By Elise Bissell, President, Dallas Street Dog Advocates | Contributor
Since COVID-19, Dallas Street Dog Advocates has adopted out more dogs and puppies than ever and has had more foster offers than ever before.
Times are strange due to Coronavirus, and life as we know it is basically on hold. However, with some extra time on your hands, it can be an opportune moment to adopt or foster a stray dog.
Dallas Street Dog Advocates (DSDA) is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization with the main mission to help abandoned dogs in rural areas south of Dallas to find forever homes. Sadly, because there are no animal shelters in these areas, the abandoned dogs form packs and proliferate. DSDA has rescued over 500 dogs since inception in August 2017 and relies solely on fosters, donors, and adopters for success. Since COVID-19, DSDA has adopted out more dogs and puppies than ever and has had more foster offers than ever before.
In April, shortly after businesses were closed due to Coronavirus, DSDA accepted five-day-old orphan shepherd puppies dubbed the “Potato Puppies” because they resembled russet potatoes. The pups were born to a stray mama in a rural area who had tragically been poisoned or died from a snake bite shortly after giving birth. Teri Larson, DSDA Bottle Baby Coordinator extraordinaire, says, “I knew this was not a one-man job, not even a 2- or 3-man job unless we wanted fosters to burn out fast.” She called upon her friends and community and asked for help. Because many people were working from home and their kids were home looking for something to do, it opened a huge volunteer pool. Larson reports, “Fifteen new foster families applied to help the puppies who required bottle feeding every four hours around the clock! These pups also had to be stimulated to potty, so it was not an easy task. Everyone took a 24-hour shift then would pass the precious babies off to the next volunteer each morning.”
All the pups survived with the help of these dedicated foster families and Garnet, Ruby, Nugget, Spud, and Tater were well socialized, too. Larson says, “The puppies got so much attention—it was amazing. They were in quiet and loud houses. Car rides and kids and dogs and cats and hamsters and more kids and more car rides. They were beyond blessed to be loved by so many at such a young age. When they turned 8 weeks old and had their first vaccines, the pups moved to permanent foster homes, started solid food, and potty training. They are funny and happy and so very social.” Larson finished with, “This was a big job, and it took a village, but what an amazing village it was. All the pups have been spoken for and adopted by their foster families or friends of the foster families.”
Just as the Potato Pups rolled off the bottle-feeding schedule, DSDA was alerted about another mama dog who had passed away leaving behind seven 2 ½ week old Great Pyrenees pups, the Snow Cone Litter, who needed immediate help, and the group of bottle feeders are now back in action!
Larson, wife and mother of three adult children, is a dog lover who jumped in feet first after adopting her first street dog, Boss, several years ago. She has fostered many puppies and most recently has taken on DSDA Bottle Baby Coordinator, which is a huge role and comes with lots of responsibility.
If you are having trouble deciding to foster or adopt here are a few tips that may help:
How much time do you have? Dogs are like kids. They need time and training. If you’re working from home but on conference calls all day, then you might not have time for a young puppy that needs lots of attention. But if your work-at-home schedule is more flexible and you can pause to play fetch, go for walks, or just cuddle, then a new puppy or dog may be ideal. Families with teenagers make marvelous fosters as they’re able to alternate caring for the dog and can divide up the tasks. If the amount of time you have available is only temporary, then fostering could be an easy solution.
Dogs are like kids. They need time and training.
How much energy are you willing to invest? Seriously, this is a big one. If you are active and enjoy walking, being outdoors, and going to the park, a younger, more energetic breed may be the best fit for you. If you have trouble getting out in the heat or tend to be a couch potato, then an older dog or calmer breed would love to keep you company. Keep in mind, most puppies of any breed are energetic and require more of your time. Older dogs are often sadly overlooked but can be much easier to manage. Since different breeds have different requirements, be sure to do your research and focus on ones that best correlate with the amount of time and energy you have to offer.
How to decide on a dog? There are many factors to consider when picking your new pal. First, what breed or breed mix are you most fitted for and where can you find it? If you are experienced with or prefer a certain breed, there is likely a breed specific rescue organization you can contact. There are also a number of non-breed specific rescues like Dallas Street Dog Advocates who focus on the stray dog population and have a large selection of mixed breeds. Apartment dwellers may want to focus on smaller or less active breeds, though, if you live an active lifestyle and are willing to commit the amount of time required to train a puppy or an active dog, they are also known to do very well. Be sure to check out any breed restrictions before committing. If you are in a house and have a fenced yard, you might look at a larger, more active breed.
Foster versus adopt? The foster home is the first stop for a new dog that has typically just been rescued off the streets or out of a busy shelter. Foster Families provide trust, consistency, and love and are the dog’s first step toward a happy life. We don’t always know everything there is to know about the dog right away and usually there are always a few surprises. Personality definitely develops as the dog decompresses and becomes more secure in the home—which can take weeks or even months depending on the history of the dog. Fosters are patient people as it can be challenging while the dog learns manners and basic training, but the payoff is well worth it! Fosters house, crate, and leash train the dog and work on potential training or temperament issues. Some fosters prefer medical cases and become experts in heartworm treatment, bottle feeding, orthopedic injuries, etc.
The foster home is the first stop for a new dog that has typically just been rescued off the streets or out of a busy shelter.
When adopting from a rescue organization, the dog has most always been in a foster home that can provide a wealth of information about temperament, activity level, training, and habits. Adopting from a rescue opens up a place for a new dog off the streets or from a shelter.
Keep your future schedule in mind as things begin to return to normal or possibly a “new normal.” It is expected that more people will be working from home indefinitely, which is an ideal situation for adoption. If returning to work away from home and the time available to devote to a new dog is uncertain, then fostering may be an ideal compromise.
Cost is another important factor when deciding to foster or adopt. When fostering, the rescue organization typically covers all of the medical expenses and provides necessary supplies. Expenses when adopting include an adoption fee (which covers spay/neuter, vaccines, and microchipping), food, toys, yearly checkups, monthly heartworm, flea and tick prevention, day care, boarding, etc., all of which can run between $1,500-10,000/year.
ABOUT DALLAS STREET DOG ADVOCATES:
Dallas Street Dog Advocates is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization with the main mission to help abandoned dogs in rural areas south of Dallas to find forever homes. Sadly, because there are no animal shelters in these areas, the abandoned dogs form packs and proliferate. DSDA has rescued over 500 dogs since inception in August 2017 and relies solely on fosters, donors, and adopters for success. Since COVID-19, DSDA has adopted out more dogs and puppies than ever and has had more foster offers than ever before. To learn more, visit www.DSDA.org or join their Facebook and Instagram pages.
ABOUT ELISE BISSELL:
Elise Bissell is a cofounder and President of Dallas Street Dog Advocates. She has over 15 years of rescue experience and hopes she is making a difference by rescuing abandoned dogs suffering in the rural areas south of Dallas, Texas. She is a nurse, wife, and mother of 3 adult children, 5 dogs, and 3 cats.