Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rescue rage aka Giffy's rescue commandments

This post comes to you fresh of a facebook rampage to rescue. Now, don't get me wrong. I love to rescue dogs. I'll go to great lengths to do so, forego food, give up prime bed real estate, step in poop. And I do most of that with a smile--and a somewhat sticky spring in my step.

But seriously, what's with these facebook panic fests? You've seen them, haven't you? I want to rescue dogs as much as the next gal or guy, but I'm not willing to:

1. Break the law,
2. Ruin relationships with law enforcement or animal control officials, or
3. Bully people

to do so.

I will not engage in name calling, either.

So, let's take a pledge, shall we? Let's save as many animals as we can--sans self-righteousness, judgment, disdain. Let's work together to change the system, to ensure that heatlhy animals are euthanized less frequently and that when they are, it is done humanely. Let's educate people without proseletyzing and work toward a world in which humans no longer mistreat, abuse, neglect, or torture animals. Until we reach that point, let's band together to create tougher, carefully considered laws to protect animals. To start, spread the word or get involved with reputable organizations like AnimalFolksMN or Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection.

Maybe then we can work toward a world where

every pet is loved and well cared for,
no animal is born to die,
no creatures suffer.

Think about it. You can help.

A respite from the storm

I've been remiss in my posts lately because the post I have been working on has been dark, heavy. After all, the road to rescue is painful, often the result of failure after failure on the part of dogs' human companions. So let me tell a different story today, the story of Roxy.

Last night, Bob and I were invited to share fondue with Kate and Greg Pickman of Pick2 Design and Advertising, two members of the three-person family who adopted Roxy (the handsome girl pictured here--and at the bottom of their webpage).

Anyhow, to state that Roxy is thrilled to be living in her new home (since July), would be an understatement. She greeted me at the door with an enthusiasm that I never witnessed when she was my foster. She ran between people joyfully; she frolicked, attempted to find her toys so she could show them to us, and generally exhibited the behaviors of a well-adjusted dog that has never experienced disappointment. But that's not Roxy's story.

Roxy, a Wheaton terrier cross, and her littler mates came to Second Chance through a puppy mill. She was one of the cutest pups you could imagine (which, by the way, may be the kiss of death for dogs because they're frequently pushed aside for the next novelty that comes along after they've grown). Not surprisingly, Roxy (then Shelby) was adopted quickly. I can't tell you much about her original family because I wasn't her fosterer, but I can tell you things didn't go well in her first home.

Roxy was returned within months and was reported to have developed problem behaviors, nipping, if I recall correctly. But another family was waiting to adopt her. This was a youngish couple--no kids. They doted on Roxy, took her for walks, brought her to dog parks, treated her like the child they didn't have. And then, you guessed it, they had a child.

Relegated to the front porch where Roxy barked incessantly at passerbys, over time, she grew jumpy, reactive, and overly protective of the woman and child. It escalated until last year on St. Patrick's day Roxy was left chained outside on a busy street where she did the unthinkable: bit a drunk rollerblader passing by her. Roxy was once again returned to Second Chance, and this time she became my foster--probably around the 160th.

She was reserved, uncomfortable, and disengaged. I was kind to her, let her spend time back yard where she would sun herself, but she was withdrawn from the large, boisterous pack at my house, a bit like Ferdinand the Bull. (You remember him, don't you?) And so, when there was considerable interest in her, I was very pleased.

But the first prospective adopter had so much on her plate, including a husband who was ill and a dog that didn't seem to fit well with Roxy. (Trust me, over time, you can spot these things.)

And the second's dogs were not all that interested in adding one to their pack. Still, I held out for the right home. Roxy deserved that much, after all.

And then Kate called me. She told me that she had lived with a challenging dog--which Roxy, by this time, had been labeled as. She had a large, fenced yard, and Roxy would be an only dog. Her son was a gentle, kind young adult. And she and her husband worked at home! Over multiple conversations and a visit, we discovered that Kate, Ron, and their son would be the perfect family for Roxy.

And they are, too. Plus they make a mean fondue!

So, what's the message of this post? I don't know. Maybe that problem dogs don't always start that way. I'm certain that Roxy didn't. Rather, their human companions betray them, and when the dogs behave predictably, their families dispose of them. But Kate and Ron and their son demonstrate that unconditional works as well on dogs as it does on humans. Maybe it seems too simple, but there you have it. Roxy is happy; Roxy is home. And maybe that makes all this heartache just a little more bearable.

I'd write more, but I must be off--to help save a dog. Big surprise, right?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Behind the bars

A month ago, a friend and I went on an rather unsavory field trip to animal control in order to test the temperament of a Pomeranian after the dog coordinator for Second Chance Animal Rescue, the group for which I foster, called and told me that the dog may be too shy-fearful/aggressive to rescue.

Side note: I'm a sucker for Poms. In fact, I began fostering after my beloved Pomeranian, Mandy, fell down the stairs and died when she was 8 years old.

So my motivation to save this little dog was pretty high, and Kathy, who recently lost a dog unexpectedly herself, agreed to accompany me. The two of us entered the kennel quietly and sat on the rugs we brought while attempting the lure the currently nameless dog out of the corner. Aware that she would be euthanized if she bit either of us, we carefully approached her wearing gloves. Eventually, I was able to stroke her a bit and pick her up. Kathy even handled her paws, and at one point the little dog, whom we renamed "Ella," lifted a leg so Kathy could scratch her better. But in the facility, she was absolutely terrified.

As difficult a place as animal control is to see, it helps put things in perspective when a new dog enters my home. (To get a vague sense, check out this video, especially from 2:00 on. Note: There are few accurate depictions of animal control facilities on YouTube.) Since most of our dogs come through animal control, I find it helpul to see what their world is like once they become a stray. It goes something like this:

1. The dog's person relinquishes him/her, is hospitalized, or is arrested. . . OR a random person finds it in an unexpected place and calls animal control.

In the latter case, animal control officers come to the site and capture the loose dog, sometimes using a pole with a loop at the end. Anyhow, it's pretty traumatizing, from what I've seen--even
when animal control officers like those in this video are thoughtful in their approach.

2. The dog lives in a loud, cold kennel/run at an animal control facility for a set amount of time--unless it is reclaimed by it's person.

In my part of town, the dog stays in animal control for 5 days before it is euthanized. The facility itself is cold, loud, scary, containing rows of cement-floored runs. The has no bed or toys, and its run is cleaned using a high-powered hose. It is not walked or exercised during its stay.

3. While the dog is the facility, it can be assessed by a handful of rescue organizations, and if it is very, very lucky, it will be chosen to leave with one of those groups. That's what happened to Ella. She was sprung and fostered by Kathy, who helped her calm down after her terriying ordeal, and now Ella's in a permanent home.

4. But what about the majority that aren't claimed? Well, they wait. And wait. And when the facility is full or their time is determined to be up, someone walks up to their kennel wearing a lab coat and leather gloves, loops a leash around their necks, and takes them for a final walk, which ends behind a closed door.

I wish I could say their last moments were peaceful.