy from his surgery, but he looked up at me with his huge smile and I instantly melted. For a couple weeks, I tried to pretend that I didn't know because I didn't want to be a "bad foster." But when we got that first inquiry on him, both my husband and I immediately started crying at just the thought of him leaving. We knew he was meant to be our boy. Symon is my soulmate. He's my best friend, lap warmer, and nurse when I'm sick. Nolita, our youngest, was found by a Good Samaritan in the middle of the road at just eight weeks old. She was completely alone and badly injured. Our neighbor at the time worked at a different rescue and had brought her home because they didn't think she would make it through the night. Somehow, she survived and we met her the next day. She looked like a mini version of our oldest girl Brooklyn and she fell asleep within seconds of being in my husband's arms. She's now six years old and we couldn't imagine life without her. She loves chasing squirrels with her big sis, stealing her dad's socks, getting kisses on her belly, and taking her sibling's toys and hiding them in her crate.

What sage piece of advice would you give to people who want to become a volunteer / foster?

Be prepared for it not to be easy (especially emotionally), but know that it is ALWAYS worth it. I've never met a volunteer or foster who has regretted working with these animals. Most of them wish they would have started sooner! If the reason that has been keeping you from joining is that you worry you will "get too attached," I'll tell you right now, if you're anything like me, you WILL get attached, you WILL fall in love, and you WILL probably feel a little heartbroken when they get adopted. We take on that burden though so they can get their second chance. We take the pain of missing them, so they don't have to feel pain anymore. That's the job. It doesn't have to be a crazy, quit your full-time job kind of commitment. We need short-term fosters as much as we need long-term fosters. You can foster-sit for other fosters when they have to travel, take animals with some medical issues that need a few weeks before they are ready for the adoption floor, or you can simply give animals on the adoption floor little vacations for the weekend on your couch. Whatever your schedule, lifestyle, emotional capabilities, you can find a way to make an impact and save lives. We need to be their voice, because they can't be their own.

In your own words, describe what you love about volunteering / fostering so much.

I obviously love spending time with the dogs. Dogs embody everything I aspire to be. They are forgiving, loyal, present in the moment, and selflessly loving. They have taught me so much about myself and the best way to live life. They have given us waaayyyy more than we have possibly been able to give them. That said, my favorite part about fostering actually comes after they have already left our home. Many of the families who have adopted our foster dogs have been kind enough to let us follow them on social media or occasionally text or email us a cute picture/update. (THANK YOU!) It's the absolute BEST part of this job. From the moment we meet our foster dogs, we start dreaming about their happy ending: who their family might be and what our foster dog's life could be like. Getting the privilege of seeing them in their homes is the greatest reward for the heartache of missing them. Seeing them happy, cuddled on the couch with their humans, wrestling their animal siblings, at the beach with their family, in their parent's professional wedding photos, or getting crayon drawings in the mail of a little girl and her new best friend...that is why we do this.

INTERESTED IN BECOMING A FOSTER LIKE MEG?

Fantastic Friends Feature: Darius M

Darius and former shelter favorite, Peter Piper; Photo by Shannon Johnstone,  Landfill Dogs

Darius and former shelter favorite, Peter Piper; Photo by Shannon Johnstone, Landfill Dogs

Name: Darius M
Real Job: I just recently graduated college, so right now I’m job hunting.
Volunteer Position(s): Dog Walker/Cuddler, Foster Parent, Playgroup Enthusiast

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A FOSTER?

I’ve been a volunteer and foster for just over two years now. I’ve always loved animals, especially dogs, and I didn’t have any personal pets at home. So, I started to research the Wake County Animal Center, and came out to visit a couple of times. I had a great time when I visited. I got to interact with some dogs, and see the hardworking staff and volunteers in person. After some time, I decided that whenever I’m home from school I wanted to come out and spend time at the Center. I love being there and I’ve learned so much from fellow volunteers and our awesome coordinators. My time here at the Center has inspired me so much that in the future I want to open my own animal rescue or a sanctuary for dogs who have no family—where they’ll be safe, have shelter, food, and water at all times.

TELL US YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT TO DATE AS A FOSTER OR VOLUNTEER?

I have so many favorite moments here, but one that stands out for me was working Clear the Shelter Day for the first time in 2018. Seeing all those animals go to good homes, and seeing the community come out and support us and take home a new family member was beautiful. We had so many great dogs that were here at the shelter for months leave and find homes. It’s really amazing seeing all these animals you’ve built bonds with leave to start a new life with their new families.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BREED OR DOG TYPE (FLUFFY, SMALL, BIG, CHUNKY, ETC)?

I have a tie actually for my favorite dog breeds Cane Corsos and American Staffordshire Terriers. Big dogs with big hearts. I fell in love with a brother and sister pair of Cane Corso fosters I had and every since then I’ve been researching adopting one in the future.

WHAT SAGE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BECOME A FOSTER?

I love seeing dogs I’ve worked with go into good homes, and I know the shelter definitely needs the extra space [and that’s where fosters come in]. If I could give advice to potential fosters, I would definitely say never forget why you became a foster. It’s absolutely okay to fall in love with your foster—they absolutely deserve it. However, don’t forget about the plenty of other animals at the shelter who might need that same opportunity to get out. Find your foster a home you’re comfortable with and a family you trust, and let them go. For potential volunteers, I would definitely say spend time with the animals however you want to. Whether that is cuddling, walking, taking pictures, writhing bios, doing playgroups, etc. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice, we’re all one big family here.

INTERESTED IN BECOMING A VOLUNTEER LIKE DARIUS?

Fantastic Friends Feature: Susan B

(Susan and her foster dog, Levi.)

Name: Susan B
Real Job: Registered Veterinary Technician (equivalent to an RN in human medicine)
Volunteer Position(s): Foster Mom Extraordinaire

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A FOSTER?

I’ve been fostering for four years. I started doing it to “brush up” on my dog skills when I went to school to be an Registered Veterinary Technician. We had four cats, but no dogs and I wanted to reacquaint myself with dog behavior, etc and thought I would do one or two and then quit, but after the first one I was hooked on fostering! And then it was kitten season and the SOS went out and I thought “How hard could that be??” Now, I tend to specialize in the animals needing some medical care like post-surgery nursing, bottle babies, or the inevitable ringworm kittens, but I will take in anything that needs me.  

TELL US YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT TO DATE AS A FOSTER?

Having had almost two hundred foster animals in our home in four years, they have all been special but two stand out: Our first was Max, painfully shy and afraid of everything and everyone. It broke my heart when people would overlook him for the more outgoing dogs and I feared he wouldn’t find his forever home. But one day a couple saw past Max’s fears and trembling and recognized that he was special. We still get to babysit for him when they go out of town and he has blossomed and is incredibly loved which makes me incredibly happy. And the other special dog was our most recent foster, Levi, who we had for over a year. Levi was seventy pounds of heart but too boisterous for many and he didn’t like many other dogs so it was hard to find his match. Thanks to training, he learned to control his exuberance and just found his new home with a young woman who adores him.

WHAT SAGE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BECOME A FOSTER?

My advice to anyone considering fostering is that it will change you as much as you change that animal’s life and any doubts or fears you have are easily overcome with the help of the staff and fellow fosters – so just give it a try! You will become a passionate advocate for animals and you get to make a huge impact on an animal’s life, maybe even saving their life….. and it doesn’t get any better than that! 

INTERESTED IN BECOMING A FOSTER LIKE SUSAN?

YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM AT THE WAKE COUNTY ANIMAL CENTER OR FILL OUT AN APPLICATION BY VISITING THEIR WEBSITE. 

Fantastic Friends Feature: Shannon C

shannon cummings volunteer at the wake county animal center raleigh nc beerded lady bottle shop

Name: Shannon C

Volunteer Position(s): Fido Fitness, Adoption Counselor/Matchmaker, Playgroup Runner, Canine Cuddler, Feline Cuddler, Rabies and Microchip Clinic Scribe and Miscellaneous Transport

How long have you been a volunteer?

I have been volunteering at WCAC since November 2017.

What attracted you to volunteering at the Wake County Animal Center?

We adopted our first dog, Staniel, from WCAC in September 2011 and our second dog, Jet, in August 2012. Back then I was one of those people who said things like “oh I could never volunteer there, because I couldn’t deal with the heart break” or “I would want to take them all home”.

I left my full-time job in late 2014 to open my own business. During the next couple of years, I was swamped trying to get the business off the ground and helping to raise my 2 step-daughters.

Then in 2017, life finally started to settle down. We moved closer to our business, so I wasn’t having to spend the mornings dealing with carpool, and all of a sudden I found myself with spare time.

My natural state is lazy. I would get up at 5:30am with the family, the girls would catch the bus at 6:45, and Antares would leave for work at 7, and I would go back to bed with the dogs, get up a couple of hours later and head to the shop.

One day, while laying in the bed, I was talking to the dogs. I often like to ask them what their lives were like before we adopted them, if they remember their previous families, if they remember the day we met, the day we brought them home, etc. This particular day, I told Staniel how the kennel attendant said “he is so smart” as she brought him out from the back on his slip lead, and I told Jet how his kennel card bio said he was a volunteer favorite. I told them how lucky we were to find them and how lucky they were to have had people at WCAC to take care of them until we met. Then, I started thinking about this free time I had, and how I could be one of those people!

I really don’t know why it took so long for that seed to get planted, but once it did, it grew an entire garden. I have been very fortunate that our business is doing well, and so I am not required to be there as often, and so I try to give as much time as I can to the animals at WCAC. I just wish I would have started volunteering sooner!

What is your favorite breed or dog type (fluffy, small, big, chunky, etc)?

It will come as no surprise that I love all dogs, but I am especially drawn to bully breeds. My boys are 55lbs and 110lbs, so any bully breed that falls in that spectrum almost always gets a quick cuddle from me when they first get to WCAC if I have time after walking.

Tell us your favorite moment to date as a volunteer.

I honestly can’t narrow it down to one or even ten. Not a specific moment, but a recurring one that never gets old is when I meet a dog that is either terrified or on the verge of shutdown, and I get to spend time with them, either cuddling, walking, in playgroups, or ones in the back that get brought out to the yard and I get to see them open up, become more confident, and just enjoy being a dog. These are some of the moments that bring happy tears to my eyes and warms my heart. Just one of the many reasons I love volunteering.

Of course, most volunteers have their own pets. Tell us about them!

I have 4 fur babies! Staniel is a 55lb boxer/bulldog, and he is 8.5 yrs old. Jet is a 110lb plott hound/rottweiler/staffy mix, and he is 7 yrs old. They are both spoiled rotten, but Staniel thinks he is king. Jet is twice his size, but he gives Staniel anything he wants. All Staniel has to do is give him a look or a moan, and Jet will drop his toy or move from his spot. Silly boys! We also have 2 female silver tabbies. Clementine is 13yrs old, and Astra (aka Fatty) is 9yrs old. They are best friends. They spend their day cuddled together on Kaya’s bed or staring at birds out the window. We are very grateful that all of our pets are best friends and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

What sage piece of advice would you give to people who want to become a volunteer?

Just do it! It seems like such a simple thing to say, but if it interests you, do it. For me, starting a business was a fun challenge. Helping to raise 2 loving, well-rounded, kind-hearted step-daughters has been beyond rewarding. However, volunteering at WCAC has changed my life. The ability to make a difference in the lives of animals when they needed it most is so gratifying. Giving your love, time and attention, and getting repaid in tail wags and sloppy kisses, there’s nothing quite like it. Being part of such a dedicated group of people who give so much of themselves unconditionally is the icing on the cake.

Interested in becoming a volunteer like Shannon?

You can learn more about the volunteer program at the Wake County Animal Center or fill out an application by visiting their website.