By Janette Dragrold
The ASPCA estimates that over six million pets enter shelters in the United States every year. Around half of that number are dogs. How do shelters handle all these animals? By enlisting the help of volunteers who are willing to foster them in their homes.
For Mike and Louise Mandt of Chatfield, fostering dogs is a big part of their life. Louise started fostering in 2010 when she lived in Fargo, N. Dak. She and Mike got married in 2012 and have been fostering dogs together since 2013. They estimate that they have fostered close to 25 dogs.
“We had four just in the last six months,” says Mike.
They both have their favored breeds, huskies for Louise and shepherds for Mike, but they take in dogs of any breed. At the moment, they are fostering one dog, a husky named Serena in addition to having four of their own dogs.
“I know there’s some good breeders out there, but I’m all about the rescuing,” says Louise. “There’s so many out there that need homes. There’s a lot more purebred dogs than you can imagine in foster care and in the shelters.”
The Mandts mostly work with Camp Companion out of Rochester. Camp Companion takes care of the financials of the foster animal by paying for food, vet bills, and supplies.
“We basically provide the home for them,” says Louise. “We provide training, love, and try to work with them in any way that they need help. We get them to try to trust humans, and get them out on a leash.”
She also explained that when fostering or adopting, there is something called the 333 rule. For the first three days the dog will most likely be a little nervous, overwhelmed or stressed. It usually takes around three weeks for them settle into their new surroundings and routine, and can take about three months for them to build trust and to bond with their new human.
“We don’t know their backgrounds,” states Louise. “You’re starting from square one so you gotta kind of work with them and see what the personality is. Or what issues they have.”
The Mandts also recommend that if someone fosters or adopts a dog from a puppy mill that they do research on it first.
“Dogs from these situations tend to be scared, they don’t know leashes, what grass is, they’re a major flight risk, a lot of them aren’t house trained,” states Louise. “They may have health issues or food aggression issues. They probably won’t give you any eye contact. It’s a whole difference when you adopt a dog from another family/situation, versus a puppy mill dog. They don’t know how to be a dog so to have another dog in the home is tremendous because they learn so much from them.”
They do admit that it’s hard to let the dogs go after spending so much time with them but the benefits of fostering help with that.
“A lot of people ask us how can we foster them and just give them away. There’s several that we’ve been extremely attached to. Bandit happened to come in as a foster, and we ended up just keeping him. They really do pick you.”
They love helping the dogs, teaching them, showing them love and trust, and watching their progress. Knowing that they have saved a life and helped get a dog out of a bad situation is worth it to them. They really enjoy being able to see a dog get adopted into a new home.
“You get to have the joy of having the dogs; you get to help teach them things, “says Louise. “You get to show them love, you get to show them trust, and then seeing how they blossom and bloom. You get to help an animal, you can save a life and to see them get into their new family is probably the best.”
“The rewarding thing is when a good family adopts them,” adds Mike.
There are fostering and adoption opportunities not only for dogs, but for a wide variety of pets including cats, rabbits, horses and more. Those interested are encouraged to contact their local animal shelter or campcompanion.org.