Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Place of Belonging

(Picture Left: Leo when at Animal Control [with shelter volunteer] -- Just another Pitbull landing on Euth list almost as soon as he arrived.)

Last night David Lettermen presented, "The top ten ways you know you are already having a bad year."

I could have easily written that top ten topped off with the foster person who turned out to be a modern day version of "Sybil."

But, not to overly dramatize or bemoan the precipitous drop in dog adoption inquiries or the equally daunting rise in email "Alerts" on animals needing rescue or the bitterly cold weather that has suddenly gripped the North East since the New Year, one also needs to remind one's self of those positives that have occurred.

We have two dog adoptions since the New Year.

Both dogs were fostered in 2009 and have become the first dogs adopted in 2010 by their foster caregivers.

One of the dogs I feared might never get adopted:

"Leo" is a 4-year-old, Pitbull who due to the prejudices against his breed, I would normally not have rescued.

But, Leo had the good fortune to be dropped off to the AC&C in the spring of 2009 with a very sweet Chow Chow who we did rescue and quickly placed within a couple of week's time.

Usually, when we know an animal we rescue arrived at the shelter with another dog or cat, we try to rescue the companion pet, as well.

I later learned (from the person who brought the two dogs in) that Leo and "Fluffy" were not actually "companions" from the same home. Fluffy the Chow, had been abandoned by a neighbor who suddenly moved back to Puerto Rico. Leo, the Pitbull, had been a stray in the neighborhood who many people were afraid of and who some kids taunted.

Leo was not on any of the shelter "Alerts," nor was he a particular favorite with the shelter volunteers, one of whom told me point blank, "I would not pull that dog."

But, we pulled Leo anyway.

When I say, "we," I refer to myself and Firouzeh, a very dedicated volunteer and foster person and the woman, who in fact, adopted the second dog of the new year: Smokey.

Firouzeh felt a particular sympathy for Leo, but was not in position to foster or adopt as she and her fiance were already fostering one dog and had previously adopted another. Two dogs were the limit in the couple's small apartment.

After rescuing Leo from the shelter, we placed him into a Manhattan boarding facility. Firouzeh promised to go to the facility several times a week to walk Leo. I tried to fill in the other times.

I say, "tried" because the fact was, I could barely walk Leo.

Leo never apparently had any kind of leash training. And being a breed of power and muscle, I was no match for him. It required all my strength and determination to try and walk Leo even a few blocks.

But, the worst part was trying to put Leo back into his little room at the boarding facility.

On one occasion, I had so much difficulty trying to get the resistant dog back into the small enclosure, for a moment, I was afraid Leo would bite me.

Fortunately, despite Leo's unhappiness with the confinement, he never attempted to fight or attack. Still, I wondered, what if he ever did?

Firouzeh and I finally consulted a trainer who came by several times to the boarding facility to give us tips on walking Leo and putting him back in the room.

The tips helped greatly, but ultimately, it was Firouzeh who mostly walked and socialized Leo as I had other dogs at the facility to walk. Firouzeh, being a lot younger than I am was in better position to deal with Leo. I simply paid the bills.

After several months boarding in Manhattan, we finally decided it was better for Leo to go to a boarding and training situation in New Jersey. "Ed" is a dog lover and trainer who runs a very humane and reputable facility that is able to not only board dogs, but provide training as well.

It had become very hard on Firouzeh coming after work everyday to walk Leo when she had her own two dogs at home and a very demanding job.

In the end, it was better for Leo to go to a professional trainer.

Leo spent another several months in boarding in New Jersey and it seemed to me, that despite all the advertising and promotions, we might never find a home for Leo. It was something that worried me greatly -- as I worry when any of our dogs are in boarding a long time.

But, then one day Firouzeh called and announced that one of her colleagues at work was interested in fostering Leo!

Bruce is a young man living in Manhattan with a good job, active lifestyle and previous committed dog experience.

It was an opportunity that we could not pass up!

After providing Bruce with many tips, support and some supplies for taking in Leo, Firouzeh made the arrangements and she and her fiance picked up Leo in New Jersey and brought him to Bruce's home.

That was almost three months ago.

Last week we finally got the news that Bruce is supremely happy with Leo and has made the commitment to adopt.

As I write this, the adoption contract and fee are already in the mail.

Leo's adoption thus represents the first one of the New Year, but it was in fact, many months in coming.

It is, in fact, an adoption I thought might never occur at all.

So yes, while there are many things to worry about or feel disappointment with this first week of the New Year, at least for one Pitbull whose only good fortune in 2009 was to be abandoned at the pound with another (unrelated) dog who went to rescue, 2010 is the year of finally finding his place of belonging -- his adoptive home.

What better way to start off the New Year than finding one's place of belonging? -- PCA


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