Stephens recently welcomed 25 new residents to campus, but the goal is that they won’t be staying here for long.
These short-term residents are animals from Columbia’s Second Chance animal rescue organization.
What started as a unique pilot program last year with around 10 students fostering cats and dogs has blossomed into an exciting opportunity for the 29 Stephens women currently signed up to foster pets on campus this fall.
Second Chance relies on foster families to house and care for most of the pets they rescue until they are adopted, and in the fall of 2012 they officially partnered with Stephens to place animals in need of foster homes with Stephens women. The original partnership offered students selected through an application process a discounted single room in Prunty Hall and a scholarship of $3,000 per year.
The 10 students who piloted the program last year continue to receive the foster program benefits, and three new students have also been selected to receive the residential and financial benefits associated with fostering. The other 16 students, however, have volunteered to foster pets without compensation.
Second-year theater arts student Briannica Ponder was part of the original group of foster students last year and is thrilled to be fostering again this year.
“All of the dogs I personally get are ones who are emotionally damaged from bad homes prior, so I look forward to repairing their hearts and their trust,” said Ponder.
Already, she has begun her year by fostering a shih tzu/toy poodle mix named Charlie Boy who could be adopted as early as next week. She is surprised by just how much the program has grown in the past year and notes that this growth has led to a few changes. Ponder is hopeful that these changes are for the better, both for the students and the animals, and will lead to more adoptions and even more students wanting to foster.
Keeping the Stephens foster program afloat this year is indeed no easy task, particularly because the number of foster parents on campus has tripled. Last year, there were multiple concerns voiced by the fostering students about the communication between students and Second Chance, as students often had to contact multiple people to receive the answers and supplies they needed. Because of these issues and due to the program’s significant growth, Second Chance decided to make Mary Creger the volunteer for fosters on the Stephens campus. This semester Creger began streamlining the operations between students and Second Chance in hopes of making the program operate more smoothly this year. She helps place new foster animals with students, makes sure students have all the food and supplies they need to care for their pets, and ensures that pets receive veterinary care. All of these services are provided by Second Chance. So far, returning foster students are grateful for the better lines of communication.
Only a year in, this unique partnership has garnered attention for Stephens and Second Chance on the local and national level, including helping to make Stephens College a top-ranked pet-friendly college on multiple college ranking lists in the last year.
The hope of Second Chance, and a bittersweet point for most Stephens foster students, is that the pets are quickly adopted into their “forever homes,” and already this semester, three dogs have been adopted. It can be hard to let go, but Ponder likes to appreciate the fact that she gets to help so many animals find homes and so many families find their newest member.
“I love helping a pet get on its feet and into a new home, then starting the process again with a new dog,” said Ponder.
“Each time a new one comes into my dorm, I find myself falling in love with a dog all over again, and I can’t wait for someone else to get to do the same.”
For more information on the work Second Chance is doing or to apply to foster or adopt a pet, visit http://www.columbia2ndchance.org.
Story by senior Ev McInnish