Photos By Hillary Ehlen
Dana Holscher wanted to re-write a narrative that stretches long beyond the borders of North Dakota. After her and her husband Adam adopted their first dog from 4 Luv Of Dog in 2012, a pitbull named Maeby, she saw an unfortunate stigma about the breed. That, coupled with her love for animals, guided her back to 4 Luv Of Dog to foster pitbulls in need at the shelter. The goal? To provide human interaction to animals in need and in turn, change the negative opinion of the pitbull breed.
“I have been an animal person since the day I was born. I remember my family was constantly taking in and caring for animals that wandered into our yard. I remember even biking around the neighborhood with my friends making sure there were no injured animals needing rescue,” Holscher says of her overall love for animals. “It comes down to the fact that I grew up with parents who taught me how to properly treat animals and that has really stuck with me into my adulthood.”
It was that lifelong love that guided Dana and Adam to 4 Luv Of Dog in 2012, looking to adopt a dog of their own. The local animal shelter houses homeless pups and goes the extra mile to match their dogs with the right adoptive home. It was this smooth and careful adoption process that impressed Holscher. So much so, that Dana and Adam adopted another dog, Puddy, in 2013.
“We had very positive experiences with our first two dogs that we adopted from them and I just loved the genuine care and concern they had for the homeless animal population in our area,” she said of 4 Luv Of Dog. “I was instantly drawn to them and their mission and wanted to help make a difference in any way I could.”
It was these positive experiences that guided Holscher to give back to 4 Luv Of Dog. This came in the form of volunteering her time at the shelter. The more Dana volunteered, the more she fell in love with the dogs inside the shelter who were desperate for human love and attention. That is when the Holscher clan decided to begin fostering dogs in their home.
“Those dogs tugged at my heartstrings because they didn’t have foster homes to go to so they spent day in and day out at the shelter. All these dogs were so grateful for the human interactions they received and just craved human affection. My heart ached every time my shift ended and it was time to put them back in their run. I wanted to do more for these dogs than visit them every once in a while during my building shifts,” she said. “I wanted to provide them a place to crash until they found their forever homes so I talked to my husband about fostering and after some time he agreed. We took in our first foster dog in January of 2015 and we’ve been hooked ever since.”
Dana and Adam have also keyed on a specific breed of dog to foster. Both Maeby and Puddy are pitbulls and experiences with them in public led them to foster pitbulls at their home.
“After adopting our first pitbull, Maeby, we saw just how badly these amazing dogs were discriminated against. She wasn’t allowed at certain doggy daycares because she was a pitbull, we had mothers pick up their children and run to the other side of the street when they saw us walking towards them on our walks. We’ve had people look at them and call them ‘killers’. Once when we used to take Maeby to play at the dog parks a lady slapped her in order to get her to stop playing with her dog because she didn’t like that Maeby was a pitbull,” Holscher said. “The list is seriously endless. After experiencing this first-hand we wanted to do as much as we could to shine the true positive light on these amazing beings and show them for who they really are: dogs. Amazing dogs.”
It’s that gross stigmatization that led Holscher on a crusade of sorts. With the help of social media, she is aiming to show just how amazing the pitbull breed is. She currently runs an Instagram account (@pitsandkitties) that showcases her dogs as well as the pitbulls they foster. The account has over 19,000 followers.
“A good photograph goes a long way, especially when it comes to getting homeless animals exposure to potential adopters. Since social media can be such a very powerful tool, I wanted to be able to utilize a picture-based social media platform for good. Instagram also has such a unique feature of creating a small community feel on a large scale,” she said of creating the social media page. “This unique quality allows one to connect with likeminded, driven, amazing people that share the same passions and join forces to make a big change. In combining social media and quality pictures I was able to connect with an online community of animal-welfare activists. This amazing group of people grew in number which in turn grew the number of people engaging with the dogs I was posting about.”
Holscher believes the social media page has positively impacted both 4 Luv Of Dog and the animal shelter community. “I have had numerous individuals approach me saying that in following my Instagram account they, too, have become inspired to do more for the animal welfare community. Many locally have begun volunteering with 4 Luv, and those who don’t live near Fargo have begun volunteering with rescues and shelters close to them,” she said. “Whether these individuals have started fostering, volunteering at events, helping to transport animals, etc.- it’s truly humbling to know that what started out as a single picture of my dog in August of 2012, has blossomed into something that is truly making a difference”
Even to this day, Holscher speaks highly of 4 Luv Of Dog and continually advocates for people to donate their time to the shelter. On Giving Hearts Day, 4 Luv Of Dog is one of the many non-profits that you can donate to. “4 Luv of Dog is one of the bigger rescues in the area and they do so much for dogs in need. I have come across many situations where 4 Luv has not hesitated to help. They go above and beyond for each dog in rescue. Dogs have been able to undergo chemotherapy, get lifesaving surgeries, get much-needed dental and the list goes on,” she said.
“They do their best to make sure dogs are as healthy as they can be before getting adopted. In order to do this, they depend on the financial support of the community which is why monetary donations are so important. The sad thing is that despite being a very large and influential rescue, we are stretched thin for fosters. We really can only take in as many dogs as we have fosters for and if there are no fosters it is next to impossible for a dog in need to be accepted into the rescue. By fostering, you are not only saving the life of the dog you’re fostering, but you’re also saving the life of the dog who gets to take their place in rescue. Fostering truly saves lives and being that there is never a lack of dogs needing rescue, there is always going to be a dog that will be a perfect fit for you to foster,” said Holscher, who says all of her fosters have gotten along with their dogs as well as their cats.
“Fostering is free, there are endless resources for fosters if they need help with training, behavior, etc. It is honestly life-changing for you and the dogs you’re fostering. Foster homes just need to provide the love and structured home environment in order to set these dogs up for success while they wait to find their future forever families.”
While Holscher is aware of the impact she has on the rescue and the animal rescue community in general, she will never accept any credit for the work she has done. In a rare moment, she spoke on what her work with 4 Luv Of Dog means to the community.
“It’s a snowball effect. The more people following on Instagram means the more chances of a post getting recognition which in turn increases the chances of that post reaching the right person (I.E. If I post a picture of my foster dog and write about what type of forever home they’re looking for, there is a great chance that post will reach a potential adopter whom may fit their ‘perfect forever home’ criteria),” she said. “Social media can be good and bad, but I try and utilize the good that it can create, especially when that good is for animal welfare.”
Social media has helped Dana Holscher break down a few barriers in the animal community. On the one hand, she has showcased that pitbulls are as gentle and loving as any breed of dog. She has also helped draw attention to 4 Luv Of Dog, who is always in need of fosters and volunteers. Whether she knows it or not, Dana Holscher is a giving heart and the number of dogs she has helped provide homes to is proof of that.
4 Luv Of Dog
3037 13th Ave S
Fargo, ND 58103
Follow @pitsandkitties on Instagram to keep up with Dana and her dogs.