The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Humane Society of Central Texas Needs Fosters

Be a Superhero this Summer

1 week ago

By Avery Ballmann

In the summer, life becomes slower — a lot slower than we’re used to. The kids are out of school and spend most days at home, the workflow slows down and there’s a family vacation on the calendar. But for the Humane Society of Central Texas (HSCTX), the slowdown of summer doesn’t affect them much. The HSCTX shelter is currently at capacity with about 200 dogs, and with current construction to reseal the shelter floors, the HSCTX team is working harder than ever to find dogs a home, even if it’s temporary.

Last June, Sharyl West Loeung, Foster Program Development Consultant for HSCTX, enrolled herself and family into the Summer Foster Program to teach her children responsibility, empathy and the joy of companionship a dog provides. Since then, West Loeung has welcomed a total of 21 foster dogs into her home and even adopted one named Dreamer.

“I’ve been able to support the development of the foster program over the last couple of months, and one of the things that’s been most interesting and exciting about doing that is getting to see dogs who leave the shelter and move into a home environment,” West Loeung said. “You just can’t know entirely how an animal is going to blossom, show us what their potential is, how they really want to interact with the world until they are outside of the kennel.”

Imagine living in a kennel day in and day out, and with dogs barking constantly and nonstop construction, you’re probably not going to be your best self. These environmental factors impact the behaviors of dogs and mask their true personality that only a foster can reveal once the dog is out of the shelter.

“It is daily work to make sure we also keep track of how many days it’s been since that animal has left their kennel,” Co-Director of Operations at HSCTX Brooke Farrell said. “That way we can prioritize dogs with the most amount of dots to make sure that they’re getting the time to  run, socialize with people or other dogs and decrease some of those sheltering stresses.”

Past the reception desk of HSCTX shelter is a large white board engulfing the back wall of the employee’s office, detailing every dog on site with their behaviors, health status, how much they have been walked and when their next play group is, this is what the dots indicate, the less dots means a dog has less time outside of the kennel. Farrell said the Humane Society does their best to provide positive outcomes for every dog, whether that is by preventing shelter surrendering, free fostering or name-your-price adoptions.

When a person fosters with HSCTX, they are expected to keep the dog for three weeks, but of course this time can be extended based on the preference of the person fostering. During this time, West Loeung said fosters collect data on the dog’s personality, energy, skill level and capture pictures, all of which increase the likelihood of the dog being adopted.

“It is a partnership, because the ultimate goal is to get them adopted,” West Loeung said. “So, the more information that we can get from you, the better it is. And the more that we can support you, the more likely you are to be able to keep a dog for as long as possible.”

If you foster a dog from the HSCTX, the support does not waver after you walk out of their doors, it continues throughout your foster process. They have a Facebook group with other fosters to answer questions and to provide community. Their top priority is to match a dog based on your lifestyle, as well as provide supplies.

“We do our best to support you as a foster, and will provide supplies depending on the dog and your needs,” West Loeung said. “If it’s a high-risk dog, we’ll provide a kennel that you can borrow. If they have special food needs and some time with those particular foods, if they have particular toys that they loved, we may send you home with some of those.”

But these supplies are not unlimited — HSCTX relies on donations from the community. West Loeung said if you can’t foster a dog but want to help, you can donate dog food, toys, crates and other pet supplies. Any hesitations or questions a potential foster may have, the HSCTX team encourages them to fill out a foster-interest form. This form is not meant to weed anyone out, but to gauge what lifestyle you have and match a dog to that. For example, if you live in an apartment, work from home or have children, some dogs may be better suited to you and your lifestyle than others.

“If there’s things you’re worried about, we can look at those and be honest with you about if there’s a reason why it’s not a good idea for you right now,” West Loeung said. “There also may be some simple ways that we can help set you up for success, despite whatever it is that you’re concerned about, and make sure that you get the right match versus just trying to pick off of a website.”

West Loeung said fostering a pup is a roller coaster of emotions. You’re happy when they make progress, frustrated when they don’t, sad when they leave your arms but ultimately happy that you were a step to their happy ending. To learn more about fostering and to donate, visit the HSCTX website. You can also meet dogs at the HSCTX every Saturday at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.

“[Fosters have] learned to have compassion. Instead of just going to big, fluffy dogs, they see dogs who are a little beat up and they think about them differently and see potential,” West Loeung said. “I believe that that transfers into how they are able to get people to look at the world genuinely, with a little bit more tenderness and a pause before they go. It’s so valuable.”