I started my day with this email message from one of our staff Adoption Counselors:
"Scott, just wanted to let you know that we adopted out a little Chihuahua yesterday who had been in the shelter for 23 months!!
His name is Louis - cute little guy who has had some fear-related issues. The wonderful lady who adopted him had been in four or five times to meet with him so I think almost all of us have met her!"
This was wonderful news for many reasons. The obvious one first. We found a home for a dog who had been in our care, awaiting adoption for 23 months, which was half his life. The 23 months part is no typo. How does a little dog like this (or any animal) remain adoptable, in good mental and physical health during such an extended waiting period?
Dedicated staff and volunteers! It’s that simple.
As an organization, we not only say that we will keep trying to find a home for all animals as long as they remain healthy. We do this. We do this with many animals every day. Louis was a challenge, for sure, since he came to us with fear-related issues. He needed lots of time to learn to trust people again.
Louis was one of many projects. Some animals come to us needing nothing more than an interested adopter – someone to open their heart and home. Others need a minor tune-up. I’d put my dog, Murray, in that category. He arrived with badly matted hair and a loose interpretation of obedience.
One trip to our volunteer groomer and he was ready. He caught my eye after he’d been with us for just a week; any longer, and he would surely have moved into our Second Chance Class, which pairs volunteers with dogs like Murray who need basic obedience work. Still, other animals arrive needing significant medical care or behavioral work before they are ready for their new home.
Our donor-supported Hope Program makes this work possible. It funds the medical care and behavior work.Many people figure we get animals, and then make them available for adoption. It can work like this. But, in many cases, our staff works with animals for days, weeks, even months to help them become more adoptable.
Volunteers play a huge role in this work. We are fortunate to have so many who come in several times each week to exercise, play with and socialize our dogs, cats, bunnies and other animals. If it wasn’t for them, adoptable animals would be much more likely to get stressed.
I think it’s also important to note that Louis began his long quest for a new home at our Coyote Point shelter, where he was among the many dogs housed in chain link kennels -- rows of these kennels. He spent 22+ months there. Then, once he moved over to our new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion on Rollins Rd. in Burlingame, he was adopted in days. It’s no coincidence. The surroundings and environment we create for animals and visitors play a huge role.
It’s clear to everyone – staff, volunteers, visitors and the workers who put finishing touches on our facility and stuck around to see animals move in – that adoptable animals are much more comfortable in their new rooms. Human visitors prefer the new digs, too. They don’t hear dogs barking like they used to and don’t see dogs jumping at each other through the chain link fencing. They still see eager dogs, exuberant dogs, but the new adoption experience hardly resembles the old one.
We won’t get to know many dogs quite like we’ve known Louis and that's OK. While the animals’ stays will be shorter, they’ll continue to leave impressions on us and we’ll continue to count the successes one at a time. We’ll just have a lot more of them!