Saturday, May 23, 2009

Of Telephones and Contracts (New York City)

(Picture left: "Lady" -- former stray for whom the telephone turned out to be a life-saving device.)

I've been back in the city a week now. And though readjustment was tough the first few days, it has become easier through the wonders of the telephone.

In these days of so many people living apart from loved ones, what would we do without those devices that we refer to as "high tech?"

A telephone is not "high tech" of course. But, it is means to stay connected.

A telephone is also (in ideal circumstances) a means with which to find homes for animals.

That advantage of telecommunications has had some value this past week.

I was very fortunate to find a lovely Long Island couple who kindly took a very shy and skittish Chow mix (formerly, a true stray) from the city pound as a foster. "Lady" is a pretty, but extremely thin and somewhat raggedy dog who appears that she had a rough life while on the streets of New York. She backs off (as if expecting to be hit) when onlookers approach her head on and takes a while before allowing herself to relax when with new people.

Luckily, "Lydia" and her husband are very compassionate, patient folks whose two other pets (a dog and a cat) were former rescued strays. Lydia formerly had a Chow for 16 years and is very familiar with the breed.

But, if the phone presents wonderful advantages in terms of keeping us connected to loved ones and serving as means for good people to contact us to save animals, it also serves as conduit for bad news.

For example, those people who contact us years after adopting an animal to return the cat or dog.

Thus, I was called a couple of days ago by the husband of a couple who adopted a female Cocker Spaniel from us several years ago and now want to return the ten-year-old dog for "moving."

I informed the man (who called me from his job) that we don't exactly have people lined up for blocks waiting to adopt animals whose ages are now in double digits. While it should not be impossible to place a sweet and reasonably healthy purebred Cocker Spaniel (even if a senior) it is not a piece of cake, either. -- Especially now that we are going into traditional summer and vacation periods, generally the toughest times of the year for animal adoptions.

I asked the man to email me updated photos of "Daisy" for Internet advertising, but he seemed agitated by the simple request. As my boyfriend suggested to me, the man is probably being hounded by his wife to quickly "get rid of the dog" and when calling me, he likely expected to solve the "problem" in five minutes.

Certainly, it indeed was only five minutes that the man was willing to give me over the phone. He was impatient and annoyed when I asked him simple questions like how the dog was with cats or kids ("Very good" according to the man.). But, it was very obvious he didn't want to spend any time at all either discussing Daisy, (the couple's companion dog of more than three years) or the best means for finding another home for her.

Incidents like these are frustrating. Yes, we guarantee when people adopt animals from us that we will always take an animal back. However, the guarantee also stipulates that people give us proper notification and make arrangements for return. "Arrangements" aren't usually arranged in five minutes.

Moreover, for people to keep animals until the cats or dogs become senior pets (8 years or older) and then want to dump the animals suddenly back on the rescue for something like "moving," shows a complete lack of regard for the pet as well as understanding for the challenges to rescue and adoption.

I don't know how I "take back" and place a dog that the people aren't willing to discuss with me or even send email pictures of.

They just want to dump back -- not make any kind of effort to responsibly place.

I realize with all the thousands of animals we have placed over the years, this kind of thing is bound to happen and that we are extremely fortunate that it doesn't in fact, occur more often.

But, it is making me re-think this entire concept and guarantee of "taking back animals" no matter how long an adopter has had the pet.

Obviously, it is not possible for us to instantly "take back" animals who years after an adoption are suffering geriatric illnesses or whose days on earth are obviously numbered.

Few people want to adopt older animals whose life expectancy is diminished and/or who one could expect to run into veterinary bills with.

Years ago (when doing cat adoptions out of Petco) I used to have constant nightmares about walking into the store and finding hundreds of cats stacked up in carriers waiting for me to find placement for. "Oh my God, what do I do with all these cats!?"

I am no longer at Petco, but the anxieties and fears haven't entirely gone away. They have simply changed in awareness and mode of communication.

Now, the nightmare is simply waking up to hundreds of phone calls from people who suddenly want to return those animals adopted from us years ago.

If we never rescued another dog or cat, I would probably never run out of animals to place, due to those anticipated to "come back" to us months or years after an adoption.

Perhaps I should disconnect the phone -- or finally get, "caller ID?"

Or, perhaps I need to re-write our adoption contract. -- PCA


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