Embark partnered with 16 MVP dogs from 16 shelters for our annual Mutt Madness event. This year, we got the chance to sit down with the President of Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue of MN, Jill Arbogast, to discuss the volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rescue organization whose mission is to save the lives of homeless animals and educate the community on responsible pet ownership. Wags & Whiskers is 100% foster-based which means any animal that comes into their care goes straight into a foster home, allowing the organization to get to know the personality of the animal before they are placed for adoption. Here are 5 questions we asked to learn more about Wags and Whiskers and their important work with animals.
1. How did you become interested in doing volunteer work for Wags & Whiskers?
I started working with the rescue organization when I saw one of my friends share a Facebook post from the rescue’s Facebook page. It said that eighteen puppies were dumped by the side of the road and I thought, “Who could do that?!” So I signed up to foster and after getting to know the rescue a little bit more, it seemed like they needed help with fundraising and events. I started to do some of that stuff and then I was asked to join the board, and not long after that, they asked me to be President. I’ve been trying to develop a consistent rescue with regard to our policies and procedures. I want to make sure we always have the best interest of the animals, fosters and adopters at heart.
2. What’s the process like for your organization between the rescuing and the fostering of the animals?
I’ll give you an example. This past weekend, we had some animals come up from Arkansas. We had 33 dogs and a dozen cats. We drive down to Kansas City (halfway point between us and the shelter) and the shelter meets us there. We put the dogs in our kennels within the van and bring them to our storage facility where our fosters meet them. We give [the fosters] the supplies that they’ve requested. We look over the animal and make sure there’s nothing wrong with the animal… no fleas, no wounds, etc and we microchip them right away if we’re able to do so (some dogs are too shut down for that) so we microchip them after they have had time to decompress. The fosters then will take them home. Our coordinators will look over all the records and send an email to the foster to let them know their date of birth, what their rabies certificate says for their breed, and any other vetting that needs to be done. We’ll set up a spay/neuter appointment, rabies & distemper vaccines, and anything else that needs to be taken care of for that animal.
3. What is something you would want everyone to know about Wags & Whiskers?
We do not list the animal for adoption for 2 weeks after they come into the rescue, and that’s just the minimum amount of time. We want to take the time and make sure that they are healthy, give them time to decompress, and get to know their personality so we can place them in the right home. Ladybird (one of Embark’s Mutt Madness players competing for $5,000 to win for her shelter) is a perfect example of why we want to foster dogs for at least 2 weeks before putting them up for adoption. Ladybird is very high energy. She needs to be run for at least an hour a day along with other mind-stimulating activities. Playing fetch or doing something active for that amount of time really makes a difference for her. The first foster had her kenneled a decent amount, so we moved her out of that home and into a new one. The foster she is with now has done so amazingly with her. It’s a night and day difference how she is now. It’s just taking that extra time, putting the animal on hold so we can really get to know them. We’re not in a rush to push them out the door because we don’t want returns. We want the animal to be successful in their forever home.
4. Do you have any advice for people looking to foster?
Make sure you ask a lot of questions about whatever organization you’re going to work with. Understand their process. Expect that there will be challenges, but the end result is so rewarding. A lot of people say, “I don’t know how you can foster and let them go,” but remember, what you did is you just saved a life! You saved the animal’s life and you gave an enormous amount of love and joy to a new family. Also, remember to have patience with yourself and with the animal.
5. If you can’t foster or adopt a dog, what are other ways you can help a rescue organization?
We have a group of volunteers who can’t foster an animal, so we utilize them in different ways. Here are some of the other ways volunteers can help:
- Assist with transporting the animals from shelters to their foster homes
- Clean the kennels after the animal comes off of transport and/or pull supplies for our fosters
- Take home the dirty towels from transport to clean and return
- Write letters soliciting donations
- Help at adoption events (once it is safe to have big events again)
- Make toys (snuffle mats or fleece-tied tug toys
- Donate photography skills (a lot of people will donate their photography skills to make sure that the animals have really nice bio pictures)
Thank you to Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue of MN and the 15 amazing other animal rescue organizations that partnered with Embark Vet for our annual Mutt Madness bracket. Be sure to check out the Mutt Madness players (adoptable dogs) representing each shelter and vote for your favorite each week. The Top Dog’s shelter will win a $5,000 donation. Vote today!