Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Volunteer Appreciation Series: Valerie

Our dog foster parents offer a special, intimate bonding experience for our shy, under-socialized, stressed, or medically needy canine guests.  For so many dogs, being in a foster home is an opportunity for respite from an otherwise stressful experience. 

Valerie, a long time volunteer for BHS, shares her experience as a canine foster parent: 

"I first volunteered for BHS as a Campfire Girl -- the positive experience helped nurture my strong desire to work with homeless dogs and cats. After retiring some forty-five years later, I found myself back at BHS seeking volunteer opportunities.
"In 2009 as we were driving by the shelter I queried my husband, "Can we stop for just a minute so I can check on signing up to volunteer and take a quick look at the animals?" We hadn't been seriously looking for a dog, but occasionally gave it brief consideration since we had been “dogless” for a number of years, although we had two cats at home. One thing led to another and I should know by now, it's dangerous to stop by a rescue shelter to "just take a look".
"We were immediately drawn to "Legs", a Miniature Pinscher/Italian Greyhound mix. I walked briskly out to the front desk to inquire about adopting Legs and we were encouraged to take her for a short walk. As anxious potential new owners, we were ready to take her straight out the door and home with us right then and there! The ultimate and indisputable conclusion: WE WON THE LOTTERY!!
"Her shelter name was "LEGS", and Jim said we needed to give her a different name.  He was not going to publicly call out, "Hey Legs ...come ...!!" and have it misunderstood, so we call her "Ashi" ... "leg" in Japanese!
"And yes, I signed up to volunteer at BHS and will always consider them #1 in my book. My assignments included socializing the felines and providing early morning walks for the canines. The day of the devastating fire in 2010, I arrived to organized chaos. Another volunteer and I pitched right in to help wherever we could. We helped get the dogs transferred out of the kennels and into carriers for transport, using makeshift collars and leashes because all the ones in the shelter had burned/melted. We also threw out all the bedding/toys from the kennels.  The odor was sickening and there was ash and fire retardant foam everywhere, which often meant carrying the dogs from their kennels to the awaiting vans. After returning home, I felt so sad and helpless. Knowing the dogs were transferred to Berkeley Animal Care Services for interim care and boarding, I jumped back in the car and headed there to see if they needed any help. I returned home with a foster dog, which was the beginning of a new volunteer experience that is fun and brings great joy and rewards.
"Ashi now works as a therapy dog and although we keep busy with visits to hospitals, nursing homes and senior residences, we continue to foster for BHS as often as we can.
"In closing, I ask that you support the Berkeley Humane Society by volunteering or donating to their Shelter Fire Relief Fund for the rebuild effort or to one of their other worthy programs. Your contribution will make a difference in the lives of injured and abandoned dogs and cats of our community and help connect them with loving forever homes."
Rosa, our previous foster coordinator, explained that Valerie has been both a dog and cat foster for years.  She said, “Valerie is particularly helpful because she is always willing to take on medical/behavioral cases. She makes detailed notes of the progress the animal makes in the home. She also takes video/photos. Her foster home is also great because she has another dog so for puppies it’s a wonderful socialization period for them."

Foster homes like Valerie’s are invaluable for our needy animals and can determine the success of a dog in their future home. We are so grateful for Val, and other foster volunteers like her, who share their home and their hearts with special needs animals.   

Do you want to become a star volunteer like Valerie?  Learn about how to become involved with Berkeley Humane by clicking here!

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