Iris is a puppy who can get a little mouthy and likes playing with people fingers. She rips up grass at the park and snaps at leaves. Sometimes the leaves will get stuck in her mouth, hanging out where she is missing a bit of her lip. Her former foster mom Katie Jo Connor would have to pull out the leaves because Iris did not seem to always notice when they were stuck there. The missing portion of her lip gave a sort of smile on one side of her face.
“If London models can have a gapped tooth, then you can have a missing lip,” Connor told Iris.
Iris is one of the over 60 dogs rescued through One Dog at a Time MHK, a Manhattan organization founded in November 2017 by Jenny Glenn, president and director of the organization.
There are eight foster homes these dogs can go through within the organization, not one of them the same, though the goal remains constant: providing individual care for each foster dog before they go on to their forever homes. This means keeping the group small enough that it does not become chaotic or overwhelming for those involved.
“At this point, we need to do what we do well and stay small and not spread ourselves too thin,” Glenn said.
The purpose of staying small is so each foster can take the time and care each individual dog needs for training and any rehabilitation they might need before being adopted. Some require more effort than others due to many of the dogs’ backgrounds, but the goal is to make sure they go to their perfect homes with families who will love them and take great care of them.
To ensure the potential adopters are a good fit, there is a lengthy application process geared toward matching the dogs’ and families’ personalities. It will include providing references, looking at what the dog’s new daily life will look like and anything else that would indicate the dog would be well cared for.
Glenn said the process asks “the hard questions” that will really make the potential adopters think if they are ready to take on the responsibilities that come with a dog, especially in such a transient community like Manhattan and the surrounding areas. Part of the application is make sure that applicants recognize their responsibility to the dog even if they have to move.
“[The dogs] come from crumby situations already,” Cheryl Annan, board of directors member, said. “We don’t want to put them back into something that isn’t a good situation for them.”
Annan said the application also works to slow down potential adopters and make them think about the decision they are making is the right one.
“I think it has weeded out some people, because will ask for applications and then we don’t hear anything back,” Annan said. “We don’t know for what reason they don’t fill one out or why we don’t hear from them, but maybe the application made them stop to think about some things they didn’t think about.”
Once the application is submitted, there is a meet and greet. Potential adopters and the foster dogs meet and see if they would be a good match for each other. The next step of the process is a home visit to make sure the dog is going to a good environment. And, finally, the dog is adopted.
“Something I always ask myself is, ‘Is this family going to love them more than I will?'” Connor said.
There is a lot of time and energy that goes into each foster dog. It is one of the perks of keeping One Dog at a Time small. Most of the dogs go through One Dog at a Time come from a high-kill shelter in Oklahoma, a trip Glenn likes to call the “freedom ride.” Many have suffered through abuse and some level of trauma that their new foster parents try to work through while getting them ready for their new family.
“[Glenn] takes a lot of the more severe cases herself, because she has the training experience,” Connor said. “There’s still a lot of training that needs to be done [with the foster dogs] just to make sure they’re adoptable. … It makes them more adoptable the more tricks they know.”
Iris is one of those dogs who came from a rough background, though Connor does not know the specifics. She still did not have very many behavioral problems due to being so young, so Connor’s main focus while training was socializing, potty training and basic tricks, which her dog Apollo helped with.
“My dog tells [the foster puppies] that, ‘You can’t bite me whenever you want,’ and ‘You can’t jump on people’s faces,'” Connor said.
Between Connor and Apollo, the foster puppies that came into their home learned their manners — or at least start the process. Iris could probably work on not ripping up grass a little bit more, Connor said.
Glenn and many of the other foster families that work with One Dog at a Time have fostered dogs through other dog rescues in the past, but Glenn said the demands of working with larger, more widespread groups can be overwhelming. Getting too many calls each day about dogs needing fostering is hard while still trying to manage other business.
Glenn was in the process of phasing out of the organization when she decided to take in a dog that needed intensive training after suffering through abuse. It was supposed to just be a training program called One Dog at a Time, but then Glenn was approached by more people wanting to get involved, and the organization became a licensed dog rescue last November.
One Dog at a Time makes sure the dogs in its care are well taken care of. Veterinary costs, food, treats, toys and anything else each dog might need are all covered by the organization. The costs are covered by adoption fees, donations, T-shirt and bumper sticker sales and fundraising events. Glenn also works with TimberCreek Veterinary Hospital to make sure all the foster dogs going through the organization are well cared for.
“[Glenn] is so passionate,” Annan said. “It’s the passion that all of our fosters have for their animals. It’s just neat to have us all on the same page.”
Iris found her forever home after almost two weeks in One Dog at a Time MHK, which is about how long dogs are usually fostered through the organization before moving in with their new families.
She doesn’t need that gap in her lip to sport a smile now.