Written by Brenda Bryden
The country’s national lockdown due to COVID-19 presented an enormous problem for animal welfare organisations and shelters. Already working with limited resources, animal welfare organisations were deeply concerned about the prospect of their employees not being able to get to and from work, as well as for their welfare and safety. And, to add to their worries, organisations anticipated that their usual steady flow of donations from various initiatives would dry up for several reasons. An urgent solution was needed.
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?
The solution was to foster out as many animals as possible. Several animal welfare organisations made impassioned appeals to the public to foster an animal during lockdown. And the hope was always that some foster fails would result. But Melkosbosstrand-based Fallen Angels Pet Rescue couldn’t have anticipated the incredible response they received to their request.
This organisation’s lockdown foster programme has been a resounding success, not only for having successfully placed 230 of their 340 dogs into loving and caring foster home environments, but also because the resultant much hoped-for foster fails and third-party adoptions have already resulted in over 130 dogs being rehomed.
“And,” says Gayl Basson, founder of Fallen Angels Pet Rescue, “we anticipate even more foster fails and adoptions. We have always believed that if people only had the opportunity to spend time with our dogs in a home environment they would love them so much and hopefully not want to give them back. For us, this lockdown foster initiative was a golden opportunity for possible adoptive families to experience the dogs’ true natures. Because a dog in a caring homely environment is always going to display different character traits to those of a dog in a shelter.”
ENTER THE MAGIC
Gayl explains that three days before lockdown, when they realised such extreme action was imminent, they checked their food supplies and realised they only had seven days’ worth of food to feed 340 dogs. “Under normal circumstances, this is a perfectly adequate stock situation,” she says, “as we usually get plenty of donations (either monetary or food) and can restock. But we realised that the lockdown was likely to make it difficult for the normal stream of food and other supplies to reach Fallen Angels.
“So, we quickly whipped into action and appealed for foster homes via their organisation’s Facebook page. This is when the magic started – people started sharing and resharing, and other animal welfare organisations referred would-be foster or prospective adoptive families to Fallen Angels. And the initiative exploded! Aside from the local community, people from all over the peninsula were responding. We had people from Hout Bay, Camps Bay, and even as far afield as Somerset West.”
Needless to say, handling the admin was a nightmarish process, given that adoptive families had to be screened, home checks done and paperwork completed. But, knowing that this was in the best interests of their dogs, the stalwart Fallen Angels team persevered and succeeded. By lockdown D-day (26 March) 230 of the 340 dogs on the farm were fostered out, including some pregnant females. “What is the most magical and heart-warming of all is that about 30 of the dogs that were fostered are dogs that have been in the shelter for years, or dogs that were timid and fearful and are always overlooked when it comes to adoptions. If it wasn’t for this lockdown foster initiative, they would probably never have had the chance to experience what living in a home with a family was like.”
GENEROUS AND COMPASSIONATE ANIMAL LOVERS
Gayl has nothing but praise and gratitude for the 400 people who answered Fallen Angels’ plea (there wasn’t always a dog that matched everyone who applied). “People have been amazing,” she says, “apart from fostering the dogs, many of them also covered any medical treatment needed, even through Fallen Angels offered to pay. And, despite paying for the dogs’ food, foster parents also spoilt the dogs with toys, blankets, jackets, etc., as well as bringing food donations to the farm for the dogs that remained on the property.
“Many of our dogs are still with the foster families until they return to work, while others are continuing to stay in their foster homes until they are adopted. To date, only 20 of the foster dogs have been returned to the farm.
“What warms my heart the most is the effort these wonderful, generous, compassionate animal lovers have made over and above the fostering. Many are helping us to rehome the dogs and the puppies that were born during lockdown. This is mainly done through our Fallen Angels Lockdown Fosters Facebook page where the foster parents post regular updates and photographs and describe the personalities and progress of the dogs. This group has grown to over 1,000 people and is a continuous source of inspiration. The page is attracting members of the public who are looking to adopt pets, and they are chatting to the foster families to find more about the personalities of the dog that has captured their attention.”
FOSTER PARENTS SPEAK OF THEIR JOY
Here’s what some of the foster parents had to say about their joyful fostering experience.
“The day before lockdown, the husband, Ridgeback (Medusa) and I jumped in the car to go find a doggie to stay (and play) with us. It was a match made in heaven; little Yala was like Medusa’s shadow. Off we went back home, where Yala was inside a house for the very first time. Slowly but surely, she adjusted… being very aware of her pitter-patter paws on the floors, the kitchen with all the smells, and that pink fluffy bed. Yala learned all the tricks super-fast and loved all the cuddles. Luckily, we recorded her progress to share with everyone (via the Facebook page) so they could help share far and wide. This was our saving grace, as the relationship between the two dogs suddenly soured and we couldn’t keep Yala. But Fallen Angels could share the video of her as proof of her love and intelligence, which helped to her being adopted by the perfect family.” – Rea Burger
“My beloved doggy companion passed away at the beginning of the year, leaving me reeling. Still raw from loss and unable to adopt another dog due to our plans to emigrate, fostering a dog during lockdown was a perfect compromise. We ended up fostering Shirley, a beautiful Africanis, who was intelligent yet fearful and flinched at the smallest movement. Having Shirley with us has been the best decision; focusing our energy on her has been a welcome distraction during this lockdown. We have watched her soar and develop into a happy and confident dog who has given us much joy and is a loyal companion.” – Ashleigh Kew
“My daughter and I decided to foster as we needed something to brighten our days during lockdown. And, what better way than to get puppies. Cotton and her litter were our first. We were at Fallen Angels when they arrived. The first thing I noticed was how skinny the mother was and how well looked after the pups were. Everything inside me shouted ‘you need to spoil this wonderful mummy’. So we took them home. The first four days were not easy, and more than once I thought to myself that this was a bad idea. But with nothing else to do, we hung in there. From day five onwards it was laughter and love. It turned into such a wonderful experience that we took on a second litter, Oreo and the Cookie Monster litter. Being a foster is one of the most rewarding experiences ever.” – Lucindi & Mine Storme
“Fostering beautiful Pebbles and Mandy started after we had adopted our rescue boy, Wolfie. He came to us with scars on his face, a depleted soul and wary of humans. After a few months, we knew we needed to help more. So, along came Pebbles as our first foster. She took a long time to get used to us, but slowly her tail came out from between her legs and we could see her beautiful personality. Pebbles has now found her forever home with a man who is also in need of a connection for his soul. We are so sad to see her go. Our Wolfie still needs a forever companion, so soon Mandy will be a foster fail. This experience of fostering and adopting has been so fulfilling, we recommend it to absolutely everyone.” – Megan Greeff
ABOUT FALLEN ANGELS
Founded in 2014 and situated in Melkbosstrand, Fallen Angels Pet Rescue is a registered NPO (NPO 175-638) focusing on the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of domestic animals. The organisation focuses on giving all the animals in its care the love, attention and adoration that they deserve. The “Fallen” in Fallen Angels stands for Forgotten, Abandoned (Abused), Lost, Lonely, Emaciated and Neglected, and any animal that falls into any of these categories is part of the focus area of the organisation. The organisation uses animal therapy to assist in healing the broken souls of any “fallen” angels.