All for the dogs: WithersRavenel employee-owners go the extra mile by fostering
The employee-owners at WithersRavenel love our pets. From office visits to proudly sharing photos on social media, we showcase these special family members regularly. Some WithersRavenel professionals have taken their love of animals even further by fostering dogs in need. We’re recognizing some of them as we kick off June, which is National Foster a Pet Month.
Finding forever homes in Charlotte
David Perry, PE, CFM, is a Senior Project Manager in WithersRavenel’s Stormwater Department and manager of our Charlotte office. David and his wife Chandra have always been dog lovers. But when COVID-19 hit and they were spending more time at home, Chandra suggested that they look into fostering dogs as a way to have something positive come out of the pandemic.
The Charlotte SPCA has a unique approach to fostering and animal adoption: no shelter. Every one of their animals stays with a foster family pre-adoption.
“I can’t emphasize enough that it really creates the best recipe for success, because we want to find someone who’s a good match for the dog, and we want that match to last for the life of the dog,” David said. When the foster dog gets into a home environment and starts to unwind, the dog can really be itself and any potential issues can be identified.
“When we take on a foster dog, we get to know and understand them well,” David said. “Then we write up the profile of the dog for Petfinder.”
The Perrys will then meet with adoption applicants, who are screened by the Greater Charlotte SPCA. This allows the applicants to get to know the dog personally in a comfortable environment while the Perrys have enough experience with the foster dog to be able to answer questions.
For the Perrys though, their 12th foster dog, Mazy, became their forever dog.
“We just fell in love with her,” David said. “She had an adoption lined up and the adopter backed out. My wife and I had been saying that if that happened, then we would adopt her ourselves.” Mazy is a 5-year-old American pit bull terrier mix, and she had bonded well with the couple’s other forever dog, Enzo.
“Mazy has never met a stranger,” David said. “She just loves everybody she encounters. She’s a really happy dog and is always wagging her tail.”
In addition to fostering dogs, the Perrys also participate in adoption events with the Charlotte group, assisting with dog handling and presenting the dogs to potential families.
David says that people wanting to foster dogs should understand that animal welfare organizations provide a range of support which may include veterinary care, food, and some supplies.
But what the foster family needs to bring to the table is even more important.
“You have to have the willingness to train an unfamiliar dog in your home,” David said. “That means providing positive reinforcement training for that dog so it hopefully comes out of your house in better shape than it came in and therefore better ready to move into an adopter’s home.”
And you also have to understand the biggest emotional challenge involved in fostering dogs – that the dog is going to come into your life and then go right back out.
“We can’t adopt every dog in the world,” David said. “We have a limit, and it might vary depending upon the person. For me and my wife, two forever dogs is our limit. So we know that the more dogs that we can foster, the more we can find forever homes.”
Building no-kill shelters and fostering, too
Shannon Moore is WithersRavenel’s Director of Finance. She started volunteering with animal rescue groups when she joined the board of the Davie County Humane Society, helping them with fundraising to build a no-kill animal shelter. The facility was later sold to the County and is now the County Animal Shelter. After starting to work in local government, she worked with Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary in Salisbury as that group worked on construction of a no-kill shelter as well. She had taken a break from volunteering when a family friend reached out to her.
“A family friend of my parents was starting retirement and ready to expand on her love of saving more animals with her vision of having a rescue facility. She wanted to turn some of the existing structures on acreage she already owned to operate as a no-kill shelter,” Shannon said. “She was mentioning her plan to my dad and he recommended she contact me.
“So I started consulting with her and offering lessons learned from other operations, volunteering in the kennels and the rest is history with assisting a third no-kill shelter. She already had some physical structures on the property. She was just looking to make sure that her changes would meet state requirements because once you house more than 10 animals, you’re required to be licensed and inspected by the state. The state even makes unannounced inspections of facilities to review paperwork and animal husbandry. So Godbey Creek Canine Rescue in Mocksville is the third organization that I helped in terms of being able to start operating a no-kill shelter.”
Through the years, Shannon has also fostered more than a dozen animals, including her current forever dog, Simon.
“My husband’s allergic to cats, so unfortunately no cats live in our house,” Shannon said. “The current dog that we have is our very last foster. We adopted Simon after the foster experience with him. We had another dog at the time and Simon (whose DNA reports he is a mix of labradoodle and pit) was a perfect gentleman. He also filled the void from the recent loss of another dog in our household. We laugh at the DNA results by the way as we’ve been told he looks like a wolfhound mix, giant schnauzer, amongst guessing of others. Regardless of his genetic makeup, he is a great soul.”
Shannon has stayed in contact with several of the families that adopted dogs she fostered. The very first animal she fostered, back in 2009, showed up in her yard one day. She contacted the local animal shelter to report him, and volunteered to foster the dog if the Humane Society would take him into its foster program.
“I enjoy the satisfaction of helping that underdog from the shelter, as many have had medical issues, not been the highly adoptable dog, needed training, you name it,” Shannon said. Her other volunteer work and passion that ties into her professional work is helping to raise money to finance the work of rescue efforts. She has chaired many fundraising events over the years, including dog walks, silent and live auctions, holiday events, and vendor events. She estimates that over the years she has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at various fundraisers for many different rescues. She also used to be a licensed rabies vaccinator in Rowan County, through the state authorized program.
Shannon expects that she and her husband will foster dogs again at some point in the future.
“We’ve kind of said after Simon, we’ll probably take a little bit of a break because we’ve literally had a dog since the day after we bought our first house,” Shannon said. “We don’t have kids, so our fosters and our pets have always kind of been our children.”
A love of dogs leads to special new friends
Shannon McKay is an administrative assistant at WithersRavenel and a longtime animal lover. She remembers in her youth bringing home strays, knowing that her mom’s soft spot for animals would mean they could keep them. When Shannon had a daughter of her own, she relayed that story, and then the cycle of helping animals in need continued.
Shannon’s daughter, Ellie, began working at the Forsyth County Humane Society after graduating from college; and that is how Shannon eventually became connected with her forever dog, Melissa.
Initially, Shannon began fostering Melissa, who had suffered a lot of trauma and had difficulty trusting people. Over the course of many months, Shannon has helped Melissa become more comfortable in her environment. Small steps have become great accomplishments, as Melissa has come to enjoy going outside for walks, taking car rides, and gets excited and wags her tail when she sees Shannon.
But what is helping Melissa the most is the addition of another dog from the Forsyth Humane Society named Lexi. Not shy at all, Lexi is very much into meeting people and other dogs. The pair are bonding and becoming friends, and Lexi is helping Melissa become more comfortable with dog life. Melissa is taking an interest in more activities, meeting other dogs, and experiencing new things.
“They both are the sweetest dogs in the world,” Shannon said. “I’m really glad I got a second dog. It was so worth it.”
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