*Editor’s Note: The writer of this article fell in love with Sadie, one of Trevor Geiger’s foster dogs, and ended up adopting her! We want to thank Trevor and all the wonderful volunteers who devote their time and energy to helping animals in need. We hope that by sharing Trevor’s story, we can raise awareness about the importance of fostering and adopting shelter animals.
Trevor Geiger, a graduating senior at Northern Arizona University, didn’t wait to graduate before making a difference. Geiger’s passion for helping animals and desire to make a difference led him to start fostering dogs through High Country Humane, a local animal rescue organization. Geiger is majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry and is a student worker for NAU, but it’s Geiger’s dedication to animals and involvement in dog fostering during his time at NAU that sets him apart. His dream of becoming a veterinarian and his love of animals led him to begin fostering dogs while still a student. To celebrate National Foster a Dog Month, we are shining a light on his work and journey. Geiger had a string of pets, a positive local impact and learned more about different kinds of dogs in preparation for his future career.
It all started one night when Geiger and his girlfriend were looking at the organization’s website and came across a photo of a German shepherd that stole his heart. He decided to take the leap and become a foster caregiver, providing a temporary home for dogs in need. He had witnessed the heartbreaking sight of strays during his travels and wanted to help. He also wanted to gain more experience for his vet school application and saw fostering as a way to have a dog around without the commitment of adoption. Turned out the German shepherd would be too large for his apartment, but a slightly smaller dog, Sadie, was there to steal his heart again.
“I’d thought about adopting a dog since coming up for college but was just unsure with my busy school schedule, so I thought fostering would be great because they don’t charge you a single penny to foster,” Geiger said. “The only money I’ve spent on my foster dogs was to get them extra toys to spoil them. I love having a dog around. They keep you from feeling lonely.” Geiger has fostered four dogs so far: Sadie, Rugar, Sunny and Duke.
How did a university student with a challenging major and minor and working find time to foster several dogs? Love, dedication and perseverance. It also helped that he loves the outdoors! Originally from Orange County, California, he chose to attend NAU because of his love for the mountains and the outdoors. “I realized there was enough time in my schedule to fit in fostering a dog because most of my hobbies are outdoors, so it was easy to incorporate a dog into that. If I’m going hiking or fishing, I can easily bring my dog,” Geiger said.
Still, ensuring he met expectations at school, work and fostering meant giving some of the time he had for himself as well as intentionally planning his schedule. Geiger planned his weeks out in advance to ensure he had time to complete all his assignments, work and spend time with his foster dog. This sometimes meant long nights and earlier mornings. In addition to his tight schedule, his foster dogs’ individual needs posed challenges. While Sadie and Rugar were well-behaved and didn’t pose many challenges, Geiger’s experiences with his subsequent fosters posed more challenges. Sunny, a lovable but behaviorally challenged dog, presented some difficulties, Duke, a mature dog, had several health issues. Despite the challenges, Geiger’s dedication to helping dogs in need and his unwavering commitment to their care and well-being shine through with all four foster dogs being successfully adopted.
“I am a huge believer in the human-animal bond. Part of why I want to be a vet is to strengthen and lengthen that relationship for as many people as possible,” Geiger said.
One of the reasons Geiger decided to become a foster caregiver was his desire to help the many stray dogs roaming Arizona that needed assistance. This can often mean an unpredictable experience with each dog. Geiger asked about dogs that needed more interaction. Some dogs do not do well being in a cage all day, which can cause behavioral issues to deepen. His foster Sunny, a lovable but behaviorally challenged dog, presented some difficulties for Geiger. He worried the adoptive family might give her back, so he took her to training sessions with a behavioralist for a couple of weeks. After weeks of barking at everything and showing aggressive behavior toward other dogs, there was a marked improvement and Sunny was adopted. “It was a great learning experience for me as well, as it taught me patience, empathy and effective communication with animals,” Geiger said.
Duke, a senior dog who had been abandoned and neglected, had several health issues and Geiger had to give him medication at certain times. It was difficult because the medication needed to be taken with food, but because Duke was sick, he had almost no appetite. It was also clear Duke had been attacked during his time as stray as a piece of his ear was missing. It was hard to see Duke listless, knowing he was just a shadow of himself. Geiger overcame Sunny’s behavioral issues and nursed Duke back to health, keeping both until they were adopted. Despite the challenges, Geiger’s dedication to helping dogs in need and his unwavering commitment to their care and well-being shine through his foster dogs’ happy and energetic behavior. Geiger remembers the heartwarming moment he saw Duke wag his tail as he left for his forever home with a loving family.
“I can say for every dog I’ve fostered, the first few days of being with a new dog, they become different dogs than when I first met them. Seeing them progress, more of their personality comes out, seeing them become happier and more playful is such a rewarding experience, as is building a relationship with each dog,” Geiger said.
Geiger also faced challenges after parting from his pals as their forever families embraced his foster. He underestimated the emotional toll of saying goodbye to the dogs he brought back to life from the sad, sick and abandoned state they were into happy, healthy and fun-loving pups. “Saying goodbye to my first few fosters was hard. I quickly returned to the shelter to get another one with me. It was hardest with Sadie because she was my first foster, and it was the first time I had to go through it,” Geiger said. “Every time I adopt out a dog, I ask them to send me pictures of the dogs, which helped me immensely when I found myself missing them.”
Geiger offered advice to anyone considered fostering:
- Remember that each dog has a story that you don’t know in its entirety, so be understanding.
- You can take a foster dog back to the shelter if needed. “I never needed to, and it would have broken my heart to do so, but it was good to know it was always an option,” Geiger said.
- Understand what it takes before getting into it. Go to the shelter before adopting and try to understand what the dog is like, if you’re a good fit and if you could help them. “I get emails from the shelter all the time. They just have so many dogs there all the time. I would recommend it to anybody thinking about fostering: do it. Help the dogs out. There are a lot that need help and it’s a very rewarding experience,” Geiger said.
- The shelter listens to the comments and concerns of the foster caregivers, so there’s a responsibility to do your due diligence.
- “One thing that always helped was to take time to cuddle with the dogs,” Geiger said.
Geiger’s journey at NAU began with a major in engineering, but after working for a veterinary hospital back home, he realized that his true calling was in the field of biology and veterinary medicine. Also aware of the shortage of veterinarians, Geiger is determined to contribute a solution for this issue. As a part of the NAU Pre-Veterinary Club, Geiger has gained valuable insights into the veterinary field and learned from experienced professionals. Despite his busy schedule, he has been able to attend some club meetings and take advantage of the club’s resources, including speakers from veterinary hospitals about the application process and their personal experiences. He started fostering because he wanted to make a difference in dog lives’ now and gain valuable experience for his veterinary school application. He believes that pets and animals bring numerous positive benefits to people’s lives, and he hopes to make a difference by providing quality care for animals and fostering strong relationships between humans and their animal companions.
“My experience with dog fostering has been incredibly fulfilling. It has allowed me to combine my love for animals with my passion for veterinary medicine. It has also given me hands-on experience in caring for different breeds, ages and temperaments of dogs, which has further solidified my desire to become a veterinarian,” Geiger said. “Dog fostering has taught me valuable skills in animal care, behavior management and compassion, which I believe will benefit me greatly in my future career as a veterinarian. It has been an honor to be able to make a positive impact on the lives of these furry companions, and I plan to continue fostering dogs even after graduating from NAU.”
Cynthia Gerber | NAU Communications
(928) 523-7341 | Cynthia.Gerber@nau.edu