How Sniffspot opened up a foster dog’s new world

In September 2021, Miranda got a call from the Family Dogs New Life shelter. She had previously fostered a bully breed through the organization, and they wanted to know if she’d open her home to a new dog.

It was 3pm. Fonzie the husky shepherd mix was scheduled to be euthanized at 5. Could she save him?

Miranda jumped in to save a life

Yes, she said, I’ll be his foster! Miranda prepared her apartment for Fonzie’s arrival while an incredible network of volunteers helped transport him from the Central California SPCA to Oregon.

No one knew what Fonzie’s past was like — he was found as a stray — but everyone was determined his future would only get better.

And get better it has! Miranda was the ideal foster home: She’d grown up with shepherd mix rescues of her own, loved dog sitting, and always had a heart for animals. While she wasn’t quite sure if she was ready for a permanent new family member, fostering seemed like the perfect fit.

“It meets both of our needs,” she said about her decision to first foster a female pit bull and then ultimately take in Fonzie. A homeless pet gets a safe place to start the rest of their life — and a dog lover gets to experience the joy of a canine companion.

It was difficult to fulfill Fonzie’s needs

While Miranda never regretted saying “yes” that September day, Fonzie’s journey hasn’t always been smooth.

She was expecting her new foster to be three years old, but he showed up smaller than expected — he was barely fifteen months! The fact that Fonzie was still growing up meant two things:

  1. He needed regular, safe exposure to the world around him.
  2. He had a lot of puppy-like energy to work with.

Because of rescue liability restrictions, Fonzie wasn’t able to visit traditional dog parks. Miranda committed to long neighborhood walks but quickly realized her foster was incredibly leash reactive — if he saw another dog, he’d lose his mind.

She started taking Fonzie out early in the morning to avoid other dog owners. It wasn’t terrible, but Miranda knew he wanted to run more than the leash allowed. “I was at a loss on how to keep him happy. I resorted to finding empty tennis courts where he could play off leash, but those were hard to come by and still had the possibility of escape,” she said.

Then a member of her foster support network mentioned Sniffspot. Miranda had never heard of the idea before — and it was exactly what she needed to change Fonzie’s life.

Sniffspot provides safe opportunities for rescue dogs to run and play

After about a month together, Miranda took her foster dog to his first Sniffspot. They haven’t looked back!

It was the first time since being rescued that Fonzie could fully enjoy just being himself. He got to run, dig, sniff, and learn about the world — all without stress for him or his handlers.

These secure, private spaces were especially important since he was still growing up. Miranda and her boyfriend, Jack, said it was wonderful to watch Fonzie investigate the environment in a healthy way without being rushed! Over time he’s matured and developed better emotional regulation skills as a result.

Another bonus? Fonzie used to struggle in the car — but regular Sniffspot visits have built a positive association with going for a ride. “It makes me happy to see him so excited to jump in the car,” Miranda said.

The family has since moved into a house with a yard, but Sniffspots are still a regular part of Miranda, Jack, and Fonzie’s routine. They go multiple times a week for a fix of nature and relaxation — it’s a great way for them all to explore.

One of the best parts about using these spots so often is that they’ve gotten to know the hosts. Miranda is a member of two favorite Sniffspots and frequents several others, creating a similar sense of community to the support they’ve felt in the rescue world.

Teamwork made Fonzie’s happily ever after possible

When Miranda rescued Fonzie from being euthanized, all she wanted was to give him the best life possible. With an amazing support network including friends, shelter staff, and Sniffspot hosts, that’s exactly what she’s done.

In eight months, an uncertain stray has blossomed into a confident dog with a huge personality. Fonzie combines so many wonderful traits that make Miranda and Jack laugh every day: he head tilts, he’s camera shy, he leaps through long grass just like a rabbit would, he “squeaks” instead of barking, and he’s incredibly cuddly.

While he sometimes still struggles on neighborhood walks, Fonzie has grown tremendously from his foster guardians’ dedication and relaxed opportunities to explore. Miranda has jumped headfirst into the dog training world because of him — she had never experienced leash reactivity but now listens to podcasts, attends professional classes, and has learned more about dogs than ever before. “I knew I was patient, but he taught me even more,” she said about the ways he’s helped her grow too.

The best news of all? Miranda and her boyfriend officially adopted their husky shepherd foster on 5/16, making him a permanent part of the family!

Fostering, adopting, and volunteering saves lives — and safe environments life Sniffspots help rescue advocates make an even bigger difference. “Sniffspot has done wonders for me and all the dogs at the shelter, who are not dog tolerant, or who just need extra room to run,” Miranda said.