Friday, January 30, 2009

The Right Hand?

(Picture Left: Poochie....Careless attention to her grooming needs might be the least of her problems.)


In an old song from the 50's, entitled "16 Tons," Tennesee Ernie Ford sang:

"If the left hand don't get ya, then the right one will."

Likewise, in animal rescue, if you're not dealing with a behavioral problem in an animal, you are almost always dealing with a medical one.

It seemed almost too good to be true when I picked up "Poochie" from the shelter a couple of days ago.

A face so sweet it would melt your heart, the little Chow welcomed pets and cuddles. It was obvious from the minute I met Poochie, this was a dog who was going to present with absolutely NO behavioral issues. She was a total love!

So why did past owners give up such a lovely dog as Poochie?

Well, they claimed Poochie was a "gift" eight months ago and they "had no time" for her.

Normally, this is not too unusual with animals who are given away as presents. The recipients of the pets often never truly accept full responsibility for the animal that they did not choose to bring into their lives. "It's not really my animal. It was given to me!"

So I did not initially question too much the circumstances of Poochie or why she ended up in the pound.

But, after meeting this lovely, gentle and totally balanced dog and wondering how anyone could give her up (even if a "gift") a slight feeling of concern and apprehension stirred within me.

I paid no mind to it and took Poochie anyway.

Since I had no available and open foster, I brought Poochie to the dog boarding facility on Manhattan's Upper East Side. She sat on my lap in the taxi and gave me kisses.

Everyone at the "spa" loved Poochie. "Oh, what a sweet and pretty dog!" "Surely, you won't have her long. Who wouldn't want to adopt this sweetie?"

But, the following morning, I received a call from the facility advising me that Poochie had some blood in her urine.

I tried not to immediately panic with this news. Sometimes there can be a little bleeding following a spay and Poochie had just been spayed the day before and was already on antibiotics. If the bleeding was due a possible Unrinary Track Infection, then presumably it would respond to the medication.

Since Poochie was eating and didn't appear to be in any immediate distress, I decided to give the situation 48 hours. If we did not see improvement, Poochie would have to go to the vet.

Later that day, Sarah, one of our group's stellar volunteers, went to the facility to walk Poochie and Maxi (one of our other dogs in boarding).

As expected, Sarah (who is a Chow Chow lover) immediately was taken with Poochie.

She called me later to tell me what a sweetheart Poochie was. Sarah was very eager to foster Poochie -- if her roommate would agree to it.

Yesterday, Sarah informed me that her roommate had relented and agreed that Sarah could foster Poochie providing the dog had no behavioral issues.

"Behavioral issues" are a million miles away from Poochie. She is a canine version of Mother Teresa!

However, Sarah did mention Poochie still had some blood in her urine. It was one of the prime reasons Sarah wanted to take Poochie home -- in order the bestow some extra nurturing care to the smallish, golden dog.

This morning I called our vet to set up an exam appointment for later today for Poochie.

At best the bleeding is due to a routine Urinary Tract Infection. But, at worst it could be caused by bladder or kidney stones or even something worse -- like the "C" word.

I think about the former owners who seemingly abandoned a perfect dog.

Would they do that for an easily treatable illness? Would they do that simply because of never accepting responsibility for a dog they did not choose? Would they do that because they couldn't find the "time" to walk an easy, loving dog like Poochie a couple of times a day?

None of it makes much sense.

Then again, I've seen thousands of nearly perfect animals dumped over the years for reasons that made absolutely no sense.

We are obviously hoping for the best with Poochie, but will of course have to be prepared for the worst, as well.

Sarah's bubbly, cheerful words this morning ironically add to a somewhat uneasy feeling.

"She is such a good little girl, Patty! Some silly woman in the lobby this morning poked a big, rubber chicken in Poochie's face and the dog didn't even react! Some guy moving out furniture accidentally bumped Poochie and she just turned her head...."

I laughed.

"Well, its a good thing, Sarah, you're not fostering Chance, my Pomeranian. You'd be calling me about the dog BITING the lady with the chicken AND the moving guy!"

But, joke as I might, I am just a tad bit worried.

Why would people give up a "Mother Teresa"-like dog?

We might better know the answer to that question later today. --PCA

*********




Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Rehab"


(Picture Left: "Geena" - A dog who found her way back from the brink. Hoping for a "Geena Outcome" again.....)

I received good news yesterday.

Ken, the trainer who spent more than two hours with Dutch yesterday informed me that Dutch had done very well in the session. Dutch remembered Ken and responded well to him. The Shepherd mix was easy to get in and out of the cubicle. Dutch spent some time playing happily with another dog. He was far more relaxed and easy to work with than the previous day. Although Ken was still careful in handling or attempting to pet Dutch the news was welcomed relief to me.

Ken's positive report helped spur me to a final decision on Dutch.

Someway, somehow, I had to get Dutch into "rehab."

I called Chris in Brooklyn.

Chris and his wife, run a boarding/training operation in Brooklyn. Chris has vast experience in both, dog rescue and training. The couple have a small house and yard. Boarded dogs are able to run, play and feel "part of the pack."

Chris is especially experienced in dealing with Pitbulls. But, he works with all kinds of dogs.

About six months ago, I sent "Geena" to Chris for almost three months.

Geena, was a shy, depressed and somewhat nervous, 6-year-old, German Shepherd mix who arrived at the animal pound as an extremely emaciated, half dead, Bronx "stray." Her coat was filthy, raggedy and matted. Geena was missing hair and most of her muscles had atrophied due to malnutrition. Her hanging mammary glands indicated a dog who had previously bourn many litters of puppies.

In short, Geena was a mess.

Geena could not be spayed at the time due to her extremely debilitated condition. Another rescuer told me about Chris and, after calling him, he was willing to take on the dog who looked like she never had a good day in her life.

The road back from hell was difficult in the beginning for Geena. She was guarded, weak, nervous and even a couple of times, snappy with Chris. But, he prevailed and after some weeks, Geena began to come out of her shell, interact with other dogs and develop a strong attachment towards Chris.

More than two months into the boarding, Geena had finally put on weight, been cleaned up and began growing a lovely, silky coat. It was time to get her spayed.

I arranged with Chris to send Geena to my vet via Pet Taxi. Following her spay, I had a couple who were interested in meeting Geena as a possible foster.

When meeting Geena for the first time since her rescue, I could barely recognize her.

Gone was the raggedy, spotty coat, replaced by a clean and plush one. Gone were the protruding ribs and jutted hip bones, replaced by a sound and healthy weight.

Gone was the haunted look in Geena's eyes, replaced by a kind of confidence and enthusiasm.

Indeed, she didn't appear to be the same dog!

On the contrary, instead of the weak, almost lifeless dog I had rescued from the pound almost three months before, Geena was a jumpy, almost puppy-like canine.

The couple from New Jersey who came to meet Geena, did in fact, agree to foster her.

There were a few rough patches in the beginning of Geena's foster as she then had to adjust to new people and a new situation. She was a bit guarded and anxious at first. I advised the young couple to go slowly with her and allow Geena time to acclimate.

There were several conversations between myself and the couple over the next few weeks. Mostly, there was concern over Geena's irregular, blackish nipples and still somewhat large mammary glands. But, since my vet had given Geena a clean bill of health, I assured Joe and Susan that such was simply the aftermath of multiple litters. The nipples and glands would slowly shrink down now that the dog was spayed.

Eventually, Geena came to love the people and they her. This past December, Joe and Susan officially adopted Geena.

It was a wonderful outcome for a dog who was virtually on death's doorstep when she had arrived at the pound so many months before.

When I called Chris again yesterday about Dutch, I wasn't sure what to expect.

I wasn't just calling him about a shy, emaciated Shepherd. I was calling him this time about a dog who had actually bitten several people, including me.

Chris is a very in-demand guy.

When first speaking with me, Chris indicated he was being "inundated" with requests from other rescuers to take dogs.

That didn't sound good for Dutch. But, it was to be fully expected.

The AC&C has been putting a great deal of pressure on rescues lately in a public relations quest to be "no kill" (for space) of adoptable animals during January, February and March (the lowest months of the year for animal intakes).

Each day we (in rescue) are swamped with sometimes more than a dozen email "alerts" with as many as 60 animals on each one who "desperately need rescue!"

It was therefore not surprising that Chris (one of the very few reliable boarding/training operations around) would be overwhelmed with requests to take dogs.

But, for some reason, I was extremely lucky that Chris agreed to take Dutch! (Perhaps the guy just likes a real challenge?)

Over these past few weeks, a number of people had advised me to have Dutch put down -- if not through direct words and advice, then through raised eyebrows and furtive glances.

It was not that these people were cold, cruel or uncaring. On the contrary, most were my friends and people who deeply care for and have dedicated much of their lives to helping animals.

But, there was the very valid concern about possible liability issues with a dog like Dutch, as well as the practicality considerations. "You could spend thousands of dollars to try and turn around this dog and it might not work. That same investment could save many other dogs."

One woman told me that society needed to be protected from dogs like Dutch.

Was this advice wrong? Were all these people wrong?

I can't say. I spent weeks trying to mull over the well intentioned (and in many ways), sage advice, as well as trying to scout my own head and heart for an answer.

But, in this conflict between "head and heart," this time heart won out. No matter how much I tried to rationalize and see the wisdom in the advice from others who cared about me as well as animals, my heart just could not accept pulling the plug on such a young dog who had been so seriously wronged so early in life.

I could justify something on paper. But I could not justify it in my soul.

Yesterday, I asked the question, "Can damage done to humans and animals very early in life be reversible?"

The answer to that question is probably somewhere between "yes" and "no" depending on the individual people and individual animals.

This morning, Dutch was transported to Chris in Brooklyn via help from the AC&C..

The journey was rocky with the frightened dog at first refusing to come out of the Animal Control van. Dutch growled and snarled. The driver suggested to Chris using a "catch poll" but Chris refused. After some gentle coaxing, Chris was finally able to slip a slip leash over Dutch and lead him out of the van.

Despite a few other nervous moments, Dutch has already enjoyed some play time in the yard and according to Chris is now peacefully settled down in a "Great Dane size" crate after eating and drinking.

I know Dutch is now with the right person and in the right situation. Will "rehab" work for Dutch? Can damage done early be reversed?

The answer to those questions will ultimately be up to Dutch.

But, right now I am feeling pretty good about it -- as well as the ultimate decision to try and save this "damaged" dog.

I am hoping for an eventual "Geena outcome!"

Ultimately, its up to the dogs to make their ways back from whatever human wrongs were done to them.

We just have to give them a chance and lend a helping hand. -- PCA

********




Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Damage


(Picture left: Dutch -- a troubled dog.)


I have written often of the difficulties in animal rescue, particularly those of finding reliable and responsible foster and adoptive homes for animals.

But, by far, the hardest decision an animal rescuer ever has to face is when to euthanize a dog or cat either for medical and especially, behavioral issues. This is especially hard and guilt-inducing for those of us who call ourselves, "no kill."

I am dealing with that situation now and have, in fact, been agonizing over it for some weeks now.

It is especially difficult because the dog in question is very young (only a year-old) and healthy. I can't think of this decision as one to "eurthanize" or not because the dog is not suffering from any terminal disease.

That is, unless we can refer to the separation of infant animals from their Mothers at too early an age a "terminal disease."

But, in many ways, when young kittens or puppies are separated from their Mothers and either sold or adopted out when (in my view) less than eight weeks old, it is a "terminal illness" because the animals are almost always destined to have some kind of "behavioral issues" (usually a lack of security and fear or aggression in unfamiliar circumstances) that will often result in abandonments to streets or pounds and early death.

When using the term, "eight weeks" I am speaking of the acceptable social norm. Most shelters and rescues will adopt kittens and puppies out at 8 weeks and sometimes younger.

My personal view is that infant animals should be kept with their Mothers and siblings for at least twelve weeks and preferably longer.

The early weeks in an animal's (or human's) life are extremely critical. Not only does the Mother provide nutritional sustenance, but even more importantly, she provides a sense of SECURITY to babies, by (in human cases) holding, cuddling and cooing and in animal instances, licking, grooming, protecting, holding and staying close.

The kitten or puppy who is fortunate to stay with his/her Mother and siblings for at least 3 or 4 months, grows up with a strong sense of security, adventurism, curiosity and a general feeling of well being.

When handled gently and lovingly as well by humans at a very early age, the animals delight in human handling and mature with a love and trust for humans. Such animals, whether mixed or purebred make the best companions for humans and usually get along very well with other pets and children.

Unfortunately, almost all "puppy or kitten mill" animals are separated from their Mothers and siblings very early (usually 6-weeks or younger) as well as they receive little (if any at all) early human handling.

Even if physically healthy, these animals almost always suffer later behavioral and fear/insecurity issues.

Recent documentaries have shed light on the serious behavioral troubles suffered by children orphaned in Russia and later adopted out to loving couples in the United States. Because these children received almost no nurturing or motherly attention when babies, they are seemingly scarred for life in terms of serious insecurity, adjustment, depression and aggressive difficulties. Many of the children have later been given up by the couples because the behavioral issues could not be solved despite numerous and dedicated efforts.

Well, the same is sadly true for animals.

It requires almost superhuman efforts in understanding, patience and "rehabilitation" to try and establish trust and a sense of security with animals who have been deprived of early mothering and nurturing, as well as early socialization to humans. Trying to turn around any aggressive behaviors in animals as result of poor early nurturing and socialization, likewise is an extremely daunting challenge.

We face such a challenge now with "Dutch" the adolescent and quite beautiful Shepherd/Retriever mix rescued more than a month ago.

Dutch came into the city shelter as result of a "seizure" when his former owner was evicted from her apartment.

From the beginning, Dutch displayed nervous and unpredictable behavior. When rescued from euthanasia at the shelter and sent to my vet for boarding and neutering, Dutch bit one of the vet techs when she tried placing him back in the cage.

I was called about this incident and requested to "make a decision" about Dutch. I either had to get him out of the veterinary clinic or grant euthanasia.

Such is a very hard question to pose to an animal rescuer. We only like "playing God" in the sense of saving lives, not condemning to death.

I struggled with the decision, but ultimately speculated that perhaps Dutch's "aggressive" behavior was due to the stress of boarding or a distaste for vets (which can be common in many animals.)

Following neutering, I placed Dutch in a state of the art boarding facility where the dogs are not in cages, but rather small rooms. I hoped the less stressful environment and larger space would help calm Dutch.

But, that did not occur.

When noting (and being told about) of Dutch's nervous and unpredictable behavior (attempts to bite) in the boarding facility, I began efforts to try and get more information from his former owner.

A direct call to the shelter Director resulted in me being able to get the number of Dutch's former owner and contact her.

The hope of course, was that Dutch's former owner was in position to then take Dutch back (as she had indicated she wanted her dog returned following the eviction.)

But, "Darlene" informed me that she lost her case in court and was now in a homeless shelter. She could not take back her "baby.".

I asked Darlene numerous questions about Dutch and explained that he was presenting with numerous behavioral issues and that unless solved, Dutch could not be placed in a home. He would have to be euthanized.

Darlene assured me that Dutch was a very good dog with her and her neighbors. But, she also mentioned something about a "nervous condition" Dutch had, as well as the fact that "he hates vets." Darlene also added that Dutch (despite only being a little over a year old) "sired two litters of puppies." (Fabulous news to someone in rescue!)

But, the most telling information Darlene shared with me is that she acquired Dutch as a two-week-old puppy!

Suddenly, many things about Dutch's nervous, insecure and seemingly fearful/distrustful behavior make sense.

He startles (and reacts defensively/aggressively) when encountering joggers, cyclists, skateboarders or even just someone darting out of a building on the streets.

He reacts fearfully and defensively with anyone entering his room.

He is extremely difficult to put back into his room after being taken for a walk.

And though most dogs can be comforted by some petting or stroking and soft words, Dutch does not seem to respond to human displays of affection.

In addition to be separated from Mother and siblings at too early an age, one has to speculate that Dutch wasn't handled and socialized properly (with humans) as a puppy.

Yesterday, I spent almost two hours with Dutch and a respected trainer trying to evaluate the young dog's troubled behavior and how "solvable" it may be.

What are my options with this dog?

They aren't unfortunately, a whole lot.

Ken (the trainer) did not deem Dutch's behavior to be hopeless in terms of remedy. There were a few positive signs while we took Dutch on a walk. Dutch was fairly easy to correct when reacting to joggers and made eye contact with his handler (in this case, Ken). And although difficult to put back in the small room, Ken was able to get Dutch to relax enough to finally accomplish the mission.

But, it wasn't easy.

Ken is returning to the boarding facility today to spend time with Dutch "one on one." It is hoped that with the dog better knowing Ken somewhat, Dutch will relax further. When Ken first removed Dutch from the room yesterday, Dutch attempted to bite him. -- Certainly a rough and ominous beginning.

Depending on what Ken advises me later, my decision will be to either send Dutch to a very experienced trainer and one who is able to do rehabilitation (a very costly venture indeed and one which cannot guarantee 100% behavior modification) or have him put down.

With me, Dutch had been fairly trusting and not difficult to handle (although I had always been very cautious with him, sensing he was a nervous and somewhat unpredictable dog). But, the other night my "luck" ran out when attempting to put Dutch back into his room, following his walk. He backed up, tried to escape his leash and when finally pushed, bit me on the knee.

I fully anticipated the bite and was not at all surprised. My job however was to get Dutch back in the room and with only a short leash to work with, it was almost impossible to prevent the bite.

I now have to decide what to do with a dog who has bitten several people, including myself.

A dog, who from his first days on earth was never treated properly by humans or even allowed to spend suitable time with his Mother and siblings -- as nature intends for all animals, including humans.

How seriously and intensely we damage animals when not allowing them to remain with their families during those first few critical months of life.

The question is, can that damage be reversible? -- PCA

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Little Truth in Everything......





"Poochie is a 4-year-old, beautiful and very sweet Chow who was abandoned at the city shelter when former owners claimed "no time" for her. According to her previous people, Poochie was a "gift" 8 months ago. Poochie is housebroken and "loves men, women, kids and other dogs." Poochie is only 37 lbs and walks very nicely on the leash. Perhaps Poochie's story proves a good example of why animals should never be given out as "gifts."
Not everyone is prepared for the time and responsibility that a pet requires. Giving others a cat or dog as a "gift" is giving someone a JOB. -- Sadly, in many cases a "job" the people don't want and aren't equipped for. In any event, our "job" now is to find Poochie a person or family who truly want and are happily prepared for the joy and responsibility of having a loving dog. If interested in Poochie, please CALL us (NOT email). She is currently being boarded at a kennel and we would love to get this little sweetie into a real foster or adoptive home as soon as possible. (212) 427-8273. "

The above is the write-up I just put on adoption sites regarding "Poochie," the Chow pictured on the left and who I received a call about yesterday from the shelter.

I of course, have no business taking any more dogs now as we still have 4 in boarding and no available foster homes.

But, I am hoping Poochie's pretty looks and reportedly sweet temperament will be enough to find her, if not a quick adoption, at least a new foster.

Am I being overly optimistic? Am I looking at the world through rose colored glasses?

Perhaps.

But, constantly looking at the dark side of matters or feeling hopeless is not a good thing either.

It is tough sometimes to find the middle ground (or, what probably is the true "reality") between the ridiculously "Pollyanna" and Disneyworld optimism of "no kill" promises by such and such a year and the equally absurd doom and gloom pessimism of utter hopelessness ("things will never change").

I am constantly struggling with that in-between line and in fact am currently involved in a debate about it with other Animal Protection activists on a private email list.

Some people see me as too "critical" and doom and gloom.

Others agree with me.

My personal motto (one which I made up) is that, "There is a little truth in everything and the whole truth in nothing."

Indeed.

It is that constant search for truth in the primary colors that finally leads to all the colors of the universe or in essence, true reality as a whole.

Between the stark and absolutes of black and white are all the shades of gray, in addition to the palates and rainbows that make up the world around us according to those truths we are actually able to perceive. -- PCA
*****

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Goals and Ideals Vs. Reality




I have been critical of the public message that New York City is "on the road to no kill" and will in fact, be no kill by "2015."

I don't see how this can realistically occur in light of the constant and overwhelming Pitbull problems we have in NYC, as well as serious and ever present cat overpopulation and dumping problems.

We simply cannot rescue or adopt our way out of these crises.

I have been asked to make "constructive suggestions" on what can be done to address these issues.

I believe for starters, we must always strive to be as HONEST and DIRECT with the public and media as humanly possible.

Sure, we would all like to see a day when our great city might become "no kill" of "reasonably" adoptable animals. But, such is a GOAL and an IDEAL we all strive for, NOT a REALITY that can happen any time soon in light of the large and serious obstacles to those goals we face.

I believe HUMANE EDUCATION in the inner city schools is a MUST if we hope to "reach the kids" before they learn their attitudes towards animals on the streets or in dysfunctional homes.

That is #1 and until this occurs, I don't see any end to the cycle of breeding, abusing and dumping animals -- particularly Pitbulls on our city streets or in our animal shelters.

Secondly, I believe we need some type of legislation to address the problem. I do not favor a "ban" on a particular breed of dog as such would punish responsible owners of the breed. But, why not a mandatory SPAY/NEUTER law for Pitbulls and/or Rottweilers? This would be designed to ONLY target those breeding and/or abusing these dogs as opposed to those people adopting them. Normally, mandatory spay/neuter proposals don't go anywhere as they raise the ire of the breeding industry. But, if only targeted towards the one or two breeds flooding our shelters, perhaps it might stand chance of passage?

Thirdly, we were promised shelters in the Bronx and Queens many years ago. That has still not occurred. We can claim we are only euthanizing "sick or vicious" animals, but the facts are very different. As long as shelters are short on cage space and animals are only allotted days to find rescue or adoption, then sneezes or shyness will serve as rationalizations to kill thousands of otherwise adoptable animals every year.

The cat problem is quite different than the dog issue and this is where we need to be very honest and direct in pleading with the public at large for greater responsibility and care towards cats. The promises of "no kill" I believe has mostly damaged cats as the public no longer perceives the URGENCY in saving these animals and more often than not, now demand "kittens, purebreds or declaws" for adoption. Many people now buy these animals from breeders, completely ignoring the need to save any cats at all. Why should they? They believe all cat killing problems have been solved.

The public needs to be made aware how many thousands of loving, adoptable cats (and yes, kittens) are currently going down in our shelters ever year.

Any failures to neuter these animals or actions to buy cats, rather than adopt result in certain and unjustifiable death for hundreds of these animals every week.

No, we have not solved our cat overpopulation and dumping crisis. (If anything, it has gotten worse.) And no, it is not attributable to "climate change." Such is to simply deny the reality that most cats arriving at city shelters are previously owned pets rather than feral strays.

Any incentives we can put into place to motivate people to neuter their animals, particularly Pitbulls and cats need to be implemented.

For example, what if the ASPCA or NSAL approached APPLE and requested a donation of several thousand IPODS to be given out to young people bringing in their Pitbulls or cats for neutering?

Is that "bribing" people to do the right thing? Sure. But, I think it would also be a good thing and probably result in some favorable media coverage for both Apple and the shelters.

These are a few of my ideas for starters. But, the most important is HONESTY with the public.

There is a difference between goals and ideals vs. reality.

The challenges we currently face are huge and will not be solved with wishing thinking and "positive spins."

As Dr. Phil is famous for saying, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge."

It's time we started to acknowledge the dire facts and plea with the public for greater help, engagement and responsibility.

Only then can the dreams and ideals eventually become the reality. -- PCA


******

Friday, January 23, 2009

Press Releases and States of Denial (Reply)

(Picture left: Chiva -- just another Pitbull who recently hit the Euth list of our city shelter for apparently sneezing once. Wonderful and healthy dog, with extremely loving temperament. But, one who represents a nearly impossible adoption, due to Chiva's breed and color. Can New York City ever become "no kill" of cats and dogs? Not unless it finds a way to declassify Pitbulls as "dogs" and cats as "pets.")



Question: So what do you all think of the recent ("No Kill by 2015") press release sent by the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals? (From private animal-related email list)
Reply: As is true for most press releases, the one from MA is misleading and deceptive.

The lofty goals of a "no kill" city by "2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and now, 2015" (Different Alliance members keep moving up the projected dates) fail to take into account the composition of most of the animals euthanized in city shelters -- adult, DSH cats and Pitbulls.

It was reasonable to expect that with the initiation of the various programs outlined in the MA press release, that shelter euthanasias could be reduced substantially over a period of time. Almost all small dogs and non-Pit and non-Rottie purebreds can and do go out to rescues, as well as many of the non-pit and non-Rottie mixes.

But, the programs outlined in these ambitious plans do NOT address the constant FLOOD of PITBULLS arriving at city animals shelters every day and the intense difficulty in finding responsible placement for these dogs.

Nor does the press release address the easy disposability attitudes towards companion cats whose intake and euthanasia stats have actually RISEN over the past year, not decreased.

In a recent conversation with the PR representative of AC&C, I brought up the fact that cat intake and kill numbers had increased over the past year, in direct contrast with the MA's and the shelter's PR claims and grandiose goals. I was told that the increases (in the shelter's view) was due to "climate change."

This is ludicrous considering that most cats arriving at city shelters are owned pets, not feral strays reproducing in alleys.

In many ways, the MA and the city shelters (AC&C) are in a state of denial.

The press release modifies it's lofty goals by saying "no kill" refers only to "those animals of reasonable health and temperament."

This represents a canyon size loophole by accepting and excusing the killing of thousands of pets for things as simple and curable as sneezes, (URI's almost always contracted in the shelters), hissing at a vet tech (cats) failing to respond appropriately to a "tag test" (dogs) or just being scared or shy in the shelter.

What desperately needs to be acknowledged is that the "no kill" mandate can (and at least for cats has already) HIT A PLATEAU where further reductions become impossible unless programs are put into place to address and attack the Pitbull breeding and dumping problems, dog fighting, cat dumping and public ignorance regarding issues of animal behavior, training and psychology.

Moreover, it is reasonable to project and conclude that "positive PR spins" and manipulations of facts will over time, only serve to further mislead and DELUDE the public into thinking that all companion pet problems have been "solved" and that there is no sense of urgency to either "do the right thing" by our animals (such as neutering) or, indeed even keep them.

After all, if we are a "no kill" city where every stray or homeless cat or dog is guaranteed rescue and a home, what incentive is there to neuter, keep or even adopt pets from shelters or rescues?

Anyone who thinks all people are adopting pets rather than buying them from breeders, pet shops or the Internet isn't paying attention.

What's wrong with buying "designer pets?" Nothing. We are, after all, "on our way to a no kill city." -- PCA

*****








Thursday, January 22, 2009

Black Holes of Animal Rescue

(Picture Left: "Dutch" -- Young Shepherd mix who lost his home when owner was evicted. Very stressed in boarding, to the point of becoming "unadoptable." Dutch's only hope now is that former owner can win case in housing court and take back her dog.)



This past December, I sent out a newsletter to more than 300 people begging for dog or cat fosters.

Unfortunately, most of the people on our mailing list are past adopters and most likely not in position to foster.

I therefore was not expecting many responses to the foster plea, but thought we might hopefully get a few.

That hasn't happened.

While a number of people generously donated money (which of course we need, particularly to pay skyrocketing boarding and veterinary bills), the sheer lack of foster homes for either dogs or cats to go to, can virtually put us out of rescue all together.

Boarding spaces for animals is limited. Moreover, boarding animals, especially for long periods of time presents with many problems.

First, there is the problem of stress, lack of suitable exercise and social interactions for dogs. Secondly, there is anxiety, worry and guilt for the rescuers (for we never know how long a dog will have to stay in boarding). There is the mounting expense. And there is the problem of not getting to know or ascertain with any clarity how a dog will do in a normal home setting -- particularly a home that may have cats, other dogs or children.

Most people seeking to adopt dogs have many requirements and questions. All we can say about dogs we have in boarding is how easy or hard they are to walk, how they are in a cage and how friendly they are with strangers. In almost all cases, we don't really know how the dog is in a home or family enviornment and without that information, most people look elsewhere to adopt.

Boarding dogs can become like the perennial "black hole" of rescue or to put it another way, the "Hotel California" of an old Eagles song: "You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave!"

I am in a particular quandary now with lack of dog and cat fosters.

As noted previously, we have basically been out of cat rescue for many months. I personally ended up keeping the "hard to adopt" (i.e. animals with shyness or minor medical issues) cats rescued last year, which basically took me out of cat foster for space reasons. With no new people coming forward to foster cats, we are down to only two cat fosters and both are already fostering rescued cats.

But, we are now almost in the same position with dogs.

Five dogs in boarding and only one currently in a foster home. No new dog fosters on the horizon.

In recent days, two of our regular dog fosters informed me that they cannot foster anymore. One girl has an uncooperative roommate. And the other woman has a dog who is very stressed around other dogs and suffers seizures when experiencing any kind of anxiety.

Another dog foster has some family problems right now and may have to take a short break from fostering and still another has upcoming business travels.

Other dog fosters have either adopted their foster dogs or just seem to want to keep them.

I am virtually out of all dog and cat fosters and that is scary. It means we could soon be out of rescue and at least for the moment, are.

And so yes, I am very grateful that the recent newsletter brought in some very needed and generous funding for without it, we couldn't pay boarding or vet bills.

But, it didn't bring what we really wanted. -- Foster homes.

The Rolling Stones sang, "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need."

Unfortunately, when the subject is responsible and ultimately successful dog and cat rescue, "want and need" are the same.

Money alone, doesn't solve all problems -- it only buys time, putting off important decisions for another day. -- PCA

*******

"Onward Christian Soldiers!"





Snow is, to me, an angels's blanket. It's purity, simplicity, peaceful quiet and the way it glitters and twinkles when finding slim slivers of sunlight. Its God's way of giving us a little piece of heaven in a small patch of time. ;)

I have always loved snow, even more so now than when a child.

Speaking of childhood memories of snow, I am reminded of an amusing memory (or, at least its funny now in retrospect -- not so funny at the time.) ;)

I was about 13-years-old. A blizzard had hit NYC and resulted in more than a foot of snow.

The schools were all closed and the city was pretty much shut down.

My friend, Mary and I decided it was a great day to go to Central Park!

We were the only ones dumb enough to go to the park during a blizzard.

It was probably the only time in my life that not a living soul could be found in the park.

But, there Mary and I were: Up to our thighs in snow drifts. Our boots filled with snow, our feet and legs froze and everything around us was a total "white out."

We were lost. With no discernable paths, signs or exits around us, but rather an endless canvas of white we had no idea where we were!

Each step in the heavy snow drifts was like trying to walk in quicksand with two ton weights attached to our feet.

"Oh my God, how do we get out of here?" I cried.

"I don't know!" Mary replied on the border of panic. "We're gonna die here!"

The falling snow blinded our faces. We could see nothing but an avalanche of white.

But, then we also started to see the humor and irony of it all and began to joke and laugh.

"Two dumb teenagers found frozen in Central Park! Snow girls! How is that gonna look on the headlines?" I laughed.

"Look, let's not panic," Mary said. "We have to keep moving!"

And then she began to sing:

"Onward Christian Soldiers!"..........

I started to laugh so hard, I almost peed in my pants.

But, I joined Mary in the "Onward Christian Soldiers!" chant and song.

The two of us trudged on, like German soldiers stupidly marching into Russia during WW2. The song served as inspiration.

Somehow, someway, Mary and I managed to find our way out of the blinding white light of the blizzard -- and the park.

When I finally got home and spent something like an hour running warm water over my frostbitten hands and feet, my Mom screamed.

"Were you INSANE? What would possess you to go to the park during a blizzard?"

"I don't know, Mom. Maybe we just wanted the chance to sing, "Onward Christian Soldiers."


*********

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Final Ending of the Era of Low Expectations

********


Eight years ago, I, along with about 20,000 other people traveled to Washington, DC to protest the inauguration of George W. Bush as President of the United States.

If I felt Bush to be incompetent and ill equipped for the job, I was horrified with the manner in which he ascended to the Presidency.

Although losing the American vote by more than a half a million, somehow, Bush was able to fanagle and win, through legal manipulations, the Presidency.

It was to me, a somber day in American history and politics. A day that ushered in an era of low expectations and ominous visions.

That era finally ended yesterday with the inauguration of Barack Obama to the Presidency.

I did not go to Washington, DC yesterday for either protest or celebration.

I did not, in fact, support or vote for Barack Obama for President. (I was a Hillary Clinton supporter.)

But, unlike 8 years ago and since, I, for the first time, began to feel a sense of hope and guarded optimism that yes, maybe finally there was change in the air and maybe that change was, in fact going to be good for the country.

I am not now, nor have I ever been a believer and seeker of "superheros," idols or miracle workers.

When I vote, I merely try to select the person I most feel can do a competent, basic and honest job in what they have been hired or elected to do.

During the primaries and election process, I had too many questions and doubts about Barack Obama, based mostly on his lack of history ("resume") and some questionable past associations. The media, (which I felt mostly to be "in love with" Obama) failed, in my view, to ask the important (character) questions.

We knew what the failings of McCain and Clinton were. What were the weaknesses or potential "cracks in the armor" for Obama?

But, despite my hard core, practical concerns and questions, I could not help being impressed by this new candidate who seemed to come out of nowhere.

Obama said all the right things and never seemed to falter throughout the long, grueling campaign.

Was this truly a great emerging leader? Or, just a magnificent and skillful con artist and talker?

I didn't know -- and therefore, did not vote for Obama.

I chose instead to go for the "safe, simple and known, but not great" candidate (McCain) than the exciting, brilliant, potentially great, but lesser known, Barack Obama. I voted my head, rather than my heart.

But, yesterday, while catching some of the inaugural activities and part of Obama's speech, I found myself, for the first time, yielding to the emotions of the time and the stirring of something I hadn't felt for many years: hope.

The era of "low expectations and ominous visions" seemed to end with George W. Bush finally stepping on the plane back to Texas.

It was suddenly replaced by a daring to hope and a guarded optimism of better days to come.

Was I wrong to vote as I did in the last primaries and election?

I hope so. And if I was, I will be the first to admit it.

It is perhaps ironic that I grew up and live in New York City.

I might as well be from Missouri -- the "Show Me" state.

What was finally shown yesterday (and personally experienced) is that yes, the times have finally changed and we can now dare to create expectation. -- PCA

*********

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Waiting out the Storms



(Pictures Left:
1- Daisy, when first rescued. 2--The symbolic darkness, ice and storms, Daisy had to wait through before finally finding the sunshine and new hope and beginnings.)





Daisy, our beautiful Retriever/Chow mix was adopted yesterday by a fantastic family from Connecticut.

Daisy had a amazing, if not always pleasant journey from the Euth list at the city shelter, to boarding for almost 6 weeks, to foster, to finally and hopefully, her loving and forever home.

Daisy was one of those dogs one feels horribly guilty for putting in boarding.

A young, vivacious and human needy dog, Daisy went virtually stir crazy while being confined almost 24/7 in boarding.

When first rescued and suffering from Kennel Cough, Daisy had to go into "isolation" at the boarding facility. A small cage in an empty ward with almost no stimulation, it seemed enough to make even Lassie or Rin Tin Tin go crazy.

Those times I went to the facility to try to walk Daisy, she was so wild and uncontrollable on the leash, I could barely get to the corner with her.

A couple of the staffers at the facility complained that Daisy was "aggressive" and difficult to handle, though I personally never saw aggressiveness in Daisy. I saw only need and anxiety.

Daisy haunted me during her stay in boarding. Her behavior seemed so wild and hard to control, I was not optimistic about being able to place her.

Who's going to take a dog that can't even be walked? I wondered. How long will Daisy have to remain in this high stress environment and situation? Is it not, in fact, cruel?

As time passed with no inquiries on Daisy or real hope for adoption, I worried constantly.

I didn't know what to do.

As grim as matters seemed however, there was a glimmer of hope.

Fiorouzeh and her boyfriend, Mike volunteered to help walk boarding dogs a few times during December. When taking Daisy to Carl Shurtz Park, she seemed to do better when we all took turns running with her.

Another time, Fiorouzeh informed me that Daisy seemed to love and respond well to children.

These events provided some hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel for Daisy.

Perhaps it was just a matter of waiting out the storms and worry.

When Jewels, our little older Shepherd mix was finally adopted, it opened up Carrie (our primary foster) to take another dog.

I did not ask Carrie, but thankfully she offered to take Daisy home to try as a foster. Daisy was in fact, our most urgent case in boarding. But I could not be sure how Daisy would be with Carrie's three cats or Carrie's other foster dog (Spencer, the Cocker Spaniel). We were at least reasonably confident (with the information from Fiorouzeh) that Daisy liked kids and would thus, be OK with Carrie's two young daughters.

Amazingly and thanks primarily to Carrie's now extensive experience and ("dog whispering") skills with rescued dogs, Daisy flourished in Carrie's home.

Daisy learned to walk better on the leash and the fact that she was getting so much human attention and love resulted in a much happier and secure dog who was not only housebroken and eager to please, but actually very well behaved in the foster home. Daisy even proved to be a "whoose" with Carrie's three cats. -- If anything, the cats bullied Daisy!

The fact that Daisy was doing so well after a couple of weeks in a foster home that contained not only children, but cats and another dog as well, meant that I could then advertise and promote Daisy as a "excellent family dog."

This is what in fact, facilitated her adoption into a country home with other pets and two children.

It was indeed a happy day yesterday. One that we in fact had been hoping and waiting for since before the holidays.

Watching Daisy frolicking happily in the snow and joyfully jumping in the SUV next to the little girl and family she was going home with was sheer heaven for one's eyes.

But, its a sometimes long and troubled journey from rescue to the loving home we all so strive for in animal rescue.

One that sadly often presents with a lot of guilt, worry and "storms" along the way.

I am extremely fortunate to have volunteers like Fiorouzeh, Sarah and especially Carrie due to her commitment, family situation and vast knowledge and experience with dogs.

Without them, the "storms" might otherwise be endless and without foreseeable light. -- PCA

Monday, January 19, 2009

Losing Self


I seem to be having a case of (non) writer's block.
Perhaps that's because there is so much going on in my head right now, I am not sure how to separate, "compartmentalize" and get some of it written down.

The conflict in my head seems to be between that of the personal me and the professional me that is only identified with animal rescue and placement issues.

Yesterday, I spent more than two hours in snow-covered Central Park with Tina and Chance. It was fantastically beautiful. Just the dogs, the snow, the music in my ears and me.

I loved the feeling of just being in peace and harmony with the world around me. In the park, I am just one more entity in nature. No more, no less than the sparrows in the trees or the ducks skirting between the ice flows on the water.

But, when returning home, I am once again met with the identities and obligations of my work.

The constant cleaning and trying to keep ahead of the pet hair that seems to gather everywhere, the kittly boxes, the need for more pet food, laundry and the flurry of all animal related phone calls.

During one of the conversations with a friend, I attempted to veer into other subjects, such as the upcoming inaugural of soon to be President Obama or even fluff type TV shows.

But, the friend kept returning the topic back to animals, saying to me, "I am obsessed about the dogs you have in boarding."

But, I don't know what to say about the dogs we have in boarding. I am of course, not happy to have dogs in boarding. I feel bad that, for the time being, they are not getting all that they need. I feel bad that one dog pulled out stitches after being neutered and had to go back to the vet. I feel bad that another rescuer's dog got sick and that could result in my dogs catching an infection. I feel bad that finding reliable fosters and committed adopters is especially hard right now -- especially for young, active dogs.

I especially feel bad about all the alerts we keep getting from Animal Control begging for rescuers to "Step Up" and "PLEASE!" save these dogs and those cats. (At least ten such alerts this morning.)

A part of me wants to run away from all this.

Like my dogs, I could literally spend the entire days in Central Park.

Even my best male friend now mostly calls to discuss or ask advice on animal related topics.

My head feels like its exploding.

I seem to have lost myself as a woman, an American or even a human being. -- PCA




******

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Rough Beginnings" and a Little Patience and Understanding

(Picture Left: Jewels -- After a rough beginning, happy at last?)


A couple of positive developments over the past few days -- though both had rough beginnings.

Foxy, our frisky and loving Pomeranian was in fact adopted by Ilene and her husband the other night.

But, it was an adoption that almost self-sabotaged within the first few minutes of Ilene meeting Foxy for the first time. (Her husband was not able to come due to working late.)

Foxy curiously approached the woman to sniff her out. As Ilene does with her other dog at home, she enthusiastically petted Foxy paying special attention to Foxy's hindquarters (generally a mistake with a dog just attempting to know you.) Confused or simply not appreciating the vigorous rubs near the intimate area of his tail, Foxy suddenly snapped at Ilene.

It seemed like the potential adoption would end right there.

Though momentarily shaken, Ilene to her credit, was not deterred.

When arriving to Firorozeh's (the foster person) home to do the adoption and told of the incident, I informed Ilene that there are three sensitive areas in a dog that one needs to be especially respectful of when first meeting the animal: Paws, stomach and tail area.

Ilene was surprised to learn this and explained that her dog at home loves being petted and rubbed near the hindquarters.

"Yes!" I answered. "Most dogs love it. But, that tends to be after you have established a relationship with them. For a dog who doesn't know you, the action can seem threatening and invasive."

"Really?" Ilene questioned. "I thought I was doing the right thing by giving pleasure to the dog."

"Well, it's like a hug." I explained. "A hug is a nice thing. Most people and pets love to get hugs. But, its also a somewhat intimate action. If a stranger on the street comes up and suddenly hugs you, you are more likely to slap the person than reciprocate Hugging dogs (or cats) when you first meet them or handling them in the more sensitive areas of paws, tail or stomach is likewise more likely to result in defensive or negative reaction than pleasurable response. It is simply too intimate and presumptive, too soon."

"You know, it makes sense when you stop and think about it," Ilene said appreciatively.

From that point forward, the adoption moved smoothly.

Foxy warmed up to Ilene and she was delighted with him.

Fiorozeh gave a number of toys to Ilene that she had generously purchased for Foxy and that the little dog loves. Following the signing of adoption papers, we accompanied Ilene to her car with Foxy. Foxy cheerfully jumped in the car and settled down happily next to his new adopter. It was if the bright and sensitive little dog understood fully what had just occurred and he was very pleased to be going with his new person to his new home.

For her part, Fiorozeh was a bit emotional when seeing Foxy leave and fought back tears.

I knew exactly how Fiorozeh felt, having gone though the exact same thing in the past with so many dogs I fostered over the years.

"I remember especially when Baby, my foster Bichon was adopted last year," I said to Fiorozeh. "He pawed at the car window of his adopters as if begging me to 'rescue' him again. It was horrible! I almost screamed out at the couple to stop so I could take Baby back! But, you know the adoption worked out beautifully. Just this past Christmas Baby's adopters sent a lovely card, note, pictures and a donation. They love Baby. But, it was so hard to let him go at the time!"

"I grew to love Foxy over these past few weeks," Fiorozeh said wistfully. "If I didn't already have Cubby who sadly was so stressed by Foxy, I would have kept him."

"I know." I said. "But, its better this way. Your first obligation is to the dog you already have. Foxy finally found his forever home and I am very confident he will be happy and this adoption will work."

"I know what you're saying, Patty and I agree that this woman is wonderful for Foxy. It's just so hard......"

Fiorozeh had to turn away as the car drove off. She could not look at Foxy go.

She did not see that Foxy gave one appreciative look towards her out the window as if to say, "thank you!."

But then he quickly settled on Ilene's lap and didn't look back again.

The other positive development over the past few days is that Jewels, our little Shepherd mix adopted out more than a week ago seems finally to be adapting to her new people and new home.

She was scheduled to be returned today due to housebreaking issues.

But, Helen, the girlfriend of Jewel's adopter called last night to say matters had much improved over the past few days and that the couple really love and want to keep her.

Nothing could describe my relief when receiving this call. I did not look forward to having the put the timid and very sensitive older Shepherd mix into boarding as Carrie (Jewel's former foster person) has since taken in two new rescue dogs.

I anticipated Jewels having to be in boarding a long time as due to her age and timidity, she was not an easy adoption.

I had spent a good deal of time trying to explain to Jewel's adopter that it is not unusual for dogs (especially timid and sensitive dogs like Jewels) to have housebreaking issues when first going into a new environment with new people. While it is understandably upsetting to have a dog messing up one's expensive carpeting, one cannot show one's frustration with the dog. It only exacerbates the situation by creating even more anxiety in the dog.

"This world would be a far better and happier place if only people could learn PATIENCE!" I said (actually out of personal frustration) the other night to Ray, Jewel's adopter.

Helen told me last night that Ray had actually been very "upset and depressed" even to make the call to me the other night. He loved Jewels and hated the idea of returning her. But, between Jewels failing to get the housebreaking down and Helen's two cats hiding under the bed from Jewels the first week, it seemed for that brief time that things weren't working out. (The cats are calmly walking by Jewels now and she is peaceful towards them.)

As I have always said: "If they can just get by those first few hard days or weeks of adjustment, it almost always works out in the end."

Its the "getting by" those first few days that is so often the killer to successful adoptions.

So yes, I am very pleased and relieved about both developments -- especially, the adopters keeping Jewels.

But, perhaps the nicest "closure" of all, have been the follow-up calls from Ilene about Foxy.

He has settled in quickly and wonderfully into his new home. The two dogs are getting along well, Foxy is eating, playing and following his new people around.

And yes, Ilene can now give Foxy "rump rubs."

All he needed was a little time to trust and feel comfortable.

As Jewels needed a little time to feel secure.

As all people and animals need time to adjust to new and challenging situations.

Yes, a little patience (and understanding!) goes a long, long way! -- PCA


******

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dog Days of Winter










"All's well that ends well."

Our Pomeranian mix, Foxy is a wonderful little dog. If we had to wait another 6 months, I knew he would eventually find an equally wonderful home. Perhaps it was a matter of simply waiting out the storms.

But, no sooner had I said to Foxy's foster person that the rejection of Foxy by Carla and her husband was loss to them and not us. No sooner had I written that animals have to wanted and appreciated for who they are (rather than their appeal to some people's neurosis or hang-ups) we finally received the inquiry on Foxy that I think we have been waiting and hoping for.

An inquiry that I believe tonight will result in the happy and successful placement that this little dog so deserves.

Ilene from New Jersey called yesterday. She and her husband are long time Keeshund owners. They have always had two dogs, but some time ago, there 13-year-old Keeshund passed and the surviving 8-year-old dog, Keesha "seems lonely" according to Ilene. It was time to adopt a second dog. Ilene has always liked Pomeranians and when seeing Foxy's writeup and pictures on a rescue site yesterday immediately called.

Ilene didn't call with a laundry list of demands, expectations and questions of future predictions and guarantees.

Rather she called with the desire of being able to rescue a dog; the only request being that Foxy is able to get along with another dog.

Well, Foxy likes other dogs so that should not be an issue.

I liked Ilene and got a very good feeling from her. She and her husband have excellent vet and grooming references and Fiorouzeh, Foxy's foster person seemed to like Ilene as well.

I think only a meteorite suddenly hitting earth would stand in the way of this adoption.

I am hopeful this adoption goes through tonight, as I truly need our few fosters for other dogs we have currently languishing in boarding. -- The fact is, we are not able to rescue new dogs right now because of having too many in boarding.

Yesterday, I spoke with another rescuer who lamented the difficulty right now in finding reliable fosters and good adopters. "M" like us, has a number of dogs in boarding.

"I guess its the economy," M said. "I am having such a hard time finding the homes even though we are advertising all over the place!"

"Well, a bad economy certainly doesn't help," I replied. "But, more than that, I think its the deceptions and misrepresentations that have helped to create this mess. Most people don't realize the numbers of animals dying and the numbers of animals in need. They have been wrongly led to conclude that all the problems have been solved. Every homeless animal gets rescued. Every sick animal gets treated. And every shelter or rescued pet gets immediately adopted. Even Michael Vick's dogs have been saved! -- End of story. The people don't step up to help, because they think we don't need the help. All has been solved. We are all living in Disneyworld -- including the animals."

M just shook her head.

Whatever the "reasons," there is no doubt the present situation as described yesterday is tough. Even the weather has taken a downturn insofar as dog placements. After all, who wants to walk a dog when the temperature is plunging to single digits?

But for one hopefully fortunate dog, Foxy, on a bitterly cold, grey day in New York City there is finally some warmth and sunshine to be found.

Now, that we can only find that for all the others! -- PCA

*********

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tough Times


(Picture Left: Jewels -- Sensitive little Shepherd mix coming back for what really is incompatibility between romance and pet adoption.)

Frustration continues to mount as the New Year trudges on.

One of our dogs, adopted last week is being returned this weekend for "housebreaking" issues even though Jewels was housebroken in her foster home with Carrie.

Jewels is a small, older German Shepherd mix and like most Shepherds, she is very sensitive to the people and energy around her.

Although adopted to a single man with good dog experience, his girlfriend gave both Carrie and me pause for thought at the time of the adoption.

Following the completion of the adoption papers last week, "Ray's" gal pal, nagged and complained about "being hungry" and asked where they could stop to get some food.

Carrie suggested a nearby Chinese take-out, but "Helen" didn't seem the type to go for fast take-out. She instead wanted to go to some fancy restaurant in midtown Manhattan, but I told the couple that was not possible with a dog in the car.

Although the couple doesn't live together, this brief incident should have spelled "red flag" to both Carrie and myself.

Both of us found the woman grating and annoying.

Apparently, Jewels is experiencing anxiety around the woman, also.

The complaint is that Jewels is constantly peeing and pooping in the home.

When trying to discuss the problem with Ray the other night and making suggestions (particularly to help Jewels feel secure), I could hear Helen in the background yakking and complaining.

We should have known this adoption wouldn't work.

Not only do adoption shelters or rescues need to screen actual adopters, but we need to also evaluate (when possible) the boyfriend and girlfriends of single adopters. It's not the first time we are having an animal returned because of a troublesome or neurotic love interest.

The question is, how do you turn down a potential adopter who otherwise fits the criteria for adoption because you think their paramour is a nut job?

Can you say, "Ditch the romantic heart trob and we'll adopt to you."?

The return of Jewels isn't the only frustration right now.

I heard again yesterday from the couple who rejected Foxy for adoption.

"Carla" (her real name) told me that the couple couldn't decide on Foxy because he "reminds" her too much of the couple's last dog.

Since the couple's dog of 17 years was also a Pomeranian, I asked Carla why they were seeking the same breed if they don't want to be reminded of the former dog?

"There are 400 dog breeds." I said to Carla. " Surely, you could seek a different breed or mix that wouldn't be similar to your last dog. Even though Foxy is larger than your last dog, the fact he is Pomeranian is going to mean there are going to be similarities. What exactly are you seeking?"

Carla told me she and her husband had been to many shelters and rescues and just couldn't find "the right dog."

The latter is a phrase that truly irks me to no end.

"What the hell is 'the right dog?" I asked. "I am sure some of the dogs you looked at are now dead! Any one of them could have been the right dog if you and your husband are the right people! I don't think you and your husband are ready for a new dog right now. As matters are, you are simply wasting the time of rescues and shelters."

Carla was insulted and hung up on me. "It's a wonder you get any animals adopted!" she angrily snapped.

Well, on that point, I had to agree with Carla. It is a very tough climate for animal adoptions right now. -- Far tougher than what I (who have been in rescue 20 years) am accustomed to.

But, its OK. We are animal rescue and adoptions. And though certain TV shows mislead the public into expecting that animal rescues and shelters should be proficient in everything from behavior modification to life saving surgeries to fortune telling, to carpentry, the fact is, we're not.

We are especially neither baby sitters, hand holders nor grief counselors.

I say to all those people forever seeking "the right dog" (or cat), that if you are the "right people" (i.e. patient, considerate, kind, calm, committed and compassionate) then any animal you bring home will be the "right" one.

The person or people who eventually adopt Foxy (or any of our animals) will hopefully be truly enthusiastic and honored to add this great little dog to their lives. There should not have to be conflict, doubt, confusion, clones or "reminders" of past animals.

In the end, animals are just animals and, like people, possess their individual faults and strengths. They are not symbols for human drives for perfection and/or wish fulfillment.

I just want our animals to be wanted and appreciated for who they are. -- Not for whatever unrealistic demands or expectations people put on them. -- PCA

********

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Trees



























In the previous entry, I described the past weekend as a "washout."

Well, in terms of animal placements and too many frustrating phone calls, it was.

But, in other ways, if it was a washout, it was quite a beautiful one.

We had about an inch of snow in New York City this weekend.

It was a great time for picture-taking and having fun in Central Park yesterday with the dogs.

I so love Central Park. Any time of the day or night; any season of the year.

But, sometimes it seems my favorite time of the year is, in fact, winter.

I love the bare, free-wheeling look of the trees -- like naked, abstract paintings traveling in all different directions.

I love watching and throwing some food to the myriad of ducks and other water birds that seem to return in large flocks to the Reservoir during the cooler weather.

And I most love watching Tina and Chance take off in the snow and run like small, curious and care-free, happy children.

Perhaps the nicest and most fun time in Central Park (for dog lovers) is the early morning when hundreds of dog owners congregate (especially around the Great Lawn) to sip some hot coffee, allow their dogs to run free and chew the fat with fellow "dog people."

If one wasn't involved in animal rescue work, one would swear that New York City was one very big, dog loving town!

Well, in some ways, it obviously is.

Those dogs (usually fancy purebreds) fortunate to have loving and committed owners actually have a good life here in the city.

Central Park is their personal "backyard."

I don't usually stand around and chew the fat with other dog owners. Tina likes to wander too much and Chance tends to simply follow wherever we go. I always have music flowing through my Walkman and prefer traveling to different areas of the park (rather than staying in one place) as each is like its own little piece of heaven.

I always have to find and see the ducks. I think ducks are among the most beautiful animals on earth. Watching them flow peacefully across the waters always gives me a feeling that all is right in the world. (I know of course that isn't true, but its nice to feel and pretend if only for a moment out of the days.)

When returning home yesterday, I finally removed all the Christmas decorations from my tree, but did not actually take down the tree.

One of the advantages of having a fake Christmas tree is that one doesn't have watch the tree slowly die and then seek to get rid of it a few days following New Year.

One just needs to change the decorations!

I removed the colored lights and replaced them with white ones. I removed all the religious and "Christmasy" ornaments and replaced them with icicles and tiny animal ornaments. And I finally trimmed the tree in white (snow-like) garland.

My Christmas tree has thus become a "winter tree" and closely resembles the snow covered pine trees I so love in Central Park this time of year.

In some ways its prettier now than just prior to or during Christmas!

"For those times one can't get to the park, then bring the park to you!"

I will probably leave the tree this way until the first day in Spring in late March.

As Mickey Rourke says, "When one is alone, all one has is one's dogs."

And they don't judge if you leave your "winter tree" up until March! ;) --- PCA

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Few and Far Between


(Picture left: "Foxy" (formerly, Jay) still waiting for a home that doesn't seem to exist.)


I went to meet and walk Chiva and she is every inch the lovely dog that she was perceived to be.

Very loving and responsive, it seems Chiva had previously been well cared for and taught basic obedience. Though a very solid dog, Chiva is not particularly big. If pulling a bit on the leash, she quickly responds to voice commands. There is no question that Chiva is a wonderful dog. But, will she be an easy adoption?

That is another question entirely.

We thought we had an adoptive home finally for Foxy, our loving and devoted little Pomeranian mix.

The mature married couple had lost their Pomeranian of 17 years a couple of months ago and were seemingly seeking another dog.

There is no question that "Louise" and her husband would have represented a loving and committed home for Foxy.

The question was, were they truly ready for a new dog?

And apparently the answer to that question is "no."

The couple met Foxy on Friday in his foster home.

And although both Fiorozeh (Foxy's foster person) and I assured the couple that Foxy is a wonderfully affectionate and devoted dog once he gets to know people, the potential adopters were "disappointed" that Foxy did not immediately run up to them and jump in their lap.

More people apparently seeking "instant love" with a dog. One is tempted to ask people like these if they fell in love and married a half hour after meeting each other?

Fiorozeh was disappointed and surprised that the people did not want to adopt this beautiful and super sweet, well behaved and playful dog.

But, I told her this kind of thing happens all the time in animal adoptions. -- It especially seems to occur with small dogs and pedigree cats. (One reason why I personally believe that those who demand little dogs and purebred cats are often not animal lovers, in the true sense of the term.)

I don't want to make a harsh judgment on the people who met Foxy as much as give benefit of the doubt. They obviously loved their last Pomeranian. Though its been two months since the little dog passed, I simply don't believe his owners have suitably gone through the grieving process enough to adopt a new dog. The suspected truth is that even had Foxy jumped on their laps and planted kisses all over their faces, they would have sought and found another reason not to adopt and instead, reject Foxy.

Its just the way things go in this kind of work. Along with everything else, one needs to have basic knowledge of human psychology and "grief processes."

And so yes, it was another disappointing (or "washout") weekend with no animals being adopted and no new fosters found.

But, I did have calls from one woman seeking a " young, declawed Maine Coon or Persian cat" a guy who wanted to adopt Foxy to send to his sister in Pakistan and a woman who wanted Foxy as a "birthday present" to her five-year-old niece.

But, the best call was from the woman who wanted to adopt a "small dog" for her 5 and 7-year-old children. The woman told me that the family had never had a dog, but they previously had a hamster. She added that she gave the hamster away, because "the kids weren't caring for it" and she "had no time" for the tiny animal.

"Ma'am, if you gave away the hamster because it was too much trouble and time to care for, how do you expect to be able to care for a dog? Your children will only be interested in the dog for two weeks and besides, you can't put that kind of responsibility on small kids."

It is unbelievable to me that so many people who have a history of giving away animals (or more likely dumping them in shelters, but not telling us that) because they "moved" or had "no time" for the animals, then seek out an even more challenging pet to care for. Obviously, animal "care and commitment" are not words in their vocabularies.

I know I am sounding very judgmental here, but I do believe that unless otherwise reformed or educated in some way, people's past behavior is a good predictor of what their future behavior will be with pets.

Maybe I am cynical or maybe I have been in this work too long, but I believe that the truly loving and committed homes for animals are far and few between. Most are already "taken" with pets they keep for 15 to 20 years and the others are not yet through the grieving process for the cats or dogs they recently lost. -- PCA


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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Movin' With the Times

(Picture Left: Chiva --Sweet dog who almost followed her owner's misfortunes. But, for her, changing times to be good times.)


I pulled a new dog off the Euth list yesterday.

"Chiva" is neither a puppy, a purebred, a small dog or a drop dead, ravishing beauty.

Moreover, she is a black Pitbull mix and black dogs, especially Pittie mixes tend to be very tough adoptions.

But, you know what?

Nothing is "normal" these days.

We still have Foxy, the sweet and devoted little red Pomeranian mix rescued more than three months ago.

Meanwhile, several of our larger and older "mutts" have recently been adopted.

Go figure.

I pulled Chiva because she was described as a nice and mellow dog by shelter volunteers and she has a pretty good behavioral eval. She is 5-years-old and appears to be healthy.

Chiva was dropped off at the shelter by someone who claimed Chiva's owner had recently died.

Animals whose owners have either become sick or died tend to win my sympathy because I think, "There but for the grace of God go my animals." Were something to happen to me, I would hope that my dogs and cats would find safe haven. I therefore feel greater obligation to try and help those animals whose owners have fallen on some kind misfortune out of their control.

Chance, my Pomeranian, for example, was dumped off at the shelter by relatives who claimed Chance's real owner was in the hospital.

It's too bad we can't reassure the former owners of some of these animals that their pets are OK and have found loving homes. I sometimes wish I could have done that for whoever formally owned Chance. -- I think he was a very loved (if not somewhat spoiled) dog.

For now, Chiva will go into boarding later today.

But, I am reasonably optimistic about getting a foster or potential adopter for her relatively soon.

As said, nothing is "normal" these days. What was once down is now up and what was formally up now seems to be crashing.

"The slow one now will later be fast /
As the present now will later be past

Yep. As Dylan once sang,

"The times, they are a changing."

And we gotta adapt and move with 'em. -- PCA


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Thursday, January 8, 2009

(Same Old) Shelter Blues


(Picture Left: Spencer -- loving, healthy purebred Cocker Spaniel who almost died for a shelter mistake)

Rudy, our sweet little Pekingese was adopted last night. While it was surprising that a loving and totally adorable little dog like this failed to generate many adoption inquiries, the one call we got on Rudy turned out to be high quality and the appropriate home for him to go to. Rudy seemed to connect strongly to his new people as they to him (two young men who live together as partners). Both Rudy's foster person and I are very confident that the little Peke has gone off to a happy life where he will be pampered and adored.

That is of course, what we want for all of our animals.

There is good news on Daisy, as well. Though very stressed while in boarding, Daisy is happy and doing marvelously in her new foster home with Carrie and her family. The fact we can now say that Daisy is good with kids, cats and other dogs should help facilitate her ultimate adoption -- although in the current economic crisis, it is very hard to predict or feel particularly optimistic about anything.

As Carrie has become accustomed and comfortable with fostering two dogs at a time, she volunteered the other day to go to the shelter herself and pick out a new dog to foster. We both agreed that the new foster dog should probably be older and smaller than Daisy in order to minimize potential stresses in the home. It was also preferable that the new dog be a male, as generally opposite sex dogs are more compatible (Daisy is already spayed).

As circumstance would have it, there was a lovely, extremely sweet and basically healthy (already neutered!) male Cocker Spaniel at the pound, who, unbelievably was on the Euth list for the following day!

Why was "Spencer" on the list of doom?

Well, apparently either his former owners misspoke when indicating the little dog's age to be "18" or the person doing the Intake behind the counter make a whopper of a typo.

Although, Jesse, the New Hope Coordinator sent Spencer's information out in an email alert to rescue, the fact his age was indicated as "18" obviously deterred rescues from coming forward on him.

For a dumb mistake, a loving, Cocker Spaniel almost died.

To her credit, Jesse did pull Spencer from the Euth list and requested a further "evaluation" on him by the medical staff. She also pointed Spencer out to Carrie.

"18-years-old?" Carrie exclaimed. "Damn, this dog can't be 18! Can you have a vet look at him to reassess the age? Patty will have my ass if I pull an 18-year-old dog!"

Jesse brought Spencer back to medical to have a vet evaluate his real age. And to no one's surprise, the attending vet said the dog was more likely 8-years-old, not 18.

When asked by Carrie, why this error wasn't discovered sooner, the vet replied that when an animal is a "owner surrender" with an indicated age, the vet's don't bother to check or reevaluate.

That probably explains why so many of our shelter's animals have incorrect ages posted on them -- many times indicated to be older than they actually are.

Personally, I believe that many owners turning in animals give incorrect information: "I had the dog ten years!" when in fact, they only had the animal 6 or 7 years. It sound better and more committed to say one had the animal longer than they actually did. In other cases, owners simply don't remember exactly when they got the animal and round off to the highest number.

That shelter vets don't bother to question or check this information, is, to put it bluntly, disgraceful -- especially when it results in an animal dying for what really is shelter error and incompetence.

There are, in fact, many problems with New York City's animal sheltering system - a few of which have hit media reports over the past couple of days.

Apparently, the Brooklyn shelter recently experienced an outbreak of a deadly canine flu (or other) virus and a number of dogs died in their cages. Others were euthanized and still others were sent to the Manhattan shelter. For a few days, the shelter "shut down" and refused to take in dogs from the public.

All of this was kept very under wraps until some people leaked it to the press.

Unfortunately, what the press doesn't say is that sickness problems are very common in NYC shelters which are simply too overcrowded and understaffed all of the time.

The bottom line is we don't have enough animal shelters in NYC to competently and safely handle the volume of animals from a public comprised of over 8 million people.

Until shelters are built in the Bronx and Queens to deal specifically with those boroughs' animals, then dogs (and cats) like Spencer and thousands of others will continue to fall through the gaping holes of societal and political neglect. -- PCA


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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sands of Time and Circumstance

(Picture Left: "Bernie" (formerly, Brownie) the "Demon Dog." Ah, how pictures sometimes deceive!) ;)


I have frequently written of Carrie, our most reliable foster person and a bonified "dog whisperer" in her own right.

Over the years, Carrie has taken on many tough challenges. Distrustful Chows who take time to trust and love. Sensitive German Shepherds with issues of timidity and overprotection and at least a couple of very lovable, high energy Pitbulls.

Carrie has never complained about any dog or given up on one -- until this past year.

And that was with an adorable, 12 pound Tibetan Spaniel originally named, "Brownie."

I rescued Brownie from Animal Control, mostly because he looked very much like one of my own dogs, Tina.

I was quite sure Brownie would be an "easy foster" for Carrie. He was an older dog (about 9-years) who was from a home and was very friendly with me in the shelter, constantly licking my hand.

"I am sure you will only have this cutie a couple of weeks" I said to Carrie around October of last year. "He is a real sweetie!"

But, as noted many times on this blog, animal rescue and placement is often as unpredictable as the most fickle lover.

It turned out that I was as wrong about Brownie's "adoptability" as I had been about Willow's "unadoptability."

The little dog had major resource and food guarding issues as well as a penchant for attacking every visitor to Carrie's home.

Carrie attempted to work with Brownie through the food guarding and other issues, but when he bit one of her daughter's, Carrie's patience wore thin.

"The little bastard can bite me or my husband and even visitors to my home, but when it comes to my kids, I have to draw the line, Patty!" Carrie said one day shortly before leaving for a one week vacation before Thanksgiving. "I'll hold him until next week, but I can't take him back when we return from Hawaii."

I placed Brownie in boarding when Carrie and her family left for the trip. But, he didn't work out in the boarding facility either.

After only a few days, I received a call from the owner of the boarding establishment telling me I had to get Brownie out of there as he was attempting to bite every member of his staff.

"Nobody can handle him here and I can't put my employees at risk." Dale told me. "I'm sorry, but Brownie can't stay."

I was suddenly in a real mess with the "adorable little Tina-like dog" who I thought would be such a quick and easy adoption.

Brownie was no Tina!

But, as so often happens when I seem to be facing the dreaded "E" word (being forced to euthanize an animal because of a major behavioral issue and having no place to put him or her) a miracle seemed to suddenly come through for Brownie.

I received a call from a very enthusiastic and earnest woman eager to help a dog through foster.

"I was told you guys are always looking for people to foster dogs," Doreen told me. "I have a house in New Jersey, a dog and three cats and I am willing to help save a life."

"Really?" I asked, not quite believing I could suddenly be so lucky. "Well, we have this little dog named Brownie who we desperately need a foster for right now....."

I went on to explain to Doreen the entire story with Brownie right down to the fact he was being kicked out of the boarding facility and I had literally no place to send him other than back to Animal Control where he would surely be euthanized for having bitten a number of people.

"He can be really sweet and always has been with me," I told Doreen. "But, Brownie also has a dark side. One has to go carefully with him. He's a very needy dog who seems to need someone all to himself."

"Well, I am willing to help!" Doreen said. "I'm very experienced with dogs and to tell you the truth, my last dog who recently passed at 17 years could be a bit temperamental."

The next day Doreen drove in from Jersey and fortunately for me, Brownie was on his best behavior with her. Indeed, Brownie was very drawn to Doreen's passionate, quirky and high energy Italian temperament.

He immediately jumped in her car and sat comfortably on Doreen's lap as she started the car.

"Are you sure that's safe, him on your lap like that?" I asked with concern.

"Sure, it's fine! I'll let you know how its going after I get home!" Doreen chirped as she drove away, a happy, cheerful dog on her lap.

Over the next few weeks, Doreen updated me with several reports on Brownie (who she named "Bernie.")

Bernie had attacked Doreen's boyfriend, other dog, a couple of the cats and everyone who dared approach her car when Bernie was in her lap.

"But, other than those things, Bernie's been a real sweetheart!" Doreen added. "He sleeps under the covers with me at night, comes everywhere with me and even seems to like it when I dress him up!"

Shortly before Christmas, Doreen sent me the above picture which would even put a smile on Scrooge.

I suggested she should try to market the photograph to one of the greeting card companies.

Earlier last week, Doreen called to confirm, Bernie was hers. She wanted to officially adopt him. "Yes, he's a little bastard, but I love him to death. I told my boyfriend, Bernie is all I wanted for Christmas!"

Today, I am sending Doreen the adoption contract.

But, that's not the total end to the story:

The other night, while at the boarding facility, I met Jane, a former colleague and acquaintance who I worked with ten years ago in fighting for reforms in the city shelter. Jane is currently helping to walk some of the dogs in the boarding facility.

Later, Jane and I talked on the phone to catch up on old and new times.

"By the way, what did you do with that little Tibetan Spaniel mix you had at the place a while ago? He was one very nasty little dog! Scary. He used to lunge every time I or anyone walked by. I called him, 'Demon Dog.' Did you have to have him euthanized?"

"Oh no! Well, you probably won't believe this, but........."

As had been said on this blog many times by myself and others:

"No animal is truly unadoptable."

If there was a special person out there for the crazy "little bastard dog" Bernie, there is a special person for every dog and cat.

That only we could find them all before the sands of time and circumstance run out. -- PCA



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