Rescue Of The Month
Our Rescue of the Month for October is Brookline Labrador Retriever Rescue, which is an exclusively volunteer-operated rescue with a network of volunteer foster homes throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. We're so excited to be working with this amazing organization this entire month. We sat down with one of their volunteers who shared how Brookline was started, their challenges, and ways to help.
Tell us about how Brookline was started? Is there a personal story behind Brookline's mission?
Brookline Labrador Retrieve Rescue was founded in 1997 by Nicole Soyster and her husband, Mike, and is named after their family Labrador Retriever, Brooke. While many rescue organization thrive as a referral source for families looking for a dog and for those considering surrendering a family pet, Brookline has operated under a slightly different model since its inception. Nicole’s belief was that Brookline could succeed by placing dogs in its care into a network of foster homes, a setting that allows each dog to live as a family pet and one that gives the volunteer a chance to fully evaluate the dog’s temperament and behavior. Because we get to know each dog as an individual, Brookline volunteers can better match dogs to a forever home. Today, we continue this legacy, and we are proud to say that we do not just place dogs in homes … we help families welcome an additional member of their pack.
Is there a reason why Brookline is focused on labs? Do you rescue other dogs in certain situations?
Brookline is exclusively dedicated to helping families adopt Labrador Retrievers and Lab mixes. In part, Brookline is dedicated to helping place Labrador Retrievers and Lab mixes because of our founder’s fondness for the breed. But we also recognize that there is a need to help advocate for and educate about Labs: Although they can be the perfect family dog, Labs require special dedication and attention. By focusing on the needs of one breed, we have developed a specialty that allows us to be passionate and informed voices for the dogs in our care.
What are the biggest challenges Brookline faces?
Brookline is a 100% volunteer organization, which is both our greatest asset and the biggest obstacle we face. On the one hand, every dollar we raise is funneled directly to the care of our dogs. And because we are an entirely volunteer organization, there is a certain camaraderie amongst our members, because everyone feels invested and that they are part of both our successes and failures. Yet, because we lack the organizational infrastructure associated with dedicated staff members, it is often a struggle to manage resources and set aside time to attracting new volunteers—and finding foster homes is probably the single hardest challenge we face. Of course, being a non-profit organization, lack of funding for vet bills is a challenge, as well.
Running a rescue and helping dogs can be tough, both emotionally and physically. Can you share a tough experience or trying moment for Brookline, and what you did to overcome it?
In a perfect world, Brookline would be able to save every Labrador Retriever in our coverage area and help every family looking for a dog welcome home a new member of their pack. But rescue work is not a fairy tale. Often, for the sake of the dog or in the best interest of a prospective family, we have to use our best judgment and refuse a match. We know how devastating it can be to hear ‘no’ but we also know that finding a forever match takes time, dedication and patience.
Unfortunately, there are also times where our efforts are simply not enough to save a dog or help a family. Sadly, not every dog can be saved, and for some of our older dogs or those with serious medical conditions, sometimes the best we can do is to give a dog dignity in the final stages of its life. In a way, serving in this capacity is a win for our organization, because part of our mandate is to be a voice for the voiceless, but the people involved, especially if they need to make tough decisions, still get hurt.
Rescue work is hard work, and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that can be draining and tiring—from a leadership perspective, that includes organizing and fundraising, but the real heavy lifting is done by our volunteers, who spend countless hours caring for dogs, working with families, attending vet visits, helping out at events and making sure our organization runs smoothly. Our volunteers really go above and beyond, including generously reaching into their own pocket to help cover expenses. Overall, we succeed more often than we “fail” (for lack of a better word), but that does not diminish the pain associated with not accomplishing everything we want. And yet, those tough times are also when our volunteers seem to naturally come together to support one another.
Do all dogs stay with fosters in the area or do you also have a facility where some dogs stay?
Brookline operates as a network of volunteer foster homes throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Our foster families take on a lot of responsibility and they are the sole reason we are successful. Organizations that house animals in a central facility can be successful, and they often are, but our model is really predicated on giving dogs a chance to live in a foster home, which allows their personality to blossom outside of captivity and lets our volunteers learn what will be the best forever home for that dog. Less frequently, a dog being surrendered will continue to live with its family until we find a suitable new home. In either case, it is the personal touch we offer that makes us unique and different.
Where does your primary financial support come from?
We do not have a primary source of financial support. Brookline relies on donations—throughout the year and during our annual appeal—and sponsors events, such as our online auctions in the Spring and Fall and our Lagers for Labs in May, to help raise money. We also attend numerous events throughout the year where we sell merchandise to raise money to help our labs.
How many dogs on average do you place in their forever homes annually?
Brookline places approximately 100 Labs and Lab mixes per year.
For those reading this, if they want to help fight the good fight, what can they do to help?
Volunteer! Foster! Donate!
What are the plans for the future of Brookline?
We are always looking to increase the number of Labs and Lab mixes that we can help. Eventually, we may have our own kennel facility, but in the meantime, the more foster homes we have, the more labs we can help. We have attracted a wide array of very dedicated volunteers, and each individual brings something unique and special to our organization. But we could always use more help advocating for, educating about and saving Labrador Retrievers and Lab mixes!