Thursday, January 21, 2010

Synchronization -- Tiki's Story

(Picture Left: Tiki, shortly after rescue.)

Back in November, we rescued a Lhasa Apso mix from Animal Control.

Normally, I don't pull many small dogs because these animals are the first to be picked by other rescues.

With the exception of Chance, my Pomeranian, It is rare for a small dog to end up on the shelter Euth list these days. If New York City has made progress in one area with companion animals, it is the fact that most little dogs entering our shelter system either go to rescue or are direct adoptions.

Nevertheless, once in a while we take a smaller dog. If the shelter is unusually full with small dogs or we don't have any for adoption, I believe it is good to have some diversity among our adoptable dogs.

We (myself and two volunteers) were at the shelter in mid November to pick up a dog who had been on the Euth list. But, while there, I asked Jesse (the New Hope Coordinator at Animal Control) if there were any smaller dogs that she particularly needed to get out. We didn't have any at that time for adoption.

The small dog ward was full and Jesse pointed out several dogs who had been there a while.

One was a 27 lb, 6-year-old, Lhasa Apso named "Tiki" (in video) who had then been at the shelter two weeks without being picked up by a rescue. At that time, Tiki seemed to be the most urgent.

It was not clear why Tiki had not already been pulled. Perhaps some rescues considered him "too big." Perhaps some were cautious with the breed. (Lhasas have a reputation for sometimes being quite feisty or "one person dogs.")

Tiki had been relinquished to the shelter by a family who claimed that he was "too costly" despite having the dog six years. Since Tiki was quite matted and dirty when surrendered to the shelter, I presumed that the former family could no longer afford the grooming that Lhasa Apsos require.

Although the family left a very good profile on Tiki ("Housebroken, Loves men, women, children, other dogs") he had unfortunately failed the food part of the SAFER ("Behavior") tests and therefore, did not make it to adoptions.

My first impression when looking at Tiki in the cage was that he was a very sweet dog. There was a softness and vulnerability about his face and eyes that seemed to be in contrast to the "Questionable" behavior status on his shelter record.

I removed Tiki from the cage and walked him in the yard in back of the shelter. Although a little withdrawn and depressed at first, Tiki quickly warmed up after spending some time with him. He responded very well to gentle petting and after a few moments, happily wagged his tail and nuzzled into me.

I told Jesse we would take him and requested that the shelter neuter him.

The next day, Jesse called to inform me that Tiki had been rejected for neutering due to him then being sick with Kennel Cough. Jesse requested that I immediately pick him up.

Fortunately, my vet had space to take in Tiki. My plan was then to leave Tiki with my vet for treatment and when healthy enough, neutering.

I picked up Tiki that day and took him to my vet. While waiting at the vet's office, I was struck by how truly endearing and well behaved Tiki was. I thought to myself: If I didn't already have two dogs at home, Tiki would be mine!" Something about this little gentle, ragamuffin leaning against my legs and peering into my eyes made my heart melt.

Although Tiki would have to stay at the vet for a while, I advertised him for adoption anyway.

I wanted to have a waiting foster or adoptive home for Tiki upon his recovery and sterilization.

Over the next few weeks, I did get a couple of decent inquiries on Tiki. But, neither were willing to wait until such time Tiki was ready to go to a new home.

Unfortunately, between Tiki's Kennel Cough which took a while to go away and my vet's very busy schedule, the whole process took longer than anticipated.

After Tiki had been at Dr. G's about six weeks, he had finally fully recovered, was neutered and ready to leave.

But, I did not have a "waiting" adoptive -- or, foster home for him.

I requested long time friend and volunteer, Kathy to temporarily foster Tiki.

Kathy has worked with me for many years. She came to me when I did cat adoptions out of Petco from late 1996 to 2000.

Kathy lives in the Bronx and is a rescuer in her own right.

Sadly, the neighborhood Kathy lives in has many strays and over the years, Kathy has picked up many cats and some dogs.

I have helped Kathy in vetting and placing some of her rescues. Kathy has helped me in many ways from transporting animals (she has a car), to doing offsight adoptions, to the occasional emergency foster.

I don't like to ask Kathy to foster because she has as many animals as I do. She also has a full time, demanding job and therefore doesn't have the time to take in a larger, younger or highly active dog.

But, in Tiki's case, I figured since he was such an "adoptable" dog, as well as being smaller in size, older and good with other animals, it would not be such an imposition to ask Kathy to temporarily take him in.

Kathy kindly obliged the request.

Unfortunately, Tiki did not turn out to be the "quick and easy adoption" I figured him to be.

Although being all the things his former family claimed him to be (fully trained, healthy and loving), Tiki's ads did not generate many adoption inquiries (this despite me advertising Tiki has part Shih-Tzu). Those inquiries that did come in on Tiki I had to turn down due to lack of experience, knowledge or resources to properly care for a high maintenance breed like Tiki's or horrible, "give away" histories with dogs -- I didn't want Tiki to experience what he had in the past: Being dumped in a pound for "cost" or lack of commitment.

I began to seriously wonder: If we can't find an adoptive home for a loving and wonderful dog like Tiki, who can we find a home for?"

Then, about two weeks ago, I received a call from a past adopter.

"Rita" had adopted a Jack Russel Terrier from me almost ten years ago.

A few months ago, the dog died after a long bout with an incurable immune system disorder.

After enduring months of grief over her lost dog, Rita felt finally ready for another one.

But, was she, I wondered?

After discussing a number of our dogs with Rita and showing her Fawn (a lovely Shepherd/Lab mix who is currently boarding at our vet) I wasn't sure exactly what Rita was looking for.

I, of course, heavily promoted Tiki to Rita as the dog I felt would be "the perfect match" for her.

"At this stage in our lives, we (mature women) don't need a dog who is going to present with major challenges or pull us down the block," I told Rita. "Tiki is a very easy, loving and balanced dog."

Rita is a mature woman around my age who lives alone in an Upper East Side, Manhattan apartment. Recently retired, Rita has the time, love and the financial resources to handle the care and maintenance needs of a dog like Tiki.

She represented a wonderful home for a wonderful dog.

But, would Rita in fact, be receptive to Tiki's warm affections and attention needs? Was she in fact, really ready for a new dog? Those were the questions I wasn't quite sure about.

Upon my suggestion, Rita did, in fact, make an appointment with Kathy to meet Tiki.

But, after meeting with Tiki, Rita was still unsure.

"She said she needed time to think about it," Kathy told me after the meeting.

"Well, Rita may still be grieving over her last dog," I replied. "She may want to look at many dogs before making a decision. Tiki is the perfect dog for her and she would be a wonderful home for him. But, is she really ready? We can't push dogs on people, Kathy -- We can't break arms. They have to come to these relizations on their own. All we can do is recommend, guide -- and hope."

I didn't hear from Rita and just assumed that once again, we had struck out with Tiki. Once more, I disappointingly wondered: If we can't find a great home for Tiki even after having him vetted, neutered, groomed and cared for in foster, who can we find a home for?"

But, this past Monday, Rita called. She sounded a little worried over the phone.

"I realize today is a holiday and I feared Tiki might get adopted by someone else," Rita told me.

I almost laughed considering we had Tiki almost two months with less than a handful of serious or qualified calls on him!

"Well, no," I replied. "We don't have a line outside the block waiting to adopt Tiki, but, I do believe, Rita he is the perfect dog for you. You'd be wise to adopt him."

Rita did adopt Tiki that day.

And so far, the news has been nothing but wonderful.

"I feel like I hit the lottery in dog adoptions!" Rita told me, happily yesterday.

And, I feel particularly good about this adoption.

This is what I envisioned and hoped for with Tiki.

He is finally a happy dog in the home he is meant to be in.

Its a great feeling to be the conduit between happiness for animals and happiness for people.

Its in fact, everything we work and strive for. -- The entire purpose of our mission in animal rescue and placement.

But, it is not always easy to find or achieve that perfect synchronization between what we want for our rescued animals and what others are seeking and capable of giving to an adopted dog or cat.

Adoptions are, after all, so complex.

They can be the right people, but sometimes, its not the right time in their lives. It can be the right animal, but many times the dog (or cat) needs time to "adjust" and fully appreciate the new circumstances and people in their lives. Are the people willing and capable to give the animal that time?

And, sometimes its good people and a good animal, but not the right situation.

No, adoptions are never "easy."

But, for those times everything "synchronizes" and falls perfectly into place, it is indeed like the rainbow following the rain! -- PCA


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