By Kerry Miller, medical assistant program chair
Recently, while walking through the lobby of the Globe University-Wausau, I happened to notice something on the TV screen that caught my eye. It was an informational slide that stated something about Doggie Sleep Overs. I was intrigued by this idea because I had just put my 15-year-old dog to sleep and had been wrestling with the loneliness and the idea of maybe getting a new dog.
I tracked down our friendly librarian, Nora Craven, to ask about the Doggie Sleep Overs. I found out the slide I saw was part of a project from one of our veterinary technician students and Student Ambassador, April Schulz. April works at the Clark County Humane Society, in Neillsville, Wisconsin, and made a series of slides advertising their fantastic new program where you take home one of their shelter pets for a few nights and then provide the shelter extensive feedback as to how the animal did in a home setting. Most of the animals that go on these “jaunts” have come to the shelter as strays and there is little known about how they will act when in a home environment.
A few days after learning more about this program, I made a call to the Clark County Humane Society and spoke with the shelter manager, Michelle Tesmer. After speaking to Michelle, I felt an overwhelming desire to offer up my pad to one of these stray souls. I notified the shelter, chose a weekend for the encounter, and drove the 55 minutes to the shelter on a sunny Friday afternoon.
I had a chance to see the dogs and their profiles on the shelter website and found a video of a dog named Vox. I didn’t know it at the time, but Vox was one of April’s favorites. April told me later that: “Vox had been my pet project for the summer because he was super shy, but super nice when you got to know him. I wanted him to get out of the shelter because I felt he would do better in a home.”
I felt that Vox was most deserving of some quality one-on-one time away from CCHS. Michelle told me that Vox came in as a stray in November 2013. She mentioned that Vox was a little shy and skittish around new people and new places, but he was an extremely loving, sweet hound dog just looking for someone to love him back.
When I got to the shelter, one of the workers was outside in a run with Vox, explaining to him what was taking place. I entered the kennel slowly so as to not overwhelm him, sat down, and let Vox work his way over to me with a little coaching from his caretaker. When we established that I was going to be his roomie for the weekend, we loaded a kennel and Vox into my car and headed home.
My New Roommate
Skittish was somewhat of an understatement. He was afraid of almost everything he encountered when I coaxed him out of the car. He was warmly welcomed by my rescue cats, Max and Macy, but he had difficulty establishing eye contact with me. However, he was willing to allow me to sit next to him and pet him.
It took some time and many baby steps, but Vox grew more comfortable and confident. By late Friday afternoon, he had warmed enough that we sat side by side on the floor and watched some TV. By late Saturday afternoon, Vox was more comfortable in his surroundings and ventured upstairs to nap among the blankets on my bed. By Sunday, he was comfortable enough to roam the house and even venture on to the couch where I was doing homework.
Sunday night, I spent an hour or more answering the questions on the questionnaire for the shelter as well as writing up a little additional information about his demeanor and character. He was fascinated when my cell phone rang and seemed to really enjoy sleeping right next to the bed.
Monday was bittersweet. I knew he had to go back to the shelter, but I also knew he was a very gentle, wonderful dog who would certainly give me the unconditional love that dogs are known for. At the shelter, the loving volunteer staff that mentioned they had really missed him over the weekend. I gave them all the written information I had and gave Vox another hug before heading to work.
Vox’s Next Adventure
I learned a lot about Vox and how he would adjust to a new home during our weekend together. Never once during the entire time he was a house guest did he lift his leg, bark or give any indication he would not be a wonderful pet for a quieter family.
I knew Vox would be a great companion for some lucky human, so I continued to check the CCHS website to see if he had been adopted. I sent Michelle an occasional email to inquire as to how he was doing and tell her that I would consider taking him again for a long weekend. She stated he was going great. He seemed a little more relaxed and less skittish than he had been.
Then, one day I checked the website, and did not see his picture. I immediately worried something had happened to him. I contacted Michelle only to find out that he had just been adopted by a very loving family that had also taken him on a sleep over and decided he was the dog for them.
A few days later, his picture appeared on their website with his new “furever” family. Tears welled up in my eyes. This is what it is all about. This is why I did this and this is why people volunteer. It is that feeling of doing something good, and now there is one less dog in a shelter waiting to be adopted.
The Sleep Over
I am so pleased to have been a part of this exciting new program, and excited to be able to share this story. I was able to talk to both Michelle and April about the Doggie Sleep Over.
Michelle said that they had noticed the same questions being asked again and again by people interested in adopting. They weren’t able to give good answers to the questions about behaviors that couldn’t be observed in the adult dogs in the shelter situation, but they did have that information about puppies that were with foster care families.
It occurred to Michelle that they could perhaps try to do something similar to the foster situation on a smaller scale for their adult dogs to help them be more adoptable.
Michelle said that the program has been successful. “We are very happy that a few of the dogs were adopted by their sleepover families; we are just as happy to welcome the dogs back to our care, armed with tons of information we did not have before. The program has been a win/win for us and especially for our shelter dogs. It was simple to implement and has had lasting effects. We are proud of our dogs and happy to be their stop over point on the way to a better life.”
April agreed, especially about Vox in particular. “The Doggie Sleep Over really showed that Vox would do well in a home. It was a great feeling when I found out my interest in Vox and the slides I made are what lead to his first sleep over, and even better, that on his second sleep over, he was adopted. I really feel that even small acts like these can make a big difference.”
If you are able, I encourage you to donate time, supplies or money to a shelter. If April had not volunteered at the Clark County Humane Society and posted the slide about Doggie Sleep Overs, I may never have met Vox and had the opportunity to do something that really gave me a “warm, fuzzy feeling.” I intend to do this again soon, and who knows, I may just end up being someone’s “furever” home in the future.