“Just Sparks, Starry, Keenan, Kel, and Popcorn.”
Lindsey’s eyes grew wide as she saw more than a dozen dogs and even more people milling around under a series of tents. “Are all these people giving away their dogs?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “These are all volunteers. But all these dogs do need homes.”
We’d just arrived at an adoption event held in a parking lot and on an adjacent patch of grass outside a North Jersey dance studio. The event was hosted by One Step Closer Animal Rescue, or OSCAR. I’d come to drop off a Tricky Tray donation for an upcoming fundraiser. My girls had come to see the dogs and cats—or more accurately, to pet, hold, and ogle them.
Lindsey and Dhani have been to adoption events before. At those, most of the dogs were crated or penned. At OSCAR’s events, only puppies who’ve yet to be fully vaccinated are in pens. All other dogs are leashed and paired with a volunteer. That’s why, to Lindsey, the scene resembled a casual gathering of dogs and their owners.
The decision to leash dogs, not crate them, is a deliberate one. OSCAR’s founder believes a dog’s personality changes when confined and judging personality—is this dog hyper? friendly? aggressive? submissive?—is what potential adopters come to adoption events to do.
Another benefit of leashing is that the dogs grow accustomed to meeting other dogs that, like them, are on leashes. If a dog acts aggressively or shuts down in the presence of other dogs, the action informs OSCAR of the type of environment the dog will need to be placed into or it tells them that volunteers will need to work with the dog before he can be adopted.
Finally, most dogs can use a lesson or two (or three) in leash etiquette, and the events provide an ideal learning space.
Once Lindsey and Dhani spied the puppies, the girls made a beeline for them. Within minutes they were holding the puppies.
Then they were in the pen with them. Then they were asking—no begging—to bring them home. “Just Starry, Sparks, Keenan, Kel and Popcorn,” said Dhani. “That’s all.”
Of course, mean mom said no.
But being in the company of the dogs did make me think about fostering—we’d done so once before. That dog now lives with my mom, so I’m not sure whether that experience counts as a foster success or failure.
Was I up for fostering again?
Just the day before I’d received a call from my cousin—while cleaning out his garage, he’d discovered a dog pen and a crate. He wanted to know, did I have someone to donate them to?
I told him I was sure I could find a home for them. At the time, I hadn’t for a moment considered that home might be mine. But now… looking at the dogs, looking at my daughters…
Mean mom is still thinking…
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist, author and adjunct professor of communication. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she spent a decade as a writer and producer at CNN before turning to teaching. Jacki launched WRITE Now to assist students in writing the college application essays that will chart their future. Read More...