By Rebecca Hornick
GDB's California Campus Foster Care Program Coordinator
We all know that our volunteer foster care providers serve a great purpose each year when there is need to put dogs into temporary homes for a variety of reasons. But I bet you didn’t know just how far above and beyond the normal call of duty some of these amazing volunteers will go. As a group, the foster care providers at our California campus have volunteered more than 37,000 hours fostering more than 400 dogs since July 2009, which translates to more than 3,000 hours per month. There’s no question that their homes have provided great comfort to many of our dogs over the years. But some dogs need even more.
When it comes to dogs needing physical therapy before or after corrective surgery for orthopedic problems, here at the California campus we always call on volunteer Carol Mack. After she gets special instruction from our clinic’s physical therapy specialist, Kristen Hagler, about how to perform various physical manipulations several times a day, Carol also provides transport for these dogs to and from a vet clinic 30 minutes north to receive hydrotherapy sessions as well. We think the world of her and thank her for going the extra miles, literally!
Another special shout-out goes to volunteers Dottie, John and Cooper Jacob. (Cooper is pictured above and at right.) Not only have they provided help and foster care for orthopedically challenged dogs, but they don’t stop there: puppies, dogs in training, boarding guides, breeders, career change dogs, medically challenged dogs, elderly dogs... you name it, they'll care for them! They even happily take more than one dog at a time, and have been known to call us on their way home from vacation to see which dog needs them next. Their desire to help whenever and however possible is a blessing to the foster care program.
Also on the list of folks who always have a foster dog in their home are Mike Duigou and Lucy Greco; Lucy’s Guide Dog, Pecan, is never lonely for company! (Lucy is pictured with a foster pup, left.) They have taken in some of the most medically challenged young career change pups, and on many occasions, Mike has offered to transport dogs to and from local veterinary specialists and even UC Davis for surgeries or follow up care. They then provide the weeks or months of aftercare required to get the pup stable and healthy enough to be adopted into a permanent home. As you can imagine, young pups need the benefit of home life and whatever socialization they can be offered to be the best dogs they can be. Mike and Lucy’s efforts give these pups an extra “leg up” thanks to their contribution to the foster care program.
Whether it’s leaky little puppies or infirm elder dogs, Jeff Cannizzaro is another volunteer always ready to lend a hand. After raising GDB puppies Viva and Rora (Rora graduated as a guide from the Oregon campus last year), Jeff decided to help out with foster care. I like to call him one of my “teddy bears of foster care” because he is there for the dogs who need comforting the most. Jeff and his wife, Lauren Kenney (a staff member in our training department), provide care to all sorts of dogs that come through the foster care program. In their home, many young dogs have thrived, but they have even been there giving love and comfort to elderly dogs who have needed to live out their last days in foster homes as well.
One of my favorite things to hear is, “I just dropped off a dog. Who needs me now?” Fortunately I hear this frequently from volunteers Bob and Liz Patterson (pictured above). If they are in town, they’ll take a foster dog. Unlike some people who need a break after having a canine visitor, these folks are always game for a new dog. I know for a fact that our dogs have single handedly turned Bob into a serious dog lover. He hadn’t had a lot of dog experience the couple decided to join the foster care team back in July of 2007, but by now they have fostered more than 50 dogs. With almost every dog he says, “This was one of our favorites!” I don’t know who makes who happier, Bob or the dogs!
When the requests are tough and the dog’s needs aren’t easy, I call on these fine folks to save the day. Time after time, they have been there for our most challenging charges and if you ask them, they wouldn’t have it any other way. These amazing volunteers get our highest praise for always being willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for our foster dogs. We feel so very lucky they are part of the Guide Dogs Team!