Photo by Nolan Schmidt
It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of heartbreak too but once you see an animal go into their adoptive home and we get these text messages and these happy pictures sent back it’s just all worth it.Heather Mitchell, Board of Directors, Diamond in the Ruff
Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of that 6.5 million, only 3.2 million animals are adopted annually into homes, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Many of these pet shelters are working at max capacity and are unable to accept additional animals. Animal fostering organizations like Diamond in the Ruff are working to ease that strain on pet rescues by rehoming more displaced animals into caring foster homes.
Heather Mitchell serves on the board of directors for Diamond in the Ruff and is also a veterinarian at Animal Health Clinic in Fargo, so it’s a given that she loves being surrounded by animals. She is currently fostering Raina, a five-year-old dog that’s ready for fun at a moment’s notice.
Raina’s owners divorced and neither owner was able to care for her. That is how Raina came to be in the care of Diamond in the Ruff, a nonprofit pet rescue dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of abandoned animals into foster homes in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Diamond in the Ruff doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar facility to house the animals that come into its care. Instead, all of the rescued animals are placed directly into foster homes as they await adoption. Diamond in the Ruff has provided fostering services to 662 animals since it began operating in 2015.
“[The animals] don’t have anywhere else to go,” Mitchell said. “What
are the alternatives? Most of the alternatives are pretty bleak. It’s just one little thing we can do to help and I love animals anyway so it was just a no-brainer.”
The animal rescue depends entirely on donations and a small volunteer base of foster homes for its continued operation. In addition to providing temporary caring homes for rescued animals, Diamond in the Ruff also educates the public on proper animal care, pet diseases, the importance of spaying and neutering to combat overpopulation, animal socialization and the prevention of breed discrimination.
“Fostering is really just offering a place for the animals to stay, while they’re looking for their adoptive family,” Mitchell said.
Fostering through Diamond in the Ruff is completely free. The rescue provides the needed food, toys, supplies and veterinary care so their volunteers only need to provide a loving home. Fostering is so important because it helps pet shelters take in more animals, which prevents the unnecessary euthanization of healthy cats and dogs.
Many of the animals that come into the care of Diamond in the Ruff are a result of owner surrendering, which is when an owner is no longer able to care for their pet. This could be due to health issues the owner couldn’t handle, problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors or the animal grew to be larger than expected among other problems. Some of the animals are pulled from area pounds as well.
Diamond in the Ruff takes in cats and dogs from around the Red
River Valley, sometimes even taking in animals from the Bismarck- Mandan area, Minneapolis and Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue. The ages of these animals range from just mere weeks old to grown adults.
“We’re 100 percent based on donations and volunteers,” Mitchell said. “The number of animals that we can help is directly dependent on how much money we can raise and how many foster families we have available.” The rescue is always looking for foster homes for animals and donations from the community. These donations are used to supply the foster homes as well as provide medical care and training for the rescue animals.
Volunteers that are experienced with pets and have the capacity to take in an animal are encouraged to foster, but there are more ways to help than just fostering.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” Mitchell said. “We have something for anybody. We’re looking for cat foster homes and dog foster homes, doing the administrative aspect of rescue work is needed. Financial contributions are always helpful. Even following our social media, Instagram and Facebook, can be helpful.”
Mitchell began volunteering with Diamond in the Ruff a few years ago to fulfill her desire to help the community in a greater capacity. Through Mitchell’s care and compassion toward these rescued animals, it is evident that volunteering and charity is a very big aspect of who she is.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of heartbreak too but once you see an animal go into their adoptive home and we get these text messages and these happy pictures sent back it’s just all worth it,” Mitchell said.
Loki was Mitchell’s first foster pet. He was a six-month-old rambunctious puppy with endless energy who frequently jumped on the countertops. Seeing the potential in Loki, Mitchell and her family were determined to work with Loki to increase his chances of finding an adoptive family by teaching him basic obedience. After a few months, Loki became less nervous and understood better how to behave. Three different people wanted to adopt Loki but each adoption failed as Loki fell back into his hyper-excited behavior. Mitchell recognized it as a sign that Loki belonged with her family.
“We failed and kept him,” Mitchell said with a laugh. Mitchell’s family, like many others, found that their foster animal was meant to be permanent rather than temporary.
Of the many benefits of fostering an animal, bringing a family together through a shared goal of wanting to see an animal succeed may be one of the most powerful. By interacting with a family, the dog or cat will likely learn more social skills and basic house manners, making them more appealing to potential adopters. Fostering can be flexible too to accommodate your lifestyle. Many pet rescues are able to work with your schedule, such as if you can only foster for a limited number of weeks or within a specific time frame.
Bringing a foster pet into your home has a tremendous impact. For every pet that is fostered, a spot opens up in an animal rescue for another abandoned animal to receive care.
“We can’t do it alone and we have to rely on the community to help as well and we’re lucky to have such a great community that’s willing to promote it too,” Mitchell said.
If you have the space, time and love to give to an animal, fostering is a great way to give back to the community. Diamond in the Ruff is currently looking for more foster homes and volunteers.
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