Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Fallacy (and Animal Hell) of Eternal Bliss Guarantees (New York City)

(Picture Left: "Adidi" -- Lovely and loving Australian Cattle Dog mix rescued from death at the pound. Can she find her forever home today? We can make no predictions.)

While one is loath to count chickens before they hatch, if all goes well today, we might get our first inquiry-derived adoption of the summer.

When I say, "inquiry derived" I refer to those adoptions that occur as result of people calling specifically to adopt, as opposed to those who foster first and then elect to adopt a foster dog or cat.

We were fortunate over the summer to have several fosters turn into adoptions. But, as far as inquiry derived, it was a complete shutout in terms of successful adoptions that actually worked out.

At least two dogs were shortly returned from adoptions.

They failed to bring "instant bliss" to their adopters.

In one case, the family didn't even bother to call us, but simply returned the dog back to the boarding/training facility where he had been staying. They only had Leo two days, but claimed he "growled." He has never growled either with any of us in the organization or with the people handling and caring for him over the past four months. -- Go figure.

Dogs can often be nervous when suddenly going into a new environment -- especially when that environment is a busy, active home with four kids.

But, "patience and understanding" seem in short supply these days. People are accustomed to bringing home new TVs, laptops and video games and expecting them to perfectly work right away. (Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way with animals.)

People also expect rescues to magically solve any and all kinks a dog might come with. But, even when we send dogs to reputable and experienced trainers to work out any "behavioral or training issues" that doesn't mean that adopters bear no responsibility for whether an adoption works out or not. Its important that adopters LISTEN to any advice they are given when adopting and also UNDERSTAND that any animal going to a new environment is going to experience stress and will need some time to ADJUST.

One or two days is not long enough for "adjustment to change" for about 99% of all animals (and for humans for that matter.)

I quite frankly, don't know where people get this insane idea of "instant bliss."

Or, perhaps I do......

Much of it comes from media and ironically enough, even a number of so-called, animal educational shows.

The greatest offender of these is a program aired on the Animal Planet network, entitled, "From Underdog to Wonderdog."

On the program, four Pollyanna-rish Yuppies "rescue" a dog (usually with minor medical or behavioral issues) from a shelter or rescue organization. They then embark on a grand plan to entirely "make over" the dog:

The groomer grooms the dog. The Vet Tech attends to any minor medical issues. The "trainer and behaviorist" irons out any behavioral kinks and the carpenter (yes, I did say, CARPENTER) goes to the pre-selected adopters home to perform "renovations" and create a kind of doggie/human heaven.

I am not sure how the producers of this show finds their adopters. But, apparently, they find the adopters BEFORE the dog. They then seem to seek (from shelters or rescues) the right dog to FIT THE ADOPTER'S desires or demands!

Then it merely becomes a project of "making over" the dog to fit the human requirements and apparently making over the home as well (the structural home that is, not the people in it.)

Usually at the culmination of this "happy ending" show, the adopters are also given a year's supply of free dog food and other supplies as well.

From what I have seen, the human adopters have to do nothing at all, other than just show up.

Unfortunately, this seems to be what many, if not in fact, most potential adopters "expect" these days.

They expect guarantees of instant and eternal bliss. They expect rescues to take care of any and all potential medical issues, spay/neuter, behavioral "tests," grooming and most of all, to somehow program the animal to tailor "fit" their particular lifestyles and desires.

Any day now, I expect an inquiring adopter to ask when we are sending the carpenter to renovate their home and what brand of free dog food we will supply for the year.

Just last week, one person requested a "Yorkshire Terrier" from us and asked when we could send the dog to Virginia. Another woman told me she needed us to deliver the dog to her in Rochester as she is "not comfortable" driving to New York City.

Surely, the carpenter and free dog food questions cannot be far behind!

Shows like, "From Underdog to Wonderdog" (no matter how "well intentioned") do a great deal of damage to the missions and goals of true animal rescue and placement.

Other shows like "DogTown," while educational in the sense of imparting knowledge on dog behavior and training also, unfortunately, add to this perception that it is up to the shelter or rescue organization to produce and program perfect, "adoptable" dogs who will never bring a moment of stress or grief to their potential adopters or require any sacrifice on their parts.

The problem with these shows and goals is that they are, first of all, UNREALISTIC because ultimately, the success or failure of an adoption depends mostly upon the individual relationship and interactions between dog and adopters. They also depend upon the adopters' abilities to ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY.

Unfortunately, the more responsibility rescue organizations and shelters take on, the less responsibility the public is ultimately going to accept.

That is, in fact, the present day HELL for animals we are creating with all our "good intentions" and willingness to take on ALL responsibility -- including sending carpenters to adopters homes.

Even the "Millionaire Matchmaker" can't program or guarantee relationship or marital bliss for anyone. She can only attempt to steer certain people towards other people with the hope or anticipation that something meaningful may develop between them.

Quite frankly, that is all we can do in rescue, as well. -- PCA


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