Adopt a Pet, Save a Life

Connie Wilson of Flower Mound has been a foster parent since the fall of 1998, and since then she has found homes for around 70 “kids” and adopted three of them as her own.

Only Wilson’s foster children have four legs and a tail.

With the countless hours Wilson spends every week on trips to animal shelters, runs to the animal clinic, working at adopt-a-pet events, and saving more than a dozen dogs every month from shelters and being euthanized, many dogs probably consider Wilson a hero.

The members and volunteers of the Humane Society of Flower Mound (HSFM) certainly find her work to be essential. Wilson is the Dog Foster Coordinator for the non-profit organization. Her job is to manage which dogs the humane society takes in, then match those dogs up with the foster parents who are best suited for them.

“It is an absolutely critical role,” said Michele Langenberg, HSFM Secretary. “She has to manage a great deal of things in flux.”

In fact, Wilson manages saving our local furry friends while still working full time as a Realtor with RE/MAX DFW Associates. She not only helps people find new homes, she also helps dogs find new homes too.

“To see the difference when you take a dog from the shelter and they’re so scared, and to find them a home, just to see that happy ending… it’s all worth it,” Wilson said.

Wilson began her work with HSFM when she read in the paper about a humane society meeting that was open to the public. “I knew I wanted to do volunteer work, and I knew I loved dogs, so I just went,” she said.  “It turns out I was the only person to ever come just from seeing the newspaper ad.”

Before long, Wilson was doing a great deal of volunteer work for the organization, and eventually became the Adoption Counselor. From there she became the Dog Foster Coordinator.

Fostering an animal works somewhat like fostering a child, in that a foster parent takes an animal in and provides them a temporary home until they are adopted.

“Fosters are at the core of our organization,” said Kathey Anthony, Cat Foster Coordinator for HSFM. “If I don’t have a foster then that animal doesn’t get rescued.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs are euthanized every year. This makes it tough to save and place every animal in new homes.

Wilson finds that the toughest aspect of her job is turning a dog down.

“There’s always lots of homeless dogs that need saving,” Wilson said. “But I have to say no sometimes. If there are no foster homes available, we can’t rescue the dog.”

According to Wilson, HSFM averages about 15 dogs a month being placed in foster homes to await adoption.

“We really have the best group of fosters, but there are never enough,” Wilson said. “I have to turn dogs down knowing that I didn’t have a place for the dog to go to.”

Wilson is also the first one that a foster calls if they ever have a behavioral problem with their foster dog.

Langenberg explained that sometimes the foster dogs might not get along with the other dogs the foster already owns. In that case, Wilson has to quickly find a new place better suited for that dog to stay. Other times there can be problems concerning a dog’s health.

HSFM has many volunteers that put in long hours helping coordinate vet visits and help out when there is a medical emergency.

“One of the hardest things is that people think if you have a foster then everything is always good and there are no problems,” Wilson said. “But they could get sick or have to go to the ER.”

Yet Wilson’s bright personality and kind nature makes her easy to work with even during these times of stress.

“She maintains a relationship with our foster volunteers,” Langenberg said. “Without a good personable person in that role we wouldn’t have such a good volunteer base.

Wilson explains that she knew practically nothing coming into the organization as a volunteer but she has learned a great deal over the years.

“She is very good at what she does and I look to her for direction in a lot of ways,” Anthony said.  “She has coached me about many different things.”

The biggest need for the Human Society of Flower Mound is to have more foster volunteers and foster homes. “Our organization is all volunteer and there is no profit, so without more fosters we can’t save as many lives,” Anthony said.

Wilson explained that there are many misconceptions about fostering animals. “The main thing everyone says is that they would get too attached to the dog, but as long as they know it’s going to a good home if they let that dog be adopted, then we have room for them to save another one.”

Wilson also says that HSFM has a really good support system and will never make anyone feel obligated to keep a dog that they don’t wish to have in their home for whatever reason. The HSFM even takes care of all medical costs for their foster dogs.

“Our fosters will never be out any money for medical work expenses,” Wilson said. HSFM does ask the foster volunteers to provide food and toys if possible. If there is ever a problem, or something is not working out, HSFM is always willing to take their dogs back.

“One of the great things about fostering is that you get an idea of a dog’s personality, and that helps place them in the right home later on,” Wilson said. There is even the option to do a “Foster to Adopt” program, in which you can receive a two-week trial period with an animal so you can see if you fit with them and they fit with you.

All sorts of dogs in various breeds, sizes, and temperaments can be found in shelters and rescue programs. “There is a misconception that a dog from a shelter must be some horrible unadoptable dog,” Wilson said. “But you can find the cutest, sweetest dogs – even purebreds – through adoptions. There are some great dogs at these shelters.”

Wilson would also like to ask everyone to spay and neuter their pets. “The overpopulation of pets in this area is a major problem,” Wilson said. “Since dogs and cats are out there continuing to have babies, there aren’t enough people to take those animals in.”

According to the DFW Humane society, almost 250,000 animals are euthanized annually in the DFW area alone.

Wilson says money is also a huge need for HSFM. “Money is always needed since we have so many medical bills that aren’t covered by the adoption fees.” Wilson says that it is a goal of HSFM to eventually have its own facility where it can temporarily house animals that need to be placed.

There is also a special fund, called the Mercy Fund, in which the money specifically goes to helping cover the costs of out of the ordinary medical treatments like surgeries. “A torn ACL on a lab can be $3,000 dollars to fix,” Wilson said. HSFM may take in a dog that has been hit by a car or has a broken leg, in which case they use the Mercy Fund to help pay for surgeries.

Wilson explained that she has already received calls from local animal services to come look at dogs with medical problems. “As a city they just don’t have the means and funds to treat the animals, and it’s usually something easy to fix. That’s why it’s so important to have the Mercy Fund.”

There are monthly volunteer meeting dates and times for HSFM posted on their website, There are things besides fostering that can be done, and volunteer orientations last about an hour.

“At HSFM were all a very close knit group, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” Anthony said. “If you are considering becoming a foster, it is a very rewarding experience, but it is a lot of work. You should do it to save lives, not just for the fun of having a kitty for a couple of days.”

HSFM is always looking for more volunteers to he
lp with any aspect of the organization they feel that they can contribute to. With more volunteers like Wilson, there would be more hope for local animals to be rescued and find a loving home before having their fate sealed in a shelter.

Contact the Humane Society of Flower Mound at 972-691-7387.

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