Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday's Feature

How can you mend a broken heart?

Well … You can find somebody to love. Or find someone to love you. And that is where the expert, caring and experienced members of the Col. Potter Matchmakers’ group shine.

There’s no telling from where the next Cairn entering the sanctuary of Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network will come. The puppy mill dogs are noted for the difficulty of their circumstances and the often perilous and clandestine route they have to negotiate to freedom with the help of a Col. Potter volunteer. However, Cairns also come from animal shelters, homes with stressed financial and emotional situations, homes where the Cairn was left outside with little socialization or health care and homes where a loving owner may have died or become incapacitated. Cairns have arrived after being severely injured to be put back together in Col. Potter’s care and Cairns have been stowaways in a rescued momma Cairn’s womb only to pop out into safety when the coast was clear.

Those situations are a given in all types of animal rescue, but what is done to properly place the dogs after they’ve arrived, makes all the difference when it comes to assuring that the right Cairn is matched with the right forever home.

When I began to think about writing this peek into the world of Col. Potter Matchmaking, I thought it would be a good idea to look behind the scenes and watch online while the matches were made, as an “observant toy in the basket.” Joanne S., Col. Potter’s Director of Placement Services, was generous enough to allow me to do just this. I had no particular expectations as to what I would find and I was somewhat taken aback by the immediate, and very plentiful, increase in my G-mail communications resulting from the newly arriving correspondence from the Matchmaker’s group.

Maybe it was the sense of the holidays approaching that gave me the visual but the first thought that came to mind was that I had come upon a place like Santa’s workshop. It was like traveling through a quiet area and seeing an unexpected building filled with light in the distance which I became curious to check out. As I got closer, and looked in the window, I could see and feel a very organized, bustling and non-stop hum of activity. I thought to myself, “So this is where it happens”.

Each CPCRN volunteer group has behind the scenes conversations and buzzes with communications about the many facets of Cairn rescue. As soon as the window to Matchmaking was opened, I got a much better idea of how dynamic it is.

As they come into CP’s care, the rescued Cairns are highlighted online to the entire CRM group. The flow is constant. After an initial acknowledgement to the group that a new Cairn or Cairns have arrived, they take their place on the website and to a certain extent, recede into the safe houses of the Foster Families. It’s wonderful to get updates, videos, photos and reports on any health issues the rescues might have, but if things are going well, the foster Cairns start adjusting to freedom in their Foster Homes without a lot of widespread attention. However, they are all being closely watched by the Matchmakers.

The Matchmaker group is already well stocked with waiting homes that have expressed interest in adopting a rescued Cairn and who have been approved to adopt. But even with approval, every home isn’t appropriate for every Cairn. The applicants have many different living situations. The presence of children must be considered, as well as pets that are already in the home, Additionally, the distance between foster home and adoptive home, the amount of time that can be dedicated to the Cairn by the adoptive family and the ages of both the Cairn and potential adopter, must be taken into consideration.

It is very impressive to see the amount of care that is taken with every dog. There is no doubt that the process is dedicated to the best interests of the Cairns and for the first time in their lives, they have a volunteer advocate from Col. Potter looking out for them. And what is both amazing and exciting is to see it all going on at the same time.

The Matchmaker group is focused on every stage of the process for multiple Cairns, simultaneously. On the day of December 17, 2009, there were 130 fosters in the care of CPCRN homes. Amongst that group, 63 active matches were in progress with 10 adoptions pending. That is a lot of Col. Potter power on behalf of Cairns who didn’t have any indication anyone would ever care this much about them.

Every day, applicants are being notified they have been approved to adopt after home visits have been completed. However, there is still no Cairn involved. The applicant may have a certain Cairn in mind, when they are approved, but they are basing this interest merely on a picture and a cute write-up. Matchmakers send questionnaires to these homes to determine what qualities they would like in a Cairn and also to ascertain more detail of the home situation and the owner’s perspectives, which will allow the choice of foster Cairn to be refined.

Matchmakers then begin comparing notes as several homes, may be interested in a single Cairn or more than one home might be appropriate for a particular Cairn’s characteristics.

While the foster Cairns are napping, playing, and in many cases, setting aside accumulated fears, there is a team laying the groundwork for their forever adoption, the Matchmaking Team. Each stage of the process has been formalized over time and the structure is adhered to very closely to make sure no steps are missed.

As the applicant’s desires are defined, including the preferred choice of Cairn, the Foster Home, who has the best current knowledge of the Cairn, is brought into the discussion. When an applicant and foster Cairn are coming together in all of the critical aspects needed for a match, the approval of the Director, Joanne S., or one of her close assistants, Karen T. or Liz R., is requested in order for the adoptive home and the current foster home to communicate directly. This conversation is a critical step, and if both agree on the future care of the Cairn and options regarding transportation, then the Director and Matchmaker are notified of that agreement. This then prompts the final opportunity to evaluate and approve or disapprove the match.

If the adoption is approved then it’s time to add to the exciting Matchmaker online conversation with an e-mail to the adoptive family saying, “Congratulations, You’ve been approved to adopt Axtell or Skywalker or Reading or Ling”, or any of the other lucky Cairns that have traveled through Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network. That notice will let the Cairn’s new forever home know that they will soon have an additional family member, and it informs the rest of the Matchmaker group that another Cairn has been placed in addition to the now thousands who have found forever homes via CPCRN.

Further information will be sent to the adoptive family regarding the safety of their new Cairn and reinforcing the need to be aware of the nature and spirit of the Cairn Terrier. Special emphasis is placed on being not just watchful, but closely connected to the new family member whenever there’s even a slight possibility that the Cairn could get itself into trouble.

The process of matchmaking is a labor of love without a doubt, but it also takes plenty of skilled and dedicated labor involving data base maintenance and record keeping which makes it possible for the Matchmaking Team to be so effective, methodical and organized. There are two groups that work in tandem with the Matchmaking Team.

One group is “AAA” which stands for, “Applications, Approvals, Adoptions”, and which is led by Becky E. According to Asst. Director of Matchmaking, Lynne P., the group, “…includes just that - all info on families that apply to adopt from CP (names, addresses, family info, reference checks, home safety report info etc). The AAA data file contains the same information - all the collected data on the families that are approved to adopt. It makes it easy for the Matchmaker to look up all the info on the homes they are working with if they can go to one place. The AAA is an Excel based file.”

The second group, led by Doreen W., is, “DDB”, which stands for “Dog DataBase”. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Once again, Lynne P. writes, “…the dog database contains all the information on the dogs in foster care. It has all the information from the foster homes’ reports and is used to narrow down the search for a cairn for a home - you can search on dogs by gender, age, location, etc. The file also provides a link to yet another Yahoo group - foster reports, where all the copies of the foster reports are stored as well as any medical records, owner surrender info, website write-ups & photos. The DDB is an Access based file.”

And what would a fresh start in life for a successful Cairn be without all of the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed? As enjoyable and satisfying as it is to make every match and final adoption, each Cairn has a contract drawn up on their behalf by Col. Potter which commits the adoptive home to acknowledging the home’s responsibility to care for their new housemate in a manner that meets the high standards of CPCRN. It is always hoped that the new forever home will do exactly that. However, the contracts make sure that Col. Potter has the right to reacquire the dog if its living conditions become less than expected, or if the dog’s safety is in question. The Contract’s Group is led by Beverly O.

A Cairn’s life truly takes on great importance and is handled with tender loving care when it becomes a Col. Potter foster. In addition, the potential adoptive homes are thoroughly screened. They are also treated with the utmost respect and given the fairest consideration possible though flexibility is occasionally required of them as there can be overlapping interests in adopting the same Cairn.

Today, many tails are wagging and many homes are smiling because of the work done by the CP Matchmaking Team. And it is work that always needs more helpful and concerned volunteers to assist with making the connections. If you would like to help make the match of a lifetime, or many matches for that matter, head over to the volunteer page and fill out an application.

Many thanks go out to this important team within CPCRN that connects “Cairns Without Homes to Homes Without Cairns”. Woof.

Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network is in need of volunteers in all areas of the organization. If you interested in helping, we would love to talk to you! You don't have to have "mad skills", just a mad love for cairns! :)

Email our Director of Volunteerism by clicking
here, or fill out the volunteer information form by clicking here.

If you are unable to volunteer but you would still like to help change the world, one dog at a time, contribute to rescue by clicking

1 comment:

Susan B. said...