Heartfelt Tales from the Frontlines: Inside CAC’s Dog Program with Halle Tenhundfeld

cincinnati animal care dog care program Halle Tenhundfeld

Heartfelt Tales from the Frontlines: Inside CAC’s Dog Program with Halle Tenhundfeld

At Cincinnati Animal CARE (CAC), the dog program is a dynamic and vital part of our operations. Halle Tenhundfeld, our dedicated Dog Program Lead, has been instrumental in our growth and success. With two years under her belt, Halle has witnessed and contributed to significant changes within CAC.

“My 2nd anniversary is coming up in August,” Halle shares, reflecting on her time with CAC’s dog program. In just two years, Halle has seen the organization expand and evolve in remarkable ways. Let’s dive into her experiences and insights about the dog program at CAC.

 

cincinnati animal care dog care program Halle Tenhundfeld foster
Pictured: Cincinnati Animal CARE’s Dog Program Lead, Halle Tenhundfeld.

Growth & Change for CAC’s Dog Care Program

“The biggest change is that we now have two facilities, and our intake numbers have doubled,” says Halle. “The fact that we’ve doubled our intake and have still maintained our no-kill status is incredible for a county shelter that only has 100 kennels,” Halle shares. This achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the dog care team, foster team, and our community for stepping up when the dogs need them most!

Challenge as a Dog Program Lead

“My biggest struggle has been separating my work life from my home life,” says Halle. “It is incredibly hard when I take fosters home.” Halle has fostered over 80 dogs through CAC over the past 2 years. Helping her fosters find their future homes is a rewarding experience that helps alleviate some of the more challenges aspects of the job.

“I tend to work very closely with dogs that are struggling on-site and need extra love and attention. I get very close to them, but they don’t always make it out of the shelter,” Halle confides. Balancing personal emotions and professional responsibilities is a constant challenge for those deeply invested in animal welfare.

The Biggest Challenge the Dog Care Department Faces

“The biggest challenge that dog care faces is the sheer number of animals we have in our care right now. Our current staffing and on-site population is equivalent to one teacher being in a room with 45 students on their own,” Halle explains. Managing such a large number of dogs with limited staff requires immense dedication and organization.

cincinnati animal care dog program play group coordinator
Pictured is our Playgroup Coordinator, Alexis Newman, and some CAC dogs in playgroup.

Getting to Know CAC’s Dogs

With hundreds of dogs on-site at any given time, it’s a feat to stay on top of all of our new intakes. Our Dog Care Program has evolved to put systems in place that helps us better understand the dogs in our care.

“Our behavior and training team assesses every dog that comes through our doors and gives them a volunteer color within the first 48 hours of them being on-site,” Halle explains. “Our color system includes Green, Orange, Blue, Silver, Yellow, and Red.” All of our dogs on-site are given a volunteer color based on various behaviors observed while at the shelter. CAC volunteers who are trained to a certain color can handle those dogs. In addition to testing dogs with people, we also test their sociability with other dogs.

Dog-to-Dog Playgroup Assessments

“Within the first 72 hours, we dog-test them with other dogs. We test our new intakes with dogs who we already know their sociability levels to see how they respond. After the assessment, every dog is categorized with a play style that helps us match them with daily playgroup partners and also advocate for them to go to the best home, with or without other animals.” This systematic approach ensures that each dog receives the care and attention suited to their individual needs, helping them find the best possible homes.

Life for Dogs in a Shelter

“No matter how much time we can give a dog out of their kennel, how much enrichment we provide them, or how many walks it goes on – it will never be a home for an animal. Even if a dog isn’t suffering mentally yet in a shelter, it’s only a matter of time simply because the shelter is not a home, and we can’t make it one,” Halle emphasizes. Understanding the limitations of a shelter environment is crucial for the public to grasp the importance of fostering and adopting.

Donation Needs

When asked about specific donations, Halle responds, “Dog food and wet food especially. And any enrichment items like Nylabones and long-lasting chews that the dogs can have in their kennels.” These items are crucial for the well-being and enrichment of the dogs in our care. If you’d like to donate, you can shop our Amazon wishlist here!

 

cincinnati animal care dog program kennel tech dog trainer

The Hardest Lesson to Learn

As a Dog Program Lead, Halle is responsible for the on-site dogs in our care, but also in helping to manage our fleet of Dog Care Specialists. Working in dog care isn’t just about playing with puppies all day (though there is a lot of that!) It’s a given than anyone in dog care should love working with animals, but there are some challenges that come with the job.

“It’s important to understand that not every dog is going to make it out of the shelter, despite our best efforts. That seems to be the hardest thing for people to come to terms with. I know from experience how hard it is to learn that lesson, but I know that we can’t focus solely on one dog that’s struggling to the detriment of 20 other dogs who need us just as much.”

Halle concludes with a vital point, “No-kill doesn’t mean no euthanasia. We will never euthanize for space, but we will make euthanasia decisions based on quality of life and to alleviate suffering. Part of loving these animals is learning when to let them go.”

We’re always looking for passionate individuals to join our dog care team and help provide enrichment, assist with playgroup, do adoption shows, and of course clean kennels. If you’re interested in joining the dog care team, view our open positions here!

cincinnati animal care dog care program Halle Tenhundfeld foster
Pictured are just a few of the 80+ dogs that Halle has fostered over the past 2 years. Foster homes play a vital role in getting dogs out of the shelter and helping them find future homes.

The Role of Cincinnati Animal CARE’s Foster Program

“Fostering gets a dog out of the shelter and lets us find out more about the dog so we can advocate for them to go to a home that’s best suited to them. It also takes a lot of stress off our staff because it’s one less kennel to clean and take out on a walk and care for on-site,” Halle explains. Fostering not only benefits the dogs, but also supports the staff in managing the shelter’s population.

Halle’s Fostering Journey

As of this interview, Halle has fostered more than 80 dogs! “I mostly foster puppies and senior dogs because they tend to suffer the most at the shelter and are the most susceptible to illness.”

“I see firsthand that dog sitting in a pop-up crate or kennel all day since I’m here, and I would rather them be at my house than continue to see them in the shelter,” she says. Halle’s dedication to fostering highlights her commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable dogs.

The Current State of CAC’s Foster Program

As of June 19th, CAC has 384 animals living off-site in foster homes. This includes 208 dogs from small to large and puppy to senior. It also includes 172 cats and kittens ranging from neonatals to senior cats. Cincinnati Animal CARE relies on our dedicate foster community to help keep animals out of the shelter and help find them loving homes. If you’re interested in learning more about our foster program or how to get involved, visit our foster resources page here.

the 3-3-3 rule decompression for shelter dogs infographic

The 333 Rule of bring home a Shelter Dog

If there’s anything Halle wishes the general public understood about bringing a shelter dog home, it’s the “333 rule.” She explains, “One can’t take a dog home and expect them to perfectly fit into your life within an hour of them being there. Dogs take time to adjust to their new lives.”

Whether you’re adopting a dog or bringing one home to foster, it’s vital to give them time to decompress and built trust before asking too much of them. Patience and understanding are key!

Conclusion

Cincinnati Animal CARE’s dog program, led by dedicated individuals like Halle Tenhundfeld, is a beacon of hope for countless dogs. CAC strives to provide the best possible care for every dog that comes through its doors. Halle’s journey and insights shed light on the challenges and triumphs of working in animal welfare, reminding us all of the importance of compassion, patience, and dedication in making a difference in the lives of animals.

If you’re inspired by Halle’s story and want to support the dog program at CAC, consider donating dog food, wet food, or enrichment items. Every little bit helps in our mission to provide the best care for our furry friends!

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