WATERVILLE — The local humane society has kicked off a new program to help their dogs get out of the shelter and into caring homes.

Ashley Babcock, left, with Opie and Ron Thompson with Paisley at Saturday’s Slumber Pups orientation at Waterville Area Humane Society. Morning Sentinel photo by Taylor Abbott

The Slumber Pups program launched Saturday morning at the Waterville Area Humane Society seeks to match dogs with potential adoptees for a short stay in the home. Participants from across the region gathered for a brief orientation conducted by animal care manager Mallory Chandler and lead dog technician Ashley Marchand, who gave brief introductions about the program and offered their own bits of advice.

A one-on-one orientation is also provided to those that want to take out a dog, but since it was a larger group, the initial conversation was brief and the group split up.

Slumber Pups is funded through Maddie’s Fund, a national family foundation that was established to work on the well-being and status of animals and works to learn more about how fostering programs affect dogs as well as shelter staff.

Chandler and Marchand shared their experiences in the program with the roughly 30 participants Saturday. The pair traveled to Virginia in previous months to attend the Maddie’s Fund Apprenticeship, where they attended trainings on short-term fostering for dogs. They were able to participate as well by taking a dog from the training with them to their Airbnb.

“It was pretty life-altering for us because not only did we get to participate in the apprenticeship, but we got to participate” in the Slumber Pups program, Chandler said. “We were able to take a dog home with us, one that had never been out of the shelter before and never really seen the outside of the shelter walls.”

“(The dog) was a cage-aggressive, bark-y, big-mouth-y hound that was kind of fearful of the shelter life, Chandler said. “Within minutes of having him out of the shelter, he was a different dog. He didn’t bark, he was sweet as pie and we loved him so much.”

Chandler said that because of their reports following the overnight stay, the dog’s profile was update and it was later adopted. Through the program, taking photos is encouraged and there’s a report card to be filled out before returning the dog after the overnight stay.

To be considered, those interested must fill out an application. From there, the application is reviewed, and if accepted, shelter staff will work to match the person with a dog compatible with their needs and energy levels.

Once a dog is matched, the staff offers to provide food, leashes, kennels and other necessities for the stay. There is also a folder of information as well as a report card to fill out for the dog, which will be hung outside of their kennel at the shelter for potential adopters to look at.

Marchand says that she is the one to make those decisions and is open-minded to those that have preferences. As of now, Waterville Area Humane Society is the only shelter in the area with a program like Slumber Pups.

“We want everyone to be safe during the process and we are open to communication the whole time you have your dog during your slumber party,” she said. “We don’t necessarily have you pick your dogs, I pick for you because I know their behavior well and I want to make sure that we don’t set up a dog for failure.”

Ashley Babcock, left, and Ron Thompson, walk Opie and Paisley to see if the pair are a good match for an overnight stay. Morning Sentinel photo by Taylor Abbott

Ashley Babcock, of Bangor, was there Saturday morning. She has a 5-year-old blue nose pitbull named Opie and was hoping to participate in the Slumber Pups program.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for these dogs to get to experience life out of the shelter even though they’re still here to promote advertising so they can be adopted and potentially adopted,” Babcock said. “I have a dog, the winter’s are long, so it’s good for both of them to have the association and playtime.”

After the orientation, the staff worked to pair Babcock and Opie with a dog that fit their needs. Babcock said that her preferences were to be paired with a female dog that is social, energetic and enjoys hiking.

Initially, the pair was introduced to Mila, an 8-month-old heeler-mix. The two dogs got along initially, but a few minutes after the introduction, both Babcock and staff member Ron Thompson realized the energy levels between the two dogs did not match and it was not a good pairing.

Within minutes, Thompson returned with Paisley, another heeler-hound mix that was older and a little more relaxed. The two dogs spent half an hour together before it was deemed that they would be a good match for the short stay.

“This is also good for Opie,” Babcock said, referring to her own dog that she’s raised since he was a puppy. “I’m also figuring out what (Opie) needs to work on.”

Thompson, who volunteered at the Humane Society for three years before joining the staff, said that the program is very exciting and the results show that the program is effective.

“That’s why it is so important for the Slumber Pups program to be here in Waterville,” Chandler said. “We have so many amazing dogs who get overlooked because they’re not shining stars in kennels. When you take them out and bring them home and show them love, they are completely different dogs, and that’s why we started this program.”

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