Shelters rely on volunteers to keep pets healthy, happy while waiting for their forever homes


Walking around a pet expo in Indianapolis, Logan Robbins was on a mission to find a four-legged companion to adopt.

The Plainfield man wasn’t having much luck until he saw dogs outside Red Sky Rescue’s booth.

Robbins spotted Lucy, a boxer/greyhound mix, working with one of the Medora dog shelter’s volunteers.

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He said the dog’s looks and how she acted around the other dogs made her stand out, and he spent some time petting her and walking around with her.

“Pretty much from there on out, I knew that she was the dog that I wanted to get,” Robbins said.

He was given contact information for Leah Koznarsky and Graham Segal of Seymour to find out more about Lucy. They had been fostering the dog through Red Sky Rescue’s Ambassador Adoption Program.

The objective of the program, introduced in the fall of 2017, is to help shelter dogs find adoptive homes by having people foster them in homes, take them out into the community and promote them on social media and through networking.

Lucy visited Robbins’ apartment to see how she would do with his roommate’s dog, and everything perfectly clicked, he said.

“She instantly loved the house and took to me very quickly,” he said. “After one visit, I said, ‘Yep, I’m going to get this dog.’”

A couple of days later, he arranged to pick Lucy up and take her home.

“It has been perfect from here on out,” Robbins said.

They make a couple of weekly trips to a dog park and have gone on hikes together. As soon as the weather warms up, they are going camping.

“The type of dog she is, she absolutely loves anything outdoors,” Robbins said. “Anything she can do to get out and run, she is happy as can be.”

Even though he has been around dogs since he was 4, Robbins said he hadn’t had one of his own for a while. Looking at shelters and adoption agencies, he hadn’t come across the right dog until going to the expo.

Now, every time he comes in the front door, Lucy dances and wags her tail and is excited to see him.

“It’s definitely a lot happier,” he said of his apartment.

Lucy is the first dog to find a “forever home” through the Adoption Ambassador Program.

The other ambassadors are Tracie Lane of Seymour, who is fostering Calvin, an 8-year-old beagle that has congestive heart disease due to heartworms, and Dr. Nate Otte of Seymour, who is fostering Bradshaw, a young bully mix.

Cathi Eagan, the program’s coordinator, said Lane has fostered Calvin through his two-month heartworm treatment.

“If Calvin had to undergo the heartworm treatment while in the shelter environment, this could have been life-threatening,” Eagan said. “Because he is being kept quiet in the home environment with limited exercise, Calvin is doing extremely well through the treatment. He’s such an adorable boy.”

Eagan said Otte decided to “try on” Bradshaw by fostering him before adopting.

“Having Bradshaw in Dr. Otte’s home and office for a couple of weeks to see how he would do was a perfect precursor to adoption,” she said.

These are three examples of how fostering is essential to animal welfare groups like Red Sky Rescue, Eagan said.

“Fostering helps socialize dogs who are having a difficult time in the shelter environment, helps dogs with medical issues who need the quiet home environment and helps potential adopters decide if a particular shelter dog is a good fit with their home and lifestyle,” she said. “There are many options for people interested in fostering Red Sky dogs, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.”

The program came about after Eagan saw an article about the success of similar programs across the country. She thought it could really benefit Jackson County and Red Sky Rescue manager Ruth Riley.

After someone fills out a questionnaire and meets all of the requirements, they are presented the responsibilities of being an adoption ambassador.

The ambassador can see how the dog adapts to a home environment and interacts with other people and animals.

“When you foster an animal, that is a great way to try the dog or cat on in your home to see if they are going to fit in your lifestyle,” Eagan said. “If it doesn’t, it’s still a fabulous situation because they get out of the shelter environment and get into a home, and the shelter has more information on the animal rather than if the animal is just sitting in a kennel.”

A big role for the ambassador is taking the dog out in the community wherever he or she goes and letting people know it is available for adoption.

They also screen applicants for adoption and decide who will adopt their foster dog.

The more people willing to foster dogs means there’s a better chance of them finding homes, and it also frees up space at the shelters, Eagan said.

“We’re really trying to recruit more people to do this,” she said. “These foster homes are 24/7. They are promoting these dogs on social media, taking them to events whenever they go out. We could never have the time to be able to do that.”

Eagan said while in Koznarsky and Segal’s home, Lucy blossomed from a shy dog to a very confident girl — something that wouldn’t have happened if she was in a shelter kennel.

During a meet-and-greet event at Anytime Fitness in Seymour, Koznarsky asked Eagan if Red Sky Rescue had a fostering program.

She and Segal already had two dogs and recently had to put down another dog. They weren’t ready to adopt, but they wanted to help, so Eagan set them up as adoption ambassadors.

“We could tell she was just a really sweet, genuine dog,” Koznarsky said. “Basically, we just engulfed Lucy into our home environment so we could see how she reacted to the home environment and just different experiences all over the place. We just showered her in love an affection so that her confidence went up.”

Lucy also attended adoption events in the area and went to doggy day care. Koznarsky said Lucy came close to being adopted a couple of times, but something happened for it to not work out.

She was surprised how quickly adoption came after Lucy met Robbins.

“We were used to Lucy taking quite awhile to settle and be comfortable in a new environment, and she just so quickly and so easily relaxed around him,” she said. “It was just kind of clear that the two of them were incredibly compatible.”

Koznarsky said the hardest part of Lucy’s adoption was seeing her son upset knowing he had to say goodbye.

“Had I not seen how quickly she relaxed with (Robbins), it would have been harder. Just seeing that, we knew it was the right fit,” she said.

“I like how much contact you have with the adopter with how Red Sky does it,” she said. “You have so much contact with them, and Cathi very much let us lead as far as the decision on whether Lucy was a good fit for this home or not. I think it was a very high level of confidence on our end knowing Lucy was going to a good person.”

Koznarsky said Lucy changed a lot during their time fostering her.

For one, she became very comfortable with Koznarsky’s son and affectionate with Koznarsky and Segal.

“As she got more comfortable with us, we noticed little traits that she would do,” Koznarsky said, noting how Lucy liked to snuggle under fuzzy blankets. “She only started doing that after she had relaxed and calmed down.”

Lucy also adjusted to a daily routine.

“When she finally got comfortable enough to realize this is what’s going to happen day in and day out, that’s when she finally started to relax, and you could see her personality coming out,” Koznarsky said.

The dog went from being timid and terrified in public to playing with other dogs at adoption events. Now, she goes on hikes with Robbins.

“It was so rewarding to see this dog go from so timid and intimidated to so confident and just kind of glowing,” she said. “She’s got this natural smile on her face.”

Koznarsky and her family are excited for later this month when they get to baby-sit Lucy while Robbins is away for a weekend.

“It will be interesting to see how much more she has come out personality-wise,” Koznarsky said.

Robbins said it’s great to see opportunities like the Adoption Ambassador Program be available.

“(Red Sky Rescue) doing that foster program and getting out and going to the expos really helps put their name out so people can get to know them because I had never heard of them before I went to the expo,” he said. “

Eagan said she hopes to continue sharing success stories.

“This is a perfect example of how rewarding being a Red Sky Rescue adoption ambassador can be, seeing a dog that is fostered going to such a wonderful adoptive home,” she said.

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The objective of the Red Sky Rescue Adoption Ambassador Program is to help shelter dogs find adoptive homes by having people foster them in homes, take them out into the community and promote them on social media and through networking.

Responsibilities include:

  • Feed, socialize, groom, train and provide medication, if needed
  • Take to adoption events and other locations to find adopters
  • Interview prospective adopters and help facilitate the adoption
  • Provide positive reinforcement training techniques
  • Provide positive human interaction, including petting, brushing and love
  • Observe foster dog’s health and behavior and attend to needs
  • Report foster dog’s condition regularly to program coordinator

Qualifications include:

  • Able to provide a safe, loving and stable home environment for foster dog
  • Ability to provide care for foster dog
  • Willing to nurse injuries/illnesses and have common sense and patience
  • Able to transport the dog to and from the shelter, to adoption events and to veterinary clinics as needed
  • Able to make appropriate judgment calls and inform program coordinator and/or Red Sky Rescue director of actions taken
  • Willing to maintain communication with program coordinator
  • Possess good communication skills
  • Able to open conversations with prospective adopters to facilitate adoptions
  • Be honest about the foster dog’s behavior, health and needs

For information, contact Cathi Eagan, Adoption Ambassador Program coordinator, at 812-720-0005 or [email protected].


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