I had a dream several years ago that really gripped me. It was one of those visions-for-a-better world kind of dreams that I just couldn’t shake loose. It felt like a movie playing out in my mind over and over again. I knew it was possible, but I didn’t know how to convince others, so the tape just kept playing.
Interior: Animal Shelter. The space is empty and very clean. All the dogs are gone. It is very quiet; the only sound is Christmas music playing gently from a small radio on the receptionist’s desk. The shelter director, a dark haired woman that wears a blue uniform, glances over the empty cages and pulls the front door shut behind her. A small tear of joy forms at the edge of her eyelids.
Interior montage: camera pans to shelter dogs all over the community resting besides fires, under tables, in children’s arms, taking walks, lounging on sofas and playing fetch.
In November of 2009, with a tremendous amount of assistance from Petfinder, Hallmark, Random House and others, I helped to launch Foster A Lonely Pet for the Holidays, or for short, FALP. The idea for the program stemmed from the book I wrote, A Dog Named Christmas. The gist of the program was simple. In the weeks around Christmas, families could visit their local animal shelter and foster a dog — give him a temporary home — for a few weeks. If they wanted to keep the dog after Christmas, that was great. If they returned the dog, if they were just good stewards, that was fine, too. How nice for the dog — and of course the family — if the dog was able to hang out in a loving and affection filled environment for a week or two. Not that shelter life is necessarily bad, but few would question that dogs belong in families and not in shelters.
Of course it’s always a bit of a gamble getting a dream out of someone’s head and into the rough and tumble reality of life. I think human nature often gravitates to the safety of NO instead of the hope of YES. Fortunately for a lot of dogs and cats, enough people were willing to take a chance and FALP launched in 2009.
Petfinder has collected data on adoption rates with FALP and we think it’s safe to say that the program saved the lives of tens of thousands of dogs. But before I talk about the program further, back to that dream.
So, what we now know is that this empty shelter vision can come true. The shelter in my hometown of Olathe, Kansas has sat virtually empty over the Christmas holidays for three years in a row! FALP works. It only has one drawback. Someone or lots of someones have to try it. They, too, have to say YES. I am writing today to encourage you to be one of those someones! We need a few thousand of you to make a difference in your own communities across America. The good news is that it’s not that hard. Petfinder has, in fact, made it incredibly easy to launch FALP in your community. They have done a great deal of the work for you.
You know how dreams have a slippery quality and can somehow morph into another scene? That’s what’s happening now with me and lots of my friends at Petfinder. We want to say YES to a grander vision of FALP.
Exterior: Animal Shelter. National news anchor is bundled up outside of a shelter in Big City, America. Close up shot as he starts his broadcast and stares into the camera.
News Anchor. Something strange and wonderful happened in America this holiday week. All across the land our animal shelters are empty. That’s right. The dogs are gone. What happened? It’s a good holiday story. One of the best we could think of…
The community of individuals who care about pets, of which you are a vital part, has the power, the resources and the heart to make this happen. What we need now is people who are willing to take a few hours of their time to make the dream of emptied shelters in America come true. To say YES, here are the steps you need to take:
1. Dream Big with Us. Make it your personal or family holiday project this year to support FALP in your own community so that you, too, can wake up on Christmas morning knowing your shelter is practically empty. Wouldn’t this be better than exchanging a bunch of gadgets you don’t really need? In these tough economic times, it’s a way to give without spending huge sums. Trust me, it’ll be a great feeling for you and your family to wake up and know that your community shelter’s dogs have a safe and loving home for a few weeks. It will make this year’s holiday season unforgettable. Don’t accept the safety of NO, instead dream a big YES with us!
2. Contact Your Local Shelter. Find the phone number for your local shelter and give them a call. The best way to make this dream happen is to encourage — if you’re lucky enough to have some clout, then please use it — your local shelter to participate in FALP. Call board members, volunteer to help, explain to them that it’s not that hard, nor will it take too much of their time or resources. If your local shelter doesn’t think it will work, then ask them to visit with Petfinder so that they can see that it can work. Ask them to read this blog post.
3. Don’t Forget the Marketing. Publicity is the key to making FALP work. Petfinder has provided sample press releases, in the link above, but following-up with the media is key. If the media doesn’t seem interested, there are other options. One facility in Florida simply parked a mobile sign with flashing light bulbs in front of their shelter. The sign encouraged everyone who drove by to “Foster a Pet for the Holidays!” Within a week, they were empty too! At its heart, FALP gives people a chance to make a difference.
4. Tell your friends about FALP, put a post on Facebook and get the word out in your community. Foster a dog or cat yourself. Even if you can’t permanently adopt, the fostering process furthers the pet’s potential of future adoption. The percentage of people who return their adopted dogs is identical to the percentage of people who return their fostered FALP dogs — either way, it almost never happens. Todd Kuhn, from our local Kansas shelter, sums it up nicely…
5. If you have more questions, or still aren’t sure if you’re up to the task, here are some people and resources that can help:
Please say YES and have a joy-filled holiday season.
Greg Kincaid is the author of A Christmas Home, now available Amazon.com, BN.com and all major retailers. You can read Greg’s previous blog posts for Petfinder and visit him at www.facebook.com/authorgregkincaid. He will be sharing with us the first chapter from his novel in the next few weeks!