Sometimes it takes a village to raise a puppy.
Kristine Sellers, who has fostered 62 Labrador Retrievers over the past two and a half years as part of the Lab Rescue of L.R.C.P. Inc. (Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac), said being a foster family for Labs helps her family "learn to give back to the community."
About half of her foster dogs were litters of puppies, and the rest were individual dogs of all ages. Because socialization is an important part of raising a dog, Sellers' neighbors pitches in to help, especially when there are puppies that need lots of playtime with people.
"Fostering Labs has brought our neighborhood together," she said.
Sellers is part of an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that rescues Labrador Retrievers from shelters, takes in strays and even steps in when there is a Lab in an abusive situation. The animals are evaluated, and medical issues are addressed. As quickly as possible, the dogs are placed in foster homes where they get lots of love, attention and training until permanent homes can be found.
Wendy Finn, vice president of the Lab Rescue board and a dog foster parent, refers to Lab Rescue as "a virtual organization." Though it has a post office box in Annandale, there is no office. All the volunteers work from home.
"We have a list of more than 700 people that have offered to volunteer," Finn said. "While not everyone is helping all the time, several hundred are active each year."
These volunteers do everything from fostering to fundraising and manage to place about 850 Labrador Retrievers in homes every year.
Foster Parents Give and Receive
Foster parents may care for a dog for a few days or a few months. Lab Rescue covers medical costs, although volunteers are responsible for food, toys, leashes and collars.
Barbara Osgood, who specializes in fostering older dogs, currently has 11-year-old Hope (also known as Bizzy) staying with her. Osgood said it can be challenging to adjust to different dog personalities, but she believes being a foster parent is very rewarding.
"Finding a really perfect home for a dog is a wonderful feeling," she said.
Good Health a Top Priority
Fairfax Animal Hospital in Falls Church works closely with Lab Rescue, examining and treating rescued dogs when they first arrive. The staff continues to provide care while the animals are in foster care. The clinic also provides transition boarding for a new animal until a foster home is available.
Dr. Kayleen Gloor, a veterinarian at Fairfax Animal Hospital, says Lab Rescue typically brings in three to seven dogs per week. All animals receive an examination and have their vaccinations updated. Many dogs need to be spayed or neutered and often require treatment for skin and ear issues.
Gloor is most surprised at the number of dogs that have heartworms. "We see an average of one case per week, which is very uncommon in this area," she said. "Most area practices never see any cases."
Opportunity to Meet the Dogs
Lab Rescue usually holds an adoption event every three to four weeks in the Northern Virginia/Maryland region. The fee to adopt depends on the dog's age and ranges from $100 for senior dogs to $300 for puppies.
The next Adopt-a-Lab event is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at Weber's Pet Supermarket, 11021 Lee Highway, Fairfax.