Foster care can be a beautiful thing. The kindhearted individuals who take children — including those of the furry variety — into their homes and make a positive impact in their lives are certainly special people.
Now there’s a new program that allows canine-loving volunteers to impact the lives of shelter pups in just a few short hours.
The “Happy Hour” and “In Real Life” programs are available through the Humane Rescue Alliance. Both launched in February.
“Through of our short-term foster programs, Happy Hour and In Real Life, 26 dogs spent time out of the shelter and relaxing at home,” HRA shared on Facebook at the programs’ onset.
“Foster parents fulfill a critical component of our life-saving work,” the HRA foster program page reads. “Any individual, family, or business with the compassion and willingness to help animals-in-need can serve as a foster parent.”
The “In Real Life” program allows volunteers to take a dog home for a few days. But the “Happy Hour” program lasts just a few hours.
“There’s research out there that says the stress hormone dogs experience when they’re in a shelter environment significantly decreases as soon as they leave,” director of volunteer and foster resources at the Humane Rescue Alliance, Jennah Billeter, told Washingtonian.
“The main goal of Happy Hour is really just to give a dog a break,” Billeter went on. And those short breaks are making a huge difference.
The program allows volunteers to take dogs out of either of the Alliance’s two shelters. After foster training, volunteers can stop by the shelter, choose a pre-approved dog to play with for a few hours, and return them later that day.
Volunteers are loving the idea too. Peggy Cusack, a 49-year-old volunteer who’s been involved with HRA for 2 years, has a lot of fun with it.
“You see the dog do this stress-relief movement, this body shake, and you’re like, ‘Ah, this is helping.’ They love the people contact. It gives them that one-on-one ‘I have a person,'” Cusack told Washingtonian.
“It’s a break from the real world, and I know it’s helping the dogs,” she added.
Other foster programs through HRA include “Safe Haven” and “Humane Heroes.” Both involve the Humane Law Enforcement Department and are specifically geared toward helping abused or neglected animals.
According to Washingtonian, more than 100 shelters across the country now offer foster programs similar to those at HRA. To learn more about how you can get involved, contact your local animal shelter to find out if fostering is available in your area.
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