Good Shepherd offers short-term foster opportunities

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Good Shepherd Humane Society is expanding its foster care program.

Shelter manager Chelsea Gahr announced Wednesday, Nov. 20, that the shelter has accepted the Maddie's Fund Foster Express Challenge, an innovative initiative that gets shelter dogs out of the kennels and into the community. The challenge has set a goal of 25 temporary fosters by Jan. 10, Gahr said. If Good Shepherd is successful, Gahr said, the shelter will be eligible for several grant opportunities.

Assistant shelter manager Cole Wakefield said there are many ways the community can take part in the program. You can take a dog for a two-hour walk, Wakefield said, or keep a dog overnight. Both instances would count as a short-term foster, Wakefield said.

"We're trying to encourage everybody to foster, even if you just take a dog for a walk to get them out of the shelter for a while," Wakefield said. "That will help us qualify for those grants."

Wakefield said the shelter needs to document 25 short-term foster trips, saying he hopes foster families take photos during their adventure.

"That's so we can put together updates and a whole presentation," Wakefield said.

Being eligible for more grants is a great thing, Wakefield said, but the program could benefit the shelter in other ways.

"It has a real tangible benefit to dogs. It's been shown in a scientific study that getting them out of the shelter, even for a short amount of time, reduces their stress levels," Wakefield said, "and improves behavioral problems. It's a wonderful thing and we hope to continue doing it after the challenge is over. This is just to get it kickstarted."

Those interested in the program should call the shelter at 479-253-9188 for more information. Wakefield said the shelter will work with anyone who would like to help out, saying someone is at the shelter from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day of the week. If someone would like to pick up a dog after hours, Wakefield said, that can be arranged.

"Call us. We'll help you out," Wakefield said. "We'll make it happen."

Good Shepherd board president Jay Fusaro said he's looking forward to how the program will help the shelter.

"That's just really terrific," Fusaro said. "You guys know which dogs are suitable for walking and for overnight visits, so if someone shows up, you'll know which dog is eligible."

Also at the meeting, Gahr reported that the shelter adopted out 10 animals in October. Gahr said she's expecting even better numbers in November. Since she started working at the shelter in October, Gahr said, she's made sure that all the animals are microchipped. Board member Carmen Caldwell asked if that was too expensive and Fusaro said it isn't.

"Part of the reason we didn't do it in the past is we believed it was expensive," Fusaro said, "but it really isn't that expensive, and once we go through the initial cost of getting them tested, there's a couple additional benefits as well."

Gahr said the shelter is going paperless, saying all information will be kept on a computer from now on.

"The adopters fill out everything on a computer and everything goes through that," Gahr said. "We can email the records so we don't have to use any paper if we don't want to."

Good Shepherd recently received a $250 check from Five & Dime Drama Collective, Gahr said, and signed up for the Cat Pride Kitty Litter Program.

"That's just a way for us to eventually get some free cat litter," Gahr said.

The shelter also received a $3,000 donation to build a play area for dogs behind the shelter building, Gahr said.

"The money for that is taken care of," she said.

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