Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saving a Shelter Dog Two Thousand Miles Away

Once I helped save the life of a dog a couple of thousand miles away.

At that time, I was only beginning to learn about dog rescues via the internet. This was all a while back. I'm not even sure Pet Finder was around at that time.
But animal welfare advocates and rescues had begun to network, set up sites, and post dogs that needed help.

The hardest part then, as it is now, was seeing the photos of so many shelter dogs. Though I knew shelters killed dogs and cats, I still wanted to believe that all the dogs I saw posted would find homes, but the facts sank in: so many of the dogs and cats on those web pages would be killed.

Among the many photos, I found this little guy in Los Angeles's South Central Shelter:

He reminded me of my own Perry, the love of my life -- the same size, shape, color, the same type of face and eyes. I kept thinking of him, alone, afraid, and without hope in an overcrowded shelter which few who entered left alive.

One wants to help them all, which is impossible. But I knew that I had to do something for this dog, even if it meant flying to California myself, as irrational as that may seem.

And it was irrational. A few miles away dogs languished at my own city's shelter. Why didn't I simply do something for one of them? It came back to this dog reminding me of Perry.

Since the L.A. dog was listed as part Pug, I emailed the two Pug rescues I could find at that time. One in Georgia got back to me, saying she had contacted a rescue in L.A. after receiving my email and had passed along my phone number and email.

A day later the L.A. rescuer phoned. She'd been to the shelter earlier that week to pull dogs, had seen the Pug mix and passed him by because his temperament seemed "iffy." But after learning of my concern for him from the Georgia rescue, she went back, spent time with him and, finding him calmer, pulled him. She was sure her rescue would be able to find him a home.

I sent her a donation, and later talked to her for the last time. The little Pug mix had been adopted by two screen writers who thought him absolutely wonderful.

A few months later, even though I already had a houseful of my own dogs, I started fostering.

Helping one small dog a couple of thousand miles away -- that will always be one of my best moments, leaving me forever grateful to two women I'll never meet, one in Georgia and one in California. It proved to me what can be done, even long distance, if those who care work together.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is It "Euthanizing" when Healthy Pets are Killed? Language Matters

The euphemism is "euthanize." It's the term shelters use, though usually it's not the correct word choice. Used most precisely, "euthanize" means to painlessly end the life of an animal who is suffering and will not recover from that suffering.

Some shelters do not end the life of dogs and cats painlessly. Some shelters still use gas. I've heard of at least one that uses direct injection into the heart, but without first giving the dog or cat an injection to put him out. And then there's the Chesterfield "shelter" in South Carolina, currently under investigation for shooting dogs, perhaps even using them for target practice.

And as for the question of "suffering," thousands and thousands of pets who are perfectly healthy, including puppies and kittens, are "euthanized." Some would argue that any animal in a shelter, even if physically healthy, is suffering emotionally, is depressed, lonely, afraid, and if that animal does not find a home, his or her suffering will be endless. And there are not homes for all of them.

True on both counts. They do suffer emotionally. There aren't homes for all of them. There isn't enough room in shelters to keep dogs and cats forever. There aren't enough rescues to save all the animals on the "urgent" lists.

But language matters. We use "euthanize" to sanitize an ugly event.

Plenty of rescue workers and animal welfare advocates use other words. They send out pleas on Facebook and Twitter: Young friendly Beagle mix to be destroyed tomorrow. Urgent: 10 week old kittens will be killed this Tuesday. And some post the word "Dead" in red text over the photos of shelter dogs and cats that didn't make it out.

Maybe if everyone, including shelters, used these words instead of "euthanize," fewer people would so easily give up their pets to a shelter. Maybe fewer people would buy a pet and more would adopt, and thus puppymills would breed fewer dogs. Maybe more people would spay and neuter instead of believing their pet needs to have just one litter to be "fulfilled."

This was two year old Bentley. He was killed at a Florida shelter the same day this entry was posted.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Can't Keep My Dog (continued)

It's a chilly gray Spring Saturday, raining on and off. I've been working on the computer, which means I check my city's Craig's List pet ads every once in a while. Yes, I am a "flagger." I flag the back yard breeders listing their puppies for sale, and occasionally I post a sarcastic paragraph in response to an ad. My posts, in turn, get flagged. It's a merry-go-round.

So here I am, on the same theme as my last post: people who dump dogs.

Today I copied parts of some CL ads, adding emphasis and my own commentary in italics.

6 month old female tan chi. My family is not home enough to train her and she needs to go to a home that can provide the time needed for her. Subtext: she was a cute puppy, but now I'm tired of her.

I have an 8 month old pom puppy she is fun energetic. I am asking a rehoming fee to ensure she goes to a good home. I love her but just don't have time for her. Hmmm, will you get rid of your husband/wife when you don't have time?

Her name is ally she is the sweetest dog ever. My husband and I just moved and cant have her. We want her to go to a great home. She is our baby but we have to do whats best for her. She is free to good home. She is spayed and up to date on shots. Hope you don't have kids since it's apparently okay to give your "baby" away.

i have a boxer mix puppy that i am giving away free to a good home. The dog is well behaved I just dont have the time the she needs. That old time thing again.

Lexie is a 4 year old Grey (blue) Chihuahua. (Very rare color) She needs a new home because we have signed a lease on a new home with a zero pets policy. (I've posted our other beloved pet also.) We are heartbroken about this and will not allow her to go to any home less than excellent. Bet your "beloved" dog is more "heartbroken" than you.

This beautiful 5-yr old female Great Pyrenees is in need of a loving new home due to relocation of owners to a house without a suitable yard. Subtext: We don't want the dog ruining the grass and we don't feel like walking him.

Rottweiler puppy: 9 weeks old ... male no papers ... Bought 4 my son an he is being way 2 rough with him. Subtext: I just can't control the kid and fear for the dog's life.

I have a female tri Aussie dob 02-07-11 she is very smart and minds well, upd on shots & wormed. I do not have time for her. Time, sigh . . .

I have a toy rat terrier that is about 8-9 lbs I can't care for any longer. It's not a money issue. It's just that this dog needs alot of attention and I work to much to care for it. She is about 7 or 8 months. Another cute puppy gets big enough to tear up pillows and other stuff.

Two Sharpeis: I moved and my yard floods so I need to find them a better home that is not muddy and wet. I just don't feel like cleaning up muddy dogs before letting them in. Okay, I could be giving this person too much credit. Maybe the dogs live outside all the time.

New Puppy Green and Black Bumper Sticker from

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dumping Dogs at Shelters

Dogs for Adoption
View dogs and cats for adoption at the Gallatin County Shelter in Kentucky

At 18 I left home, taking my dog Tippy with me, from Illinois to Boston, later to Buffalo, back to Illinois, to New Hampshire, and finally to Cincinnati. Leaving Tippy behind at any of those points never occurred to me.  It simply wasn't an option.  She'd been dumped once in her life, and it wasn't going to happen again.

But many adults, supposedly more mature than an 18 year old, dump their dogs without a second thought.

Some excuses would be hilarious if they didn't result in a homeless pet:

My 5 year old isn't taking care of the dog like I thought he would.

I'm moving and the new house isn't big enough for the dog. (Are you moving into a Doll House?)

I redecorated and the dog doesn't match the new color scheme.

My guess is that of the many reasons given for dumping a pet, the "We don't have time for Spot" excuse is one of the most common.

People who use this excuse are quick to explain, "We really want Spot to have a good home.  We're just so busy.  He deserves so much more than we can give him since we just don't have time for him."

I wish they would simply admit the truth:

We're dumping our dog because we don't have the patience to deal with him.

We're really very lazy and it takes too much effort to walk and feed him, and way too much effort and organization to house-train him.

It's too hard to figure out how to prevent him from chewing stuff up.  We have to put so many things away all the time.

We'd rather watch TV, surf the net, talk on our phones than spend 15 minutes a few times a week training the dog. 

The dog just isn't as much fun as we had hoped.  In fact, instead of fun, we're finding he's a lot more work than we wanted. 

Ultimately, we're really very shallow, selfish people.  We got the dog to benefit ourselves with no thought to what the dog needs or feels.

We hope he finds a home with someone better than us, with someone more mature, caring, patient, and kind, traits we so sorely lack,  but if not, well, like we said, we're really very shallow so if you at the shelter have to kill him to make room for more dogs left by people like us, well, that's too bad, but there's really nothing we can do about it.

In reality, dogs don't  take a lot of time. They're extremely adaptable, tolerant, patient, and so capable of getting by with so little.  And ultimately, the excuses people offer for dumping their dog say so very, very much about them, but nothing about the dog.