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


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