Monday, April 27, 2009

*Summer* in the City

Quite a heat wave in NY the past couple of 90 degrees kind of heat.

The sudden onset of *summer* during what has been a pretty cool and rainy spring puts one a little off balance as the body isn't yet used to the higher temperatures.

But, mostly what has put me off over the past couple of days, is the transformation of Central Park into Times Square and city sidewalks being turned into bicycle paths. One has to literally look both ways when walking on the sidewalk or risk being run over by a bike -- or a jogger!

In fact, it was funny yesterday, to witness a jogger yelling at a cyclist ("Jesus Christ!!"). And no, that wasn't in the park. That was on the sidewalk right up the block from me. They have taken over the entire city!

Upper East Side Manhattan is suddenly like the wild west. Any day now, the cyclists and joggers will be wielding guns at each other!

None of this is of course great news for dog or cat adoptions. With everyone either at the parks, beaches or embarking on "turf wars" over whether the joggers or cyclists rule the sidewalks (ordinary pedestrians don't count), animal adoption queeries have fallen to zero.

Of course, considering our "luck" this past week with a so-called "adopter" and "foster" (both of whom returned the dogs within 3 days) that is probably not a bad thing. At least no one wasted our time over the past two days.

It is Monday morning now.

I expect (as the "Come Monday" entry details) to be busy today with phone calls.

They are, after all back on their (apparently boring) jobs and computers looking for cheap thrills and imaginary ("perfect") cats and dogs.

But, come the weekend, it will be back to the bikes and running shoes.

Who, after all, wants the burden of a cat or dog then? -- PCA

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Come Monday....

(Picture Left: "Coco" -- beautiful, gentle and loving Collie mix whose failure to live up to perfection has once again landed her in the dog house.)

Despite emergency postings on several dogs, in addition to our regular listings, the phone was mostly dead yesterday -- except, believe it or not, for another dog return!.

This time, the adopter complained that "Coco," a beautiful and extremely devoted and affectionate Collie mix grabbed the pants leg of the woman's visiting niece.

I tried to explain that such was a playful, "herding" type of behavior (especially in a herding type dog) and that it should not be a cause for concern. Coco is a dog who normally loves children!

But, the woman was unwilling to listen to any guidance, reason or pleas to give Coco a little more time than 3 days!

She demanded to return Coco "immediately."

Fortunately, the boarding facility that has since closed its doors to rescue dogs, was willing to take Coco back as all the staffers and the manager loves her.

But, it is once again, bad news for us.

But, if I think it is just *us* who seem to be attracting all the nut jobs as potential fosters or adopters these days, that is surely not the case.

A large proportion of animals adopted from city shelters are also returned within days of an adoption.

It seems patience and understanding are not high on people's priority lists these days.

In fact, it seems to many people the process of "seeking a pet to adopt" is like some sort of game or recreational sport or entertainment activity.

That is why most of the "adoption inquiries" we receive are during the week; particularly on Mondays.

It seems many people don't have enough to keep them busy on their jobs.

They spend much of their time on the jobs, scouting adoption sites like "," sending out "give me more information" emails and making phone calls.

Some people tell me they have been "seeking to adopt a dog" for "months" or even "years!"

Others have confessed that scouting the adoption sites has become "like an addiction."

One has to wonder how serious these people are about ever getting any animal at all?

One only needs to have a pulse to adopt cats or dogs from city shelters.

But, of course the people don't just want any dog that might be available in a shelter.

They want the PERFECT dog!

You know, the dog that is "great with kids, cats, dogs, goldfish, parrots, visiting nieces or nephews, allergic babysitters and traveling in planes."

The list (of demands) in fact, goes on and on.

Some people even demand that dogs be "litter box trained" as they have "no time" to walk a dog.

Unfortunately, when requested to rescue dogs from Animal Control, the only information we usually get is how big the dog is and his/her approximate age.

As noted yesterday, most people dropping pets off to the shelters lie about ownership in order to avoid paying owner surrender fees. This means that all these so-called "strays" come with no information on them.

Its difficult to provide for the "perfect dog-seeking" public all the information and requirements that the people demand.

And so it is small wonder that upwards of 80 cats and dogs a day are destroyed in our local animal shelters.

In some ways, its a wonder the number isn't a great deal more.

Still, that "80 a day" translates into thousands of animals a month -- most of them, formerly "loved" pets.

Where does all that "love" go?

It reminds one of an old 60's rock song:

"I loved you yesterday. But, yesterday's gone."

But, come Monday morning, they will again be on their laptops seeking out forever, that "perfect" cat or dog.

That only such animal (or human) actually existed. -- PCA


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cold as Arctic Ice in the Middle of Spring (New York City)

(Picture left: "Bobo" --Dumped for the reason of growing "old.")
Very bad news over the past couple of days.

The worst is that the Manhattan dog boarding facility that we have depended upon as a "safety net" for those dogs in emergency situations has elected to "rent out" the space formerly used to house rescued dogs. This is mostly a financial decision, but it will impact greatly and negatively on our ability to rescue new dogs or even be able to "take back" on a dime's notice, any of our previously rescued foster or adopted dogs.

I am personally very distressed about this occurrence. We spent thousands of dollars over the past few months boarding dogs who did not yet have foster or adoptive homes. We were very responsible in paying our bills on time, overseeing the welfare of our dogs, walking them and eventually placing them in adoptive homes.

Already we are feeling the negative and far reaching affects of this event:

I found out about the unexpected decision very suddenly when calling the boarding facility the other day to send two newly rescued dogs in for boarding.

It was like having the rug pulled out from under us -- and the animals.

I then had to call Joanne at the Staten Island Animal Control shelter to inform her that we could not in fact, immediately take the two dogs (A Chow and a Chow/Jindo mix) as we had promised. Both dogs faced euthanasia, as the shelter was "packed" and both dogs had already been there a week.

Since then, Sarah (one of our most reliable volunteers) has offered to foster the black Chow Chow. But, I don't have anyone for the Jindo mix and just did emergency postings on Petfinders and other adoption sites begging for "emergency foster" for the pretty and sweet tempered, mixed breed, reddish dog.

Both dogs are estimated to be about 7-years-old, in reasonably good condition and were dumped at the shelter by a man who didn't bother giving explanation for why he was abandoning his dogs. Instead, the man claimed the dogs were "strays" he just "found" --presumably as a way of getting out of paying the "Owner Surrender Fees" required for all pets abandoned by owners.

If all of this wasn't bad enough, on Thursday, it seemed we were very lucky to find a foster family for an older mixed breed dog at the Manhattan shelter who had become a volunteer favorite due to her loving, devoted and gentle temperament and personality.

But, one day after bringing "Bobo" home, "Kate" (the foster person) called to tell me that she wanted to return Bobo to Animal Control immediately because her family "didn't want to become attached" to the older dog who "might not be easy to adopt" and/or could "die" on them.

I was extremely disheartened, but not necessarily surprised by the call.

I had significant reservations about this "foster" due to the fact, the woman in the family is undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. That can be tricky for numerous reasons.

Although Kate swore to me she was feeling "good," would be through with the chemo treatments in a month or two, had a good prognosis and that her family "really wants to adopt a dog" I was skeptical due to the fact the family had never had a dog and we have already had negative outcomes in situations like these.

Nevertheless, Bobo was facing certain death at Animal Control especially as she had then come down with Kennel Cough in the shelter. One needed to be willing to take a "risk" if wanting to save the older Shepherd/Cattle dog mix.

I suggested to Kate that she should foster a dog first and that the dog should be an "older and easy to care for dog."

Bobo seemed to perfectly fit the bill as she was older (about 8 to 10 years), already trained, extremely sweet, gentle and loving and easy to walk.

When meeting Bobo on Thursday, Kate seemed very pleased with Bobo (who licked Kate's face) but expressed "concerns" about the dog's age.

I assured Kate, she would only be taking Bobo as a foster and it would be my job to find an adoptive home for the dog.

"How long will that take?" Kate asked.

"Well, it is hard to say," I answered honestly. "Most fosters are about a month or two. But, these are weird times right now with the poor economy. It could take longer, particularly because Bobo is an older dog. Still, we just adopted out a 10-year-old dog a few weeks back. Its certainly not impossible!"

Kate assured me she was up for the foster and enthusiastically called her family (a husband and two teenagers) to verify the arrangement.

Kate asked me what would happen if the foster didn't work out. "Can we bring her back to you?" (This is usually a very bad sign when asked by fosters or adopters as it shows the person is already thinking negatively about worst case scenarios.)

I assured Kate that, as per our foster contract, animals can always be returned although now without reliable and affordable boarding to send a dog to, the dog would most likely have to go back to Animal Control where she would likely face destruction.

"If given sufficient notice however," I added optimistically, "we would certainly do our best to find other foster or placement for Bobo! Please call me with any questions or problems."

I thought I had sufficiently prepared and gone over everything with Kate before she left with Bobo on Thursday. Nevertheless, I didn't have that "great feeling" about this particular foster placement when finally saying good-bye to Kate on Third Ave and 110th Street, a few blocks from the shelter.

I in fact, was worried about it.

Sure enough, when I got the call from Kate yesterday, I was distressed, but not necessarily surprised.

I begged Kate to please hold on to the dog for at least a few days -- give me time to try and find another foster. After all, it was not like the dog bit or attacked someone in the family or was lunging at other people or dogs on the street! On the contrary, (according to Kate) Bobo had been a model dog.

But, Kate was adamant on returning Bobo "immediately."

"She's an old dog and my family does not want to get attached to her," Kate said as coldly as to keep the Artic ice flows hard as steel. "We don't want a dog dying on us in a month or a year!"

For someone undergoing chemo treatment for an aggressive form of cancer, I found that a odd thing for Kate to say. How would she, after all, like it were her family to abandon her because she "might die on them?"

The fact is, any person or animal can "die" at any time. No one has guarantees in life.

Finally realizing I was getting nowhere with this hard as coal witch (sorry to say that about a cancer victim), I finally said, "whatever" and basically hung up on Kate.

It was an incredibly cruel thing to do to both an animal and even the rescue that had spent so much time with Kate and entrusted her to at least keep her word. (i.e care for the dog until Bobo could either be placed with someone else or adopted directly by the foster family.)

Last night I spoke with and apologized to Evelyne, the volunteer who had cared so much for Bobo and to whom the dog deeply attached.

Evelyne informed me that Bobo was "very stressed" having just been dumped back at the shelter again. "Maybe we have to let her go," Evelyne added despondently.

"Well, I requested Kim to give us a couple of days to try and find something else for Bobo" I replied kind of half-heartedly.

Yes, it was hard to be "optimistic" about anything right now.

Especially after having the "rug pulled out" from under us in terms of emergency boarding to send instantly discarded dogs to.

It's sometimes a cruel world out there and Kate reflected all of that in those "She's too old!" and "might die" words.

We all get "old" and we will all "die" some day.

Does that give society -- or anyone -- the right to throw us out and say, "F*^& you!"?

Apparently, to some people, it does. -- PCA


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Real Life Possibilities of "Fairy Tale Endings" (New York City)

(Picture Left: "Sporty" -- At last, his fairy tale ending!")

"When people do the right thing, it almost always works out right."

The above is a personal quote based upon what I have observed and experienced in over 20 years of work in the animal field.

The reason for the "almost" clarification in that sentence instead of the absolute is, well as said yesterday, there are no absolutes in life.

Sometimes the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished!" is also true. -- I've seen that in animal work, too.

But, for the most part, yes, when people do the right thing for the right reasons, it usually has a very good outcome.

Case in point:

Some weeks back, I was contacted by Animal Control and asked if we could take a very sweet Chow mix who had arrived at the city shelter with a deeply imbedded collar in his neck.

"Sport" (so named because the dog was such a "good sport" considering the egregious neglect he had suffered) was not really a "Chow mix" but he was everything else the shelter promised he was:

Endearing, sweet, very gentle and intelligent and of loving, gregarious temperament. (Well, some of that stuff I've obviously added since getting to know the black mongrel who is mostly Lab with perhaps a little "Chow."

We sent Sporty to our vet for neutering, as well as surgery to remove the collar and stitch up the wound.

But, even when all those things were done and Sporty was recovered and "ready to go" I did not have a foster or adoptive home to send Sporty to.

Sporty sat in a cage at my vet for more than two weeks while I attempted to advertise him and promote him to potential foster people or adopters.

It was surprising to me that no one seemed to respond to Sporty's special and sad story or even to the fact that here was a truly terrific "family dog" who would be a joyous addition to any home fortunate enough to have him!

Then one day a nice woman called inquiring on another dog we had for adoption -- Dutch.

But, I explained to "Dominique" that Dutch, due to various nervousness issues, would not be the appropriate dog for her particular situation which contained two adolescent sons.

I then told Dominique about Sporty and offered her the opportunity to "try him out" as a foster/trial adoption.

To my delight and surprise, Dominique accepted the invitation and came the next day with her sons to meet and take home Sporty as a foster dog.

That was a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, Dominique called to tell me that her family wants to officially adopt Sporty as he has turned out to be everything promised -- and much more.

What was particularly touching in all the good news that Dominique shared with me is that Sporty has turned out to be a kind of "therapy dog" for Dominique's elderly Grandfather who apparently suffers from a mild form of dementia.

"The whole family, especially my Grandmother has been worried about him," Dominique said. "Grandpa's been so depressed; kind of withdrawing into himself in recent years. But, oh, when he saw Sporty! You can't believe the difference! The dog totally brought my Grandfather out of his shell! He was so happy to be with a dog once again. It was so heartwarming to see!"

Additionally, Dominique's two sons totally love Sporty and he, they. One of them gets up an extra hour early each day just to walk Sporty. Its something the young boy looks forward to.

All of this is of course, wonderful news.

And like the story told yesterday only goes to prove once again how sometimes human and animal lives are turned around on a small and simple twist of fate.

But, when that "twist of fate" is combined with a willingness and openness to do the right thing as opposed to merely pursuing selfish aims and demands, the results are so often those "fairy tale endings" we so enjoyed hearing about when we too, were kids.

Yes, they are possible in real life, too. ;)


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Simple Twist of Fate (New York City)

(Picture Left: Cricket and Cali....Cats who went from doom and gloom to love and celebrity; all on a simple twist of fate)

Life is ironic the lives and fortunes or misfortunes of both people and animals can turn on a dime; a choice; a random circumstance.

I don't recall the exact circumstances I decided to rescue two orange kittens from the shelter euthanasia list several years ago.

Presumably I had an open foster at the time or perhaps I fostered the two ginger cats myself. I don't even recall if the names, "Cricket and Cali" were names the kittens came with (from the shelter), names I gave them or names later given them by their adopters.

None of that seems to matter now.

What does matter is the email and delightful pictures sent to me yesterday from Cricket's and Cali's adopters.

In the lovely note, "Jenny" informed me how happy she and her husband are with the two cats, how wonderful the little red tabbies are with the couple's new baby and that Cricket and Cali recently landed a very coveted spot on the "Cat Fancy" calendar!

I couldn't help but think to myself the irony of life.

Only minutes before, I had just looked over a long list of equally beautiful cats on the current day's shelter Euthanasia list (wow, how little has changed over the years).

None of those cats I could rescue however, as these days, willing cat foster people seem impossible to find.

And yet, for the discovery of a foster and the possibility of rescue, any of those then doomed cats, could have potentially, a year or two from now wound up as "Calendar Cats!"

What about some of the dogs who starred in "Annie" having been previously rescued from rejection and death from local pounds?

Yes indeed, life and death, joy and tragedy often turns on a dime; a simple twist of fate!

There are those wise people or sage philosophies who maintain that, "as a man thinketh, so he becomes."

In other words, we all choose our own destinies and fates through our thoughts and deeds.

But, is that really true -- for people OR animals?

I don't believe that anything in life is absolute.

I believe in the end, life is, yes, a combination of both, our thoughts and actions, (i.e. "free will") but also, to large degree, random circumstance.

How after all, can the person walking down the street who gets randomly killed by a car running out of control be "responsible" for their fate? Did those who died in the Twin Towers on 9-11 "create their fate" by simply going to work that day? Do those cats and dogs dumped at shelters when their people "move" create their fates by not being friendly enough or not jumping in the laps of those who pass by their cages?

I don't recall Cricket and Cali being particularly "friendly" when I picked them up several years ago. In fact, I don't recall the cats at all.

I imagine my reason for choosing them to rescue at the time was something mundane and practical -- like we didn't have other red kittens for adoption.

The cats' rescue from death at the time was a simple twist of fate that in fact, had little, if anything to do with the cats actual behavior or "deeds."

But, a few years later these formerly rejected and "unwanted" cats have gone from doom to a form of celebrity -- at least in the cat world.

In her note to me, Jennifer said, "Cats bring such joy to people!"

I wrote back, that it is only when the people are OPEN and welcoming of the enrichment that animals bring is that true.

Sadly, for the animals dying in our shelters each day, their potentials to bring joy, beauty and enrichment to people goes unheeded and unrecognized.

For joy to actually occur, it needs to be welcomed, sacrificed for and valued.

It also seems to need, in many cases, a "simple twist of fate." -- PCA


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Honesty (New York City)

I don't usually go over the cat euthanasia listings for our shelters each day. Because we are not able to rescue many cats these days, I find the exercise of looking at the lists too painful and depressing.

But, I did look over the kill list for today.

It contains 20 cats -- mostly sweet looking tabbies and a couple of handsome black and whites.

I would have liked to pull a dozen cats from the list, but with no open fosters and at capacity in my own home, it just isn't possible.

What is most distressing is noting the "reasons" most of the cats were dumped at the shelter by owners and why they are now on the list of doom.

One pretty tabby named, "Pinky" particularly stands out.

Pinky was surrendered by a family who claims the cat becomes upset when the "kids pull her tail."

One wonders why the parents couldn't teach the children NOT to pull the tail of the cat?

Pinky is described as loving and affectionate with people, but "should go into a home with older children."

Unfortunately, Pinky's not going into any home.

She's caught a URI infection (medical language for what basically is a cold) at the shelter and is now scheduled to die.

One wonders how many people, in lieu of teaching their children how to properly handle pets, instead dump those cats and dogs at the pound when the going gets tough?

What kind of "lesson" is that for the children?

"When you don't treat animals right, we dump the pets in the pound to die."

Of course that was the exact situation for the dog, Bello, we picked up from the shelter yesterday.

Bello was discarded because the "Teenage son isn't responsible for the dog." (Bello, by the way is doing wonderfully in his foster home. Yvonne called today to tell me how happy and thrilled her family is with Bello.)

One wonders about the children of such pets as Bello and Pinky?

Do they simply repeat the acquisition/dumping patterns with pets that their parents showed them when they were young?

If that be the case, then we can never expect that any city -- least of all, New York, will ever go "no kill" of companion pets.

Instead, what we see is a vicious circle of animal acquisition and abandonment that repeats itself from one generation to the next.

Other reasons cats are on the death list today? "Too many" (failure to neuter), "Moving" (I bet they are taking their furniture) and "can't afford" (but one bets they can afford a flat screen TV).

Ah, I am sounding very cynical, indeed.

Perhaps that is the real reason we don't rescue cats anymore.

Seeing cats end up on shelter kill lists each day in double or triple the numbers of dogs makes one think (rightly or wrongly) that the truly committed and loving homes for adult cats these days are few and far between.

And yet still the shelters proclaim in their Pollyannish ways that "Euthanasias are down and adoptions are up!"

But, if you are Pinky or Bello or the older, lost Collie named "Angel" who was killed earlier in the week, despite a heartbroken owner seeking her, such words ring very hollow.

That only the shelters would find ways to be more honest with the public it is supposed to be serving -- even is some of that (brutal) honesty isn't what we want to hear.

Its the only way real change can ever be expected to come. -- PCA


Friday, April 17, 2009

(Not So) "Great Expectations!"

(Picture Left: "Bello" -- Loving and devoted young hound mix who found himself the victim of human unrealistic expectation.)

One of the things that has always irked me in animal adoptions are those people who call saying they want a cat or dog "to teach my son or daughter responsibility."

Now, I don't want to entirely dismiss the idea of children accepting some responsibility for caring for the family pet.

However, the reality is that children learn "responsibility" generally by observing it in their parents, as opposed to simply being given orders and directives.

The future for those pets whose "child owners" are expected to consistently clean litter boxes or rush home from after-school activities to "walk the dog" is usually grim.

When my daughter, Tara was a child and teenager, I was very grateful for any time she offered to help me with caring for our rescued animals. If I was really lucky and the weather was generally pleasant, sometimes Tara would even walk the family dogs in the park on weekends!

But, I can't recall my daughter ever cleaning a cat litter box when she was a kid -- or for that matter, when she was a teenager!

This is not to imply that Tara was in any way, "irresponsible." -- Not at all!

On the contrary, she was simply a very busy kid with many things on her plate. Primary among Tara's priorities was doing well in school.

Today, my daughter is happily married and is an extremely loving and responsible caregiver to the couple's Mastiff dog and 13-year-old cat.

I bring all this up, because last night I went to the shelter to pick up a young, very loving, hound-mix type dog who was on yesterday's Euthanasia List (the dog developed Kennel Cough while in the shelter.)

"Bello" was dropped off at the pound about a week ago by a Father who claimed, "Teenage son is not being responsible for the dog."

Well, dahh!! Teenagers are NOT responsible for family pets! The PARENTS are!

Bello is a very affectionate, responsive 2-year-old dog, who, while understanding some basic commands like "sit" seems not to have had much leash training.

Bello pulls strongly on the lead, but nevertheless, is a very endearing animal -- eager to please and offers his paw for "handshakes."

Well, can we realistically expect teenagers to know how to properly train dogs to walk calmly on the leash? Are children expected to be born, "Cesar Millans?"

The reason I decided to "pull" Bello from the Euth list was because he was one of those rare dogs to actually have a "profile" (i.e. history information) from the past owner.

Bello's profile was extremely encouraging, including information that he is "good with cats."

While it is always good to learn a dog has lived with and is "good with kids" and "other dogs," the "good with cats" is like gold!.

It seems that at least 50% or higher of the people who call us to adopt dogs have at least one cat in the home.

Generally, I am very reluctant to place dogs into homes with cats (unless the dog is very small) if I don't have information on how the dog might behave around cats. Sadly, some dogs (including those friendly with humans and other dogs) can be very aggressive around and potentially kill a cat.

If we know a dog is good with cats, s/he is a dog we can almost always place reasonably quickly (assuming the dog doesn't have other major issues).

I was very fortunate, in Bello's case, to have a foster home lined up for him.

"Yvonne" is a young woman living at home with her family (two older brothers and Father) who called seeking to save a loving, family dog.

Yvonne was very flexible in her "requirements," the only one being that the dog could not be a Pitbull because of building restrictions on the breed.

Although Bello appears to have some "Pit" in him, his body and ears are more like those of a hound.

I am hopeful that the family won't run into problems with Bello due to the little Pitbull he may have in him.

Yvonne and one of her brothers met me at the shelter last evening to see Bello and very fortunately for both me and the dog, they liked him -- as the "Heinz 57" mutt responded very well to them.

After providing the couple with a good harness and leash for Bello, they took him home in their SUV.

It is so far, a good outcome for a dog who arrived at the pound as still one more victim of many people's unrealistic and (not so) great expectations and demands put on their children.

If you want your kids to be "responsible" then you SHOW them, you don't order and tell! -- PCA


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Please Don't Let Him Die!" (Keeping a Promise)

(Picture Left: "Leon" -- a(nother) dog whose "behavior" in the shelter did not reflect actual temperament and wrongly landed him on Euth list.)

On Sunday, I wrote about how we are starting to see the human side of the economic recession all around us.

Last night, I witnessed it again.

While walking one of our boarded dogs, I saw a man with a black, Shepherd mix dog, scrounging through the dumpster outside of "The Vinegar Factory" (an upscale gourmet store on Manhattan's Upper East Side) looking for tossed out rolls and bread.

Repeated scenes like these make one think depression, more than "recession."

But, if we think it only affects people, we need to think again.

Last week, we rescued a dog who wound up in the pound after his former owner was forced to move to "no pets" housing.

It was actually not my plan to rescue "Leon" as we already had too many dogs in boarding and the little pieces of information the shelter provided on Leon were not exactly "selling points."

According to the shelter vets who did the initial exam on Leon, the hefty, 98 lb Chow/Shepherd mix "attempted to bite" and was "difficult to handle."

I was called more than once from the shelter about Leon and requested to rescue him.

"Can you take Leon? He's on the Euth list for tomorrow!" came the desperate plea.

But, I told the New Hope person that unless Leon's past owner could be contacted and provide more helpful information, we could not take the dog.

To make a long story short, I was finally given the number of Leon's former owner by a staffer of the shelter who shall remain nameless here for obvious reasons.

I called the former owner myself.

Well, the picture "Ronnie" provided of her former dog was far different than what was showing up in Leon's description on the shelter Euthanasia list.

According to both the grown daughter of the owner and the woman herself, (I was on a 3-way call with both), Leon was a "wonderful, gentle dog....loving with young children, people, and even cats!" Ronnie went on to tell me that she had been forced some months back to move into a smaller, "no pets" apartment. But, rather than give up her beloved dog, she attempted to "hide" Leon. She never took Leon out since moving into the new place (for fear of being seen by the landlord) and since the dog was quiet, she was seemingly able to get away with keeping Leon for many months.

But, eventually the landlord discovered the hidden dog and threatened Ronnie with eviction.

Then, desperate, Ronnie and her daughter tried to find a home for Leon themselves, rather than see the dog wind up in the pound. They even offered money for someone to take the dog.

But, adoptions are more complicated than simply trying to palm an animal off on someone. "Desperate adoptions" are usually failed adoptions -- as this one turned out to be.

The man Ronnie gave her treasured dog to, apparently couldn't take care of Leon or perhaps just didn't really want a dog. He dumped Leon in the pound anyway.

Repeatedly during the conversation, Ronnie and her daughter pleaded with me, "Please don't let Leon die! -- He is a wonderful dog and would be a loving companion to any family who can give him time to know them!"

Ronnie's daughter even told me her Mother "was on the verge of a nervous breakdown" over the loss of her dog.

The whole story reminded me a little of those good people who attempted to "hide" Jews from Nazi's during WW2. -- I had to fight back tears.

Some of course will resent me for saying that as animals aren't people and landlords aren't Nazis.

But, the callousness with which many Landlords these days are forcing people to "get rid of" perfectly loving and well behaved pets and the intense suffering and guilt many people experience, especially when seeing their beloved cats or dogs go to the pound (where they face likely death) are, in some ways similar.

I promised Ronnie and her daughter that I would rescue Leon from the pound and do my best to see to it that he would only go to loving adopters. He would not die in the shelter.

Of course, following the phone conversation, I was still in the same mess in terms of what to do with a 90+ pound dog. Very large dogs can be extremely hard to place regardless of how "loving and gentle" they may be.

I remembered a young woman had called a couple of days before offering foster for a dog who got along well with other dogs. ("Nicole" and her husband already have two dogs in their home in New Jersey.)

I didn't know whether Nicole would be willing to foster 98 lb Leon, but I had nothing to lose by calling and asking.

Much to my surprise and relief, Nicole was willing to meet me at the shelter the following day in order to see Leon and possibly take him home!

There were still a number of things that could go wrong (person changes their mind, some emergency comes up or the people simply don't like the dog) and so I made possible back up arrangements for Leon to go to boarding in such negative or unforeseen event (something I was greatly hoping to avoid).

That evening I called the New Hope number to pull Leon from the next day's death list.

The following day (Friday) I met Nicole at the shelter and together we went to see Leon.

Though not at all "aggressive" Leon was very anxious to get out of his cage and the second I opened it, he sprung out before I could get the slip leash over him.

Leon bounded into the shelter hall way, heading straight for the door. This was one dog who wanted "out" of the shelter and back to his beloved owners and former home.

Unfortunately, "former" is the key word in that sentence.

There was no going back for Leon.

One of the animal handlers helped to corral Leon and I was able to get the leash on him.

Nicole and I then walked the grossly obese (from not having been walked over the course of many months) Chow/Shepherd mix in the yard in back of the shelter. Although extremely overweight, Leon nevertheless had a beautiful, silky coat and it appeared that he received very good care in his former home.

Leon (much like his former owners said) seemed very sweet and gentle, but distracted.

Fortunately, for both him and myself, Nicole was very understanding of the dog's stress and mood state and agreed to take Leon home to foster.

We had to request the help from one of the shelter animal handlers to lift Leon into Nicole's high SUV. Though able to walk swiftly and without any problems, Leon was simply too fat to jump into the back of the SUV without aid.

Yesterday I called Nicole to see how things were going with Leon.

Again, to my surprise, matters have been going extremely well with the chunky Chow mix, the only "problem" being that Leon had a poor appetite the first couple of days.

But, Nicole reported that Leon's appetite seemed normal now and he was getting along well with the couple's other two dogs and behaving very affectionately with Nicole and her husband.

To my amazement, (considering his past circumstances) Leon was even totally housebroken!

Nicole and her husband are presently taking Leon for long walks, 3 or 4 times a day. He loves the walks and hopefully, the consistent exercise will help him to shed some excess weight.

We have already had one potential good adoption call on Leon, but for now to simply be grateful that he is out of the pound and in an excellent foster home.

Even in these very troubled times, there are those small miracles and glimmers of hope to offset the otherwise tragedy of human and animal losses.

Its not an easy road ahead, but thanks to some good and sacrificing people (like Nicole and her husband) there are those rays of sunshine.

One of them shown on Leon -- and me this past week.

I was able to keep an important promise. -- PCA


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Young Woman with a Dog

The signs of the flailing economy are arriving ever closer to our doorsteps.

One cannot leave one's comfortable NYC apartment these days without seeing desperate people digging through garbage bags seeking cans, bottles or other potentially "valuable" items.

Yesterday, while walking down East 86th Street on Manhattan's fashionable Upper East Side, I noted a young woman sitting near the curb with a hand-printed sign in front of her. I didn't read all of the sign, but simply caught the word, "broke."

The young and plain looking, but attractive woman buried her head in a book, while thousands of busy Manhattanites passed her by.

If she was "begging" the young woman with brown hair and pale skin apparently didn't want to acknowledge that even to herself.

I normally don't walk up to street beggars, perhaps because I don't want to be drawn into their personal stories of despair.

But, I did walk up to the young woman.

The grungy looking, but happy and well fed whitish Shepherd mix sitting beside her gave me good excuse.

"That's a nice looking dog," I said to her, while petting the friendly mutt. "Where did you get him?"

"Someone gave him to me," the 20-something woman answered somewhat sheepishly. Pale green eyes briefly caught mine and then quickly looked away.

She seemed shy or embarrassed about her situation and so I did not press her into conversation. Instead, I offered her a few single dollars, smiled and simply said, "Well, he's a real nice dog. Take good care of him."

The woman took the money and in a voice that was barely audible, said, "Thank you, I will."

I walked away thinking to myself that I could have been a little warmer or more engaging of the woman into conversation.

But, I wasn't sure of how to do that. I didn't want to be too prying or personal. I didn't want to be dragged into something that might be over my head in terms of knowing how to properly deal with.

I just wanted to be a friendly face.

Less than an hour later I walked up the block again.

The woman was still there with her loyal dog by her side as thousands of people continued to pass her by.

But, either not noticing NYC's seeming indifference to pain or pretending not to care, the woman remained with her face buried in a book.

I did not stop this time, but continued on.

I still can't answer what is the best thing to do in situations like these.

I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of them. -- PCA


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Silent Prayers (you don't even know you're saying!)

(Picture Left: "Sporty"-- on his way to his new home!)

The only thing predictable about animal rescue and placement is that it is totally unpredictable.

There are those days you get 20 calls and not one turn into a placement for a cat or dog.

Then there are those days you get only one call -- but it translates into a placement for an animal!

That is what occurred yesterday.

I had just about given up that I was going to find someone for Sporty before it was time to pick the black Lab/Chow mix up from my vet and send him to a boarding kennel.

I hated particularly the idea of having to send a dog who was a victim of cruelty and neglect (imbedded collar) to a situation of possible long-term boarding.

Such animals have already gone through so much crap. Why should we have to subject them to even more stress and isolation?

The thought was gnawing on me for days.

But, on Thursday I received the call from my vet's office that Sporty was healthy and "ready to go" and that I should pick him up on Friday.

I tried to delay picking up Sporty and sending him to boarding as long as possible.

But, as the hours ticked on with no phone calls coming in, it seemed I was simply putting off the inevitable.

Then, around 3PM, a pleasant woman called inquiring about Dutch for adoption.

Dutch is a very young Dutch Shepherd mix who I have had in boarding (and training) for a couple of months. Dutch is a very good, but somewhat nervous dog. He needs a very dog experienced adopter.

When the woman named, Dominique told me she had a family that consisted of two young boys (13 and 11-years-old) I told her that I didn't think Dutch, (due to his nervousness and fear issues) would be appropriate for a family with kids. I then recommended Sporty to her.

To my surprise, Dominique was interested in Sporty and was very sympathetic to his story.

A couple of hours later, Dominique arrived with her family in an SUV and we all went to meet Sporty at my vet's office.

The dog immediately took to the family and they to him. It was like one of those "success stories" one sees on the Animal Cops shows on Animal Planet.

I didn't have to pressure or beg or explain. Sporty "sold himself" so to speak. He licked the kids and the Mother. He was great with other people and dogs on the street. He walked nicely on the leash. He jumped into the car and settled down on the lap of one of the young boys.

It was like one of those matches made in heaven.

Dominique (who is separated from her husband) has initially taken Sporty as a foster.

But, I would be very surprised if this foster doesn't in fact, turn into an adoption.

As they drove away with the happy dog, I had a very good feeling about the placement.

I could be wrong of course. But, on actual placements, I am rarely surprised.

The problem is finding them.

The only thing predictable about animal rescues and placements is their unpredictability.

I never would have "predicted" yesterday that instead of going to a boarding kennel, Sporty would be on his way to a new home.

It seemed the farthest of possibilities, but at the last moment, occurred.

Never say "never" if you are in animal rescue and placement.

Sometimes it seems those silent prayers you don't even know you are saying, get answered. -- PCA


Friday, April 10, 2009

Restaurants and Harlequin Novels

(Picture Left: "Sport" -- Rescued early last week after arriving at the shelter with an imbedded collar in his neck. The collar was less than an inch from cutting into Sport's juggler vein. Sport is a loving and forgiving puppy -- happy to get attention. But, despite being advertised on numerous adoption sites, the loving, youthful Lab mix is still sitting in a cage at our vet. The collar has since been removed, but no home seemingly awaits......)

I am telling myself that the seeming death of adoption inquiries over the past week or two is due to the Passover and Easter holidays occurring this week.

But, of course I don't know that.

People generally don't travel during these times.

Yesterday, I spoke with a vet tech who does some cat rescues on her own and then tries to find homes for the animals.

She told me she hasn't had a cat adoption inquiry in months.

I am reading every day about animal shelters closing and other shelters and rescues that are in trouble.

Our animal control shelters in New York City seem to be experiencing a huge increase in animals coming in due to evictions of owners or claims from people that they can no longer afford the costs of pet food and veterinary care for their cats or dogs.

Matters are appearing very grim right now.

We have done a number of new dog rescues over the past few weeks. I was lucky to find adopters for two of the dogs and a foster for one.

But, we presently have 8 dogs in boarding, most of whom have been boarding for a while.

That is scary.

Sometimes the thought occurs to me, "What if these animals never get adopted?"

A rescue group or shelter can easily go bankrupt if unable to successfully move animals in their care. At the very least, (if "no kill") they cannot take new animals in.

Sooner or later the money runs out to pay boarding or sheltering expenses.

Then, what?

I don't like to think (or write) about these things too much. --- One reason why I haven't been writing too much lately in this journal.

I am worried and nervous about everything going on around me. But, dwelling on matters one doesn't have a whole lot control over is probably not productive.

Lately, I've been thinking about painting my apartment and other kinds of trivial matters.

I read today that many people are still going to restaurants and Harlequin romance novels are outselling all other books in stores.

It seems some businesses flourish during hard economic times.

That's because many people (including myself, I think) seek some form of "escapism" during otherwise despairing times.

I guess that helps explain why musicals were so popular in the movie world during the Great Depression.

But, one thing that doesn't seem to flourish during these times is people running out to adopt animals and take on new responsibilities.

For all the new animals losing their homes due to some hardships to their owners, that is not good news.

And for rescue groups and shelters who find they cannot place the animals they have taken responsibility for, it's downright scary.

I might just start reading Harlequin romance novels. -- PCA

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Understanding (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Chance" -- my "little puppy boy" now, but one very angry and miserable dog when arriving at the shelter last summer.)

In a message dated 3/31/2009 11:00:28 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Amby111 writes:
What a wonderful story. Those dogs are lucky you took a chance in saving them.I also believe that animals condemned to die as "mysteries" in shelters due mostly to inaccurate behavior assessment (shy cats and scared dogs)-- even in so called "no kill" shelters-- is a form of cruelty and should not be tolerated. It is very sad to think of the number of animals "euthanized" because they don't perform well in a traumatic situation.

Reply: The luck was all on my side as I never imagined in a million years that I could find placement for one of the dogs, let alone both -- particularly in the same home. It's very rare to be able to place two dogs together in the same home, especially under the circumstances described.

I totally agree with your second statement.

The way animals "behave" in a stressful shelter situation and the way they are in a home often are entirely different as Fluffy's and Wendy's story so well illustrates.

That's why highest priority must be allotted to trying to get as much information on animals during Intake as possible.

Putting aside variables such as how an animal was raised or the situation s/he came from, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior -- not how the animal is reacting to a particular stress and trauma.

Imagine were humans to be judged solely as to how well or how poorly we reacted to loss, death of a loved one or rejection?

Obviously, some people handle stress and trauma better than others. But, it doesn't necessarily relate to normal behavior or character.

One of the interesting experiences that emanated out of the events with Fluffy and Wendy, was the first day we had the dogs in yard and were speaking with the animal handler who brought Fluffy and Wendy to us.

"It's interesting," Louie said, "but the dogs and cats who are surrendered from good homes where they were pampered and spoiled generally do much more poorly here than the animals that come in as strays. The strays are happy to get a warm place and a little attention. But, the animals from happy homes? They're miserable."

What Louie said was so true.

Certainly in cats the owner surrendered purebreds and declaws are the most likely to "shut down" and become very ill in the shelters. In some cases they die as they just can't seem to get past the pain of loss and rejection. But, the non-feral "strays?" They're tougher, heartier and having already been through so much crap in life, they are only too happy and appreciative if fortunate enough to find a loving home.

Fluffy and Wendy were pampered and perhaps even spoiled dogs. (They both like to sleep in the bed!) The "trauma" of arriving at a city pound where they were no longer special and adored, but rather just two of the many, was apparently horrifying to them. For Wendy particularly, who saw herself as the "protector" to Fluffy, the separation of the two dogs was not only painful, but downright frustrating and infuriating!

Obviously too, both dogs wanted to return to former owners.

But, the real tragedy in animal shelters is that in the majority of cases, "returning to their former homes and owners" is not an option.

The animals have to learn to trust and love again.

And for many, that is not so easy -- especially if given only a few days.

Imagine were humans allotted only a few days to "get over" whatever grief, rejection, loss or abandonment that occurs in our lives?

Imagine were the punishment and price for not "moving on" quickly enough death?

Its a strange world we live in.

Most humans will claim to "love animals" but we don't seem to understand even the most basic things about cats and dogs. (i.e. Their needs for security, stability, routine, order, affection and the familiar.) -- Things that are taken away when they are either dumped at an animal shelter or arrive through other means.

Things that would be easy to understand were we even better to understand ourselves. -- PCA