She had always dreamed of adopting a dog of her own, so when Eve Kager moved to Washington, D.C. last fall, she made it a point to look for a dog-friendly apartment. After months of admiring puppy-profiles on Petfinder, she came across a profile that stood out among the rest—a CDR pup named Linus looking for a foster home.
“I have always loved animals and growing up in an environment where I had access to them was wonderful,” says Kager, whose family transformed their backyard into a mini farm. “It teaches you how to be compassionate, how to care for something else, and you begin to see that each animal has a personality. They’re not all the same, just like people.”
Amos was, at the time, one of the more sickly and malnourished dogs that CDR had pulled from a shelter. He was found as a stray, likely abandoned by a hunter, and was in dire need of rehabilitation. Eve was not in the least bit phased by his condition, she viewed it as an “opportunity to take a skinny, shy, and occasionally unruly dog and make him a healthy, happy, well-adjusted dog.” Which makes perfect sense for someone with a motto like, “The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.” Amos is a lucky dog, but Eve would tell you that she’s the lucky one.
Her compassionate perspective and contribution has led to the success of CDR’s Lemon hounds. Her work underlines the significant impact one foster/volunteer can have on the community. Lemon hounds, according to Director Meredith Raimondi, “were once the least desired among our dogs and would take many months to get adopted. [Eve] has helped these lemon and white beauties get second glances in Washington, D.C. Lemon hounds are a dime a dozen in the shelters we work with but they are much less common in the city. The most recent lemon hound Eve planned to foster had an adoption application before Eve had a chance to foster her! Things are turning around in a for these goofy, lovable dogs. ”
“Eve has become our biggest advocate for Lemon hounds,” says Raimondi. Kager’s foster, Charlotte, a lemon from rural Virginia, was recently adopted. “Dogs are resilient,” she says, “Charlotte was very shy and anxious when she first got to D.C. but within a week she was wagging her tail at everyone and her fears turned into curiosities.” Since fostering Amos and Charlotte, Kager states that she has “re-learned how much joy a dog can bring into your life.”
Why do you volunteer/work with CDR?
“I work with CDR specifically because the group is full of passionate people who are driven to action. The leadership team is always responsive and available. Everyone has full-time jobs yet they devote hours upon hours every week to save, train, and find home for dogs that would have been killed simply because their owners gave them up (most of the time). They see beyond the cost-benefit analysis of saving a dog. We often spend FAR more on a dog than the adoption fee covers but CDR doesn’t care about that, they care about the animals. It’s that passion and commitment that makes me so thrilled to be a part of the CDR team.”
“Our work is important because, of course, we’re saving lives. But beyond that we’re spreading the message about adopting dogs rather than buying from breeders. There are so many negative stereotypes about shelter dogs and by providing a bridge between the shelter and forever home we help people who may not have considered adoption in the past.
I think the fact that we are all fosters is very valuable. Anyone who adopts a dog can feel comfortable knowing that the personality they are seeing (and stories they are hearing) are true. So many dogs are so stressed in shelters their real personality doesn’t show through. It’s like trying to judge a person who just got off the plane in an unfamiliar country with no money and no friends. Not really the time you’re going to shine. CDR doesn’t want to get dogs adopted—we want to get dogs into their forever homes. That commitment means the team will help anyone interested find the dog that is best for them which is a HUGE benefit of going through a rescue. I’m so very proud of all that the CDR team has done and just to contribute a small amount to the team makes me feel honored.”
“You should considering fostering a dog if you’re considering adding a dog to your life. Fostering allows you to meet dogs with varying personalities, ages, and temperaments. You can find the dog that is right for you while helping save lives! Fostering doesn’t take as much time as you may think it does. The first week is the most energy consuming because you’re keeping an extra vigilant watch over the dog to ensure they’re adjusting well, eating, using the bathroom, etc. but after that it’s just walks, feeding, and TLC. If you usually watch TV in the evenings you can do the exact same thing but now you have a dog to pet or snuggle with.”
“Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you are the type of person who wants to foster you’re likely going to want to save them all. You have to remember that you can’t save them all but the one you save will be forever grateful. Also, don’t take on a dog you can’t handle. If you’re not familiar with dogs or training don’t offer to foster a dog that needs a lot of training. You’re setting both yourself and the dog up for failure. Be honest with the CDR team about your schedule, experience, and any other things. Both you and the dog will be happier if you’re matched well.”
“The dog is going to have an accident in your house. They are going to chew on something. Something will break. Go into it with the mindset that something may happen and be sure you are ok with it. If they never have an accident or chew on something they shouldn’t, that is awesome but plan for a few challenges. It’s hard to be in a new place with new rules so give them time to learn the rules and adjust to you. They are coming from a shelter where they likely had minimal rules and attention so, be understanding. Always praise positive behavior. It’s the best way to reinforce positive behavior (versus punishing negative behavior) and helps build the bond between you and the dog.
Lastly, know that you have a community here to support you. The [private CDR Facebook support group for fosters and alumni] has been a wonderful resource for me. I have a question and I have answers from people with experience. The Internet can be helpful but there is nothing better than advice from someone who has been exactly where you are and knows the dogs better than anyone else. We are also here to support each other. Plus, lots of happy dog pictures.”
“The biggest thing anyone will gain from fostering is the immediate love and affection of a dog that, without you, may have been killed. I used to think fostering was the difference between a dog living in a shelter and in a home. I now realize it truly is life or death. The dogs know this and even when they don’t behave how you’d like them to, you can tell they appreciate you.”
“Amos was so sick and tired when I got him and I could tell how happy he was to have a safe place to sleep. When he got to my place he slept for days. He had the ‘hey thanks’ look when I would wake him up for dinner, or give him a hug and some love. Coming from a shelter, no matter how wonderful the shelter, a home is an oasis and I believe they know it. When they wake up and see you, realize they're safe, I swear their eyes say, ‘oh, it's just you, I'm safe’ before they flop their head back down.”
What Eve perceives as a small contribution has had a great impact on the dogs of CDR. Through fostering, adopting, volunteering, and sponsoring she has turned life or death situations into promising beginnings and has help several dogs find an oasis of their own.