PUPPY LOVE WITH KATE WHITNEY
Happy Spring, readers!
Let’s hope the snow if over for good. I don’t know about you but I am so ready to get the dogs outside and do some gardening. Thank you so much for the continued support of my column. Many of you have emailed me with questions or comments; I absolutely love hearing from you, so thank you.
This month I want to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart, dog rescue. I urge you to read through this whole article. Some of you may find it difficult because it exposes some truths that are hard to swallow, but the only way that things are going to change is if you get as angry as I am and feel it in your heart to take a stand for the dogs that have no voices or to just plain support dog rescue and everything it stands for.
However, please do not read this and turn a blind eye, as so many people do. Remember that one person can make a difference.
Just by telling others about rescue and how important adoption is, is helping the cause. Some of you may prefer to make a monetary donation, that’s helping the cause too. Whatever you do, know that it is greatly appreciate by those of us who strive to find homes for these great dogs.
If you have been reading my column for a while, you know that I am always promoting adoption and rescue as opposed to going to a breeder, pet store, or ordering dogs online (just awful). For those of you who are new to my column (and even for those who have been with me from the start), I want to refresh your minds about how I got started.
I was taking my cat to the vet in the fall of 2007 (coming up on 4 years, wow!) and I saw the cutest little puppy in the waiting room. It kind of looked like a golden retriever puppy; if you have ever seen a golden puppy then you know the level of cuteness I’m talking about.
Well to be fair to all breeds, most puppies are just adorable in general. Anyway, I asked her where she got the dog and she said she had found it on Petfinder.com. Well, let me tell you, my family and friends will tell you that finding out about Petfinder opened a can of worms and lead me to my true passion in life, dog rescue and adoption.
When I got home from the vet’s office, I immediately checked out this website I had never heard of. When I pulled it up the heading said something like “Welcome to Petfinder.com!
Imagine the real number of homeless pets? I stared at my computer screen, not really knowing what to do next.
I typed in my zip code and chose to search for “dog”. And what was presented to me was shocking. Page after page of dogs came up, each with a picture and description of the dog. After doing some reading, I realized that all these dogs were in shelters or rescues and needed homes. Every breed and age could be found. I asked myself a question that I still ask myself today: why are people still breeding dogs when there are so many that are homeless? I will always remember a t-shirt I saw online once it said “breeders kill shelter dogs’ chances”. If you really need a purebred dog (and let’s be serious, who really does?) remember that one in four shelter dogs are purebreds.
After snapping out of my state of shock, I emailed a few of the rescues that had ads for “foster homes needed.” I had no idea what that meant, but assumed it was like being a foster home to a child. I heard back from one of the rescues and the rest is history. I was introduced into a world of pain, sadness, politics, greed, and a little bit of happiness (that comes when a dog is placed in a new forever home).
When people ask me about dog rescue, I tell them “it’s not ‘fun’….it’s emotionally and physically hard.” I sometimes (if they have the time) go on to explain this. It’s emotionally hard because you have to be okay with realizing that you can’t save every shelter dog. There just isn’t enough space, money, or homes to take these dogs. Those of us in rescue get several emails a day from shelter/rescue workers stating their “last plea” for groups of dogs at their facility. It’s an email that lists anywhere from five to sometimes thirty-plus dogs that are on “death row” and will be put to sleep (PTS) the next day or in the following days, unless they can be pulled out and saved. Sometimes I can’t read the emails because I know I can’t take any, so why look into the eyes of these poor dogs and know I can’t do a single thing to help them? These emails haunt me. The PTS date is in red font…the dog’s name, age, breed, health, and why it was surrendered are all listed. Sometimes there are litters of five week old puppies, ten year old dogs that were dumped at the shelter to die, and everything in between. Often times rescues get these emails and they can only take one or three or five dogs at that present time. To see a list of forty five dogs that are at one shelter and know you can only choose five breaks your heart. It’s like you are choosing the fate of these precious souls. But you have to remember that saving five is better than zero.
Now let’s look at the physical side of dog rescue. How many of you spend your weeknights relaxing after work? Maybe enjoy a nice dinner, watch your favorite tv show or lose yourself in your book? Well those of us in dog rescue do something else when we go home (I’m talking from personal experience and what I’ve learned from talking with others in rescue). We check applications. Potential adopters submit applications for specific dogs and it’s our job to check them and make sure the fit, on both ends (for the family and the dog) is the right one. Many rescues require references to be listed. Sometimes three are needed as well as a vet reference. What this means is that we call and talk to these people and find out a little more about the person or family that wants to adopt from us. This process can be quick, or it can take hours, depending on how much detail people go into. At night we also brainstorm fundraising ideas, or talk about upcoming adoption days. When you are involved in a small, all volunteer rescue, your day is not over when you leave the office. How many of you use your weekends to relax and do errands or get things done around the house? Well those of us in rescue spend hours every weekend doing adoption days, transporting dogs to and from foster homes, bringing dogs to their new homes (sometimes they are hours away), or doing fundraising events. Volunteers do this work because seeing that wonderful dog go to a new home makes everything worth it. On Sunday night, we don’t feel like we had a normal weekend. We are exhausted. But it was all worth it.
Our volunteers give up their weekends and weeknights because it means they get to promote the rescue and keep it going. We sit at Petsmart for three hours on Saturday and get excited when we have $15 in our donation jar. This is what has to be done to survive. We volunteers do it because that money is what keeps our efforts going. Many small rescues don’t get state funding or large donations from wealthy companies. They rely on donations from private donors like you. It’s expensive to run a 100% volunteer non profit small rescue. Vet bills and other costs add up so quickly, it’s sometimes impossible to keep up. Often times it gets overwhelming and frustrating. We can only give so much of our own money to keep the rescue going. We need people to care as passionately about saving great dogs as we do! If you want to learn more about how you can get involved or to make a donation, email me!
Have you ever heard the expression “actions speak louder than words”?
Well that quote holds true here. Dogs can’t thank us with words, but they can thank us with their actions. Seeing a dog that was once too skinny, matted, scared in the back of a cage, with tail between its legs, evolve into a healthy, happy dog that greets people with kisses and a wagging tail is all we need! People often say “it’s the little things in life”…for those of us who make dog rescue our mission, a “little thing” is as simple as a wagging tail.