Friday, May 5, 2023

Rescue dog melts hearts of foster family while waiting for permanent home

By Ed Pierce

A Windham resident who fosters dogs through a Maine-based rescue group is hoping that a pooch saved from euthanasia in Florida last fall can find a permanent home soon.

Sissy, a 3-year-old bulldog mix, arrived in Windham last
September for what was expected to be a short stay with
foster parents while awaiting adoption. She still is
available and seeking a permanent home through the 
Maine-based Fetching Hope Rescue organization.
Since 2020, Robyn Sullivan has been fostering rescue dogs with Fetching Hope Rescue, which focuses on bringing adoptable dogs up from the south to find loving homes in New England. In three years, Sullivan has fostered 16 different dogs, all of which have been placed in loving homes, until Sissy, a 3-year-old bulldog mix with some pointer traits, arrived last September.

“We can only bring up as many dogs as we have fosters available and most dogs are adopted in the first 30 days,” Sullivan said. “Our usual methods of finding adopters don't seem to be working for this girl.”

According to Sullivan, Sissy, also known as Sassy, is a sweet, gentle girl who is content to hang out while you work or snuggle on the couch watching television. She also enjoys walks, playing and a good rope chew.

“We think she's being overlooked because she's older at age 3, but we see her age as a positive,” Sullivan said. “She's house trained, crate trained and has a decent handle on the basics such as sit, come, bed, wait, leave it. She is a bit shy at first, especially with men, but she does come around if you work with her. We have also been working with her on her reactivity with other dogs and small animals. Some dogs she clicks with right away. She would do best in a quieter home with older children or would be a great companion to someone who works from home or is retired. She's the right fit for someone, she just needs some additional exposure to find them.”

Prior to fostering Sissy, the longest dog that Sullivan had to foster was for about a month. She averages about a two-week stay for fosters which makes Sissy’s plight so unusual.

“When Sissy first arrived, she was nervous and shy. It can take her a bit to warm up to people, but once she's comfortable she's a love bug who isn't afraid to let you know what she wants,” Sullivan said. “We didn't like calling her Sissy because of her nervousness but didn't want to completely change her name so we started calling her Sassy. She sometimes lives up to that nickname. Toward the end of work one day, I was on a call and she was ready to go out and play. I told her she had to wait, and she barked back at me. The other person on the call noted that it sounded like she was sassing me. I told him that her nickname is Sassy and he agreed it fit.”

Sissy’s days are spent lounging in her office taking a nap or chewing on a toy while she works, Sullivan said.

“We get out a couple times a day to play or chase a treat in the yard. Evenings she spends snuggled up on the couch,” she said. “As soon as I get her bedtime cookie, she heads straight to her crate and is quiet all night. Sissy is generally a quiet girl, though she will let you know with a paw when she wants attention or needs something.”

Using the extra time Sissy has spent in foster care, Sullivan has been working with her on building on the commands she's familiar with and working with her on new skills.

“She has a good handle on 'sit' and is making progress with 'come' and 'leave it.' She is food motivated which helps with her training,” she said. “We met with a trainer in March to get some tips on her reactivity training. She isn't a fan of smaller animals such as cats, and small dogs. She gets along best with male dogs her size or larger. In her first foster home, she was close with one of the male dogs and she's had a couple play dates with a German Shepherd and lab/pit mix that went well. She would definitely need to meet any potential siblings.”

Sullivan lost her own dog last year and she currently doesn't have any other pets at home.

“That was how Sissy came to stay with us. Her first foster home was very active and had other dogs and she was having trouble settling,” she said. “She came to stay with us to help her relax and she's really come a long way.”

The best part of being a foster volunteer is couch snuggles and puppy playtime, Sullivan said.

“I've always liked dogs, and this is a great opportunity to get to play and hang out with a bunch of different dogs and work on my training skills without long term commitment or vet bills,” she said. “I've also met a lot of great people, volunteers and adopters.”

The hardest part of being a foster volunteer for Sullivan is the first few days where the dog is decompressing after transport and getting used to the house.

“Transport can be stressful and then they come into a new environment, with new people and sometimes new animals,” Sullivan said. “Everyone in the house, people and animals, have a heightened sense of awareness. Once they settle, it gets easier.”

Sissy was nearly adopted about a month ago, but that fell through, and Sullivan continues to care for her until a new adopter steps forward.

“She has been around people ages 5 and up. Young kid energy can be too much for her, but she is content to hang out somewhere quiet while they visit,” Sullivan said. “We think she would thrive in a home with older children. She’s adapted well to our 13-year-old and many of his friends or adults. Maybe someone who works from home or retirees. She likes to have her people around. I think a lot of people are wary of adopting an older dog, especially if there has been unknown trauma. It's really rewarding to work with a dog to overcome those issues and I know there are people who are willing to do that work. We just need to find the right one for Sissy.”

Potential adopters for Sissy would need submit an application on the website Once received, a representative reaches out to set up reference checks, a virtual home visit and an interview.

“Sissy is a sweet girl and great companion who just wants to be loved,” Sullivan said. “In spite of her issues, she is the easiest foster we've had. She doesn't chew things she's not supposed to, doesn't get into the trash, and will leave you alone if you're snacking on the couch, unless you share, and loves to snuggle.” <

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