This week, we interviewed Marjorie Nichols, a former full-time animal welfare worker and shelter volunteer who now fosters dogs. In this interview, Marjorie explains the fostering system and how it helps displaced dogs and cats find their forever homes.
She gets into the struggles faced by these animals and how she uses CBD to help resolve them. We also get to hear about and see her adorable “foster fail,” Petey.
To start, introduce yourself and tell us how your love for animals started.
My name is Marjorie Nichols and I’ve been involved with animal rescue since I was six years old. We started fostering dogs as a family in 2019.
How does fostering work?
“A rescue organization will network with shelter volunteers to pull dogs [from the shelters] who are good candidates for rehoming.
Rescues will pull [these] dogs and make sure they get the appropriate care before placing them for adoption. Most of them pull animals for transport from out of state. They have their own transportation networks and they drive van loads of dogs, 20-30 at a time, to other parts of the country.
Foster families are in the middle; before [the dogs] get pulled for transport. [The dogs] may need to be spayed or neutered, treated for non-contagious skin conditions, too young to transport if they’re newborns or orphans, or need to be bottle fed until they’re old enough to go on transport.
So fosterers are the critical link; the rescues have to have somewhere to park the animals they pull before they get transported out of state. If rescues don’t have fosterers, they can’t pull animals, which will end up being euthanized.”
How did you get into fostering?
“Many years ago, I was both an employee and later a volunteer at two small non-profit animal shelters. And back then, there were no foster/rescue networks. And I saw a lot of pets euthanized.
So when I found out that a Minnesota-based organization called Ruff Start Rescue needed temporary fosterers, I thought that [would] be a good way for our family to give back to our community, to help animals in need, and to save lives. And so I signed us up.”
What are some common problems you have to face and overcome when fostering animals?
“The biggest problem has to do with behaviors that were created by trauma.
Some foster dogs come to us from situations where they were abused. They may have spent most of their life tied up in a back yard with poor socialization, been confiscated as part of a cruelty case, or thrust into a completely unfamiliar shelter environment after their owners die or get incarcerated.
Shelters are stressful places for dogs – they’re loud, they’re crowded, it’s not home, and dogs are usually housed with dogs [they don’t know]. Any of these circumstances can cause behaviors in a dog that can upset the dynamic when we bring dogs into our home because we have dogs. So our challenge is to be able to address those potential behaviors that result from trauma, while also preparing these dogs to be adopted into loving families.
Sometimes we have to work on socialization or training. Sometimes it’s a matter of helping dogs to understand that they’re no longer in a threatening circumstance so that they can relax and begin to open up. And we have to do this while making sure our own dogs are kept safe.”
How has CBD helped the animals you have fostered get over the humps they’re facing?
“CBD works in dogs much the same way it works in people. In people, CBD can help with relaxation, [and] it can address anxiety or feelings of fear. It can take the edge off those feelings, those emotions.
Since it does the same things for dogs, one of the chief ways we use CBD with our foster dogs is to help them sleep at night, so they can settle down in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar sounds and smells, so they can relax and sleep. When they sleep, we sleep.
When a dog is relaxed [after taking] CBD, it also makes it easier to take them to a vet appointment. It can help with pain from a spay-neuter surgery or from another procedure.
The most important thing it does is help a dog in a strange home relax despite that unfamiliar environment. It makes it easier to work with them; when a dog is open, they’re more relaxed and receptive to learning a routine, learning some basic commands, and learning to socialize in the company of other dogs.
One of the reasons it’s very important for these foster dogs to learn to socialize with other dogs in a structured environment is that many times, people looking to adopt a dog are looking to adopt a companion for a dog they already have. So when we use CBD to help that foster dog open up and relax, and show us their true personality, we get information to pass along to the rescue to let them know, ‘this dog is great with other dogs,’ or ‘this dog would do best as the only dog in the family.’ Because what we don’t want is for an adoption placement to be a poor fit.”
What would you tell someone who is getting into fostering for the first time?
“I would tell them that they should be prepared for an imperfect dog. A lot of these dogs who will come to them will have had some sort of mental or physical damage. And they need time to decompress. That’s really important. It takes an average of 3 days for a dog in an unfamiliar setting to begin to relax, and it can take up to 3 weeks for them to fully become comfortable with your family. You’ve got to have patience and be willing to give them space.”
Can you tell us about your foster fail, Petey?
“Peter the great. Peter the great was turned in by his owners to a large public shelter and was in really bad condition. He had dental decay that was so severe that it had rotted up into the roof of his mouth and into his sinus cavity. Shelter staff contacted a rescue that specializes in hard rescue cases and they got him to a veterinarian who did extensive surgery to save him.
He’s a senior dog. They weren’t sure how old he was because his teeth were so rotted they couldn’t use them as a means of calculating his age.
The rescue that pulled him usually works with larger dogs, and Peter is an 8-pound senior chihuahua. So they needed a foster.
Since we already had chihuahuas of our own, I agreed to foster him. When we got him, he was on a lot of pain medication. He was drugged up. He slept all the time. And he was pretty pitiful. And there was just something about this little sad dog in such bad shape that — it broke our hearts. And we decided that we could not let him go. So the rescue agreed to let us adopt him, and that became official on Christmas Day in 2020.
Peter suffers from severe separation anxiety, and we use little CBD chewy treats to help him sleep in a little bed at night next to our bed. It’s hard for him to sleep with us at night because we’re afraid we’ll roll over on him. The CBD treats have been indispensable in getting him to settle down so he can sleep at night.”
Can you show us a picture of Tater Pete?
“Sure. Here’s one that really captures the spirit of Peter the Great.”
First of all, we’d like to thank Marjorie for an amazing interview!
What’s in it for you? Well…
If you wanted to get into dog fostering, you now know how it works and have no excuse.
However, if you’re like most people and are always trying to find out how to make your pooch happier, we hope this interview sheds some light on the different ways that CBD can benefit dogs, whether they’re dealing with separation anxiety, are too jumpy around company, or have trouble sleeping at night.
Here’s to a happy pooch (and by default, a happy you)!