Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I Have An Idea About Driving!"

(Picture Left -- "Teddy," our latest rescue. Fabulous dog currently awaiting neutering at our vet.)

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"Going out and just getting a dog, is like me going out, jumping in a car and attempting to drive down the West Side Highway. I may have an 'idea' about driving, but the fact is, I've never driven a car, taken a test or have a license."

The above was spoken to a woman who called a while ago, seeking a "young dog who won't grow big."

The woman has never had a dog, nor read a book about dogs, but assured me she had an "idea" about dogs and dog training.

"How would you train a young dog"? I asked, "Since you've never had one nor done any research?"

"I would tell the dog, 'no' and give him commands." the woman replied.

"Well, unfortunately just telling a dog, 'no, no, no' or giving commands to an animal who doesn't understand what the commands mean is like yelling 'no' or 'stop it' to a child repeatedly when the child isn't paying attention. Its ineffective."

I suggested to the well intentioned, but naive young woman that she needed to read at least a couple of good books on dog behavior and communication and then perhaps foster or adopt an adult dog who was already partially trained.

The woman was polite and thanked me.

But, I have the feeling she is not going to do what was advised to her.

These days, it's too easy for anyone to go out these days and get a dog. They can walk into a pet store and slap down some bucks for the cutest puppy in the shop, offer to "take" a neighbor's puppy, or order a puppy online. In some cases, they can walk into a shelter and adopt an animal with few, if any questions asked.

Perhaps this helps explain why our shelters are so constantly filled.

Too many animals impulsively acquired by people who haven't the first clue on how to properly and responsibly raise and "train" one. Too many animals doled out to people who don't know the difference between having a living, breathing, feeling animal and having a stuffed toy.

When the acquisition doesn't work out, it's always someone else's fault -- usually the dog or cat's fault, but sometimes the source of the animal, be it shelter, rescue, pet store or breeder.

"They didn't tell me the dog wasn't housebroken!" (or, needed grooming, medical care or training) is a typical lament. Or, perhaps its a complaint about the dog (or cat) reacting negatively to some (usually to the animal, new or threatening) situation.

Unfortunately, at least half my calls are like those from the young woman earlier today. The other half are those usually calling with a problem:

"I'm moving and can't take my cat." "I just found a cat, but can't keep it." "My aunt is sick and can't take care of her 13-year-old dog."

Unfortunately, these days, virtually none of our calls are offers to help animals or foster.

That means that we, like so many other rescue groups are in a real hole right now in terms of rescuing new animals.

We haven't been able to rescue cats in months and though we have rescued dogs and continue to, three of those dogs are right now in boarding. One of them, "Nia" (a very loving Pitbull mix) has been in boarding for three months.

Matters have become so dismal, I can't read all my emails anymore (95% of which are desperate "alerts" about animals needing rescue) or scan the daily Euthanasia lists from the shelters.

It's simply too overwhelming and depressing.

When I finally do get around to skimming the alerts and daily kill lists, it is like listening to a broken record caught in the same groove over and over.

We (in rescue) realize that despite all our efforts and sacrifice over the years, "rescue" is not a solution to the problems because, try as we may, we never catch up to the problems -- and the onslaughts.

For every animal we rescue, there are five hundred going down.

For every person that we reach with attempts at education, there are thousands we don't.

Most people are under the impression that rescue groups are rescuing all the animals who are either strays on our streets or dying in shelters. They think we are huge organizations with unlimited money, resources and hundreds of volunteers.

People think that rescues either find adoptive, loving homes within days of rescuing animals or that we have huge shelters or mansions on which to keep the animals forever.

None of these perceptions is true!

Most rescues are in fact, very small entities, often with just a hand full of people fostering animals in their homes or paying huge sums of money to board animals until homes can be found.

Few, if any rescue groups have actual shelters. Most are run by one or two dedicated, but often overwhelmed individuals.

Our society has placed too great a burden on rescue groups and shelters. Its expectations of these institutions is way out of proportion to the realities these organizations have to face and deal with on a daily basis.

Will the realities ever change?

Not in my view, until people start to realize that acquiring a pet is, in many ways, like owning and driving a car.

Merely having an "idea" about it, isn't enough. -- PCA

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1 comment:

skdean53 said...

Spending time in a shelter for the last several years, I see so much of this. Perhaps there should be a "pet owner's test". Many people just have no clue how much really HARD work goes into training a dog; when it doesn't work out, or when they decide it requires too much of their time and effort, the
animal then becomes "disposable". Dog ownership requires a huge amount of commitment, time, effort and repetition. A dog is not just a furry person--they don't "just know" not to soil in the house, or how to walk on-leash, or to sit, stay, and come when called--these behaviors are learned through repetition and reward. But after all this, when it is done successfully, there will never be a friend as loyal as your dog....well worth the effort, in my opinion.