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.