Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Hang-Ups (Losing My Religion)

(Picture Left: "Rudy" 6-Year-old, Pekingese. Dumped at the pound just prior to Christmas Eve. No home, no heart and [for me] no religion.)

Last night I celebrated Christmas Eve by losing my temper and hanging up on a caller.

The action surprised me, as hanging up on others is something I never do.

Shortly afterwards, I considered briefly calling the young man back and apologizing.

But, I didn't.

Later in the evening, while walking Tina and Chance and passing people on their way to Midnight mass, I thought more about the earlier incident and wondered what could bring one to such a level of intense frustration that it would result in a Christmas Eve hang up on another person of all times of the year?

"Garth" (the young man rudely hung up on) had called several times earlier in the week.

Garth is a law student supposedly interested in adopting a dog. Garth has never had a dog and has done little in terms of reading about dogs or understanding their needs.

As I see my "job" as trying to help others better understand animals and make sensible and successful choices in adoption, I at first, took a great deal of time with Garth over at least 4 or 5 previous calls.

I explained to him that it was important to read some books on dogs and to watch shows like "It's Me or the Dog" with Victoria Stilwell. I further suggested to Garth that an older, already trained dog would be a sensible choice for a first time dog adopter and told him I was willing to help him in that choice.

Last night, Garth called again.

It was shortly before 8PM and I was a bit surprised (and slightly annoyed) to be getting another of these "Can you help me with more information?" calls on Christmas Eve. It was as if this guy didn't consider that I might have some plans or other things to do on what is to many, the most important and sacred holiday of the year.

But, I brushed the initial annoyance aside and once again took time to answer Garth's questions.

"I went into a pet store and the person there told me I should have a gate or cage to help train a new dog and prevent him from chewing the furniture. Will I need to get a cage?" Garth asked.

"No," I replied. "Generally, cages aren't needed for mature dogs beyond the chewing stage."

"Will I need a lot of money? I will be coming into some money in February. Should I wait until then to get a dog?"

"You don't need to get a lot of 'stuff' in the beginning with a shelter rescued dog. You have to remember the dog is a bit traumatized from having just lost his/her last home. They are usually not interested in toys, beds and the like in the beginning. The main thing is to allow the dog time to adjust and that's not something you need lots of money for. You need patience, empathy and understanding and those things don't cost money."

I then considered offering Garth an opportunity to foster a dog and do a "test run" so to speak.

I told him about a 6-year-old Pekingese dog named "Rudy" (pictured) at Animal Control that we are seeking a foster for.

"The dog is small and quite friendly. He was abandoned at the shelter when his former owners moved. Pekes are generally pretty easy, low key dogs who don't require tons of exercise. Six years is a good dog age for a first time dog person. Not too old and not too young. Would you be interested in fostering this little guy?"

"Would he bother my Parrot?" Garth asked.

"Look, I don't know that the dog has ever lived with a bird before. Probably not. He might bark in the beginning, but Pekes are not a hunting breed and I imagine that there shouldn't be a great problem with the bird." I answered. "If you should run into any kind of trouble, I will place the dog elsewhere. I promise, you will not get stuck."

After some more discussion, Garth finally agreed to do a trial run with the little homeless Pekingese from the shelter.

I told Garth I would call him back on Friday to discuss further and make arrangements for a possible foster.

About twenty minutes later, Garth called back again.

"I just talked with a friend of mine who has a young Pitbull Terrier mix and he told me that I shouldn't get a dog right now as they are a lot of work."

(Feeling anger suddenly rise to my temples) "Garth, there is a HUGE difference between a young Pit/Terrier mix and an older Pekingese! Did you not absorb anything we discussed? I would not suggest a young, hard to care for dog for you. Pekes are easy dogs! And as said to you, if there was a problem, I would take the dog back!"

"Well, I think my friend is right and that I shouldn't get a dog right now."

(And this is where I lost it.)

Then why the hell did you make all these calls to me pretending to want a dog? Why did you call me on Christmas Eve with this bullshit? Do you think my time has no value? Do you think we in animal rescue have nothing better to do than spin wheels with time wasters and bull shitters? WE'RE LOOKING AT ANIMALS DIE EVERYDAY IN SHELTES BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU BAILING OUT ON THEIR COMMITMENTS. I DON'T NEED THIS CRAP -- ESPECIALLY ON CHRISTMAS EVE!. THANK YOU FOR NOTHING!"

And that is when I hung up.

And no, I did not call Garth back to apologize.

Last night while walking my dogs at Midnight along Park Avenue with its lit up Christmas trees and people making their way to Saint Ignatious Church for midnight mass, I thought about all the animals languishing in shelters and dying in streets or shelters this Christmas I thought about our own rescued dogs, most of whom are presently sitting in lonely cages at boarding facilities, rather than being in a home. And I thought about Garth and the angrily aborted phone call earlier in the evening.

I thought, "I am tired of dealing everyday with people who don't get the true mission of animal rescue or animal rescuers as people."

No, we are not running 24/7 Chinese restaurants where people call up any old time and give their orders for quick take-out on what they "want." And no, we are not here to hold your hand and gently walk you through all the things you should have learned and known BEFORE you called us. And no, we are not here to cook or conjure up for you, the perfect pet -- the one who "won't grow big" or ever get sick. The one who will be great with your parrots, dogs, cats, mailman, neighbors, grand kids, nieces and nephews. -- The one who will run beside you on nice days in the park and sleep peacefully all those other occasions you "don't have the time" for him/her or the weather is lousy or you have some party to go to or some new playmate to sleep with.

As Tina, Chance and I passed the Church, I peeked inside and entertained a brief memory of when I used to attend Saint Ignatious school and church as a child.

I haven't been inside the church in many years.

I wondered where and how did I lose my religion?

Returning home about half past midnight, I turned on the TV to the "Midnight mass from Saint Patricks's Cathedral."

Cardinal Egan was giving his homily.

He talked (as he seems to every year) about how during these "hard times" people need to be more willing to help others out. "Be a hero," he said.

I chuckled to myself.

It seems Cardinal Egan has been watching too many superhero movies. Someone should tell him that Spiderman and the rest are fictional. They don't exist in real life. Or, perhaps real heroes simply went out with hoola hoops of the 1950's or the ration stamps from WW2.

For all that talk about caring for the downtrodden and the beautiful carols sung at the end of the mass, I noticed Cardinal Egan going up to greet all the politicians and high rollers of New York. I didn't notice him going out to shake hands with the beggar in the street.

I think I know how I lost my religion.

I finally turned off the TV, admired my pretty Christmas tree with all its lights and cuddled with my two dogs, Tina and Chance. Both dogs looked at me with a kind of love and devotion in their eyes that is rarely seen in other humans.

And I thought to myself, that aside from spending Christmas with my daughter (who is married, living in Utah and having to work this Christmas) there was no one that I wanted to be with this holiday others than the ones I was already with.

When it comes to simple and pure love at its fullest and most untainted, it is more likely to come from one's dogs (or cats) than another human being.

That is the simple truth that almost no human wants to admit.

Its a truth that people like "Garth" don't get now and will never get.

No, I don't regret hanging up on this individual.

I've already wasted too much time with users and losers like Garth.

-- PCA