When Sally and Jeff decided to become dog foster parents, their research into Portland’s rescue community led them to Animal Aid.
“We prefer volunteering for a smaller organization,” Sally said. “A small family can have a big impact in a small organization.”
They were introduced to their first Animal Aid foster dog, Denver, four years ago. Since then, Sally and Jeff have welcomed three more dogs into their home: Cindy, Sasha, and Coco. The couple also serve as weekend and vacation relief volunteers for other foster parents.
For Sally, helping the dogs transition from shelter life to a loving home is always rewarding. When the dogs realize they are safe, their comfort grows and their true characters emerge.
“They’re all so unique. You fall in love with their quirkiness,” Sally said. “It’s a puzzle when they come in, and you learn how to piece that puzzle together.”
Having a dog also pushes her to stay active and start each morning with a walk.
Jeff likes assisting dogs in need of extra training and socialization, knowing the attention and dedication that he and Sally provide helps their fosters go to a permanent home and a new way of life.
All of their foster dogs hold a special place in their hearts, and Sally and Jeff can remember each of their individual personalities.
“Denver ran like she ran on jet fuel,” Sally recalled. “That dog could run circles around the yard, and leap the four steps to our house. It was so much fun to watch her run when she got a chance.”
Coco was another bundle of energy: “We’d walk for three hours in the neighborhood and she wouldn’t slow down,” Sally said. “When we returned home, she’d run around and play with toys for another half hour. She was a firecracker.”
The Earlls’ longest foster, a 10-year-old German Shepherd named Sasha, “was the wise old woman. She determined what was to be done when she wanted it done.”
When the dogs they foster find an adoptive family, Sally and Jeff are part of the meet-and-greet process and the transition to a permanent home.
“When you fall in love with the dog after two weeks or two months, it’s nice to meet the adopters,” Sally said. “It makes me feel more comfortable when I meet the next family. I really appreciate that with Animal Aid. It’s not a chore, even when you have to drive to meet some people. It makes the transition easier.”
Sally added that Animal Aid wants to make sure that any foster placement is a good fit for both the dog and the family. A prime example of this occurred when the Earlls moved from a one-story house with a big yard in the suburbs to a two-story townhouse in a busier neighborhood; this has had an effect on the type of dog they can care for, taking into consideration such things as the impact of stairs on a dog with mobility issues, sensitivity to noise generated from shared walls and a more populated environment, and so forth.
“Their encouragement and support are just top-notch,” Sally said. “I feel like I know these people.”
In addition to volunteering for Animal Aid, the Earlls enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and rollerblading. Recently, they returned from a four-day camping and paddling trip on the John Day River. Because they’re retired, they are taking the time to enjoy the outdoors and try new things. For example, Jeff is learning to play the ukulele, and Sally reports that “he’s getting pretty good.”
Sally also loves to sew, and she has been busier than ever with it since the pandemic started. She makes masks to send to family and friends around the country, or for anyone else who needs one.
“It’s a great way to clean out my fabric closet,” she said. “A win for everybody.”
Even with their many interests, the Earlls are always excited to welcome a new foster dog to their home. “We get a lot out of taking care of them,” Jeff said. “I don’t feel like they’re taking our time; we enjoy it. The animals give us more than we give them.”
“Our purpose is to help rehome animals, bring them out of the shelter,” Sally added. “No animal deserves to be abandoned. People need to understand that an animal is for life. It’s up to us to give the animals a better chance at a good life.”
“Animals are where our love is,” she continued. “That’s where we found Animal Aid.”