Pandemic opens doors for pet adoptions, fostering in Carson City
Lightning Liam, a border collie mix, and Oh-Da-Babay, an English bulldog, both about 8, have formed an unlikely friendship during the pandemic, currently living together as foster dogs with Carson City resident Suzanne Webb.
COVID-19’s done one sweet thing for two local pups this winter. Carson City foster dogs Lightning Liam, a Border collie mix, and Oh-Da-Babay, an English bulldog, both about 8 years old, have become nearly inseparable, so much so that their foster parents and the Nevada Humane Society staff say it’s possible a marriage ceremony is in their future. “These two are quite hilarious together,” Suzanne Webb, Carson City resident, said. “They get along really well. … We took Oh-Da to the clinic (Monday) – she has weekly checkups right now – to the dropoff, and Lightning cried at the door because she had left.” Webb and her husband have fostered seven dogs in all starting with Shota in March 2020, then took in Oh-Da on Jan. 18 this year followed by Lightning on Jan. 26. She said she hopes a permanent family will have the heart to take them both into their home.
“They are hoping they get adopted together,” she said. “They have bonded, they play all day together. They lie down together. One can grump at the other. They really do. They have formed an attachment.” Love typically takes hold around Valentine’s Day at the local Nevada Humane Society facilities for those willing to take in an animal guest for fostering or permanently for adoption. CEO Greg Hall said NHS found its “silver lining” in the COVID-19 pandemic affecting its typical adoption procedures, veterinary protocols and managerial practices. “COVID was a really interesting experience for us as well as for the rest of the community,” Hall said. “We learned a lot of lessons.” Employees could no longer work side by side. Community members intending to adopt and visit facilities with the intention of examining the animals on a personal basis were limited to personal contact. Spending as much time with the animals to determine whether certain ones would be right for families became a challenge.
NHS began to rethink its operations and its systems became virtual. Online appointments were offered. The results, however, turned out better than they thought. Nicole Theodoulou, marketing director, said the animals’ average length of stay dropped from 18 days to seven days between June 2019 to June 2020. This helped potential families willing to adopt or foster to overcome what she called poor kennel presence for animals who might be stressed, especially if they’re not used to staying in a kennel. Families also might find it off-putting, she said, if the animals don’t behave as expected at home. “We now require meetings outside in a play yard or lawn, and it’s a much calmer introduction,” she said. “It’s great for dogs that don’t have that kennel presence for people wanting to adopt, and that can be the case for some cats as well. … That’s perhaps what we’re most excited to see, as challenging as it is – to have something really come out of this whole experience is great.” Hall said also during the past year, NHS had an excess of personal protective equipment and provided it to Renown Health, and the organization has secured donations from partners including Chewy and given away almost 100,000 pounds in pet food. Although donations were down about 27% in the spring, he said, and adoption and service fees also saw a dip, NHS cleaned out its Reno location multiple times, applied for grants and maintained its spay and neuter programs without laying off employees. “We had times where we would be open for four hours and people would roll in and they would roll down their windows or we’d be socially distanced and they would pop open their (car) trunks or back of their cars and we would toss in cat food, dog food and toys,” he said. “We were happy to give back.” Simple changes in procedures overall is helpful for families like Webb and her husband, who enjoy the animal companionship working from home, as well as the flexibility to decide whether to adopt or foster. Webb has had other puppies or dogs in her home with various needs, but Lightning in particular, coming from a situation of neglect, needed extra attention and assistance, she said, describing how he was underweight and had issues with his hind legs. “Our last dog was an adoption we had for 12 years,” she said. “It is nice to have the animal company. … We thought we would take a break when the next dog comes.” Webb said working with the NHS staff has been “exceptionally easy” keeping their dogs’ medications and supplies organized when they’re needed. One of her dogs experienced a seizure for which its medication was constantly running out, but through regular e-mails to the staff, the supply was always ready within a couple of days’ time. “It’s been pretty seamless in terms of the COVID protocols and needing to drop them off and keeping to the veterinary appointments and the clinicians coming from the Reno office,” she said. “It’s been pretty amazing. There was only one time that hindered them for a day.” Hall said NHS at 549 Airport Road in Carson has worked to overcome some employee turnover in the past two and a half years. Strategies to attract and retain staff members have included raising wages for younger workers who might come to NHS as their first or second job. “We have passionate people, but they come and go,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without that human connection. They care deeply for the animals.” Hall said he always likes to thank the community for its support. “The job we do is pretty humbling,” he said. “We have so many volunteers, a group of 450 emergency fosters we ask to mobilize in COVID in case we have to evacuate the shelter, and even though donations are down … we thank the community in times of difficulty.”