Archive for April, 2011

We Miss You So Much

Our shelter family experienced the sudden loss of one of our young volunteers this past week. Lauren was only 13 when she died, but she lived a life that was full of love, laughter, kindness and joy. She always came to the shelter with a smile on her face and a heart full of love to give to the animals that were in our care.

Involvement in MLDHS was a family affair: Lauren’s mother is a board member and volunteer, and the family has taken serveral dogs into their home to foster, some of which were adopted by grandparents and uncles. She and her sister came up with some pretty great names for dogs and cats, and formed some unbreakable bonds with them. When Lauren’s favorite former foster dog Hobbes was adopted, I asked her to make sure she told her family that he found his home. She said so poignantly “I am really sad, because he was my best friend here.”

She was an animal advocate through and through. She participated in 4-H obedience training with her beloved dog Bella and loved the teachings of Caesar Milan. Some of our volunteers were able to share the experience of seeing his seminar in Saskatoon with her, which was very special. She and her family attended our fundraisers and volunteer functions and were always willing to help out wherever they could. Our shelter family only knew Lauren for a short time, but what a difference she has made in our lives…

We bid farewell to this beautiful young lady yesterday. It was moving to hear the stories and memories from her family, and get to know this beautiful girl that we had the opportunity to know in the last year of her life. She has left a profound impact on the world and will live on in the hearts of the people and animals that had the good fortune of knowing her.

On behalf of the animals in our shelter, Jeff and I wrote the following poem for Lauren. We had all of the shelter dogs and some cats sign it with their painted paws, had it framed and presented it to her family as a reminder of the lasting impact her kindness has left on the animals that she knew and loved.

We Miss You So Much

Because you liked us the moment we arrived

And because you always cared

You made sure we had what we needed

And kept us calm when we were scared.

***

You taught us love, kindness, compassion

And we found a best friend in you

A piece of you lives on in all of us

That we’ll carry our whole lives through.

***

You had such kind words and patience

You brightened our day with a smile

A tummy rub and a scratch behind the ears

You walked us for miles and miles.

***

We could only show how it meant so much

With wagging tails and loud, content purrs

But if you only knew the difference you made

And how far that love went beyond these words.

 ***

Just because we couldn’t talk back and forth

Made no difference to what we have shared

We’ll keep your memory alive in our hearts

Because you helped us, loved us, and you cared.

(Lauren with her Dog Bella & 4-H Achievement Day 2011)

Lauren, Thank you for reminding us to be kind to others, live in the moment, love with all of our hearts, and find joy and laughter in every day. You will truly be missed.

(Wreath made for Lauren on Behalf of MLDHS Volunteers)

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“Foster families are so very special, hearts strong enough to love and even stronger to let go.”

While our shelter has come a long way in providing a safe and nurturing environment to temporarily house the over 200 animals that come into our care each year, there is nothing that beats the comforts of a home.

A shelter is an unnatural environment for any animal. Our cats seem to fair much better than dogs in terms of length of stay. We’ve had cats for 1.5 years that were very happy to stay with us for that duration of time, and probably could have stayed longer had they not been adopted! Dogs are different. In animal rescue there is a term “Kennel Crazy” which refers to the behavioral change a dog goes through as a result of being in a shelter environment for too long.

Our shelter is equipped with dog doors to allow dogs to go in and out whenever they want, large dog runs for them to run off their energy, and most importantly, dedicated volunteers that take them for walks, off leash runs, and hiking at St. Cyr trails. But despite our best efforts some dogs just don’t do well in a shelter setting. The most annoying, misbehaved dog in the shelter can be the quietest, most obedient angel in a home. We really try to stress to potential adopters that they cannot judge a book by it’s cover: when looking at dogs in the shelter, how they behave in the shelter does not reflect how they will be in a home.

This is why foster homes are extremely important.

Fostering can be a very rewarding experience and it doesn’t always have to be whole litters of orphaned puppies and kittens. We have several adult dogs at the shelter that are in need of foster homes. It can be for as long or as short a time as necessary. Some foster families keep dogs until they find their forever homes, others will take a dog for a weekend to give it a mental break from the shelter. Foster homes are able to spend time with a dog one on one and learn their personalities and behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed at the shelter. This gives us very valuable information that we can use to update their adoption profiles, giving them a better chance at getting adopted.

One “occupational hazard” to fostering is falling head over heels in love with your foster pet. We have had many foster animals that have ended up in their permanent homes because of the unbreakable bond that formed over the course of the fostering period.

The best description of fostering that I have found is the following quote:

“Foster families are so very special, hearts strong enough to love and even stronger to let go……”

A foster family puts a lot into these animals: they are essentially teaching them the skills they need to become a great family pet. It can take a lot to let go after investing so much, love, time and energy, but the biggest reward is seeing your former foster in a loving home and knowing that you helped them get there.

If you have room in your home and your heart and you are looking for a rewarding experience that will make a difference in the lives of a shelter animal, please consider becoming a foster home!

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