Sunday, January 3, 2010

Old Adventures in New Craziness

(Picture left: "Cindy" --Near victim of new year craziness -- or just poor screening?)

If the old year ended on a somewhat optimistic and hopeful note, the new one begins with adventures in assorted craziness.

For example, a few days ago I received a couple of calls from people interested in Tiki, a wonderful and loving Lhasa Apso we have for adoption.

Tiki was abandoned to the city pound by a family who indicated "cost" as the reason for giving up the dog. Tiki was dirty and matted and it is presumed the family could not afford the high costs of maintenance and grooming that are required with this type of dog.

Keeping in mind the reason for Tiki's prior abandonment, I have deemed it important to inform potential adopters (especially without prior experience with a high maintenance dog) of the grooming expenses inherit with dogs who have hair rather than fur.

One of the callers the other day was a man who had previously had a German Shepherd for many years. When telling the gentleman about the regular grooming Tiki would require, he sincerely thanked me for being "honest and informative" and said he would have to discuss these expenses with his wife. It wasn't clear that the older couple could afford monthly clipping and grooming expenses for a dog.

The second caller on Tiki that day was a woman who had previously owned a Jack Russel Terrier for 15 years. When informing the woman that Lasa Apso's are a high maintenance breed (unlike a JRT) that require regular clipping, she became insulted and hung up on me.

I thought afterwards how "crazy" it is that in saying the exact same thing to two different people, one sincerely thanks me and the other becomes angry and hangs up.

Its hard to know what to say to people these days. I just want to be sure that whoever ultimately adopts Tiki is aware of the care expenses that come with this breed of dog. If that is "insulting" to some people then so be it. It wasn't the right home for Tiki.

But, if it is sometimes stressful dealing with anonymous callers over a phone, that is nothing compared to the situation of sending an animal to a foster or adoptive home and later discovering that the emotional stability of the person is in question.

Just before Christmas I received a call from a single woman offering to foster a dog that was about to die in the city pound.

"Lisa" (not her real name) is a teacher in the public school system and already owns a 4-year-old, Border Collie mix that she adopted from a local shelter a few years ago.

I explained to Lisa that I could not guarantee either the health or the behavior of a dog pulled from the Euth list of the city shelter. However, she assured me that her dog was up to date on all shots and she had a friend who was a dog trainer and could help with any behavioral issues.

Lisa sounded like a pretty together individual and possessing both dog experience and a vet reference, I had no logical reason for saying "no" to her.

As matters were, I was, in fact, trying to find safe sanctuary for a dog I had just pulled off the Euth list the day before. All my fosters were full, as were boarding spots just before Christmas.

I told Lisa about "Cindy."

Cindy is a somewhat timid, though sweet and very young, Border Collie mix who ended up on the Euth list of Brooklyn Animal Control due to nervous behavior in the shelter. However, two different shelter staffers assured me that Cindy was in fact, a loving and gentle dog.

After meeting Cindy at the shelter, Lisa enthusiastically agreed to foster the 1-year-old, Collie mix dog.

But, since receiving Cindy on the 23rd of December, the going has not been easy with Lisa or apparently, the dog.

Lisa called me almost everyday to report different challenges with Cindy from Kennel Cough to dominance with her dog to separation anxiety.

I carefully listened to Lisa's concerns and tried to counsel and advise. Many of these things are to expected with new and insecure dogs out of the shelter system. I offered Lisa various tips to get through the problems.

But, after having Cindy about a week, Lisa called one evening to report that Cindy "attacked" her dog over food and treats. Her dog was then so "afraid" of Cindy that she was "cringing under the bed."

OK. This was not a good situation.

Since we just had one of our dogs adopted from boarding, I told Lisa that she could bring Cindy to one of the trainers who works with me. -- Chris, in Brooklyn.

The following day, Lisa showed up to Chris's home with both dogs in her car. That seemed a bit strange, since the whole reason for giving up Cindy was the dog's supposed "aggression" towards Lisa's other dog. Why, under those circumstances, would Lisa put both dogs in the car together? Would that not be potentially dangerous?

But, that was not the worst of the situation.

When Chris apparently reached for the wrong dog to take in, Lisa became agitated and according to Chris, called him a "jerk."

He in turn, called her a derogatory name and thus, the handoff did not occur.

I spent the next couple of hours trying to "mediate" between the two offended parties, each one calling the other, "crazy."

Lisa took Cindy back to her home.

Since Lisa was still in possession of Cindy, I realized I had to handle the young woman with kid gloves, giving her the benefit of the doubt -- or warnings from Chris.

Each day Lisa called and once again, I attempted to counsel her through the challenges.

Things seemed to be getting slowly better with the two dogs then getting along.

"Better" that is, until yesterday.

Yesterday, Lisa called to report that Cindy was "spotting blood" all over her apartment, not eating and vomiting up bile.

As this could represent anything from Urinary Tract Infection to a dog in heat, to Pyometra (Uterine infection), I called my vet and requested an emergency appointment.

Dr. G was kind enough to extend his hours to accommodate the emergency request.

I met Lisa with Cindy at my vet and at least for a while, things seemed to go smoothly. The dog was bright and alert and at first glance, appeared healthy. The young woman appeared put together and cooperative. We engaged in small talk with the few remaining people in the veterinary waiting room.

Dr. G did a very thorough exam. It seemed that Cindy was indeed, in heat, but the lack of appetite, slight temperature and vomiting could indicate a possible onset of Pyometra. He recommended leaving Cindy at the clinic a few days for observation and treatment.

Personally, I was very relieved with Dr. G's offer. The thought of Cindy possibly developing life threatening Pyometra (while in foster) in the wee hours of some morning with few places to send her was not comforting. Moreover, I was relieved to leave Cindy in the trusted hands of my vet as I was becoming increasingly uneasy about Lisa's stability in handling the dog or the situation.

At first, Lisa seemed fine with leaving Cindy with Dr. G.

But, then, while waiting in the reception area of the vet's office for the paper and other arrangements to be made, Lisa suddenly unraveled.

Without warning, the young woman began crying hysterically, yelling and appeared distrustful of everyone, including my vet and me.

"I LOVE this dog! I CARE about her! I took YOUR dog in when she was going to be euthanized! YOU haven't even thanked me!"

I tried telling Lisa I appreciated her efforts, but it was best that Cindy stay with the vet for observation and treatment.

But, the young woman was wasn't listening.

"YOUR person (Chris) called me a bitch! You say my vet's no good!" (I never said any such thing.) Where's the license for this vet?"

I pointed to a couple of dozen Christmas cards on Dr. G's door. "Do you think people would be sending greetings to a bad vet?" I asked. "I've been using Dr. G for ten years. He is one of the best vets in the city!"

"Christmas cards?" Lisa laughed. "I want to see this vet's license, otherwise I am calling 311 and demand that Animal Control pick up this dog! Where's the license?"

With all the commotion, Dr. G suddenly appeared with his license in hand. "Its the first time in ten years someone has asked to see this, but here....."

Dr. G gently tried to console Lisa and reassure her that we all cared about Cindy and would see to it that the dog got good care. "But, you have to be able to trust," he added, while gently leading the then very scared and stressed dog away.

But, Lisa continued to cry and yell. Trust apparently wasn't something she could easily feel towards others.

"I LOVE this dog! I saved her life. I just wanted the best for her!! How am I going to know what happens Cindy now?"

Once again, I tried to reassure Lisa, but she interrupted me.

"I have to leave now. My brother's leaving for Iraq tomorrow!"

Frustrated, I answered that I wasn't responsible for her brother leaving for Iraq.

Lisa became more agitated and finally stormed out of the vet's office. The last I saw of her, she was making calls on her cell phone presumably bad mouthing me and my vet.

It had been an ugly and for me, totally embarrassing day especially in terms of my vet being insulted and belittled. Dr. G had kindly gone out of his way to accommodate us and he didn't need this kind of scene. Nevertheless, I was greatly relieved that Dr. G now had Cindy and the dog was in our possession.

I wanted to apologize to the vet techs and Dr. G, but the office was then closed and I finally left.

Dr. G and his staff must be wondering now how I screen my fosters and adopters?

The question is, how does one "screen" for emotional and mental stability in others?

I was obviously fooled on this one. -- PCA


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