by Tracey Johnstone
"I JUST like dogs. They are very nice people," Animal Rescue Coffs Harbour dog foster volunteer Dawn McInnes said. "They're no fuss, very loyal, very intelligent and I like their company."
Dawn, 71, has taken on dogs that have been abused and ones that desperately miss their aged owner. "Very often you get animals that are emotionally damaged and sometimes physically damaged, but almost always emotionally damaged in one way or another," she said.
Through compassion, patience, a calm environment and a secure, escape-proof back fence, Dawn has given a foster home to many dogs over the last four years. Some come to her for a short while, maybe only a week. Others are with her for several weeks or months.
"I wouldn't foster if I didn't like dogs in the house," Dawn said. "Often they have a need to be close to you rather than out in the back yard."
On arrival at Dawn's home she introduces them to her "stable" dog, which was the first of the fostered dogs that she adopted. "He is fantastic with other dogs," Dawn said. "He puts them at ease."
She keeps the new fostered dog in the house to start and keeps the noise to a minimum. "Most of them aren't up to kisses and cuddles," Dawn said. "You can tell with an animal. It will come to you if it wants cuddles. Most of them just want to find a quiet corner. They gradually get used to you."
When it comes to those foster dogs being rehoused, she insists on having the final say on whether the 'forever' applicant is suitable to her fostered dog. "The hard thing is letting them go when the proper 'forever' person comes along and falls in love with them. It's not easy to let them go," Dawn said.
"Before I took on the fostering, one of the musts was I would get to have the veto if I didn't like someone who wanted to adopt the dog."
Dawn has adopted one of her foster dogs, Sadie, "as she is never going to be adoptable to anyone else" after two years of helping her settle down. It's only now that she allows people to touch her.
Through Dawn's incredible commitment to her volunteer role and her deep love of dogs, she admits that a lot of dogs have found new homes, rather than being put down, due to the efforts of the team at ARCH.
Older community members who are worried about how to care for their pet or who want to foster a dog or cat can contact ARCH on 0409 838380 or animalrescue.org.au to talk about the centre's fostering program.