As we round out Foster Care Month, we asked one of our Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence Fosters to share about her experience and clarify some of the misconceptions about what it takes to become an ADAI foster. Tammy Conlan shares how this role has not only changed her life, but also the lives of those with disabilities.
Tammy, who has been a foster since August of 2015, shares the first time she heard about ADAI, “Our daughter Kate was looking for a charitable organization to collect donations for in place of gifts for her birthday party. When researching organizations in our area that were in need of donations, we came across ADAI. She and I both loved the idea of helping dogs, but were even more excited that we would be helping people at the same time. When we called ADAI about dropping off the donations, Jenny Barlos asked if we’d like to have a tour. We met with Jenny, had a tour, loved on some dogs and fell in love with what ADAI was all about. That day, we came home and talked about how we wanted to become involved with the organization and taking care of smart, sweet dogs sounded like a win win for us!”
“I can’t foster because I have other pets”
A misconception about fostering an ADAI dog is that there can’t be any other animals in the house while caring for the dog. While there is an evaluation process to make sure the home is fit for an assistance dog in training, other animals are able to live in the same home as the ADAI dog.
Tammy says, “We have a 6-year-old St. Bernard named Lulu. It has been great to have other dogs in the house with her. She tries to ignore the puppy and is incredibly tolerant, but it’s great to see her give in to his cuteness and play with him once in a while. It’s keeping her busy and young.”
“I could never give the dog back”
If you are reading this and are a dog lover, we understand the hesitation. Helping to nurture and watch the puppy grow and learn new skills is a bonding experience. Other fosters often reminisce about the rewarding feeling you have walking across the stage at graduation and seeing the life changing impact first hand. As an ADAI foster, you see the bigger picture of what the dog is intended to do, and how you become part of the dog’s journey.
Tammy describes her feelings about Brady, her first dog, “We fell in love with him the minute he came to us, he was such a good boy and was a perfect fit for our family. I was a little worried about handing him over to someone else, but the minute you learn about the person that is matched with your dog, all you can think about is how he will enrich the life of a person that truly needs him to maintain or achieve independence. What a gift it is to be involved with something that changes lives to such a degree. At Brady’s graduation, we met the family and the man who would be Brady’s new best friend; there was no doubt in our minds that Brady was meant to be with them.”
“The staff at ADAI is so amazing and treats us as foster families so well. They are compassionate and understand our fears and worries. I received pictures of Brady during his final training multiple times by different staff members knowing that we were missing him. It felt so good that we weren’t looked at as just fosters. The people at ADAI are friends and will go to any length to help with any worries, troubles or concerns. I have felt so supported in every step.”
Brady was trained by Judy Eckel and matched with Tyler Yoder.
“I will never see the dog again”
Although every foster has a different experience, once you become involved with ADAI, you are family. Everyone at ADAI has a love of dogs and sees the power they have to enhance the lives of those searching for independence. Many share photos through Facebook and snail mail, some even plan doggie dates to catch up with their fosters.
Tammy shares, “Even before graduation, we had become Facebook friends with his new family. The night of graduation they had already shared photos with us and we’ve had an update each week filling us in on Brady’s silly antics and how he’s settling in like he belonged there all along! The family even invited us out to visit and see Brady anytime.”
For more information on becoming a foster, please email Tina Calhoun or call 419-885-5733 x176.