Monday, January 5, 2009

Relief and Gratitude!

(Picture Left: Daisy -- Finally out of "solitary confinement," thanks to one dog adoption and Carrie)

"You're guilty if you don't rescue and you're guilty if you do."

The above words were spoken yesterday to NYCA volunteer and main foster person, Carrie as she accompanied me to the boarding facility where I'd been keeping Daisy, a beautiful Golden Retriever/Shepherd mix for almost two months.

We were on our way to pick Daisy up, as Carrie's foster dog had just been adopted.

But, I felt I had to prepare Carrie for the fact Daisy had become quite "stir crazy" from her seven weeks in boarding. Though easy to walk when I first picked Daisy up from Animal Control, her time in "solitary confinement" (i.e. penned up all the time) had taken its toll in psychological alteration.

In recent weeks, Daisy (and another dog we have in boarding) had become difficult to walk and handle, due, I believe to the lack of stimulation, exercise and social interaction while in boarding.

Its a situation that can lead a rescuer to feel guilty for actually having saved a dog.

We don't rescue them with the intent of putting animals in long term "doggie jail" so to speak.

Although rescues and shelters constantly beg for foster people and volunteers, too often we end up having to board dogs for long periods of time because the reality is, reliable fosters are so hard to find.

And while some members of the public may feel comforted (and complacent) with the fact an animal has been "saved," the question is, what happens to that animal after the rescue?

If simply going into a cage for many weeks or months, then one has to seriously question the humanity, wisdom and justice in that rescue. (Animal care is not just about food, water and shelter.)

Are we simply "rescuing" animals from one miserable situation to put them in another?

Are we playing God or pandering to our egos in saying that we have "saved" this animal or that one, but meanwhile have failed to plan or anticipate properly for the animal's psychological welfare after the rescue?

These are questions that constantly haunt when having saved a dog, we are faced with the situation of keeping that animal in long term boarding because we can't find suitable foster or adopter.

I couldn't really predict last night how Daisy was going to be then going into a foster home following the stress of what was to me, too long a period in boarding.

But, if anyone would be able to handle Daisy and the situation, it would be Carrie.

At this point, Carrie has fostered several dozen dogs coming out of all kinds of stress situations. There is little she and her family haven't yet encountered or faced in caring for traumatized dogs.

Carrie is the one person I could feel confident and trust in sending Daisy to.

As suspected, Daisy was a little wild and scattered on the leash when we first took her out. But, she responded well to Carrie's commands and eventually settled down reasonably well on the leash.

Although Daisy seemed to respond well to children when walked on the streets, I of course had no idea how Daisy would be with Carrie's two children in the home and three cats and had to thus caution appropriately.

But again, Carrie has been through this scenario so many times before, that at this point, even her cats and two young daughters are "old pros" in terms of dealing with new dogs.

Nevertheless, Carrie is presently fostering a new cat. When at the shelter last week to rescue one cat for an available foster, I put a "memo" on a second cat. Carrie was kind enough to offer foster to the second cat, "Smokey." Smokey is a large brown tabby with a huge, "Pitbull-like" head. He is quite unique looking and a sweet boy -- at least with people and other cats. But, Smokey is not at all comfortable with dogs.

So yes, there were a lot of questions and concerns last night when Carrie agreed to take home Daisy.

But, so far the news has been surprisingly good -- except for Smokey who is not at all happy with the new dog coming in.

Smokey has attacked Daisy several times, necessitating Carrie having to separate the one cat from Daisy and causing the confused dog to be fearful of the other three cats who barely bat an eye with the new canine addition.

Having been so emotionally deprived over these past two months, Daisy is predictably very needy now and insecure. It is a dramatic adjustment suddenly going from a situation of confinement and almost no stimulation, into a lively family with kids and other pets.

But, thankfully, Daisy seems to particularly gravitate towards Carries young daughters causing one of them to remark to her Mom, "Gee, Mom, this dog needs so much attention and love!"

None of us know for sure how Daisy will behave once she feels more comfortable and secure in her foster home, but for now, I am just tremendously relieved.

Its one less dog to feel guilty about.

As said to Carrie last night, unless having available and reliable fosters for animals when they are rescued, we are otherwise damed if we do and damed if we don't (rescue) in terms of guilt and remorse.

Unless knowing we can get a dog out of boarding after only a few days or a week, it is simply one more thing to stress over.

And "compassion stress and fatigue" are very real dangers in long time shelter or rescue work. -- PCA

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