Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Search of the "Perfect" Fantasy

(Picture left: "Alanda" --Loving, healthy and bright Lab/Pit mix rescued two months ago and still languishing in boarding. Unfortunately, we can't answer on how Alanda is with small kids, cats, rabbits and goldfish.)

As predicted, Leo, the pitbull who arrived at the shelter with Tommy, (the Chow) landed on the kill list today. It was inevitable and as easy to forecast as the sun going down at the end of the day.

I called the "New Hope" number in order to pull Leo off the deadly list.

But, that is the easy part.

The hard part is being able to find any Pitbull a loving and responsible home, especially when we have so little in terms of background information on the dog.

All we know about Leo is that he a somewhat shy, but sweet dog (according to volunteers) who quickly warms up when he gets to know someone. That -- and Leo seems to like Chows.

None of these things will help in placing Leo with any of the people who typically call to adopt a dog.

90% of those inquiring on dog adoptions have either very young children or cats.

One person calling yesterday has two rabbits. She wanted to be assured that the dogs we have would be "good with the rabbits."

I could give the woman no such guarantees.

And therein lies the problem.

Most people today have complex lives that contain demanding jobs, a house full of small kids or other pets. They want guarantees that the dogs they adopt will "fit" their homes and lifestyles the same way one would expect a pair of gloves to fit.

But, we are not in the glove business.

Nor, can we realistically give out "guarantees" on animals the same way a store issues guarantees for a computer or a toaster.

In most cases of animals rescued from shelters (or streets) we have very little in the way of information regarding the animal's past history or the environments they grew up in.

As noted previously, most people when dropping animals off at shelters tend to lie about ownership in order to avoid paying Owner Surrender Fees or be accountable for the animal's condition. When people claim an animal to be "stray" they are not expected to provide information on background, history or behavior.

Not only does this tendency to lie about ownership hurt the dog or cat's chances for adoption to another home, but it also seriously skews shelter data and accurate information.

For example, according to shelter data, approximately HALF of all animals arriving at NYC shelters are so-called "strays." The REALITY is that probably only 10% (if even that) are actual strays.

Trying to adopt "stray" dogs out to busy homes with 1-year-old toddlers, cats, rabbits or birds is to almost beg for some sort of calamity.

In some ways I would love to return to the "good ol' days" when people simply had to accept personal responsibility for any animals they brought home.

That's the way it was when I adopted my first dog (a small Shepherd mix) from the pound 40 years ago.

The shelter told me absolutely nothing about the dog, except that she came in as a "stray" and if the adoption didn't work out, I could bring her back.

"Sheppie" turned out to be wonderful with me, good with my cats, not so great with my Mom, a great runner, extremely smart and healthy, but always a little guarding of bones.

In other words, Sheppie was a really, really good dog who I had for 17 years, but she wasn't perfect.

I trust such is the case with most dogs.

Unfortunately, our "job" in rescue is to make the animals perfect. -- PCA


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