Morgan Harville and her boyfriend, Jonathan Zimmerman, were not planning on adding a puppy to their family this spring. The couple and their children had just moved into a new home in Springboro, and the COVID-19 lockdown was disrupting everyone’s lives. Harville, a hairdresser, found herself at home more often due to temporary business closings, and there was enough transition in the family’s life that it was not looking to add more.
All of this changed when Harville received a friend’s text that Humane Society of Greater Dayton needed help. The growing concern about COVID-19 meant that the shelter needed to place animals who would have previously stayed at the shelter while awaiting their forever homes into temporary foster care. Preparing for a shutdown, the staff wanted to ensure that all of the animals got plenty of socialization and love. The need for foster families was acute.
Harville reached out to the Humane Society and said that the family would be willing to foster a dog. “We did Facetime to see the dogs, and my boyfriend’s daughter liked this one,” she said. Soon they were opening their doors to a puppy who, along with siblings, had been transported from an open-intake shelter in Kentucky. That’s how the family found Koda, a husky mix.
This is also how the family got its first surprise; Koda, who they thought was male, turned out to be female. The family changed her name to Koko Rae, and everyone quickly fell in love with the new family member. “I didn’t know that we needed a dog,” Harville said. “Now the kids are excited to finish their schoolwork or chores, so they can play with Koko. It’s such a happy process.”
One of the benefits of finding Koko during the pandemic was that Harville was able to spend enough time training a puppy. “Patience was key,” she said. However, she unequivocally recommends fostering and adoption to those considering it. “Don’t have any reservations,” she said.
Brian Weltge, president and CEO of Humane Society of Greater Dayton, explains that the organization is committed to helping unite pets and humans who are well suited to one another. “It’s an important decision,” he said, citing an estimate that some 60% of households have a pet. “They bring so much joy.”
There is always a need for foster and forever homes for area animals. Many of the animals rescued from open-intake shelters and the like are the product of other pets who weren’t spayed or neutered, leaving an unwanted litter to be homed. They are also the product of area surges in populations; right now the Dayton area has a surplus of cats looking for forever homes.
However, finding the right fit is essential when bringing a new member, either temporary or permanent, into a family. “People should get an idea of what they are looking for,” said Weltge. For example, “puppies need training, and they chew on things because they are teething,” he points out. That cuddly little ball of fur could bring training challenges that are fun for one family, but overwhelming for another. The latter family might consider adopting an adult animal who has already been trained and burned off some of the energy of youth.
Potential owners of “forever homes” for pets can check to be sure their expectations line up with reality in a couple of different ways. Humane Society of Greater Dayton offers a foster-to-adopt program, in which prospective adoptive families can offer their homes to foster a pet. Through this program potential adopters can take the animal home for an extended stay, to ensure that it is a good fit. If everything works out, they simply come back in to finalize the adoption; however, if it is not the right fit, they can return the animal, and the shelter will continue to work to find the perfect match.
If adoption isn’t the right long-term path, the shelter encourages becoming a foster. Fosters help free up space in the shelter for other animals; and, most important, the animal gets to enjoy the attention of the foster parent or family. “It gets the animals used to being loved on,” said Weltge. He didn’t need to add that the humans get used to this too.
“Animals bring so much joy in their relatively short lives,” Weltge said. Those who can open their homes, temporarily or permanently, to an animal in need will participate in giving that pet a great life. And, like Harville and her family, potential adopters and fosters may find the pet they didn’t know was missing from their lives. To learn more, visit HSDayton.org.