In 2009, Rachel Mairose had a lot going on. She was pregnant, and her husband was in medical school. Nevertheless, Mairose was feeling a bit at loose ends. “I like to be busy,” she says. “And I just found that I was bored a lot.” Growing up, her family volunteered with an organization as a foster home for dogs. Maybe that’s why she decided to combat her boredom by joining forces with a friend to start a nonprofit to get in-need dogs (and cats, too) placed in permanent, happy homes. “I don’t really know why it seemed like a such a good idea,” Mairose says with a laugh, “but it did.”
Clearly, there was a need for the organization, as it grew quickly, and today, Second Hand Hounds (SHH) has 3,000 qualified foster homes—with 400 to 500 active at any one moment. Dogs that have been surrendered to shelters often need a place to stay, so they can get healthy and settled enough to be good companions. In a shelter, a dog may not act his/her best, and it can be hard for an adopting family to know how the dog might behave in a less stressful and natural situation. Foster homes create a more normal environment.
SHH has volunteers and fosters all over the Southwest Metro area, and adoptive families can be found throughout the region. There are lots of ways to become involved:
Lisa Zubar of Chaska is a SHH foster. She and her daughters saw a story on local television about a couple of dogs being cared for by SHH named Duke and Daisy. Duke was blind, and Daisy acted as his seeing eye dog. It got Zubar and her family thinking about helping. Fast Forward: They did the paperwork, were approved as fosters and were fostering three puppies a couple of weeks later. “As soon as I read a dog or puppy’s story, I tend to fall in love with them. Every dog we have has had a unique story that makes them lovable,” she says.
There are dogs with different needs, and there are different ways to foster. For example, the Zubar family has changed a bit since it first started fostering, and the kind of dogs (and cats) they foster has changed a bit, too. “When we had all of our daughters at home, we were more likely to foster larger sibling puppy groups or pregnant dogs or cats,” Zubar says. “Now, we have one daughter at home and two in college, so our availability has changed. We are more likely to take a single puppy, an older dog or a special needs dog.”
The Zubars also assist with intake when a group of dogs is brought in or dogsit for another foster family when it needs to go out of town. And, in addition to being a foster family, they have been an adoptive family, too. “So far, we have adopted one older dog we met at an intake and one dog that was born at our house. It is hard sometimes to let them go, but we know that we cannot keep every dog, and they are going to great places,” Zubar says.
To become a foster home, fill out an application and, if you’re approved, you look at the animals needing a home on the SHH foster resources Facebook page to find a good fit. A foster coordinator will help you get started, and SHH covers all the expenses of fostering, including vet bills. You are asked to commit to the animal until they find a forever home, and that can vary from one animal to the next.
Donnell Krueger of Eden Prairie recently adopted Nala through SHH. Krueger’s family had suffered the death of a dog early in the summer of 2017, and she was just beginning to consider adoption in August of last year, when she saw Nala. “I wasn’t sure I was ready for another dog, but I saw Nala on a Facebook live video post from Second Hand Hounds…and there was something about her that stuck with me,” she says.
Nala was part of a group of newly surrendered and rescued dogs placed in foster care. Families filled out applications and met Nala. “Luckily, we were one of the families who got to go meet her, and we instantly fell in love,” Krueger says. Nala had a rough start in life and needed some extra care to get healthy, but she says that didn’t worry her. “Being able to rescue her has been so rewarding, and she is thriving with us,” she says. “She has put on 15 pounds and is a happy, healthy dog and living the life.”
People interested in adopting a dog or cat begin by looking at the pictures on the SHH website. When you find a dog or cat you want to meet, you fill out an application … that doesn’t mean you definitely want to adopt that animal … just that you are interested enough to take a closer look. The meet and greet may take place at an adoption event, the SHH office or at a home. If everyone agrees it looks like a good fit, someone from SHH does a home visit, and other important details are verified (like do rental agreements allow pets?). There are adoption fees for each pet that cover the cost of spaying or neutering and microchipping, as well as any appropriate medications.
A shelter animal coming to the end of life, whether because of age or illness, is not a good candidate for adoption, but Mairose has found 20 or so foster families, who are willing to take on this important task. On the one hand, it is heartbreaking to bring a dog or cat into a home, knowing that they will never go on to a happy forever family, but on the other hand, these special folks are giving comfort and security to animals who need special love and tenderness. Mairose says that it is the “coolest thing in my professional life” to have discovered that there are volunteers who would take on this difficult role.
About two-thirds of the staff positions are held by volunteers, who transport dogs from shelters to foster homes, answer phones, monitor email, help with intake of new dogs and cats, run adoption events and more. There are lots of ways to volunteer, and families can volunteer together, so that kids can be involved, too.
SHH gets important help from Lupient Automotive Group, which supplies vehicles for transporting animals and also gives monetary aid. Individual donations are welcome. Without financial support from the community, SHH couldn’t do the work it does. There are lots of ways to donate, including purchasing supplies for foster or hospice families, sponsoring an animal or making a donation in memory or honor of someone.
Additional information for becoming involved with Second Hand Hounds is available by clicking here.