If the care “Blondie” receives from Stephanie Dohar and Greg Litus is any indication, we’re going to be just fine.
Dohar first befriended Blondie while volunteering once a week as a dog walker at Sammie’s Friends Nevada County Animal Shelter on McCourtney Road in Grass Valley.
“Life in a kennel seemed even more traumatizing to Blondie than the other unfortunate dogs, and each time I left her there, shaking in the corner of her cage, my heart broke all over again,” Dohar said in an email to The Union.
Dohar put her concerns into action, and Blondie soon had a new place to live while awaiting a permanent home. Litus built a fence in their backyard, which meant no more cages for Blondie.
The pit bull terrier mix was found as a stray in Penn Valley; it’s not known what caused her to be so frightened, said Dohar.
Blondie currently spends her days at Animal Place, a farmed animal sanctuary in Grass Valley, where Litus and Dohar work. A dog’s dream with acres of land to explore and new adventures to be had around every corner, Blondie is exposed to many new people and situations, helping her overcome her fears.
Prior to bringing her into the sanctuary setting, Blondie was evaluated by an animal behaviorist, earning A’s in all categories but scoring a B overall due only to her trust issues, said Litus.
If you are lucky enough to be included in Blondie’s
ever-expanding circle of friends, you will now see an affectionate, confident and fun-loving dog.
“She’s a total lovebug,” said Dohar.
Among Blondie’s favorite things to do are romping with her canine pals and long walks with her foster humans around the sanctuary’s nature preserve. She is good with children but not so fond of cats, according to the shelter.
Blondie is learning to trust more readily with the patient care of Dohar and Litus, along with positive reenforcement training. With the help of classes at Pawsitive Pooch in Nevada City, she is brushing up on her basic commands.
She is quick to show off her new skills by lying down, cued only by a simple hand signal.
Because of the loving care she has received from her foster guardians, Blondie no longer fits into the hard-to-adopt category.
Open homes, open hearts
Blondie’s story is far from unique. Shelters are in need of temporary homes for dogs and cats.
Sammie’s Friends shelter currently has about 20 animals in foster homes but hopes to expand the program to include around 100 animals, according to Dohar.
In peak season, the shelter has as many animals in foster care as they do at their facility, said Cheryl Wicks, co-founder of Sammie’s Friends and operator of the Nevada County Animal Shelter.
Foster caregivers not only provide immediate respite from the shelter environment but are often instrumental in giving hard-to-place animals a second chance at finding a permanent, loving home.
A foster home can be a place for the sick to recuperate or a place of patient guidance and understanding for those with behavioral issues. And for some elderly dogs and cats, it’s a place of comfort and compassion to live out their final days.
Wicks is witness to many heartwarming examples of the power of fostering special needs animals.
She shared one such story: “A couple drops by the shelter once in awhile to take home older dogs who need a place to live out their lives. One day, they took home a Shar-pei who had medical problems. Nobody wanted to adopt it.
“They took the dog home on a Friday. On Sunday, they took it out for a walk, thinking that it seemed to be doing
well for a dog of its age and medical condition. Later in the day, they found the dog had died — in the sunshine under a tree.
It was like it was waiting; it didn’t want to die in the shelter,” said Wicks.
There are also ample opportunities to foster puppies and kittens until they are ready to be spayed and neutered. Occasionally, caregivers are needed to bottle-feed litters of newborn kittens separated from their mothers. In the height of kitten season, it’s not unusual for the shelter to have 400-500 kittens in its care, said Wicks.
The roster of available foster homes changes frequently, and Wicks hopes to add more
names to the list. Caregivers move on, sometimes because they adopt the animals they only intended to provide a temporary home.
“Failed fosters lead to successful adoptions,” said Wicks.
Fostering animals is just one way to help sheltered animals, according to Wicks.
Even if you are not looking to add to your pet family, there are many ways to contribute.
Afraid you might be tempted to bring someone home?
“People can help out without even seeing an animal,” quipped Wicks.
Donating money, food or new beds, writing grants or putting on a fundraiser are just some of the ways to make a contribution to the cause, said Wicks.
To contact Staff Writer Kim Midboe, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4251.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
— Mahatma Gandhi