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Dog Gone Seattle brings pups and people together

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Photo courtesy of Dog Gone Seattle
Photo courtesy of Dog Gone Seattle

"Home for the holidays" gained a new meaning for Seattle resident Jenny Nordin when she founded her nonprofit, Dog Gone Seattle, seven years ago. Since 2017, Nordin and her team of dedicated pet foster parents have saved over 5,350 shelter dogs from across the country.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, they aren't slowing down. Since the pandemic, they've seen an increased need for dog fosters. "The landscape of dog rescue is so challenging," Nordin said. "Adoptions have slowed, so many dogs are in shelters post-COVID, even here in our local shelters. They used to have a lot of space, but now they're full and turning people away when they come to surrender their dogs."

Animal shelters across the United States are seeing a spike in pet surrenders, especially as many who adopted a "COVID pet" are now returning to work and unable to continue to care for their animals in the same capacity. In July, the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County had over 460 animals in its care. As a result, the shelter waived adoption fees.

Dog Gone Seattle helps alleviate the strain put on shelters by placing dogs in foster homes so they can await adoption in the comfort of a warm and loving environment instead of staying in a cold cage. The program also brings in dogs from high-kill shelters in Texas, Hawaii, California, and Louisiana. These animals are often in dire need of care and medical attention.

One such dog was Ross, a Great Pyrenees mix Nordin helped bring to Seattle from San Bernardino, California. "He was chained to a tree [with] a heavy chain. He was very matted and walked with a limp," Nordin recalled.

Once Dog Gone Seattle got ahold of Ross, they were able to perform X-rays and found that the dog had experienced a severe break in his tail that was left untreated, resulting in bowel issues. Ross moved in with a loving foster parent, who took him to acupuncture, administered cold therapy, and switched him to a raw diet to help with his digestive system.

"In three months, we went from a dog who was in a lot of pain and a matted mess to a normal, happy, and healthy dog who had none of these issues," Nordin said. "We found a family who loves him and continues with the raw diet and cold therapy."

Selfless and rewarding
Finding foster parents is the most important part of Dog Gone Seattle. "If you've ever thought about fostering, I encourage it," Nordin said. "It's a great way to save a life and meet new people. We cover all expenses and provide supplies, and we will match you with a dog that will be a good fit for your family."

Dogs usually only stay with DGS fosters for about four weeks before they're matched with the right forever family.

"A lot of people worry it will be too hard to foster and say goodbye," Nordin noted. "It is hard to say goodbye to those dogs, but it's harder to think about them dying in a shelter. It's a selfless thing to do, to foster, but it's also rewarding."

One thing that makes fostering with Dog Gone Seattle special is the community Nordin has worked hard to cultivate. "My favorite part of Dog Gone Seattle is that it allows people to create authentic connections with each other over a shared passion," Nordin said. Long-time fosters have found meaningful friendships with each other through their work with the program. Experienced foster parents often have advice for newcomers, and everyone is always happy to see the dogs transform into happy, social beings once again.

Community is at the core of everything Dog Gone Seattle does. While fosters are always there to welcome new shelter pups into their homes, Nordin knows that one of the most essential parts of rescue is preventing animal surrenders in the first place.

"We help the Seattle community through free training programs to help dogs stay in their homes, and we do owner surrenders when people can't keep their dogs," Nordin said. This year alone, DGS has taken in 69 local animal surrenders but also helped another 12 dogs stay in their homes, thanks to its free training programs.

"While we still take in dogs from other states, we are focusing on the local dogs in our community," Nordin said. This year, DGS has helped place 750 dogs in new homes, and Nordin says they have anywhere from 100 to 150 dogs in foster care at a time.

DGS takes in all breeds, ages, and sizes of dogs, but all its intakes have one thing in common: "They're all at risk of euthanasia," Nordin said.

The organization's goal for 2024 is to save as many dogs from being euthanized in overcrowded shelters as it can. DGS is also planning a new community center as a resource for foster parents and adopters.

With that project on the horizon and more and more dogs entering shelters each month, Dog Gone Seattle can use as much help as possible. Anyone interested in donating, adopting, or becoming a foster parent can connect with DGS online at Doggoneseattle.org

Foster parents for DGS have said the organization is a great way to connect with dogs and other humans who love them. "It's a human program as much as it is a dog program, in that sense," Nordin said. "While all dog people who do this work would say 'I love dogs more than people,' you can't do this work without the people."