Friday, December 26, 2008


(Picture Left: "Abbey" as she appeared on the shelter Euth list many months ago. -- For one dog, sweet and for another, bitter.)

Thank God, it's over.

That's what I find myself thinking this day after Christmas.

Hopefully, it signifies an end to the, "I want a small dog (or puppy) for my ten-year-old daughter" and other assorted, flaky calls that we can't do anything with.

The holiday season is normally a rough time for adult animal adoptions, but this particular season (for us) has been the worst, by far.

We only had two dogs adopted this month. A beautiful German Shepherd/Samoyed mix named, Teddy and Goldie, our lovely, older Cocker Spaniel. Teddy had spent almost two months in boarding and been returned from another adoptive home after only one day. Fortunately, the new family who adopted Teddy is quite happy with him. Goldie too, had spent almost a month in boarding, despite being a healthy and extremely gentle, affectionate and well behaved dog.

But, aside from the two dog adoptions, it has been a grim and frustrating time.

A few days ago, a beautiful, 4-year-old, already neutered Chow mix went down at the Brooklyn shelter. The dog named, "Coca" had been in Adoptions and had been described by shelter volunteers as very nice and easy going. Apparently though, no one thought he was in great danger and so I didn't get a call or email alert from New Hope personnel.

Despite all that, Coca was destroyed last week. I was late in checking the Euth list for that day and though I called to try and save Coca at the last minute, I was too late.

Another animal "falling through the cracks" of what really are, overwhelmed and overburdened shelters and rescues who at this point, have few, if any places to put new animals. We thus may become lax in vigilantly checking shelter alerts and Euth lists as quickly as we should.

I know of at least two other rescues who have requested to be taken off of shelter volunteer email alerts. One woman told me it is all too overwhelming, depressing and guilt producing. I feel exactly the same way, but still remain on the alert lists.

I feel remorseful and guilty for not checking the Euth list in time last week to save Coca, but the truth is, I had no place to put the dog, other than boarding.

I have too many dogs in boarding already and in fact, am feeling guilty about that.

Dog boarding ideally should serve only as emergency measure. -- A place to put a dog for a few days or a week or two at most, until a foster or adoptive home can be found. Unfortunately, for too many rescues, (including us) dog boarding is serving as a kind of "warehousing" of animals because reliable fosters have become so difficult to find.

Some rescues run up bills that they cannot afford to pay. Others bounce animals around in attempt to find reliable foster or out-of-city boarding they can afford.

But, for the dogs undergoing all these stresses, it cannot be good.

Almost two months ago, I pulled a beautiful, young, Retriever/Shepherd mix named "Daisy" from the shelter Euth list and brought her to a new boarding facility in Manhattan. When I picked Daisy up from the Manhattan shelter and walked her 20 blocks to the boarding establishment, she was easy to walk on the leash and barely pulled at all. Now, after languishing in boarding for 8 weeks, she is almost impossible to walk. I can barely make it to the corner with Daisy as she is so strong and wild on the leash, I have all I can do to hold on to her.

Daisy is advertised on all the major adoption sites, as well as I have tried to promote her to many adoption callers, but so far, nothing has materialized for her.

A few days ago, I received our first adoption inquiry on Daisy. But, when I met the young woman at the boarding facility and we took Daisy for a walk, the woman quickly declined.

I tried to explain to "Ilene" the frustration dogs undergo during long term confinement and boarding and that once the dog was in a home and receiving regular exercise and stimulation, she would presumably become much easier to walk on leash.

But, Ilene didn't want to hear it. I then suggested other dogs we have to her.

"We have a lovely, 7-year-old dog named, Lady who is a joy to walk." I told Ilene. "Lady is a small Mastiff mix. She is wonderful with kids, cats and other dogs. She is totally trained and virtually perfect in every way. Would you be interested in meeting Lady? She is in a foster home, not far from here."

But, Ilene declined on Lady, because of the dog's age. She also declined on smaller dogs because of "concern" the dogs wouldn't be good with her young nieces and nephews who sometimes come to visit. Every dog I suggested to Ilene, she in fact, declined on. In the end, I couldn't figure out what the woman really wanted. She couldn't deal with the "energy" of a young dog like Daisy. But, then she didn't want an older dog because of "health concerns" nor a smaller dog because of kid concerns.

I perhaps should have suggested a hamster to Ilene.

Yes, it has been a very frustrating time over these past couple of months, especially just prior to the holidays.

But, Christmas can also have its positive side, too.

Such as the cards, pictures and personal notes we receive from some of our past adopters.

One received a few days ago, was particularly sweet.

"Marcia" is a Vermont resident (and former Chow owner) who made the long trip to New York many months ago to adopt "Abbey" a beautiful, red Chow mix who had been returned after only a few days from another adoptive home for "not being good with the other pets" in the house. Marcia has a couple of cats and of course, I had to tell her of Abbey's previous return and to warn her to go slowly and carefully with Abbey.

But, Marcia made the long trip and adopted the then somewhat skittish and wary Chow.

In her Christmas card received this past week, Marcia writes:

"Abbey is doing great! She gets along wonderfully with the cats, even sharing her food with the one who likes to eat what she is having."

I remember the previous adopter saying how "aggressive" Abbey was with the family cats. Apparently, the dog needed more than 48 hours to adjust to other animals.

In addition to the lovely Christmas card, Marcia also sent two new and beautiful pictures of Abbey.

Now, the thing I love most about Christmas is when former adopters send pictures of the animals and these two were particularly lovely: A smiling, happy and well cared for, beautiful red Chow.

But, these two photos, rather than bringing a smile to my face, instead brought tears.

Because, in the pictures, Abbey looks like the dead ringer to "Coca," the Chow put down in the shelter the same day the Christmas greeting arrived in the mail.

It was suddenly a cruel and macabre irony.

A story of "what might have been" turned into a horrible, "what went wrong."

I hung Martia's lovely Christmas card and note up with several other cards received. But, I tucked the pictures of Abbey away in a small tin box where I sometimes put things I am not sure what to do with.

I might call that my "bittersweet" box.

And bittersweet is perhaps what rescue is ultimately all about. -- PCA