Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Month (or Two) No Pets Would Die

(Picture Left: "Bear" -- Former owners too busy to return a phone call.)

One imagines the image of walking a dog when the temperature outside is 20 degrees with single-digit wind chills is not appealing to most people.

Personally speaking, I rather like it,,,, well, except for those single-digit wind chills.

Dog adoptions have been tough over these first couple of weeks in deep, dark and bitter January. But, that is to be expected; particularly during cold weather spells.

That only we could say that there is an equal "slow down" in the numbers of animals being dropped off at shelters.

While the number of kittens arriving at city pounds does slow in winter (due to lack of births and survival of outside kittens in winter), dog and adult cat abandonments remains about the same as most of the year.

The other day, I received a call from the New Hope Coordinator from the Staten Island Animal Care and Control center.

Some family had just dropped off a 7-year-old, Chow mix dog with the excuse, "The dog is too much work."

I asked Joanne, "What does that exactly mean? Assuming the people had the dog 7 years, what suddenly became 'too much work'? Does the dog have some obvious medical or behavioral issue?"

"Not that we can tell," Joanne answered. "Bear seems like a very mellow and sweet dog. Medical did not detect anything wrong with him."

"Can you call the former owners and get more information?" I asked. "Has the dog ever been around cats? Is he OK with other dogs and kids? Its really hard for us to place dogs when we have no history or other important information on them, other than the dog is housebroken."

Joanne understood the point and promised to call and try to get more information from Bear's former owners.

"By the way," I asked. "Why isn't Bear in Adoptions?"

"Oh, because we have no free cages in Adoptions. We are totally packed," Joanne answered.

In other words, they would probably have to euthanize a dog in Adoptions to make room for Bear. -- So much for New York City "being on the road to no kill."

"I understand," I replied.

Earlier today, Joanne called back to inform me that although leaving a fairly urgent message for Bear's former owners two days ago, she had yet to hear back.

"I don't understand it," Joanne said wistfully. "I left a message saying that Bear's only chance to get out of the shelter alive was to go to a rescue. But, the rescue had questions. I asked politely for them to call back, but they haven't...." Her voice trailed off.

"That is surprising," I said. "Usually the people are only too happy to tell you everything about the dog if they think the information will save the animal's life. These people must be real winners. -- It shows how much they cared about their dog."

There is, of course another possibility:

The dog's former owners don't regularly check cell phone messages -- Something I've experienced over the years with others since the cell phone revolution. It also explains why neither I nor Judge Judy are fans of cell phones. You could not, in fact, pay me to have one.

Since Bear was never neutered, it ironically buys us a little time with the dog.

"I can put him on the list for neutering on Monday," Joanne said. "Do you think you could find a foster or adopter for Bear by then?"

"Go ahead and put him in for neutering." I said. "We will post him and try to come up with someone decent to foster or adopt. If nothing comes up, I can temporarily put Bear in boarding, but quite frankly, we are over budget and over extended now with dogs in boarding. Let's hope we can find a real home."

Joanne sent a picture of Bear and my colleague, Firouzeh immediately posted him to Craig's List.

Since then, we have fortunately had one offer to foster Bear: A young, professional married couple living on Manhattan's Upper East side.

The people sound very nice and I get a good feeling about them.

The bad news is they called inquiring to adopt a dog that we have long had in boarding: Coco.

Presuming the people do foster and potentially later adopt, Bear, it would not be the first time I forfeited a possible adoption of one of our dogs in boarding in order to save another dog facing immediate death at the shelter.

It forces one to self-question:

We are always bemoaning the dogs in long time boarding. But, do we not in fact, create the situation when overlooking these dogs to save another in more immediate peril?

Its an important question that too often draws a "yes" answer.

Or, perhaps the real problem is that of the ever present and constant animal drop-offs at the shelters.

If I had but one wish it would be that there might be some period of time -- Let's say at least a month or two when NO animals would be dumped off at shelters to die.

Perhaps that would finally give us the time to concentrate on, catch up to and finally adopt out those dogs (or cats) who have languised in boarding or even foster homes too long.

Unfortunately, that is nothing but a wish and a dream -- not likely to see any kind of reality any time soon. --- PCA


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