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By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Anita Howard, manager of the Oktibbeha County Humane Society, is looking for help from the animal lovers of Starkville.
Howard said the shelter is in desperate need for individuals or families to act as fosters for a few deserving dogs this fall.
â€śHomeward Bound is a program run by Mississippi State University students who send dogs from the Southern states to the Northern states to be adopted where dogs are in short supply,â€ť Howard said. â€śThe program requires that the dogs be fostered for two weeks before they go.â€ť
For some of these dogs, Homeward Bound may be their only hope of being adopted.
â€śIf we canâ€™t get them fostered for two weeks, we canâ€™t get them into the program,â€ť Howard said.
Homeward Bound dogs not only have to be fostered outside of the shelter for two weeks, but they also must pass a seven step assessment of their behavior and ability to follow commands in order to be eligible for the program.
â€śAlmost all of the dogs we send to be fostered are very social animals,â€ť Howard said. â€śWe would never send a dog with aggression issues into a foster home or into the homeward bound program.â€ť
Howard said aggression is not the only unwanted behavior that could keep a dog out of the program. Shy or nervous dogs cannot be fostered out, either.
â€śWe canâ€™t send a dog into a foster home or into the Homeward Bound program that doesnâ€™t trust people,â€ť she said. â€śThese dogs will come when theyâ€™re called even if a stranger is calling them. We couldnâ€™t risk putting a dog in the program that might run off and not come back if given the chance.â€ť
Howard said Humane Society workers appreciate fosters who currently own or who have owned dogs before, but itâ€™s not necessary.
â€śWe would like for them to have some sort of experience with dogs, but if they donâ€™t weâ€™ll be happy to teach them,â€ť she said.
For potential fosters who currently own dogs, Howard said all dogs who go into the program have already been spayed or neutered and are used to being around other dogs.
Everything needed to foster the dog for two weeks is provided by OCHS.
â€śWe provide everything they might need â€” food, kennels, bowls, toys, leashes, collars, blankets, treats, etc.,â€ť Howard said.
For fosters who have fenced-in yards, Howard said the dogs can be kept outside, weather permitting. For fosters who do not have fenced-in yards, the dogs must be kept inside in a kennel anytime the foster is not at home.
â€śWe want them to treat it how they would treat their own dog,â€ť she said. â€śPlay with it, take it for walks, interact with the dog as much as possible.â€ť
MSU student Leigh Anne Pitts of Tupelo volunteers 12 hours a semester at OCHS for her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, and said the dogs she works with are all friendly and well-behaved.
â€śA lot of the girls from my sorority come and volunteer here,â€ť Pitts said. â€śIâ€™ve been here today playing with the dogs outside, throwing the ball.â€ť
Margaret Matocha is another volunteer who helps train the dogs before they enter the program. Matocha said she and her family moved here three months ago from upstate New York and is happy to get involved in her new home town.
â€śI just enjoy being able to help out with my community,â€ť Matocha said. â€śI like working with the animals and getting them to the point where they can follow commands, which means theyâ€™ll have a better chance to be adopted.â€ť
Howard said once they go to a foster home for two weeks then they are eligible to be taken north with Homeward Bound and adopted by a loving family, and the foster time is never any longer than two weeks. They currently have fosters lined up for September but will be needing many more beginning in October.
Anyone interested will need to fill out an application. To apply, contact Anita Howard at the Humane Society by calling (662) 338-9093 or go by the shelter located at 510 Industrial Park Road in Starkville.