When short-term dog fostering leads to adoption
Parker lays his head on his mom’s lap, sighing contentedly as he curls up on the couch at his new home. The big, brown five-year-old dog is the picture of peace and a far cry from the whirling dervish Amber Krzys met while volunteering at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles.
While very handsome, the 65-pound Parker didn’t always make a great impression from his kennel, where he would twirl and bark excitedly at passers-by, eager for attention. But Amber saw Parker’s sweet side, which he displayed whenever they spent quality time together at a nearby park.
“We would just sit in the grass and watch the people and dogs go by,” says Amber. “Parker would look up at me as if he were saying, ‘Just pet me. Just love me.’”
Amber felt strongly that Parker would eventually become a part of her family. It was just a matter of convincing her husband, Vince, who also volunteered to walk dogs at the center.
Volunteering with animals together
Amber’s first experience with Best Friends came while volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. And when she found out about Best Friends’ work in Los Angeles, she immediately signed up to volunteer at the center. A few years later, Vince decided to join her.
“We wanted something we could do together,” says Amber. “Since we both love dogs and being of service, Best Friends was a great fit.”
Vince admits that at first he was a bit reluctant to volunteer. “I didn’t want to get attached to the dogs,” he said. “I resisted because I thought it would be too hard.”
During the three times each week that Vince and Amy volunteer, Vince walks different dogs (to stay unattached), while Amy focuses on a group of regulars. That’s how she came to know Parker.
The center’s ‘class clown’ dog
With a light chocolate brown coat and golden eyes, Parker is quite stunning, though he appears to have had a challenging life before coming to Best Friends, as evidenced by a deeply embedded scar that runs across his muzzle. It’s the only remaining sign that he was an extremely emaciated stray when he was brought into Los Angeles Animal Services (where all of the pets at the center are from).
None of this affected Parker’s personality, however. Not only did he show his love for people by giving big kisses to any person nearby, but Parker was also great with other dogs. He participated enthusiastically in center play groups, romping with his fellow canines as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
Parker also had a bit of class clown in him. During summer months, he would run around the play yard and plop himself with aplomb into the kiddie pool and splash around with a big, silly grin on his face.
Between her alone time with Parker and watching him in play groups, Amber felt like he could be a good candidate for her pack, which included two rescued senior dogs — Lucky, 10, and Matzah, 7.
Vince was not so sure. With his career as a lawyer and Amber’s work as a life coach and motivational speaker, the couple’s busy schedule includes frequent travel for work. “We had two dogs and a perfectly full life,” says Vince. “I didn’t want a third dog to tip that scale.”
Amber was not ready to give up, though. “I knew if I could get him in our home, he wouldn’t go anywhere. I knew Vince’s heart would melt like mine,” she said.
Fostering leads to a new beginning
That’s when the perfect solution presented itself. All Best Friends lifesaving centers offer short- to long-term foster options so that pets can enjoy some quality time in a home. Fostering also provides valuable insight as to what pets are like outside the center, which helps the staff match them up with the right adopter.
Amber asked Vince if Parker could come home for a two-week trial run, which he agreed to. First, they brought Lucky and Matzah to the center for a meet-and-greet to make sure it would be a good fit for everyone. Parker passed the test with flying colors, and he showed lots of respect to the existing pack.
Thrilled about the positive interaction, Amber took Parker aside for a chat. “I told him to be on his best behavior and to be good to Vince,” she says.
Soon after the meeting at the center, (on New Year’s Day), Parker began his foster stay with Vince and Amber and quickly settled in. While he’s more playful than his older siblings and requires longer walks, Parker also proved to be an expert lounger.
A few days in, Parker jumped on the couch with Vince. He snuggled between the cushions, closed his eyes and went to sleep with his head on Vince’s chest. Amber, who was watching, restrained the urge to cheer from the sidelines. She said with a smile, “I was like, ‘Yes!’”
Parker also made sure to stop by Vince’s home office as often as possible. “He would lay at my desk and looked at me like, ‘Please rub my belly,’” Vince said. “He’s just pure love and cuddles.”
On January 13, just before the two-week foster period was up, Parker become an official member of the family. Amber credits fostering for making it happen.
“Fostering gives you the chance to see the real dog and see if it’s a fit, so I’m a 100 percent advocate,” she says. “I hope other people will give dogs like Parker, who don’t present well in their kennels, a chance. They become a completely different dog in a home.”
Photos courtesy of Amber Krzys