Shelter offers dog days – and nights – of summer

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BRUNSWICK — While summer is one of the most popular seasons for weekend getaways, the Coastal Humane Society is offering people the chance to host non-human house guests, too.

The shelter, along with its sister facility, The Lincoln County Animal Shelter in Edgecomb, launched a Slumber Party Program this spring to help long-term canine residents find homes.

The initiative gives people the opportunity to take home adoptable dogs for three-day sleepovers that are intended to serve as a trial adoption period.

Coastal Humane Society Shelter manager Sarah Murray said dogs that have been at the shelter the longest or have special needs – such as not getting along well with other dogs or being uncertain around children – are prime candidates.

The shelter is amenable, however, to making most of the dogs available for sleepovers.

“We’re pretty open to most of the dogs being available for the slumber party; we don’t do puppies because those are kind of in and out really quick,” she said. “So we don’t have a problem with them adopting out.”

Murray said soon after launching the program her shelter had a dog successfully adopted through the sleepover process.

“She was a pit-mix, so the husband was cool with that, totally fine, and the wife was like, ‘A pit bull? I don’t know,'” Murray said. “And they took her home for the weekend and the wife was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s the perfect dog,’ so that worked out well.”

Getting dogs into a different environment, she said, can be key due to the “stressful” atmosphere of a shelter. Once shelter dogs are in a home, she added, they are typically calmer.

Executive Director Trendy Stanchfield echoed that perception, and also said the resident canines that go on sleepovers are hand selected by Coastal Humane Society staff.

“If any of them have some more severe behavior issues we won’t allow those, if there’s any question at all that they’re not safe to go out with a particular family,” she said.

The program only includes dogs, but Murray said it could expand to include some of the cats at the shelter, though the facility typically does not have as many problems getting felines adopted.

Even when people decide a dog is not the right fit after a sleepover, she said the program is valuable for Coastal Humane Society because of the information staffers receive. For instance, the family might be able to give details about how an animal acted in the home.

If a family does decide to adopt, however, the facility offers same-day adoption.

Some long-term residents at Coastal Humane Society also go through a “behavior modification” training regimen designed specifically for the animal that can make them more adoptable.

The idea, Stanchfield said, is to get them back to “ground zero” in terms of temperament, and “train the manners back into them.”

“Especially with (the dogs) that come with baggage – they’ve been left alone or they’ve been tied up, so they start building behaviors to live that new life,” she said. “And when you take them out of that life, they don’t know how to necessarily react to having enough food, or having enough pets and hugs. So it takes a while to undo it.”

Stanchfield also said Coastal Humane Society has built partnerships with shelters in the South and brings dogs to Maine to avoid being euthanized.

Northern New England, she said, is “quite progressive” and has a high demand for animals with a relatively low number surrendered by their owners, which makes room in shelters such as Coastal Humane.

Stanchfield added the sleepover program is good because it gives people a chance to backpedal without feeling embarrassed.

“Not every dog is a match for every situation, so it gives people that ‘out’ to at least give it a try,” she said.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

From left, Coastal Humane Society Shelter manager Sarah Murray, Executive Director Trendy Stanchfield, and Marketing manager Jane Siviski with Clifford, a dog up for adoption at the shelter. The facility recently launched a “Slumber Party Program” for its adoptable dogs.

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