At the end of a stressful day for dog owners, we go home to find the unconditional love of a very special companion. And if there's something most of the Americans can agree on, it's the love of animals, particularly the love of dogs. So putting aside politics, regardless of whether or not our favorite candidate was elected, we can get back to the business of living life and loving our furry friends.
If you are one of the many dog lovers, you may feel moved to participate in a special holiday program. Almost Home Animal Shelter in Mora is looking for temporary foster homes for their dogs over the holidays for two reasons. First, they would like to give the dogs a loving home over the holidays and cold weather and second, to give shelter employees and volunteers a break over the holidays to spend time with their families.
Almost Home has been around for 17 years stated the owner Shelly Sampson, who is co-owner with her husband Dan Stankeivicz.
“It was an accident that we started the shelter,” recalled Sampson when asked how the shelter began. “I kept finding dogs dumped in the area. I put up signs around town and on the road to find the owners and decided to keep the dogs. I put up an area in the back and then people asked me to help find homes for their dogs. I then got licensed from the state to provide an animal shelter.” She added that they then became a non-profit 501c3 to be able to receive donations. The shelter currently has 15 dogs but can house 36. “We wanted to find these animals good homes that matched their personalities,” said Sampson.
Stories of a stray
“There has been lots of sadness over the years seeing the animals who were mistreated before they got here,” said co-owner Dan Stankeivicz. “And unfortunately, we have many stories of how cruel humans can be to animals which has made me frustrated and angry.”
Spike was a shepherd mix. He was left at the shelter as a six month old puppy in a box outside the shelter’s driveway in the middle of a night at 10 degrees below zero. “I was leaving for my job in the Forest Lake around 3:30 a.m., and there was a Gateway computer box sitting by the driveway. Inside the box was a puppy looking up at me with no blanket to keep him warm. He had dermatitis, but grew out of it,” said Stankeivicz. “An older gentleman man came by and said he wanted Spike. I asked Spike if this was the guy he wanted to go with, and he looked at me, and then walked right over to the man. So we sent them off together.”
“We have people out here that breed and breed and breed, and we used to get dogs here.” said Sampson. “A lady would breed dogs and not be able to care for them, and then they came here. Once there was a woman who had minpins (miniature pinschers). We had to go with the sheriff into the home and take the dogs out. There were five adults. Three of them died but we were able to save the other two.”
Stankeivicz said one dog came to their shelter because of a regular vet visit. “We went to the vet one day to bring the animals in. We are always curious as to what’s going on at the office,” he said. “There was one golden retriever, and the old man that owned the dog passed away. The kids didn't want to deal with the dog, so they decided to put it down. The dog had already had the first shot. We talked to the vet tech and the whole process stopped. The vet got a hold of the owner, and they said, ‘go ahead and let them have him.’ We took him home after he was already drugged. But it wasn’t too long to find a home.” Stankeivicz said the owner brought the dog for a visit to the shelter and the dog ran right to him and seemed to wrap his paws around Dan, as if to give him a hug to say, “thank you.” They gave this dog the name BA for born again.
A foster parent story
The holiday foster program was created by Almost Home volunteer Kassandra Strandberg who has been with the shelter for almost a year. She said the idea came to her while watching a Hallmark movie called A Dog Named Christmas.
“My first foster, Mandy, was a spaniel mix who I picked because of her temperament,” said Strandberg. “I wanted a dog that would be an easy adjustment for me and my own dogs for my first time fostering. She came home, had a bath, and completely stole my heart from day one. On her first night she wouldn’t leave my side; it was that first night I was knew I was hooked and I was going to do everything I could to get her adopted into a permanent family and to be able to pull another dog out of the shelter just in time for Christmas. It was a success, I was able to get her adopted that week and I went back and pulled another one out of the shelter on December 23rd … just in time for Christmas.”
Strandberg has recently taken in another dog as a foster parent. “I currently have a black lab mix named Baxter, who is about 5-6 years old,” said Strandberg. “He was found in Mora in May of 2014 and has been at shelter ever since, until I picked him up. This amazing dog had been in the shelter for 2 ½ years and I just don’t understand why.” She added that the dog is housetrained, crate trained, knows basic commands, listen very well, gets along with her other dogs and is an all around “perfect gentleman.”
“Here is this amazing animal that obviously had a family at one point in his life, and all of a sudden, he was sitting in a shelter with no family for this long. He is very vocal protective over his home but is as gentle as can be when meeting new people,” said Strandberg. “My heart just hurts when I think about him being passed up for this long. He has done nothing wrong and yet he was lonely for so long. I couldn’t leave without him that day knowing he deserved so much more.”
Next was Goldie, an Irish Setter that came into Strandberg’s home and was renamed “Reagan.”
“He got his bath and a much needed haircut to remove the hair mats. He was a found dog in Mora that was never claimed, and luckily, he was only there for about a month by the time I fostered him,” said Strandberg. “I found myself having to leave lights on in my home because he was afraid of the dark, and he would not go into a room unless the lights were on. He also would not walk through a doorway unless you opened the door and took two steps back so you were nowhere near it. He was a lot of work to get him to trust me and realize I was helping him and was never going to hurt him. I knew I was a foster failure and I was never going to be able to part with him after all the work and trust we built together. So he became part of my family officially. He spent the summer camping and traveling with our family. It has been 11 months, and we still work on some of those little quirks of his.”
“I always wanted to do more, but like other people, I would always find an excuse to not do it,” said Strandberg. “Now that I have seen the need, this is the best thing I could be doing. The sadness looking into those cages is nothing compared to how it must feel to look out of them.”
About the shelter dogs
A dog called “Bear Bear” sits at the shelter. He is a 6 year old black lab whose dad went to jail and had to give him up. “He is a very busy boy,” said Sampson. “He is a big guy that would like a space to run.”
A little pitbull about five months old was left on the side of the road in a crate somewhere by Askov, said Sampson. “She is very sweet.”
Another pitbull girl, Rhonda, also sits at the shelter. “The cops brought her over and the owner never came back to get her,” said Sampson. “She is a little bossy over her food, likes car rides and is friendly with people. She needs someone to foster her and to find out what she's really like.”
Maizee is a lab border collie about two years old. Sampson said she gets along well with everybody and is pretty energetic. “Someone brought her in and said they found her on the highway,” said Sampson.
Another dog, a schnauzer lab mix, was found sunning himself at the post office in Mora.
They just keep coming here,” said Sampson. “Someone has to do something with these dogs.”
There are more dogs with similar stories in need of homes at the shelter. To participate in the program, contact the shelter at 320-679-2305 or visit website at http://awos.petfinder.com/shelters/almosthomeshelter.html and express interest in the program. The shelter will then contact you and provide some basic information. Then on Friday, November 25th (day after Thanksgiving), you can come to the shelter and pick up a dog to love until New Year’s Day.