Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Person for Every Dog (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Demon Dog," Bernie. He just needed to find the person meant for him.)

Shellie Writes: Anyone who is in shelter or rescue can sympathize with your frustration. Our shelter took in two purebred pups this week--a 5 month old German Shepherd surrendered due to divorce; and a 4 month old Chocolate Lab given up for "moving". Luckily, such pups are fairly easily placed in our semi-rural area and should find adoptive homes quickly.On a happier note "Dash", whose story you shared a couple weeks ago, has been adopted for a third time; this time to a home which seems to have much promise for him. He was adopted this time by a middle-aged couple and their two teenagers; they live on a small farmette with a few cattle and several goats, which should give this happy boy a "job" to do. And their 15-year-old daughter is a junior handler with the local kennel club and also has begun some agility training with their other dog. So Dash's future is looking much brighter this time around. We all have our fingers crossed that the third time will be the charm for him.

Reply: Thank you for sharing the update for Dash. That is good news and it sounds like this pooch has finally found the people meant for him!

I do believe there is a right person for every dog. -- Even so-called, "demon dogs" or dogs from hell.

Case in point:

Last year, I rescued a small and adorable Tibetan Spaniel mix named Bernie from the pound where the dog was facing euthanasia due to questionable behavior.

Bernie was an older dog who was dumped by a family with the excuse, "no time for." I sent Bernie to one of my very best foster homes, but I soon learned that what I thought would be an "easy dog" was anything but......

Over the years, Carrie (the foster) has taken in around 50 dogs for foster. She and her family have taken in Pitbulls, German Shepherds and many, Chows and mixes.

I thought this small, older and (at least with me) very sweet pooch would be a piece of cake for Carrie, her husband and two daughters.

But, after having Bernie for about a week, Carrie informed me that he was, in fact, the most difficult dog she had ever fostered.

Bernie was not good with the family's cats. And he turned into an "attack dog" any time visitors came. He bit at least two family friends and Carrie's Mother in law.

Things were not looking good.

But, the final straw came after Carrie had Bernie for about a month and he bit one of her kids.

I was forced to put Bernie into a boarding kennel.

Although Bernie was always good with me when I walked him, he was not so friendly with the kennel staffers who had to feed and care for him on a daily basis. After Bernie attempted to bite two handlers, I was informed that I would have to remove him from the kennel.

I was then out of options and places to send Bernie.

I was looking at having to send Bernie back to Animal Control and almost certain death.

But, then I received a call from a woman willing to help save a life by fostering a dog.

"Darlene" was very experienced with dogs, had a home in New Jersey and had a good heart.

I told her honestly that our most desperate case for needed foster was Bernie and I explained why.

Seeming to like a challenge, Darlene agreed to meet with Bernie that afternoon.

Although initially a little nervous when meeting Darlene, to my relief, Bernie did not attempt to bite her.

To my amazement, Darlene agreed to take Bernie. I told Darlene truthfully, that, due to his bite history, Bernie would be a very difficult, if not impossible adoption. He needed intense "work" on his behavior. But, Darlene was not deterred. Having recently lost her senior spaniel to terminal illness, Darlene was open to the possibility of adoption of Bernie.

The first few weeks with Bernie were not easy for Darlene.

Bernie bit her boyfriend, as well as he attacked the boyfriend's Lab mix dog.

Bernie also acted as "guard" or attack dog any time Darlene took him for rides in her car. No one could approach the car or get in with her.

But, as temperamental and difficult as Bernie may have been, he totally adored Darlene and was entirely devoted to her.

She in turn loved Bernie, treating him as her "baby" and even dressing the little dog up in clothes and hats.

Last Christmas, Darlene sent me the above "Christmas Card" which I immediately printed up and showed to the people at the boarding kennel, as well as Carrie.

No one of course could believe that the adorable, happy and sweet little dog in the Christmas greeting was the same "demon" animal who aimed to take the fingers off of almost every stranger he met, as well as some people Bernie actually knew.

A few weeks ago, Darlene called to tell me of Bernie's progress over the year.

Yes, he is still very "protective" of Darlene and his home, but Bernie at least accepts Darlene's boyfriend as well as the other dog. Darlene described Bernie as the "love of my life!" and told me how much the little dog loves being dressed up.

"I have to send you pictures sometime of Bernie in his little motorcycle outfit and sunglasses! He looks soooooo adorable!"

As said, there is a person for every dog.

The question is, can we find these people before "time" for the animals runs out? -- PCA


Sunday, September 27, 2009

"It's Not the Animals; Its the People"

The frustration and disparity of the summer is so far, carrying into the fall with the same last minute cancellations, flake outs and dump calls.

One dump call last night was particularly exasperating:

The woman who lives on the posh Upper East Side of Manhattan told me she needed to "put up for adoption" her six-month-old Bichon puppy (bought from a pet shop). She wanted to know where our "shelter" was where she could immediately drop off the puppy.

When I told her we were a small rescue group that did not have a shelter, the woman became very agitated. "But, North Shore Animal League gave me your number and said you could take my dog!"

I tried communicating with this woman to determine what the particular problem was and why she needed to give up her six-month-old, small breed dog. Hopefully, it was a problem that could be solved with some training or understanding of dog behavior.

But, the woman was more interested in trying to convince me what a "loving dog owner" she was and how this particular dog was a "problem."

"I am a singer and a voice coach. When my students come for lessons and I put the dog in a crate, she barks incessantly. I can't have this! Previously, I had a wonderful dog for 15 years and even gave her shots everyday for Diabetes!"

"Well, surely you understand, Ma'am that a fairly new puppy is not going to behave in the same manner as a dog you had 15 years who presumably was used to your lifestyle and career responsibilities." I told the woman. "The puppy probably feels shut out or even abandoned when you put her in the crate to go and teach your students. Did you seek the help of a trainer?"

"Yes! I consulted a trainer and the trainer told me the dog needs to be in a yard with a family. She needs a country home!"

"Ma'am, I can't imagine any trainer telling you such a thing! This is a small, apartment-type dog we are discussing who is most likely suffering a curable sense of separation anxiety......"

But, before I could complete the sentence, the woman rudely hung up on me.

I didn't obviously have what the woman was seeking: A quick, easy "no kill shelter" to immediately drop off her (now inconvenient) store-bought puppy.

In fact, the only time we in rescue hear from pompass, impatient, "used to getting what I want with the snap of a finger!" people like these are when they are seeking to unload their pet shop or breeder-bought pets.

It was quite obvious the woman never consulted any reputable trainer. She just assumed that everyone in shelter or rescue work is a naive fool who believe anything and everything we are told -- or are too intimidated by people like her to question anything.

I simply shook my head when the woman hung up and took my dogs to Central Park for a pleasant evening walk.

Music playing through the headphones made the woman's loud, demanding and obnoxious voice finally go away.

But, if yesterday ended in a mildly annoying way, that was nothing compared to the way it began:

A few days ago, a lovely-sounding young woman called with an offer to foster a dog.

"Tricia" grew up with dogs, was currently living with her boyfriend in a Manhattan apartment and seemed eager to help a dog by fostering and potentially adopting.

Tricia's one stipulation was that the dog should be on the smaller side, such as 30 lbs or under.

Tricia sounded warm and perfect as a potential foster for Chuchi, our Pomeranian mix (dumped when former owners got a new puppy) currently boarding at an Upper East Side kennel.

I told Tricia all about Chuchi and the young woman was very receptive and sympathetic to the little dog's plight and circumstances of abandonment.

"I understand how important it is to go slowly with dogs," Tricia softly told me. "I work with children from disadvantaged homes."

The latter information particularly impressed me, as in many ways, dogs and children are so similar. Dogs generally have the intelligence and mental capacity of a 5-year-old child.

We set up a tentative appointment for Tricia and her boyfriend to meet Chuchi yesterday afternoon.

"Let's talk Saturday morning to confirm," I told Tricia last Wednesday and she agreed.

(The reason I advised same day confirmation is due to the fact that so many people forget, flake out or change their minds if an appointment is made for foster or adoption viewing days in advance. Nothing is more frustrating in rescue work than to go to a boarding facility, shelter or foster home to show a dog and then to be stood up without so much as a phone call.)

It was almost noon yesterday and I still had not heard from Tricia.

I called her cell phone and got voice mail. I left a message about confirming the appointment to meet Chuchi.

A short time later, I had to walk my own dogs. When returning back to the apartment, there was a message on my answering machine from Tricia:

"We're not going to see Chuchi today. My boyfriend is not into these kinds of dogs," the cool message announced. "Perhaps we can look at other dogs."

I found it hard to believe this was the same person I had spoken with just a few days before who seemed so open and receptive -- even eager to meet Chuchi and foster her. Nevertheless, not wanting to give into cynicism and frustration, I again called Tricia and once again got her voice mail:

"Chuchi is a lovely dog and fits what you said you were seeking to adopt. However, we do have other larger dogs who need foster. Please call back and hopefully we can work something out."

Tricia never returned that message.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Dog Spa and met with a woman and her 12-year-old son who volunteered to help with walking dogs for adoption.

"Susan" (not her real name) is a Psychologist by profession and she had called earlier in the week to tell me her son loves animals and wants to do what he can to help dogs in need of homes.

The family already has a (breeder-purchased) Golden Retriever at home and a couple of rescued cats.

We took Chuchi for a long walk in Carl Shurtz Park.

It did not take long for Chuchi to seemingly bond with the 12-year-old boy, placing her front paws on the child's lap and even licking his face while sitting on a bench in the park. She even jumped on the bench and cheerfully sat next to the young boy.

While "Jason" petted and interacted with Chuchi, I spoke with his Mom and told her of the frustrations in finding good homes for abandoned animals.

"Internet advertising used to be fantastic years ago," I told Susan. "But these days, one imagines with so many thousands of animals advertised, its a great deal harder -- almost impossible."

"Its probably a lot like 'Match.com," Susan replied. "You know, they see one and say, 'That's cute!' but then see another and think, 'that's cuter!'"


Nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling when finally returning home yesterday that "Tricia" and her ditzy boyfriend rejected and lost out on a really sweet and wonderful dog. Chuchi is a little sweetheart -- as the people who met and helped to walk her yesterday confirmed; one of them a 12-year-old child.

I was tempted last night to call Tricia's voice mail back and leave a strong message about the loving and gentle dog she and her boyfriend rejected without even meeting and about all the other dogs and cats who die for ruthless, flaky and heartless "games" like these.

But, I didn't.

Instead, I walked my own two dogs and my foster dog, Tommy to Central Park with old rock and roll songs pumping through my ears.

One needs to find their escapes in this kind of work -- or else leave scathing, "crazy" messages on other people's voice mails -- or get cancer (from pent up and unexpressed rage.)

As said to Susan yesterday: "Its not the animals who represent the frustration and despair in rescue and adoption work; its the people." -- PCA

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unconfident Pomeranian (New York City)

(Picture Left: Chuchi -- seeking reassurance while on a walk yesterday.)

Yesterday, I went to walk Chuchi, our latest rescue who is currently languishing in a boarding facility.

Seemingly lost and confused, Chuchi, initially backed off from me when I first approached her. But, after a few seconds and a few soft words, I was able to slip the leash over Chuchi and take her for a walk in the park.

Although walking with the same confident "strut" of Pomeranians, Chuchi is anything but confident.

On the contrary, Chuchi is unsure of herself and a bit flinchy in her new and strange surroundings.

Her lack of confidence is most apparent when meeting other dogs. Though not aggressive, Chuchi just stands, tail between legs as if expecting to be attacked or banished.

She is a rather sad and lost little dog.

And I guess that is to be expected, considering the circumstances of her seemingly ruthless abandonment to the pound:

The older, long-time pet pushed out for the newcomer.

Perhaps Chuchi is not too unlike the long-time, devoted wife pushed to the side for something younger and more exciting. -- Although in Chuchi's case, her former owners also wanted her dead.

I sat, for a while, on a park bench with Chuchi yesterday just to give her a chance to relax. I talked to her, petted her and gently massaged around the sides and undersides of her neck. She seemed to enjoy that and for the moment, gently relaxed.

When noting a smile finally come to her face, I took pictures of Chuchi.

There is little doubt that Chuchi is a good, loving and devoted dog.

But, for the moment, she is simply a lost and confused little canine. -- Too timid and unsure of herself to even take a tinkel on a walk.

An "unconfident" Pomeranian. -- Something I would normally think, impossible to exist.

People should only know the transforming affects of their cruelty and abandonment of pets.

Right down to the total negation of those traits normally associated with a particular breed.

Who, after all has ever heard of an "Unconfident Pomeranian?" -- PCA


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summer's End? (New York City)

(Picture Left: "Chuchi" -- mystery dog.)

This is, calendar wise, the last weekend of the summer, though summer really seemed (to me) to end on Labor Day with the closing of the outdoor pools.

I had been hopeful and anticipatory that summer's end would represent an upsurge in new animal rescues and adoptions.

So far, "upsurge" would not describe the last couple of weeks.

Though fortunate to get one successful cat adoption and several new dog fosters (and rescues), the number of adoption inquiries still remains scant and mostly non-committal and all of our dogs in boarding still linger.

Later this afternoon, I plan to go to the dog spa (one of the places where we board dogs) and walk Joy (who was recently returned from foster) and "Chuchi," a new Pomeranian mix we just rescued from the Brooklyn AC&C where she was in threat of going on the Euth list.

I haven't met Chuchi yet -- and was not eager to take still another dog to put into boarding.

Despite asking the shelter for more "time" to advertise Chuchi and attempt to find either a foster or adopter for her, neither the extra time nor advertising resulted in any kind of home.

It is amazing and shocking that a small, healthy, friendly and adorable dog like this would not garner public inquiry and interest once advertised -- but it is reality.

The few inquiries we got on Chuchi apparently could not read. Though clear in the writeup that Chuchi needed to be an "only pet" those who called on her had other dogs.

Sometimes I wonder if I speak and write English?

Chuchi was turned into Animal Control as an "Owner Request Euthanasia."

Apparently, Chuchi's former owners acquired another dog who, (according to them) "Chuchi attacked."

One wonders how and why a resident dog not happy with a new pet addition to the home would suddenly be dumped in the pound with a request for death? Most dogs and cats are not thrilled when a new animal is brought to the home and quite often will react with initial aggression in order to establish "pack order." Usually with time, the animals work out a relationship.

In those few cases where a second pet acquisition doesn't work, it is usually the newly adopted (or purchased) pet who is returned or brought to a shelter.

According to the Behavior Test conducted on Chuchi in the shelter, she seemed OK around other dogs.

So yes, Chuchi right now is a bit of a mystery with the background information on her both questionable and scant.

Unfortunately, for most "Owner Surrendered" animals turned into city shelters the information (and history) provided by former owners is sketchy, incomplete and often not very helpful in trying to get a true picture of the cat or dog.

This is why most animal shelters these days rely so heavily on so-called, "Behavior Tests" which themselves are questionable and often in contradiction to what the former owners say about the dogs.

In the end, there are no crystal balls or accurate predictors of how any animal is going to do in a rescue situation, boarding, a foster home or an adoptive home.

Nor, is there any guarantee that any rescued animal actually finds a "forever home."

We just have to take our chances, try to get to know the animals and hope for the best.

Oh, and hope that the distractions and seeming indifference and cruelties of summer finally end -- though one would never sense that by the huge numbers of cats and "summer kittens" still flooding into and dying in our city animal shelters. -- PCA


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Boks Returning to AC&C? (New York City)

(Picture left: One of thousands of dogs ending up on shelter Euth list every year.)

The contract for the current Director of the Animal Care and Control shelters has not been renewed.

That means that the city and shelter system is once again, seeking a new Director to take over the helm.

Over the years, there has been a slew of shelter Directors, most of whom were well over their heads in trying to run an under-funded, inadequate shelter system that deals with tens of thousands of animals a year on a shoe-string budget from the city.

As noted previously, New York City lacks full services shelters in both the boroughs of Queen and the Bronx. The so-called "shelter" in Manhattan was never built as an animal shelter in the first place and over the years has undergone almost constant "renovations" in order to make it into something that it was never designed to be: a make-shift animal shelter.

All of the "renovations" result in various parts of the "shelter" being closed for long periods of time, thereby necessitating the euthanization of thousands of cats and dogs for "lack of cage space." Those animals not killed for lack of space are killed for the illnesses (mostly Upper Respiratory Infections) they acquire by being housed in an overly-crowded and disease-ridden environment.

Simply changing shelter directors will not, of course solve these problems.

But, recently, there has been some rumor that former Director, Ed Boks is interested in possibly returning to New York and once again, taking over the helm at AC&C.

I hope that the rumor is true.

And I also hope that the AC&C and the city hire Boks back.

Of all the Directors the AC&C has had, Boks was the most experienced, qualified, caring and accomplished.

What's more, he was the most honest.

While seemingly a "perennial optimist," Boks was never so naive to not realize the huge obstacles that stood in the way of New York City becoming "no kill" anytime soon.

When interviewed by reporters, Boks spoke of the "ideals" of no kill, but also to the many barriers and challenges that New York City faced in achievement of that goal. "No kill" was simply not going to happen by wishful thinking or slick PR campaigns. It required the commitment, financial resources and efforts of thousands of people in the city from city officials, to pet owners, to volunteers, to landlords to those in law enforcement.

Boks was very concerned about things like morale among shelter workers, as well as how animals were named, described and promoted.

He was very open to suggestions and responsive to criticisms.

I am not sure of the precise reasons Boks's contract was not renewed with the city and he subsequently left New York to work at Los Angeles Animal Control over the past few years.

Rumors were then that Boks wanted more funding for various projects that the city was unwilling to fork over.

Certainly, any director taking over the helm now should lobby hard for a decent and REAL animal shelter to be built in Manhattan (even if the city doesn't create the necessary shelters in Queens or the Bronx).

Currently, the second floor of the Manhattan shelter is still "closed for renovations" after more than a year, while plans are in place to close and work on the first floor, (if in fact the second floor ever gets done.) This would obviously result in more wasted time, more wasted money and many more thousands of animals dying for "lack of space" and/or "illness."

This is unacceptable.

It is way past time to finally pull the plug on this warehouse in "life support" and finally, build a real animal shelter worthy of the 8 million people and 5 million pets in New York City.

For all the money that has been wasted in trying to "put lipstick on this pig" the city most likely could have built three new (and real) animal shelters to properly service the animals in ALL the boroughs.

What a case of "throwing good money after bad" or "penny wise and pound foolish."

What, in short, a boondoggle! -- PCA


Monday, September 14, 2009

"Wait and See...." (New York City)

( A very scared kitty when abandoned in the lobby of the shelter, the day after Christmas of last year, "Nick" quickly ending up on the Euth list. But, I pulled him then, only for the practical reason that he was already neutered. Almost a year later, has this loving and social kitty finally found a forever home? Hopefully, yes -- but we have to "wait and see....")

Miracles of miracles, we had a cat adoption yesterday!

The cat, named "Nick" by his foster person because he was abandoned in the lobby of the Manhattan Animal Care and Control shelter the day after Christmas of last year had been doing very well in foster care all this time. So well, we are quite sure that Nick probably thought he had found his forever home.

Nick had been previously adopted about five months ago -- but he was quickly returned a few days later for "hissing" at the woman's other cat.

Nick gets along very well with other cats. His foster person has another cat with whom Nick became great buddies with. But, the previous adopter apparently didn't believe in giving animals time to work out their relationship.

This time, Nick was adopted by a very nice family from Manhattan's Upper West Side. They met Nick when invited to a dinner party thrown by Nick's foster person. Nick was very friendly to the husband, wife and two adolescent sons. They have a 10-year-old spayed, female cat at home.

I should wish that more of our foster people would throw dinner parties in their homes. That might be the only way cats can find good people to adopt them these days.

Elizabeth (Nick's foster person) has already agreed to foster "Betty Boop" the sweet, tuxedo cat rescued this past week (along with her Pomeranian buddy, Tommy).

Betty has been pretty stressed in my home due to the other animals here. However, in the past 24 hours or so, she has settled down somewhat, is eating well and loves being petted.

But, at least one of my cats (Hillary) is bullying towards newcomers and any animals that might be afraid of her. "Puppy Boy" (AKA "Chance") my Pomeranian isn't so welcoming of fosters either. While generally tolerant of Tommy, the new foster Pomeranian, Chance has also attacked Tommy a few times (mostly to establish status position) and has shown some jealousy.

It is a bit of a challenge to give proper attention and sense of security to new foster animals, while at the same time being careful not to neglect one's own pets in these areas.-- Its a delicate balancing act.

I will be happy if and when Elizabeth can take Betty Boop. Elizabeth has a bigger place than I do and only one other cat. Elizabeth's personal cat, Loverboy, (adopted from me several years ago) is wonderful towards foster cats in terms of being welcoming and helping new animals to feel safe and secure. We joke that Loverboy is, in fact, like the "Mother Teresa" of cats!

We are not making any moves however, until reasonably sure that the adoption yesterday has in fact, worked out.

It used to be that anytime one of Elizabeth's foster cats was adopted, I would rush a new rescued kitty to her home less than an hour later!

But, now due to the substantial increases in "returns" over the past year or two (of both, cats and dogs) we can't feel quite so confident anymore with just the signing of an adoption contract.

No, now the watchword is "wait and see" rather than "who can we save now?"

Another sad change over the past few years.

One that doesn't bode well for the millions of cats and dogs vying -- and literally dying -- for lack of foster and adoptive homes to go to.

All this, while we sadly and warily have to "wait and see...." -- PCA


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Damned if we Do and Damned if we Don't. (Reply)

(Picture Left: Joy -- Little girl lost.)

In a message dated 9/12/2009 5:07:37 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Amby111 Writes: By the way, how is the older chow mix, Joy, doing?

Reply: I went to the boarding facility yesterday to take Joy for a long walk.

We went to Carl Shurtz park and walked for almost an hour. We sat on a park bench for a while and watched the East River relentlessly flow.

I petted and tried to talk to Joy but she seemed distracted and anxious; always gazing off in the far distance as if desperately searching for something....

I couldn't figure out if Joy longed to return to her former junkyard (or, whatever hellhole she originally came from) or missed the foster person who had Joy a few weeks and then suddenly returned her.

At no time during the lengthy walk, did Joy pee or poop. That usually indicates an insecure dog who is not comfortable with his/her circumstances or the environment.

Joy's foster person had indicated initial housebreaking problems. But, during the last week or so in the foster home, Joy began to eliminate outside. It appeared then that we might be getting over the hump. Joy seemed to be gaining her self-confidence and sense of "place" in the environment and neighborhood.

But, now it seems Joy has retreated back to her original timidity and/or insecurity. -- Something I was afraid would happen upon her abrupt return from foster to a boarding facility.

It's as though Joy was "thrown back in the hole" so to speak.

I do in fact, think of long term dog boarding as a perennial "black hole."

It seems once going into boarding, rescued dogs rarely come out.

The public and even most of those working or volunteering in the animal rescue community tend to think of dogs in boarding as "safe."

They are thus easy to forget.

And yes, while dogs in boarding may be "safe" from the fatal needle at the pound, is life mostly in a cage any "life" at all for a dog -- or for that matter, any animal or human?

I tend mostly to think not.

Boarding is OK for short term emergencies. But, it is not OK as any kind of long term "solution" or strategy.

Boarding dogs long term can cost small rescue organizations thousands of dollars a month (depending on how many dogs) and worse, costs the dogs their sense of security, confidence and even identity.

This past week, I was able (with the help of foster volunteers) to rescue a total of five new animals from the pound: Tommy, the Pomeranian dog, Betty Boop, Tommy's companion cat, two pit bulls and one Lab/Chow mix.

With the exception of Tommy, all the other animals had been "pulled" from the death list.

But, all seven dogs in boarding still remain. Almost all of the dogs have now been in boarding a very long time (with the exception of Joy who went into boarding this past week).

All seven dogs have been "returned" from either foster or adoption situations.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if instead of sending dogs to boarding kennels when adopters or fosters return the animals, we sent the dogs back to Animal Control?

Ah, but then we could not call ourselves "no kill" could we?

Perhaps we couldn't even call ourselves "rescue" in the true sense of the word.

Then again, can we truly call ourselves "rescue" now when sending animals to perennial "black holes" of long term boarding?

I have vowed to myself not to rescue any death list dogs from the pound to send to dog boarding.

I don't like the idea of animals in boarding being perceived as "safe" and thus forgotton and dismissed by those in the public and animal community.

But, what to do when adopters or fosters suddenly throw animals back at us?

I haven't figured out an answer to that one yet.

It seems we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't (send the dogs to boarding facilities).

I just know that when looking into Joy's lost face yesterday, I failed to see anything really "safe" about long term animal boarding.

I guess it all depends on what one's definition of "safe" is.

I just know that "safety," security and joy are not the one and the same things. -- PCA


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Playing the Same Game (New York City)

(Picture left: "Betty Boop." A very lucky gal that the Intake person at the shelter bothered to note that she and a Pomeranian were discarded together. Still, she came within mere hours of dying.)

Its been almost three days since I brought home "Tommy" the Pomeranian, to foster.

It is fantastically baffling how any people could have given up such a loving, incredibly gentle and full of life, cheerful dog to a pound.

Tommy doesn't possess the usual "feistiness" and wariness of strangers of most Pomeranians. Rather, he is more like my first dog, Tina: Enthusiastic, optimistic, curious, open to new adventures and very accepting and affectionate towards people and other animals.

In other words, Tommy is very nearly, a seemingly perfect dog.

But, even nearly perfect animals get dumped for things like "cost."

I would sooner give up every material possession I own, before I would give up either of my dogs, Tina or Chance.

But, I guess that is just me.

It obviously isn't everyone.....

I also picked up Tommy's companion cat, "Betty Boop" who, like Tommy was discarded at the shelter for the same reason: "cost."

Unlike Tommy, Betty was on the kill list of the shelter yesterday, despite having only been dropped off to the shelter this past Tuesday.

Cats just can't seem to catch much of a break these days.

So far, Betty (unlike her canine buddy) is pretty stressed by the entire ordeal of abandonment to the pound and now ending up in a new environment with other cats and dogs and a human who she doesn't know.

She's currently hiding on top of the window ledge in my bathroom.

I wish there was something I could do or say to help Betty feel more welcomed and safe, as her more confident and adventurous doggie friend seems to feel.

But, it seems she is going to need time.

I sometimes think cats have a harder time with forced changes and new circumstances than do dogs.

Dogs can be amazingly adaptable sometimes. Or, perhaps it is that they are generally more accustomed to adventures in the outside world, presuming their former owners walked them on a regular basis. We don't, after all, walk cats and introduce them to the noises, other people, animals, places and things outside of their homes.

For many cats, their immediate homes and owners are all they have known in their lives.

Suddenly being thrust out of all that must seem like being launched into space and ending up on another planet. -- So completely alien and terrifying to them.

At least most dogs have familiarity with the outside world (barring of course, those unfortunate canines who have spent their entire lives tied up in a yard or confined in a small space without daily walks. In such cases, the dogs generally have as tough a time with "change and new environments" as do cats.)

I am hopeful of adopting out Tommy and his feline friend, Betty Boop together. -- In fact, I advertised them as a "pair" on Adopt-a-Pet and Petfinders. Former owners requested that the animals be placed together. Of course, they were totally ignorant and naive as that rarely happens in shelters -- particularly with a cat and dog.

Am I being equally "ignorant and naive" in requiring that these two former housemates be adopted together?


Or, perhaps I am simply being fussy, demanding and discriminating.

Like most of the people who call us these days supposedly seeking to adopt. -- PCA


Friday, September 11, 2009

Consequences of Irresponsible and Selfish Choices (Guest Editorial)

(Picture Left: "Dash" -- young, active, loving Boder Collie who now is victim of poor human choices and lack of acceptance of personal responsibility.)

Shellie Writes: Wednesday's post, "Unrescuing Rescue", really struck a chord with me.

The past three weeks at the shelter wher I volunteer have been a series of one failed adoption after another. There have been so many "returns-to-shelter" you would think it was the day after Christmas at Wal-Mart.

"Dash", a 10-month-old Border Collie mix (pictured) was initially adopted 6 months ago as a puppy, and has now been returned to us twice.

Three weeks ago, at opening time, an elderly woman came in walking (or being dragged by) this gorgeous dog. Once in the door, she stated, "You have to take this dog back. He's just too much for me. I'm 83, and he's just too strong for me".

When she was told that we have a waiting list for owner surrenders, she then threatened to "just turn him loose on the road". When informed that this was illegal; and that if the dog were found loose, she would be charged with abandonment, she then stated, "Then just take him and put him to sleep; I just can't handle him anymore".

So Dash was taken in and placed for adoption once more. (Incidentally, the woman's adoption application included notes from the staff that she was counselled regarding the high energy level of the breed and questioned her ability to care for the dog. It also indicated that she had had Collies for 20 years, and her previous dog had recently died; and that she assured them she could manage a high energy breed.)

Then after 10 days in the shelter, Dash was again adopted; only to be returned after one week in a home. This time the reason for his return was "nipping at the childrens' legs". On reviewing the adoption application, it again documented the counseling, specifically the possibility of "herding behavior" with children. Once again, the family assured the shelter that they were very dog-experienced and could manage this behavior.

So now we have a friendly, housebroken, intelligent dog in a cage for the simple reason that he is a dog; just doing what dogs of his breed have been doing for centuries. Now Dash is waiting again...in hopes that somewhere there is an adult home that will provide him with the stimulation and exercise he needs. Because I am afraid that the next time will be "Strike Three----You're Out!!"


Reply: Thank you for taking the time to share with us this all too common problem of many people making selfish and ignorant choices when acquiring animals and then simply looking to "dump" the pets later without acceptance of any personal responsibility for why the adoption "didn't work."

Certainly, this is one of my biggest frustrations in the placement of animals. From senior citizens demanding puppies or adolescent pets (your story being an excellent example of this) to those with cats at home seeking Pitbulls or other breed types noted not to be genereally good with cats, to those with small kids seeking small dogs who are generally nervous around children, to those working long hours and demanding a young "Lab mix" or other active breed, yes it is all indeed a kind of nightmare that results in millions of animals being abandoned and ultimately killed annually.

If people only listened to the advice we try to give them based upon years of experience in learning which adoptions work and which adoptions don't then there would be more successful placements.

But, when its a matter of "I want what I want when I want it and no one can advise me differently" then yes, the animal is inevitably returned and all too often ends up dying for the errors of his/her human "former owners."

What a sad and really inexcusable pity -- all of it. -- PCA


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strange Days (New York City)

(Picture Left: "Mr." [this ridiculous name will have to go.....probably to be replaced by "Tommy" Pom, Pom.]. Who would ever think a beautiful and socialized little Pomeranian dog like this would have a hard time finding placement? Well, these are strange days, indeed.)

Although swearing to myself that we could not rescue any new animals, last night my attention was drawn to a Pomeranian on one of the shelters Alerts. The dog looks just my Pomeranian, Chance.

The dog's name is "Mr." (yes, how creative.) He is two-years-old, already neutered (surprise, surprise!) and was given up from a home because the people are "moving" (What else is new?).

Mr is indicated by former owners to be "great with kids, dogs and cats!"

Now, normally a small, healthy and adorable purebred dog like this who is "great with people, kids and other pets" would be snapped up by rescues in a New York City heartbeat!

When responding to the alert with an email to the New Hope Coordinator at Animal Control, I was sure Jesse would get back to me saying, "The Pomeranian has already been placed."

But, instead Jess called yesterday to ask, "How soon can you pick up the Pomeranian?"

Trying to hide my utter shock that rescues weren't fighting to take Mr, I simply told Jesse I would pick him up today.

Not only is it grim news that the Manhattan Animal Care and Control shelter is having to send out almost daily "Alerts" to rescue groups with MORE THAN 22 SMALL DOGS on them, but that many of these Shih-Tzus, Poodles, Chihuahuas and others have now been on the Alerts numerous times without being pulled.

That would not have happened just a few years ago.

I remember one occasion about 5 years ago, when another rescuer practically wanted to do battle with me over a Chihuahua I was pulling to place in an adoptive home.

"I already notified the shelter we were taking that dog! Our name should be on him!" the young woman cried.

The shelter had neglected to put a memo on the Chihuahua and technically, we should have been able to rescue him. But, to me it wasn't worth fighting over. The adopter and I handed over the Chihuahua to the group (whose name I won't mention) and simply rescued another dog.

But, now it seems the shelter can't find enough rescues for all the small dogs that are pouring in -- most of the animals in poor condition from neglect to medical or grooming needs or extremely stressed due to their sudden abandonment.

This is not a pretty picture.

After all, if the shelter is experiencing problems in the placement of small dogs to rescues, what does that say for all the thousands of larger dogs, Pitbulls and cats that routinely flood the shelters each month?

I don't have an available foster home or boarding space to send Mr to. The plan, for the moment is to bring Mr home with me, although I already have too many animals in my apartment (2 dogs and half a dozen cats.)

I am hoping that because Mr is virtually identical to Chance, my Pomeranian (even down to the same size -- 22lbs.) no one will notice that I temporarily have 3 dogs.

Of course, I am presuming that Mr will be a quick and easy adoption. And one cannot make any "assumptions" in placements these days.

I am reminded of how long we had "Rudy" the sensitive, but beautiful, purebred little Pekingese who though advertised for many months, ultimately was adopted by his foster person just last month.

It won't be option for me to keep or adopt a third dog.

I have to hope that there is someone decent and reliable out there who loves Pomeranians as much as I do.

As for the rest of the small dogs languishing in our city shelters right now?

Well, the shelters are warning that some are now facing euthanasia. -- Including a 5-year-old female Pomeranian who arrived at the Brooklyn shelter a couple of days ago after reportedly getting into a "fight" with another dog.

"Chuchi" is apparently not good with other pets.

I sent an email to the staffers at Brooklyn, saying I would try to "work on" Chuchi.

Whatever "work on" means in this strange, seemingly hostile and indifferent and now totally unpredictable animal adoptions environment. -- PCA


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Unrescuing Rescue (New York City)


(Picture Left: "Joy" -- After suffering years of owner neglect and/or life on the mean streets of New York City as a stray, we thought that this gentle and resilient dog's luck had finally changed. But, it apparently is not to be......No joy to be found in abandonment.)

It has been gut-wrenching over these many long weeks to see so many beautiful animals on the shelter kill lists everyday and not be able to "pull" any.

I had begun to think of myself as the "unrescuing rescue."

And yet, there was clearly no choice in the matter.

With no animals moving out of foster homes or boarding and no place to put even one more cat or dog, it was not option to respond to any of the many "alerts" emailed to us everyday or even the kill list itself.

I don't even look at the Cat Euthanasia list anymore as it is just too overwhelmingly depressing and demoralizing. I have thus become like most members of present day society -- "buying my head in the sand." -- "Please don't show or tell me."

But, this past week, we had two dogs move out of boarding and foster. One was (so far) successfully adopted, the other went to a foster home.

I was hopeful of being able to rescue one or possibly two new dogs.

But, fortunately (or unfortunately), I didn't jump the gun on new rescues, because yesterday, I was informed that at least one dog is being returned from a foster home and possibly another one, as well.

It seems in the one definite case of return, a cousin of a roommate will be "visiting" and for some inexplicable reason, this necessitates having to send "Joy," a very sweet and gentle, older Chow mix into boarding.

I am not sure when visiting house guests got to call shots on what a host keeps in his or her apartment, but apparently new roommates and their visiting cousins have a great deal more "say and sway" than what I was aware.

That is of course bad news for the foster dog who now, having gotten used to a caring home environment has to go sit 24/7 in a cold, antiseptic, boarding kennel.

Joy is a particularly sensitive dog, who before being rescued, apparently led an outdoor life of either total human neglect by an inattentive owner, or survived as a true stray or junkyard dog.

I loathe the idea of putting this particular dog in boarding for what could be a long, long time.

Joy, of all dogs needs to experience human attention, love and care.

So yes, that particular call upset me greatly. Not only because of having to send an especially sensitive and needy dog to a boarding kennel, but even more so, because it means I still cannot pull any new rescue dogs.

But, the most distressing thing about the call is that it came from a person I would have deemed as the very last individual on earth who would do something like this.

There is a part of me now that believes one cannot fully trust or rely on anyone when it comes to animal rescue, fostering and adoptions.

You never know when that unanticipated and (at least in this case) shocking call is going to come in:

"I need to bring the dog (or cat) back."

But, adopting an attitude that "no one can be fully trusted or relied upon" in animal rescue and placement is indeed, not only self-defeating, but downright deadly.

Animals die when we are too afraid to rescue them for fear "no one can be relied upon" to foster or adopt.

I know I am going to have to work on my attitude over the next few days.

Or, maybe I am going to have to quickly find an indoor pool to swim in and attempt (at least for an hour or so) to drown sorrows. -- PCA


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day Springboards (New York City)

Who says Labor Day has to represent endings? For one lucky dog and one determined swimmer, Labor Day is springboard for new beginnings.....

As though on cue, the balmy temperatures and high humidity of only a week ago, suddenly vanished in New York City to be replaced by crisp, fall-like temperatures and early setting suns.

Labor Day is of course, the traditional, but unofficial end of summer.

I both, looked forward to the day and dreaded it with equal passion.

I looked forward to Labor Day because it would hopefully signify the end to what has been a long, terrible summer for us in terms of being able to place animals we had languishing either in foster homes or boarding kennel situations.

We had no adoptions at all during the month of July and less than half a dozen during August. We so far, have one dog adoption during September. The adoption of Adidi, a sweet older Shepherd mix last week seems to be a success. -- The people, thankfully are very happy with her.

We were also able to get one of our long time boarders finally into a foster home this past week. "Chiva" is a five-year-old, extremely loving Pitbull rescued from death at the pound more than 7 months ago. But, during all this time we were unable either to find an adoptive or foster home for the smallish Pittie who bonded strongly with the vet techs caring for her and obviously began to think of the animal hospital where she was boarding as her "home."

It was a huge relief to finally get Chiva out of boarding and into a real home. I was beginning to fear that we might never find placement for the dark Pitbull who arrived at the pound last January after her former owner died.

Black and brindle pitbulls are probably the hardest of all dogs to adopt out, no matter how loving or trained they are. Both, the colors and breed-type seems to condemn them.

But, in Chiva's case, the young woman who took her in to foster grew up with a very loved dog who looked just like Chiva and from that standpoint, was drawn to Chiva.

We finally caught a lucky break.

I hope it represents the stirring of luck beginning to change by the slight increase we are starting to see now in adoption inquiries.

Dogs who have failed to generate any adoption calls over the summer are suddenly attracting some interest.

But, whether that "interest" flowers into actual adoptions, we don't know yet. Only time will tell.

But, if I looked forward to Labor Day for the "hope" it represented in finally being able to place and rescue more animals, I dreaded it from the standpoint of the outdoor swimming pools closing yesterday.

I had come to rely so heavily on swimming over the summer as both, a great stress reducer, a means of sheer escapism and most of all, an abiding love in and of itself that loss of it over the remaining three seasons is akin to the loss of great summer romance.

But, fortunately, there are indoor pools in New York City. They are smaller than the outdoor pools and one doesn't have the "romance" of swimming under the stars and moonlight. But, the indoor pools are comprised of water and in the end, that is what counts.

I simply can't give up swimming for ten months. It would be like cutting off both arms.

Indeed, nothing makes the arms and every other part of the body feel so alive, so free and so powerful as zooming through the water, weightless and unencumbered by all the "drags" of everyday life.

Swimming is the closest thing to flying -- with no particular destination.

I must have been a fish in a past life......

And so, yesterday, I returned to John J. Pool on East 77th Street by the East River, mostly for "nostalgic" reasons. John J is the pool where I officially learned to swim almost 30 years ago by watching and imitating lifeguards. It is also the pool where I took my then, very young daughter to familiarize Tara with the water and where she learned to swim from the time she was 5-years-old.

I have wonderful memories associated with John J Pool.

The only reason I switched to Lasker pool two years ago (in the north side of Central Park) for lap swimming is because Lasker (60 meters) is bigger and tends to be less crowded in the evenings than John J.

But, there was nothing "crowded" about John J yesterday.

With the temperature barely making it to 70 degrees and Labor Day marking the end of summer and the city swimming pools, there were less than a dozen people at John J when I got there about 5:30 PM.

For the next hour or so, it was pure heaven swimming in the mostly empty, 50 meter pool.

What a beautiful way to "officially" end the summer.

But, only as a springboard, to hopefully a better fall and winter for the animals.

As well as a summer next year of even faster, stronger swimming for I am determined to be smoke free by next year.

Nothing -- and I mean, NOTHING has motivated me to quit smoking in 40 years.

Not bans, public condemnations, horrifying "public service" commercials, the surgeon general, the mayor, or even the death of my Mother 12 years ago to smoking-related emphysema.

But, I have noticed that over the past couple of weeks, as I cut smoking to half a pack a day, I am a much better and faster swimmer in the pool!

And that is having an impact.

Labor Day might have signified the closing of the city's outdoor pools, the unofficial end of summer and for most people, the end of the "swimming season."

But, for me, it was only the beginning...... PCA


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Death by Silence

(Picture Left: "Napoleon" -- Wonderful Pitbull recently rescued from Euth list of shelter and curretly doing well in foster home. The bad news? This is only one Pitbull out of thousands going down in our shelters annually.)

The loudest protesters against Michael Vick and the horrors of dog fighting should have been all those connected with shelters and rescue -- especially those in charge of running animal shelters and accepting the responsibility for killing all the excess pitbulls that are runoffs from the dog fighting industry.

We are killing the by-products of the dog fighting industry every day. For every litter of pitbull puppies bred for fighting, only one or two are actually kept and trained for the fight rings. In this way, breeding for fighting is somewhat similar to those who breed dogs for "show." Show breeders are lucky if even one puppy out of a litter is "show quality." "Pet quality" puppies are sold to the general public or occasionally given away or, in some cases, even killed. For example, white German Shepherds used to be killed at birth as they were considered "mutants.")

Pitbull puppies not deemed aggressive enough for fight training (i.e. "pet quality") are either sold, given away or abandoned in the communities. Most will later end up in shelters though they are not "fighting dogs."

But, instead of demanding attention to this issue, there has been dead silence from the animal sheltering community -- from shelter leaders, to rescuers to volunteers.

So, Vick will play tonight against the NY Jets with nary a protest.

It seems the animals have no advocacy. Not only is the Animal Rights movement seemingly dead -- but even that of animal welfare.

The fiasco with Vick should have been used as "opportunity" to bring attention to how dog fighting is impacting shelters around the country and resulting in millions of dogs (most of them, pitbulls) killed annually at taxpayer expense.

But, no.
Instead, break out the pom poms, while injecting the dogs with "Fatal Plus." -- PCA