Friday, October 12, 2012

Preaching to the Choir

Don't Blame Me

Animal rescue volunteers are tireless. They transport unwanted and injured pets from shelter to veterinarian, from veterinarian to groomer, from groomer to pet store to be shown to adopters, and then back again to the veterinarian clinic to board or into their own homes. They go to adoptathons, events, fairs, festivals, parades, and anywhere else where they can show the dogs and cats that need homes. It is a rare weekend off for many of them.

They also answer calls from people who think they have "rescued" an animal, but have really just picked one up and want someone else to do all the work in finding it a new home. Or they hear from people who want to give up their pets for mostly silly reasons. Sometimes they talk to people who have a lot of dogs or cats roaming their neighborhoods, dropped there by irresponsible Neanderthals.

We listen, we give the best advice we can, and we wish them luck because we know they are in a hard spot and want us to sweep in and rescue them and the dogs and cats, but most often we can't because we are overwhelmed already with homeless animals.

What is most disturbing is when we get cussed out by these people when we can't do their bidding. I recall one woman who wanted us to come get several dogs that she and her neighbors had coaxed into their yards -- homeless dogs that had been roaming their neighborhood for weeks. When I told her we had just brought in eight dogs from area kill shelters and were now full, she pitched a fit and said we never helped anyone when they called and she would tell everyone that we were liars and do-nothings.

I still remember this because she was so full of fury and aggravation and I couldn't cut through it to make her see that we were on the same team. I was not to blame. I had not dumped dogs in her neighborhood. She was calling a group of VOLUNTEERS. We weren't paid to do any of this work with rescue animals. We used our free time to do whatever we could to keep as many dogs and cats as possible alive and in good homes. But this woman was screaming at me over the phone line as if I was the enemy.

Want to vent? Go the your area pet store and stop those guys and gals who are parading their unneutered dogs around. Yell at them to get their pets neutered! Scream at the people who have adult female dogs that are still intact. Berate people who are thinking about allowing their female dogs to have a litter of pups or to "stud out" their male dogs.

When you lecture rescuers, you are preaching to the choir.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sweet Returns

Could you give up a child because you were moving?

Me either. However people give up their pets without a backward glance. That's how Otto came back to me.

Otto is a perfectly behaved, red, chihuahua mix. He has a low, raspy bark and he is houstrained and crate trained. What a guy. I call him Judge Otto because he tends to be a very serious fellow and high on mannerly behavior.

I fostered him eight or nine months ago. He was adopted by a couple in their 70s who swore to me they were looking for a family member and they had never given a dog away once they brought it into their family. They said that if, for any reason they couldn't take care of Otto, one of their grown children would take him. Fine. So I allowed the adoption.

I called them a couple of times to see how he was doing in his new home and they always said he had fit in as if he had been with them for years. I wasn't surprised. He really is a fabulous guy. One of those dogs that is a total joy to foster.

Months glide by and I get a call from Claire (ARF's animal intact officer) who tells me that Otto is coming back. Seems that his adopters are moving to an apartment and don't want to take him because he would probably bark too much.

Huh? First of all, dogs bark. Get real. Second of all, Otto only barks when he sees someone approaching the house. Third of all, he has a husky bark which is far more pleasant than the normal shrill terrier bark I hear most often in my house. (Sorry, Gypsy!) Fourth of all -- Damn it all! How could they? How could they use such a flimsy excuse to drop Otto off at the veterinary clinic like he was a bag of laundry?

I just don't get it, people. Do you not understand that dogs have feelings? They have a tough time adjusting to new homes, new people, new beds, new routines -- but they do it! And they do it far more cheerfully than we humans do! So, when you adopt a dog, for heaven's sake, take it seriously! If you are the type who can bring a dog into your home for nine months and then turn your back on it because you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend, you're moving, your work has picked up, you're taking university classes now, or whatever stupid excuse -- then do us all a favor and buy yourself a stuffed animal.

Thanks for letting me vent. Otto and I feel ever so much better!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crazy Dog People

Dog rescuers are often called crazy and fanatic. We get used to it, but that doesn't mean we like it or feel it is deserved. Often we are called crazy by people who think that spaying and neutering is "mutilating" your pet and think nothing of cropping tails, clipping ears, and declawing cats! Go figure.

Day after day we listen to messages left on the ARF line from people who think nothing of tossing away their furry family members for the slimmest of reasons. Here are the Top Five excuses or explanations from people who call us and want us to take animals off their hands along with what we would LIKE to tell them but refrain from doing so.

1. I'm moving to Texas, so I can't keep my dog. News flash! Texas and the rest of the United States allow dogs, so you can take your dog with you!
2. I rescued a stray dog yesterday but I can't keep him, so I need someone to come get him and find him a good home. News flash! You picked up a stray and now you want us to rescue him. There is a difference.
3. Someone dumped four puppies in our yard and we need someone to come get them and find homes for them because they are so sweet. They are only 7 weeks old. News flash! We know that those puppies are yours and that you STILL haven't made an appointment to spay the female dog that gave birth to them.
4. I'm moving to an apartment that doesn't allow pets, so I need to get rid of my 14 year old cat. News flash! Many apartment complexes allow pets (especially cats) with a small or no pet deposit. If you love your pet, move to one of those!
5. My boyfriend is allergic to my cat, so I need to find her a new home. Can you guys help me? News flash! Ask your boyfriend to take medicine for his allergies and stay clear of your cat. After all, in a couple of months he will probably be history anyway, right?

Go to a local shelter one day and look at the dogs and cats there. All they did to end up in those dog runs and cat cages was to love someone with their whole hearts who didn't love them back.

So, who's crazy?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Freaky Falafel

He dances from side to side in his crate. He screams and barks like he's having a fit. He poops and pees every morning in his crate.

He is Falafel, the freakazoid foster dog!

What does one do with a foster like Falafel? Well, not much. I can't take him to PetSmart to show him to potential adopters because he is a nutcase in a crate. I do crate him at night and when I'm away from the house, and he settles down in his crate the moment I am out of sight. But until that time, he is dancing and screaming.

My plan is to begin working with him, rewarding him when he quiets down in his crate, etc. I hope he finally understands that being quiet and calm is what I want from him. I believe that he thinks the dancing and screaming are how he should behave.

He isn't a particularly attractive dog, which also isn't great for him. He is a blondish/tanish, short-haired rat terrier/whippet? mix. He has been bony ever since we rescued him many, many months ago. Since he has been with me, he has put on a tiny bit of weight so that his bones aren't all visible and jutting out, threatening to break through his skin.

Yes, I hate his name. I do wish he didn't have that stupid name. I call him Fah mostly. I think when you are already a freaky dog, you really don't need a stupid name to go with it. I didn't have anything to do with naming him, but I (and poor Fah) am stuck with it.

When he was being boarded at the veterinary, they begged us to come get him, so another foster home complied. Bless her, she kept him for months and months and he improved there. I took him to try to train him to use a doggy door and not poop in his crate. He finally got the doggy door figured out, but still has no qualms about messing up his crate. Tomorrow I am moving him into a smaller crate in hopes that it makes it difficult for him to poop and pee in there.

Some foster dogs are pure pleasure. I take those in from time to time -- just adopted out two of those "easy" ones (see Templeton's photo) -- but I always have one or two of the difficult, long-term foster dogs. While they are challenging, I also know they will come around one day and become someone's faithful companion.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Growing up, my parents convinced me that female dogs were sweeter and easier to potty train than boy dogs. It was only after volunteering to foster dogs for Animal Rescue Foundation that I realized that my parents were mistaken. I should have known before then because one of my best childhood friends had a boy dog named Tippy. He was a dachshund mix and quite a character. We all loved him and he was as sweet as he could be and housetrained.
My parents weren't the only ones working under the wrong assumption when it comes to females vs. males. Almost every week someone tells me that they must adopt a female because female dogs are:
1. sweeter
2. easier to train
3. get along better with other dogs

All three of these traits are 50 percent true and 50 percent false. It all depends on the dog and not the gender.

Since there seem to be more male dogs in shelters than female dogs, I realized fairly quickly that I would be fostering male dogs.

What I have discovered is that boy dogs are usually delightful (provided they are neutered) and are no more difficult to train than a female dog. As for getting along with other dogs . . .

I have a dominant female dog of my own and I can't bring another dominant female in to foster. Dominant male dogs are no problem, provided they are neutered. But a spayed dominant female can still be a prickly creature. Two spayed, headstrong female dogs can glance at each other and the fight is on!

So let's hear it for the boys. I still love the girls, of course, but I have learned that the boys often steal my heart and I remember them fondly long after they have been placed in forever homes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Beautiful Manufactured Dogs

This Christmas I received as a gift from a friend a book she has treasured for 20 years. It is a book full of paintings of dogs from the earliest caveman depictions to present day. What's fascinating is how some dogs have changed and others haven't. It appears that rat terrier type dogs and greyhounds have been around for centuries. They must be hardy and helpful breeds. Some breeds have changed a lot -- and not for the benefit of their health.
For example, pekes and pugs have had their snouts shortened so that now they have breathing problems and allergies. They used to have pug noses, but they weren't flat up against their skulls the way they are now. People bred these dogs to look this way, and in the process, made the breeds less hardy.
Possibly the most damaged breed is the King Cavalier Spaniel. Breeders worked to create smaller and smaller dogs with tiny skulls. Because of this, these poor dogs now can have brain diseases. Their brains are too large for their skulls and they begin having seizures or fits. They scream in pain because it feels to them that thousands of knives are stabbing them all over their body. The only way to relieve them is to put them down. You can have a pup checked to see if it carries the gene for this problem, but some breeders hide it. One champion Cavalier won ribbons and trophies for being a perfect example of the breed and was retired early from the ring because it had this brain disease and had to be euthanized.
A few years ago, one of the top champions in the world was a tiny peke that fainted while its photo was being taken after it won Best of Show. They had two fans pointed it the dog, but it still overheated and fainted because its nose is so flat against its skull that it can barely breathe.
So, before you swoon over that 2-pound teacup chihuahua or yorkie or the cute peke or pug with no profile or the small, delicate Cavalier, remember that these dogs were manufactured by man and man is not always wise in how he manipulates nature. As the TV commercial used to admonish, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Did you ever get a dog or cat for Christmas?

I'm not sure this is a good idea. It looks nice in the movies or in commercials, but you are giving a living thing as a gift to someone. We have not had great results when this happens in ARF. I remember one woman who called right after Christmas and wanted to return her gift to us. She had said aloud one day that she might like to have a dog -- like the one she had just seen on TV. A well-trained, cute, dog. She was given a puppy for Christmas. A chewing, peeing, pooping, crying all night puppy. Not what that 78-year-old lady had in mind!

I can recall other times when families called in January to ask us to take back the dog or puppy they adopted at Christmas. The holidays were over and they were "over" having a pet.

It is better, I think, to add a member of the family when you are not drunk on holiday cheer or teary-eyed after watching a Christmas special. It is more responsible to bring a new member of the family home when things are back to normal -- no Christmas tree to wreck and pee on, no presents to tear up, no ornaments to destroy, no bowls of candy to eat and get sick (or die) on.

Santa should never bring any child a puppy or kitten. Think about it. He flew the poor darlings in on his sled? How comfortable is that for the little ones?

For Christmas, give underwear, gloves, games, knitted hats, and flat-screen TVS. Save the kittens and puppies for later in the year.