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The original item was published from 11/9/2023 9:36:51 AM to 11/24/2023 8:00:01 AM.

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HHS - Animal Services

Posted on: November 9, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Volunteer spotlight: Leslie Halla's dog followup calls

Leslie Halla

The first call that Leslie Halla made was about two years ago — to the new owner of a dog she affectionately calls "spicy;” that is, a bit more jumpy and energetic.

Leslie HallaShe asked how things were going and what resources the owner might need. Simple questions, yet the gratitude that the longtime Placer County Animal Services volunteer heard on the other end of the line inspired her to approach the volunteer coordinator and ask if she could implement the practice for all dog adopters. 

In the time since, Leslie has made nearly 400 calls a year to dog adopters to check in, offer resources, and hopefully prevent unsuccessful adoptions. This year, Placer County Animal Services has seen a 21% increase in dog intakes from comparable periods in 2022 to 2023, while also seeing 6% and 2% declines in adoptions and redemptions, respectively. Unsuccessful adoptions — when a family adopts a dog but returns it to the shelter soon thereafter, citing incompatibility — are particularly tough for shelter staff and volunteers in this environment of overcrowding. 

Leslie has been a PCAS volunteer for seven years, and has owned a variety of dogs of different temperaments herself over the years: from puppies to senior citizens, from high-energy to shy and scared. She’s come to know the 3-day, 3-week, 3-month rule firsthand: that it can take a new pet 3 days to come out of their shell and shake off the initial shock, 3 weeks to get used to you, and 3 months to get used to their new environment and routine.

“People don't give dogs a chance to settle in, and often expect too much too soon,” Halla said. “I just talked to a lady the other night, and it's a senior dog. And she's like, ‘I don't think this dog likes me.’”

“I said, ‘Honey, she has just been in your home a couple of weeks. She's now with dogs. She's with cats. There's birds in the house. You're on a farm. And she's a senior, so it's gonna take her a minute. Let her be in the yard and sun, because she's a pitbull and pitbulls like to sun.’ And that really was what clicked for her and she started taking the dog out and sitting with it, just sitting in a chair.”

Leslie talks to each owner about their unique circumstances and their dog, providing them with valuable information about the settling-in process, emphasizing the importance of patience during the first crucial weeks. Aside from emotional support, she offers practical resources based on their individual needs, including connecting them to trainers and even physical items like crates, especially for those facing financial constraints. 

The connections she builds are remarkable: Adopters from all walks of life frequently express their gratitude, and some have even become friends, sharing updates and photos. “They will often tell me their life story,” Leslie said. Her empathy and personalized guidance have turned many shaky adoptions into heartwarming success stories.

She recalls one woman who was at the end of her rope and ready to surrender her new dog because he kept trying to get at the neighbors’ chickens. Leslie arranged for a trainer to come by, and the dog learned its boundaries more quickly. Weeks later, Leslie received a handmade gift in the mail: a string art portrait of a dog and a note brimming with thanks and relief.

This small change in process has made a big difference in breaking down barriers to successful adoptions: last year, about 3.3% of PCAS intakes were unsuccessful adoptions. That compares to an estimated 7% to 20% nationwide. 




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