By Rebecca Hornick, Foster Care Coordinator
Most people have heard the term, “It takes a village” in reference to many people lending support to a common effort. Never is that more true than during the summer months when people tend to travel and numerous dogs arrive at GDB for boarding. We are extremely fortunate to have a dedicated group of loving Foster Care Providers in our team of campus volunteers that provide the temporary comfort of local foster homes to many of these dogs. We couldn’t do what we do for these dogs without this “village” of volunteers.
At GDB's California campus alone, more than 400 dogs transition in and out of foster homes each year, with the busiest time being during the summer months. The types of dogs needing care, and the reasons they need foster homes, are quite varied:
- Dogs may be boarding here while their caretakers are traveling, moving or are recovering from illness
- Dogs are under medical care with our veterinary staff and need proximity to campus
- Home behavior evaluations have been requested for certain dogs
- Dogs are awaiting placement into permanent adoptive homes, etc.
The truth is, even our wonderful Foster Care Providers have travel plans of their own during the summer. At times, they cannot fill the entire length of time the dog needs a foster home. In order to minimize their time in the kennel, some of these dogs have enjoyed the comforts of several different foster homes during their stay. When it works for all parties involved, sometimes “in-field” transfers can be arranged so dogs don’t need to come back to the kennel at all when going from one foster home to another. In the East Bay, for example, there are more than a dozen volunteers who can be called upon to either foster a dog or transport dogs, food or medications to and from each other and campus so no one has to travel excessively to help us meet our needs. By utilizing these connections, the dogs’ needs are more easily met and less travel is required of each volunteer. Now that’s a green team solution that everyone can appreciate!
Some of the volunteers who reliably come to the aid of the foster dogs in our busy months are the people who are also willing to “double up” on dogs. This means that even though they are already hosting a foster dog in their home, they agree to manage another dog at the same time. Sometimes that just means having a second one for the weekend or during the brief time the other foster volunteer is away, and other times, it may be weeks or even longer. For those of you who find it challenging to manage one dog, I am happy to tell you, housing multiple dogs at once can be done! Handling more than one dog involves managing a variety of needs, providing proper boundaries and, of course, a whole lotta love! These are amazing people who foster more than one dog regularly, and we are so grateful for their extra help. I know the dogs have a blast, but I am happy to tell you, these generous volunteers report to me that they get a lot out of it as well.
Another unique request that comes up from time to time is a need we call “commuter foster care.” This is when we have a dog who is in the finishing phases of its guidework training and can benefit by having some home time in the evenings. Only a few dogs need this extra care because most do just fine completing formal training while being housed in the kennel environment. But once in a while a need arises, so we call upon a few local volunteers to meet the need. Typically these dogs get dropped off directly in the Training Office in the morning, get their daily workouts with a Guide Dog instructor, and then get collected again by the end of the day for foster care in the home. The extra information we get from these volunteers is incredibly helpful when making the right match for the dog with a student in class. Commuter foster care is just another example of the extra effort these volunteers kindly give us to meet the unique challenges and requests we have each year.
There are many fine folks who make up the list of California campus Foster Care Providers and when you think about how many different needs we throw at them, you have got to love their Can-Do attitude. We surely appreciate this “Village” of support we have in this core group of volunteers in the busy months and all year long.