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Are we rescuing? Or, are we passing the buck?

August 10, 2014 21 comments

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingReading the latest news on Steve Marwell, owner of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS), made me realize once again how few of us have actually spent time asking how this all came to be in the first place.

How did a man who had never registered his charity with his state, and who collected donations but never made any of the required disclosures needed to maintain his good standing as a rescue or sanctuary, able to fool so many rescues and animal shelters into sending their unadoptable dogs to him?

How did no one know about all the dogs living in crates and kennels and in extreme conditions, with little to no food? How did this place pass as a sanctuary and continue to receive dogs for years?

The whole awful and disturbing story brought to mind a blog post I had read back in 2012. Written by Jessica Dolce, How I Failed as a Rescuer: Lessons from a Sanctuary, was a sad, but very insightful look into something that happens so often in rescue – we push it on down the line.

As Jessica wrote:

We all keep pushing down the chain. Individuals reach out to shelters, shelters plead with rescues to pull dogs, rescues can’t place all the dogs, so they board hard-to-place dogs in sanctuaries.

We’re all begging for someone else to give us the happy ending we so desperately want for the animals we love. If people deny us, we lash out that no one will help. If a shelter isn’t no-kill, we refuse to donate to them. We keep pushing and pushing until someone will take this painful, difficult situation off of our doorstep.

We all push until we find sanctuaries who say yes. (How I Failed as a Rescuer: Lessons from a Sanctuary by Jessica Dolce, Notes from a Dog Walker, July 21, 2012)

But the responsibility isn’t the person on down the line is it? No. The responsibility is ours, the rescuer’s, and we should be taking it more seriously.

I wonder… Are we asking the right questions when we decide to pass a dog off to someone else? When we choose to ship a dog off to a sanctuary to live out their lives, do we do our due diligence? Do we ask around for references? Do we go visit the facility ourselves? When we choose to save a dog that cannot be placed, are we really “saving” the dog? Or, are we just making ourselves feel better?

Sad Looking Chocolate LabRecently, I said NO to someone who wanted help in finding a home for an unwanted dog. The dog had an extensive bite history (with several owners) and was scheduled to be euthanized in three days. The person wanting to “save” the dog could not take the dog herself, but wanted desperately to find someone else who would. I could not help but be angry. She wasn’t willing to take in the dog in herself, but she wanted someone else to take on that risk? Really? It very much felt like she was passing it on down the line, leaving the dog for someone else to deal with it, all the while patting herself on the back for saving a poor dog.

I won’t lie. I recommended the dog be euthanized. With so many dogs out there in need, and so many of them without a bite history, why would we save this one dog? Why save this dog who has bitten several former owners in the past? 

Desperate to save the dog, the woman ended up taking the dog where? A sanctuary for difficult dogs.  God only knows if it is a “good one” or it it willbe one that we will one day see in the news, like OAS. I can only hope it is a good one and the dog is receiving great care, and hopefully, some retraining. I can’t help but wonder if the “rescuers” have bothered to check in to see how the dog is doing since they “saved” her? I would bet the answer is no, which is precisely the problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

What happened at OAS should never be allowed to happen again. And yet, I know it will.

As rescuers, we need to get better at doing our due diligence. We need to visit the places we send our unadoptable dogs. We need to inspect, ask for references, ask questions (lots of them) and follow-up regularly. But most importantly, we need to stop passing dogs (who cannot be re-homed or who are unsafe in a normal home) down the line.

We need to be honest and ask ourselves if euthanization wouldn’t be a better solution in these types of situations rather than passing the dog off to a sanctuary where they could suffer unimaginable cruelties for years on end. 

Because the truth is, that kind of solution is not rescuing, it’s passing the buck.  It’s contributing to animal suffering, not saving them from it. 

An update on Maggie from the mill – Progress!

July 30, 2014 23 comments

I’ve been a bit sporadic in my posts lately, but I wanted to at least give an update on little Miss Maggie.

Do you know that it has already been a year since Maggie was rescued? On July 16, 2013, she and her babies were rescued and taken to the Animal Humane Society (AHS), where she received medical care, food, water and kindness. In the days that followed, she learned that people could be kind and gentle. She learned it from her first foster mom, Sabrina, who taught her about leashed walks, living in a real home and that steak tastes quite good (the steak was in celebration of a judge awarding her custody to AHS).

With this new freedom came opportunities. A new place to live, time to heal and a chance to learn how to be a real dog. She came into Minnesota Sheltie Rescue and soon after that into my home. I have given her time and space. I let her learn from my dogs what a dog’s life can be like. So far, she has learned bones and ice cream are delicious, and everyone goes outside in the morning and again at night. She has also learned that cheese is good, but it is even more interesting and fun when it is hidden in dog puzzles or comes after touching my hand. She has learned how fun it is to roll in the freshly cut grass and that one must be quick if they want to get a treat before one of the other dogs. She is learning new things every day and in the process becoming more of the dog she was meant to be.

Here are just a few highlights of Maggie’s progress. Don’t miss Maggie’s two videos at the end of this post!

Maggie waits for cheese.

Are you going to throw me some cheese or am I going to have to dance for it?

Someone was worried the other party goers might steal her ice cream treat. #maggie

The best part about being a real dog is birthday parties and ice cream!

I'm sorry. What is this "share" you speak of?

Bully sticks are meant to be savored. If only Jasper and Daisy understood this.

Nervous, but not Too nervous to not take the cheese

I’m a little scared up here on this table, but yes, I will take a little cheese. Thank you.

Someone got groomed today and did really well! Of course, she got lots of cheese too!

This grooming thing isn’t half bad when you go slow and feed me cheese.

Maggie learns Watch me

Hand targeting with Maggie (She has only done this once outside. Too many noises outside.)

Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

April 23, 2014 22 comments

Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.

I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.

I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.

This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Meet Jenny. Sad Looking Chocolate Lab
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.

Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.

 

As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):

 

As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…

 

 

Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?

So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wordless Wednesday #183 – Foster Dog Maggie

April 16, 2014 11 comments

The Dog That Was Not There – A Look Back

August 22, 2013 15 comments

DSC00449Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first came to live with me.  Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old at the time I adopted her. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.

I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward.  The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.

This post is from August 20, 2010, almost 4  years after Daisy first came to live with me.

People have always commented to me how lucky Daisy is to have me, how I’m such a ‘good mom’, but the truth is there was a time when living with Daisy felt more like I was living in a house with no dog at all. And, it made me question why I had adopted her at all.

I’m not going to lie. I like to feel connected to my dogs. I like that they seek affection from me. That they want to lay by my side while I watch TV or read a good book. I like that they get excited when we go for a trip to the dog park or when I come home.

Daisy was not one of those dogs. She was emotionally distant. Fearful. Restrained. Reserved. Dis-Connected.

I could not expect her to wag her tail when she saw me. I got that from my dog Aspen. I never expected her to come to me for a pet. My dog Aspen did that. I would never have expected her to hang out with me on the couch while I watched TV. Aspen did that.

At the time I adopted Daisy, Aspen was my only dog. She was affectionate, funny, enthusiastic, loving, sweet, gentle, kind, and excited about life, and she was “my dog.” She made my days brighter. I looked forward to seeing her when I got home from work because I knew that she would want to hang out with me. I loved taking her on walks because she loved them so. I loved to watch her hook her head over the arm of the couch to see what I was doing in the kitchen. Aspen was everything Daisy was not.

That’s why Aspen’s death, so soon after I adopted Daisy, hit me so hard. For some people, having a second dog is a comfort when they lose another. For me, it felt like I was all alone. There was no dog to distract me from my grief when I cried. There was no dog there to greet me when I got home or to show excitement when we went for car rides, or to just hang out on the couch with me. All I had was an empty shell of a dog. One who preferred her kennel to being in the same room with me. She was like a ghost, flitting from room to room, unable to communicate, unable to connect, unable to emote any kind of emotion at all. It was sad and lonely place to be.

IMG_2710What I never expected was that slowly, over time, Daisy would become the most special and wonderful dog I’ve ever had. She touched me more than I ever thought she could. Without Aspen as her guide, Daisy had to rely upon me for guidance. She had to interact with other dogs, study them, mimic them, and find her own identity. She started to trust me and seek me out. She looked to me as her protector and I took that job seriously – I still do. Tail wags? I get them from Daisy all of the time now. Seeking affection, pets and belly rubs? Yup. Daisy wants attention, pets and belly rubs all of the time now. Hanging out on the couch? Daisy does that too, on occasion. She still prefers her kennel, but she’s not tied to it. She is just as happy to lie next to me on the couch or to jump onto my bed for a belly rub. And, she has a smile now. I love that smile.

Is she still fearful? Absolutely. But, every day she surprises me and proves that she can overcome her fears and be the dog she was meant to be. She’s finding her inner Lab and I love that. And, I love her… very much.

100_0427

A look back – Daisy’s everywhere!

August 7, 2013 19 comments
Daisy at the dog park

Daisy at the dog park

Today I am taking another look back to the early years when Daisy first came to live with me.  Daisy is a former puppy mill breeding dog who was estimated to be four years old at the time I adopted her. She was afraid of everyone and everything. She practically crawled on the ground the first few days she came to live with me. This is an old blog post from Daisy’s blog, “Daisy the Wonder Dog (and how she found her inner Lab).” It highlights the progress Daisy had made after I adopted her in 2007.

I hope it gives hope to those who have a damaged or unsocialized dog. Progress can be made. It takes time and patience and often happens in fits and starts – for every step forward there are two steps back, but it is so rewarding when you start to take those steps forward.  The key is to never give up hope. You need a lot of patience and understanding. You also need learn to learn to celebrate the small successes.

This post is from January 21, 2009, a little over 2 years after Daisy first came to live with me.

Daisy had a surprise guest this week. Her friend, Daisy Mae (a black Lab), came to stay for a couple of days while her “Mommie” had a little baby boy.

It’s been awhile since my Daisy and I had seen Daisy Mae. They girls first met about a year ago at the Alimagnet dog park in Burnsville. Her mom and I started talking after realizing that our dogs had the same name and then realized that both our dogs came from Minnesota Valley Humane Society. Who knew that her Daisy Mae was the same dog I had walked at the shelter as a young pup?

She has grown quite a bit since I last saw her, but it was obvious that she was very happy in her new home. Her parents really love her and spend a lot of quality time with her. She goes to the dog park once a day (sometimes twice a day), and she gets plenty of walks and belly rubs. She’s a well-rounded dog – good with humans and other dogs.

I was pleased to see that Daisy was happy to see Daisy Mae. She seemed pretty comfortable with her. This past summer, when Daisy Mae and her mom had come to spend the day with us (gardening) Daisy was quite nervous. She spent most of her time sitting right by my side. Of course, I encouraged her to go play but she would only wander a few feet and then come back and sit next to me. She does that when she’s nervous.

It was with great relief that I saw how she was to see her old friend. In fact, they got along extremely well together. They hung out at the dog park, searched for treats in the snow together (a game they both love to play) and slept on the couch together. It reminded me of when Aspen was alive.

Daisy used to looked to Apsen for guidance on how to be a dog. Aspen set the tone for everything: jumping on the couch, taking a nap, hanging out in the backyard, riding in the car, going to the pet store, approaching strangers, etc. Daisy really relied on her for guidance and direction.

That’s why I have toyed with the idea of getting another dog – one that is older, and more experienced, in living with humans. I’m constantly asking myself whether I am helping Daisy or hurting her by not getting her another friend. Part of me thinks that her rehabilitation would be much easier on her if I were to get another dog, but the other part of me is worried that making the wrong choice could be devastating for her.

Watching her with Daisy Mae made me realize that there is no easy answer to my questions. While Daisy enjoyed having a companion around for a few days, she also spent some time hanging out in her kennel (her “safe spot”). Whenever Daisy Mae would bark at a noise or get interested in a bone Daisy had Daisy would get nervous.

It’s nice to have Daisy’s everywhere, but it’s also making me wonder even more…Should i get another dog for Daisy? Or, should I let her be an only dog?

The question remains unanswered…for now.

Rescues – Do you have a plan for finding your lost dogs?

June 3, 2013 12 comments

Lost not stray v2When Cupcake (known as Lady back then) went missing in late 2011, I was lucky. No. Not lucky because she disappeared. Lucky because I had a an experienced rescue behind me, supporting me, all along the way.

Minnesota Sheltie Rescue knew just what to do to help bring Cupcake back. They knew that flyers were the most successful way to get the word out. They knew that signs and using a call service like Find Toto were also successful in getting more eyes looking for her. They knew how to mobilize a whole group of people to help spread the word. And, they made to tell me to get some rest so I would be there when Cupcake needed me most.  To say they are an awesome rescue would be an understatement.

I wish every rescue offered their new adopters and  foster parents the kind of support Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR) offered to Cupcake and I. Unfortunately, I think MNSR is the exception and not the norm.

I get it. Rescues are busy. They’re saving lives. They are short-staffed and often run on a shoestring budget. They don’t have the time or the money or the staff to plan for the eventual loss of a dog within their care. But, they should.

If I had my wish, I would ensure that every rescue had a clear plan for:

How a dog or cat will be transported to its new home or foster home (grabbing them off the back of a transport truck is not a plan).

Lost Dogs of MN has a great list of tips on how to avoid losing a dog during transport. Every rescue should consider implementing them immediately. They should also consider making it the standard policy for how dogs are transported to and from their foster and adoptive homes.

What a potential adopter or foster parent needs to know to keep their new pet safe in the first few days after they bring them home.

  • New adopters and foster parents should avoid taking their new dog anywhere besides their home. They should be told to avoid the overwhelming desire to stop off at the pet store for supplies or a dog park, where they are likely to get into trouble or get lost.
  • They should let the dog get used to its new environment and hold off on taking walks through the neighborhood that first week.
  • Entrances and exits should be protected to ensure a dog cannot bolt out the door unexpectedly.
  • Double-leashing a dog or buying a harness for their new dog should be recommended so if the dog becomes frightened unexpectedly, they are not able to run away.
  • Encourage new owners and fosters to take lots of pictures of their new dog (or cat). They should have a frontal view and one with them standing.

What to do when a dog goes missing.

  • Flyers, flyers, flyers. Do I need to say it again? Flyers. Rescues need to have a template ready and waiting to go so when a dog does go missing they are not scrambling to put one together or leaving it up to the adopter or foster to do it. The number one thing that should be on that flyer is a place to put the dog’s picture and contact information, followed by the words “Do Not Chase.”
  • Contact all the veterinarians and shelters within the immediate area. Let them know about the missing dog, provide them with a description and contact information. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
  • Create a calling tree within the rescue. Identify where all of your volunteers are located and let them know they may be alerted if a dog in their area goes missing. Make sure they know what to do next. (Did I mention flyers?)
  • Post the missing dog on their Facebook page using the lost dog flyer. Ask people to help. Ask them to print out copies and pass them out in the area the dog was lost. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
  • Post the missing dog on Craigslist. This should be done within the first few hours after a dog goes missing.
  • Make sure all your volunteers, and anyone helping to find the dog, knows what to do when they see the dog. Not sure what to do? I shared a great video two weeks ago week (The best advice for capturing a lost dog) that I think every rescue should watch.
  • Document each sighting on a Google Map. Learn how to use one. They can be your best opportunity to tracking the dog and understanding its pattern of movement. Lost dogs often retrace their route, so understanding a dog’s movements is key.
  • Set up feeding stations to keep the dog in that area. This will make it much easier to capture the dog if or when you decide to place a trap.
  • Have a live trap in your custody and ready to go.  Don’t have one? Find out who rents them out. Sometimes police departments or rental companies will have one you can borrow or rent. Other rescues are a great resource as well.
  • When a dog is trapped. Avoid the temptation to let them out and leash them while you are at the location. Carry the trap to a safe and enclosed area before letting the dog out. Trust me. You don’t want to lose the dog before you can get them to a safe place.

Lost Dogs-MN has some really great tips for finding lost dogs and an action plan for finding a lost dog. I encourage rescues to take a look and consider making them a part of their plan.

I know having a plan is not an easy thing for rescues to do, but what benefit is there in saving a dog from death row if they get lost after being rescued?  Please. Keep them safe. And, when the inevitable happens and a dog is lost, have a plan for how you will find them again.

Cupcake and I thank you.

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