Even if you can have an enormous facility, you can only save as many lives as you have room for. Even if you have a great marketing department, you can only promote so many dogs. But with fosters, the sky is the limit.
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue’s background with fostering runs deep. What began as a necessity soon became one of the foundational elements of Muttville’s culture. Started in 2007 out of founder Sherri Franklin’s home, Muttville had no choice but to rely on the help of others. Once Muttville secured a separate facility as its headquarters, Franklin knew in order to succeed, Muttville would need not only to keep its foster program, but grow it even further.
Fostering provides so much more than just a temporary home for shelter animals. With one program, organizations can achieve so much: get community members involved, save more dogs, advertise available animals to a wider audience, decrease the direct dog-care workload of staff members, and extend an organization’s network of supporters and adopters (who doesn’t love a good foster fail?!)
Fosters play a critical role in finding a forever home for their foster dog. All Muttville foster families are sent home with Muttville-branded Adopt Me vests, cute marketing materials, and lots of personal encouragement from the programs team.
“I love that our foster program gets the dogs into homes where they have their own personal adoption ambassador. It makes such a big difference. It’s like a celebrity having their own PR department,” expressed Kristin Hoff, Muttville’s Adoption Manager.
Fosters are in direct contact with potential adopters from start to finish. In fact, Muttville foster families can facilitate adoptions themselves, leading to even more adoptions! Indeed, an average of 15 percent of Muttville’s adoptions happen completely off-site, finalized by foster families rather than Muttville staff members. Last year alone, that equated to 163 adoptions that required little to no staff involvement.
Staff can focus on other critical activities and foster families get a sense of ownership and pride in the process.
Haley Goldlist, a volunteer, foster, and adopter who has fostered more than 50 dogs since joining the organization as a foster family in 2008, remarked on all of the changes she’s seen since the early years.
“When I picked up my first foster, it was from Sherri’s home, and it was crazy … in the best possible way. There were dogs everywhere,” said Goldlist. “In the past 11 years, Muttville has changed in so many beautiful ways. The most obvious way is the scope of the impact that the organization is making: Every month hundreds of dogs are saved. But a less obvious way that the organization has evolved is in spreading awareness.”
They also get a very effective wing man. “Muttville foster dogs are people magnets,” beams foster Goldlist. “When you walk with them on the street, people always ask to play with your dog.”
Muttville continues to grow and evolve the program as the organization matures and changes. There are more ways to participate now, giving foster families a lot of flexibility in how they can help. Muttville now has weekday “Slumber Party” fosters who can only commit to watching a dog for one night. Then there’s a whole crew of weekend “Cuddle Buddy” fosters who take dogs not yet up for adoption (usually due to pending medical procedures) to give them a break from the facility. Most recently, Muttville launched an “Office Dog for a Day” program within the current foster network where fosters can borrow a Muttville dog to bring to their San Francisco office for the work day!
How do you save as many dogs as possible? Lean on the community. So much more can be accomplished by a team working together.
“Taking care of Muttville dogs taught me so much about empathy and compassion in a way that has changed the way I see the world,” says Goldlist. Fostering gives you the opportunity to really change a dog’s life — though the life that really changed for the better through fostering was mine.”
Bunny Rosenberg is director of community engagement for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, Muttville.org.
In the photos: Haley Goldlist with some of her fosters.
Shelter Zone features a shelter and rescue group each month. See Muttville’s adoptable dogs in Doggie in the Window.
Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Muttville Senior Dog Rescue