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 '," 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

1 comment:

Shellie said...

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.