For our fifth volunteer profile, we are happy to introduce Gwen, who started fostering and volunteering with PB SOC last fall after a friendly pit bull wandered into her life and changed it forever.

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On Volunteering

How long have you been volunteering with PB SOC?

Since November 2013

How did you get started?

I became involved with PB SOC through Pit Crew (a partner non-profit that pulls at-risk dogs from the county shelter for fostering and adoption). A very friendly stray pit bull came running up to me while I was walking my dog. I ended up taking her back to a local vet to check for a microchip. Not finding one, I decided to keep her around and attempt to find her owners with flyers around the neighborhood, ads in CraigsList, notifying the county shelter that we had a found dog, etc.

Although she was a sweet dog, she and my cat did not get along very well. Not wanting to put my kitty in the position of being constantly terrorized, I decided to contact some local rescues to see if they could help. I contacted Pit Crew, Delyse agreed to meet us and the dog, and then she decided to take her on as a Pit Crew dog. The dog’s name was Tessie (she has since been renamed Kona by her new family), and we were able to find a wonderful home for her with Pit Crew’s help.

I wanted to continue helping the breed, but I also knew that fostering would not always be ideal in my household with a kitty (Munchkin) and resident dog (Monty). I heard about PB SOC through Delyse and decided to give volunteering a shot. I haven’t looked back since then!

What do you do for PB SOC?

I’m a dog walker.

What is one of your favorite things about working with the dogs?

I just love seeing their personalities come out when they are outside of the scary confines of the shelter. Some of the dogs are snuggle buddies and want nothing more than to just curl up on a lap and chill. Some of them have lots of pent-up energy and would love nothing more than to go for a jog with folks.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering for us?

Give it a shot! The only way to tell if you’ll like something is to try it at least once. If you decide that it’s not quite the right fit, then that’s okay. At least you were willing to try something new. To be honest, volunteering didn’t work out for my fiancé because he was afraid of becoming too attached to the dogs, but two of my coworkers have joined the PB SOC ranks!

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Gwen with Katarina, having a belly-rub break during a photo session

On Fostering

How many dogs have you fostered?

I have fostered two dogs. One (Tessie) was exclusively through Pit Crew, but the other (Abby) was a joint venture with the shelter and Pit Crew. Basically, the shelter was helping with medical costs and Pit Crew was helping out with all the other good stuff. Although I’m not exclusively a shelter foster parent, I would still like to share my experiences.

What do you love about fostering?

I love knowing that I’m making a difference in an animal’s life. My second foster, Abby, was a demodex pup and arrived at the shelter at a bad time. The shelter was full and she had no place to go. Delyse sent out an urgent request for a foster because she was scheduled for euthanasia the same day she came in. She was stinky, scabby, and scared. I couldn’t resist her sweet face and my fiancé (Marshall) agreed that we could help. It was absolutely amazing to see her transform from a 4-month-old puppy with general demodex to a healthy and thriving puppy. The fur grew back and the stench dissipated. The better she felt, the more her personality shined. It’s extremely rewarding to see the transformation and to know that you’re making a difference.

Describe your home/pet situation and how that helps or hinders fostering.

I have a dog and a cat. Monty (our dog) is a 7-year-old pit bull-cattledog mix. Munchkin (our kitty) is an 8-year-old tortoise-shell pretty girl. Munchkin was the first pet to enter my house, and I always put her comfort first. We got Monty when he was very young because one of my sister’s coworkers found a stray that ended up having puppies. Because he entered our house young, Munchkin was able to show him who was boss, and they’ve been best buddies ever since. Monty is very dog social, but he’s also very mellow and doesn’t do well with a lot of excess energy.

So it’s always been a balance to strike when we have fosters to make sure Munchkin is comfortable in her house and to give Monty the space he needs when he’s had enough puppy playtime. Crates are a lifesaver! We have a smallish house (about 900 square feet) with a yard, which can hinder fostering. I also have your stereotypical 8-5 desk job and so I’m away from the house during the day. My fiancé is currently out of work and so that helped when we fostered Abby because he was home all day with her.

Describe a challenge you faced with a foster dog and how you overcame it.

Munchkin and Tessie! Our first foster, Tessie, was a very sociable dog, but she didn’t quite know what to make of the other small, furry thing in the house. Because she was so curious and interested about the furry object, she would often chase and corner the kitty. She never tried to hurt Munchkin, but Munchkin didn’t know that – all she knew is that this big, scary thing kept chasing her, and she was terrorized. To keep the critters separate, we literally had to put a massive folded up x-pen across our hallway to prevent any possible interactions. It was not ideal because it forced Munchkin to be separated from us and Monty most of the time, but it was necessary. This was not a situation where slow introductions would have eventually worked because Munchkin wanted to have no part of being anywhere near Tessie.

Describe a favorite memory of fostering.

This is a hard question because I don’t think I have a single favorite memory! The whole experience is fantastic!

Describe what it was like to give up a dog after fostering him or her.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it pulls at your heart strings when it’s time to give up a dog. I’ve teared up every time. Although it’s sad to see them go, I look at fostering this way: because I was able to open my home and my heart to the dog, s/he has a new shot at life. I am saving a life by preventing that dog from being euthanized because the shelter is full and hard decisions are made. I firmly believe that the pros outweigh the cons.

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Unlimited doggy kisses are a side-benefit of volunteering!

Thank you, Gwen! We so appreciate your opening your heart and your home to dogs in need, and your smiling face is always a welcome sight at Sunday morning dog walking.