Monday, October 25, 2010

Focusing on the positive

I think my posts to date are following a positive/negative back and forth.  So going with that, this one needs to be positive :)

First off, Ink's return has not been held against him and he is not in danger of being labeled "unadoptable".  Thank goodness!!!  I also believe that should that ever become the case, the shelter staff will contact me an allow me to adopt him.  Granted, that would not be the best scenario for Ink, my dogs or me, but we'd make it work.  But I am committed to finding him the RIGHT home!

My 2nd favorite dog who was adopted out the same day as Ink was also returned a week after he was.  This time the reason was divorce/separation.  Come on, you didn't see that coming 2 weeks ago when you adopted her?  And one of you couldn't keep her?  Okay, back to the positive.  I was really worried about this one because she was already on the "evaluate" list that we volunteers know as evaluate for being labeled "unadoptable" versus the evaluate for testing/training that it is claimed to be.  Ginger is a small pittie who got bullied by the lab she came in with (who was adopted out we so often see with the non-pitties).  She seems to compensate for being bullied by bullying other small dogs.  However, she easily redirects -- except in the case of one basset hound; she hates him with a passion for whatever reason!  And she is WONDERFUL with people.  She doesn't like being offleash, she likes the connection. She likes to be in your lap, cheek to cheek, hugging and held.  She LOVES kids.  They can climb all over her.  But having a small dog restriction and the fact that she's got food allergies and top it off with being a pittie...well, I was just thrilled when she finally got adopted.  The postive is, she was immediately put back on the available list, put back in the main kennel and is being her sweet self.  Because I already have a small dog who is dog aggressive himself, it would be a recipe for disaster if I ever needed to take her in.  But we'll find her the RIGHT home too!

So on to more positives.  First, I've been lax in posting because now I have taken on the responsibility of being volunteer coordinator.  Previously I was the volunteer events coordinator -- now I've got it all.  The positive is that another wonderful volunteer created a Shelter Improvement Team which she and I are leading and we've got an abundance of wonderful volunteers organized and making significant changes.  The energy and exuberance is just amazing.  My email overflowth with all the changes they are taking on, the ideas that they have and the actions they are taking.  It is truly inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring, I did have another feel good adoption (I'm scared to type about it, lest I get a text message that she gets returned tomorrow!  No more jinxes!)  This time, for me, it wasn't so much the feel good about the dog, it was feel good about the adopter.  I really didn't know Roxy that well.  She was another volunteer's favorite, and I tend to focus on dogs that others haven't already focused on so that more of them get exposure.  But some folks were interested in her, and that volunteer wasn't there at the time so I brought her out and spent a bunch of time with the people.  The actual adopter was an elderly woman who had recently lost her ill husband who she had been taking care of for years.  She said she missed having someone to nuture.  In addition to being a very sweet woman, the other people with her were her brother and sister-in-law.  Her brother was very knowledgable about dogs, their behavior and training.  So while when the adopter took the leash and let Roxy pull her around, her brother took over and showed her how to be in control and vowed to help her.  Plus she's got a big fenced in backyard.  And Roxy likes to be a bit of a couch potato herself.  So I really feel like they are going to be wonderful for each other.

My third favorite dog was also adopted (essentially on the same day as the first two favorites) and I have no worries at all about him coming back.  He had to be neutered before he could go to his forever home and our shelter vet was on vacation for 10 days.  His new family came in EVERY day to visit him until they could finally bring him home.  I can envision him now curled up next to his 2 new greyhound family members who he instantly loved or more likely sleeping with one of the teen girls.  They were looking for a cuddlebug since the greyhounds were really not the lapdog type and Tubbs fit the bill immensely.  All you had to do was sit down and your lap would instantly disappear.  Tubbs was my easy adopt favorite.  No restrictions and a total lovey dovey dog.  They always go fast....pittie or not.

I've also been loaded up with volunteer orientations.  Our local colleges have animal clubs who come to volunteer and this semester they seem to be incredibly popular.  Besideds the clubs, I've got fraternities and sororities and a number of high school students who are doing projects for the shelter.  Orientations usually take up my entire time at the shelter though and then I don't get as much doggie time myself.  But this week I am orientation free, so I'll be getting all the sloppy kisses I desire.  And Sunday we'll be dressing them up in hula skirts and leis to prance around in a halloween parade....which is more great exposure for them!  Here's hoping November will be even more successful than October and tons of furry friends will be sleeping in their furever homes soon!

Monday, October 11, 2010

And my bubble bursts again...

I won't be changing the picture above.  At least not yet.

After my thrill of getting Ink adopted - and to someone who works at the same place I do - I get plummeted on the roller coaster again with a text message from a volunteer friend that he was brought back.  After a day and a half.

They said he was "too destructive and wouldn't go in the crate".  This after they promised me they'd give him time to adjust, take him to obedience training, and call me if there were any issues.  Nope, let's just dump him back at the shelter.

I'm working from home today so I can't seek him out to get further info on what "destructive" was and I'm afraid to email him because technically if he complained about it, I could get in trouble for using work email for personal use.  I could use my personal email since he's actually employed by a different company (that provides tech support for the the company I work for) but again, god forbid he claims harassment or something.  I'll just wait until I nab him on a smoke break and will try to be as civil as possible to find out exactly what happened so I can prepare the right adopter for him.

The thing is, I'm worried this may be Ink's 3rd strike as he was returned twice before.  In those cases, it was a small child issue.  He should have never been adopted out to a home with small children the 2nd time.  Now, he could be deemed "unadoptable" because he's been returned 3x.  I've got to find him the RIGHT home quick!

What is it with people?  Why don't they understand a dog needs time to adjust to a new home?  (I've seen it with cat adoptions too)  Why do they believe they're going to get a perfectly behaved dog?  Even if you BUY a puppy (ugh), you have to do the work.

And how do we as rescue folks identify those that don't get it?  People may seem committed, they say all the right things, tell you they're going to do all sorts of stuff.  How do we know when they're not?  Once again, this is what ends up making the adoption process harder and gets people annoyed when they have to jump through a million hoops to adopt.  I could say too bad if they're annoyed, then they aren't committed.  But that's not necessarily the case.  Before I myself got involved with shelters, I thought what the heck, why do they have to make this so difficult, the dog is homeless for crying out loud.  (of course I still jumped through the hoops and was approved so maybe that's still evidence of commitment)  If people get sick of the runaround and go elsewhere for a dog, does that mean they wouldn't have been a good home?

But back to Ink.  I ADORE that dog.  I also know my limitations.  I have 3 at home.  If I take in another one, I won't be able to still spend the time that I do at the shelter while giving my own the attention they deserve.  Plus, thinking in the long term, I have a teenage son who will be going off to college in under 2 years.  Could I honestly take care of 4 dogs by myself when he goes?  It will already be a big adjustment for the 3 I have.  Before I talked myself into the 3rd, I had said 'no more dogs than people in the house'.  If I didn't work in addition to volunteering....oh to be independently wealthy.

Well, I just got more of the scoop.  The new owners went grocery shopping Sunday morning (they adopted him Saturday afternoon). They couldn't get him to go in the crate, so they put a muzzle on him (which he's never had on him before) and locked him in a bedroom.  When they returned....ooh wait here comes the shocking results of that brilliant decision....the rugs was all torn up and the wall scratched.  Couldn't have seen that coming, could ya?  Now we all know that they have those amazing time sensitive deals at the grocery store, so there's really no time to spend working on getting a dog into a crate.

If someone I had only known for less than a day, no matter how nice they had been to me, locked me in a room and put something strange over my head and nose and mouth, you can bet the rug and the wall wouldn't have been the only things destroyed.

I better stop typing now before my sarcasm gets too out of control.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

Today was a fantastic day for adoptions!  Not only were 8 adopted out, there's also additional 2 applications that I know of that are looking very good.  And, 2 of the dogs were my "focus" dogs and one of the apps is on my 3rd "focus" dog.  Time to pick my next 3!

One of the volunteers said again, "see, you're the good luck adoption charm!"  The thing is, my first streak of dogs was really on some easy adopts.  They were well behaved, no restrictions, incredibly friendly.  They just needed the exposure.  But today's two -- they were challenges.  The first (who's actually pictured above -- time to change my picture too :) couldn't go to a family with young children because he gets a little mouthy when he plays and he was brought back once before for nipping a child.  The second is a sweetheart, loves all people, loves to be held and hugged, loves kids.....but she had a big issue with little dogs even though she was pretty little herself.  She had come in with a bigger dog that used to bully her -- I think that was her way of compensating.  Anyway, her new momma was thrilled when I told her how she liked to be held and hugged and liked being on a leash better than off -- she likes the connection.  Her new family wanted a dog that would sleep in their bed and she's going to be thrilled to accomodate them!

There's still all kinds of people petty issues going on and I've just taken on even more responsibility because of it (hence the drought in my posts) but today was one of those days that really makes all the BS worthwhile.

I can't wait to see how many we get out the door and into their furever homes tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tomorrow, Tomorrow....

I am so looking forward to tomorrow night.  Our kennels are reopened and I'll get to see all my sweet pups again.  I think not being able to get my sloppy kisses from them, not to see how much they appreciate us, not being able to get them directly in front of potential furever families made all the stressors so much the worse.

I made it through my volunteer orientation group last night without feeling like I was giving a spiel.  They seem like a great bunch and one of them already signed up to do an offsite this weekend.

I do wonder however, should I have prepared them for the drama that is coming as a result of this past weekend's bad decisions?  Volunteers have somewhat divided.  Not in respect for each other thankfully, at least for the most part.  Some are staying away and choosing to figure out how to publicly protest in the hopes of making changes for the long term good.  Others like myself, have chosen to do all the good we can do for the dogs that are still there.  The staff however is up in arms.  We who are still there are walking a fine line in the middle.

It's funny -- when I first started doing this, I was coming off a 3 1/2 stint on the board of another non-profit that was all people related and I needed a break from the silly pettiness of people.  Talking about how much I adored what I had moved on to, I stated that the dogs don't care how well something was planned or not planned, they don't criticize, they don't say after the fact how they could have done something better.  They don't call you up and scream at you about an event date change.  They just appreciate every little thing you do for them.  I even said, there's no politics.  How naive I was back then!

As I got more and more involved with the planning, organizing, strategizing.....well, that's when we 2-legged folk make everything so complicated and drama filled.  But this time....this time I can withstand the frustration and the criticism and the lack of common sense and egos and all of it -- because in the end it's still all about the 4 legged folk.  I'm making a difference for them.  When the going gets ruff, I can go through my pictures of those now in their furever homes and smile.  And yes, I will also once again cry as I hit upon the pictures of those I didn't save...and be inspired to go on by the pictures of the ones I can still save.

No orientation tomorrow night, no other people duties....just me and the ones who matter again.  I can't wait -- and I know they're going to jump into my arms again too and give me "I missed you" kisses!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Roller Coaster Continues...

I have often described the volunteer work I do as a series of highs and lows that come at breakneck speed.

Literally, I have always loved roller coasters.  I'm scared to death of heights, but the adrenaline, the thrill of conquering fear, of surviving...well just the fun of it....I like them.

Figuratively however, I'm not at all loving the roller coaster of my shelter volunteering.  Especially after today's low.

I spent most of the day today at an offsite event.  It was the first where I had cats to adopt out since I'm mainly a dog person and since the kennel is still closed for kennel cough (I did have 2 dogs from foster along with us).  I was nervous because I've never done offsite cat adoptions and my experience with the cats at the shelter was primarily that I'd go hang out with them for a little bit after I did my dog thing.  I didn't have any experienced cat volunteers with me and I was the lead; everyone looked to me to know what to do.  Luckily for me, the feline manager at the shelter was awesome and gave me everything I needed and everything I needed to know to be able to handle it.  While we didn't adopt out any animals this time, we got some good leads, some new volunteers, some exposure for the shelter, some donations and an offer from the business to come back and do it all again.  It would have been a much bigger high if I had gotten at least one adopted out, but I was feeling pretty good that I didn't screw anything up!  I thought about some ways we could do things differently next time and considered it a great learning experience.

Then I got back to the shelter.  While unloading the car, one volunteer immediate came up to me and asked if I had heard about the fight yet.  Down the slope we go....

One of the very dog aggressive dogs that was not up for adoption was being kenneled next to a dog that is up for adoption but was being monitored because shelter stress was leading him to severely drop weight.  This dog was a volunteer favorite.  Just last week, he spent the day at work with a volunteer and was going again next week.  He'd been to a black tie fundraiser with a volunteer in heels.

A volunteer was about to walk him when the dog kenneled next to him broke through the kennel and attacked him in his own kennel.  She was able to break it up but not before he had in self-defense bit the ear of the attacking dog.

The attacking dog was put down almost immediately.  And then the word was out that the attacked dog was now also being considered for euthanization.  I tried to reassure a couple that it wouldn't happen -- I said come on, he's even the favorite of one of the board members.  But the board doesn't make the decision.  What the board decided on ages before is that 4 out of 6 designated people must sign off on a euthanization.  And only one out of those 6 positions spends any amount of time with an individual dog and that position is currently vacant.  When it was filled, she was frequently given a hard time when she refused to sign off.

The volunteers quickly rallied and tried to influence the decision.  They found a rescue that would take him.  One offered to take him home that night.  But while she was making calls and wasn't there to see, he was removed from his kennel and killed.  4 people signed off on it.  They deemed him unadoptable.  Because he was capable of defending himself.  Because he didn't lie down and take it.  Because he was a pit bull.

We're a "no-kill" shelter.  We've got a 95% save rate.  But that 5%...well, it sure beats the heck out of the 95% kill rate the other large shelter in our area has.  However, when killing is determined based upon a faulty decisioning process and the undefined term of "unadoptable" by people who are barely familar with the dog, it certainly doesn't seem to wash with me.

This one has really rattled me.  With Jigger, there was a human bite involved.  With others there was human aggression involved or extreme inability to redirect at just the sight of another dog.  But a dog who was just defending himself?  And the board hides behind "4 people signed off".

I really feel like the organization is losing its core focus and what drove me to volunteering there and I don't know what I can do about it.  This is a long downward slope and I can't yet see the upward slope leading me to the next high.  What if this time I don't survive?  What if there's just no adrenaline left?

I've got a new volunteer orientation scheduled for Tuesday night.  Right now, I can't see how I can do my "spiel" without getting sick.  Because that's what if feels like to me at this moment.  Just a spiel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wow! My very first award!

Being a new blogger, I was thrilled to receive this award from my furiends at 24 Paws of Love

Doggie blogging for me has been a way to take a step back from all the doggie volunteer activities I do and release some frustration, celebrate victories, mourn over battles lost, and think about ways to do things differently.  I blog here anonymously because I'm often less than diplomatic when I vent and do not want to burn any bridges with any of the "gatekeepers" (those of you in rescue know exactly the fine line we walk).  And because this is often my place to vent, I don't want to give people the idea that the organization I volunteer at is a bad place -- it's wonderful!  But like anywhere, there's always room for improvement that doesn't come as quickly as we'd all like.  And of course there are 2 legged egos and different opinions and personalities that can make things tougher than it has to be.  Finding so many others out here in blog land that share the same feelings or give me ideas about different tactics to take or just plain educate me has been a wonderful experience that I'm incredibly grateful I have found.

So...thank you thank you thank you!  Now, here's the rules that come with this award!
1.Please thank the dog who gave this to you, and link to them.

2.Name 10 things about yourself. Try to be as creative as possible.

3.Then, award 15 doggie bloggers. It doesn't matter whether they are old or new. All furends deserve this.

4.Comment on the new receivers of this award's blog to let them know of the love.

5.And the most important: HAVE FUN!!!
Thank you again 24 Paws of Love for my very first award!

10 Things You May Not Know About Me:

1.  When I first started down the volunteer road, I had the perception of pitties the media had fed me
2.  I LOVE doggie slobber.  I love big huge dripping with drool jowls!
3. The black dog syndrome in rescue was a suprise to me; I have 3 black rescues myself and love the tall, dark and handsome (or beautiful) ones.
4. I often can't stop myself from reading all the stories of abuse and neglect and bawling the night away
5. I have a day job that has absolutely nothing to do with animals -- but it provides me with the financial security to pursue my passion for them.
6. I'm incredibly lucky to have a wonderful teenage son who shares my passion.
7. I can't sleep without the sound of loud doggie snores nearby
8. I've run out of room on my car for anymore doggie magnets
9. I buy old ugly stuffed animals at yard sales because I can't bear to see the cute ones torn apart by my pups; but I love to see the joy they get from tearing apart the ugly ones!
10. I believed that dogs couldn't really see tv until my lab began watching Animal Planet with me.

15 Doggie Bloggers Who Also Deserve This Award!

1.   The Voice for the Voiceless
2.   A Dog Rescuers Life
3.   One Girl, Too Many Animals
4.   For the Love of Dogs
5.   Hound Girl
6.   My Brown Newfies
7.   Nanook and Pooka
8.   Oh Corbin
9.   Pawsitively Pitbulls
10. The Adventures of Maddy the Puggle
11. Twinkie Tiny Dog | Teacup Chihuahua
12. Stray Thoughts and Stories from a Dog Rescuer
13. Amazing Animal Lovers Blog
14. Doggy Days
15. It's a Ruf Ruff World

Thanks again 24 Paws of Love !

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I have a tendency toward analogies.  It helps me to make sense of the world and make decisions or form opinions based upon how I relate to previous decision or opinions I hold.

As an animal advocate, they most often relate to things in the animal welfare world.  Today I was obsessed with BSL and various analogies came to mind.

Gun laws:  Criminals use guns, should all guns be banned?
Cars:  Car accidents are the leading cause of death of people aged 15-44  Should we ban driving until your're in your mid 40's?  Some of  these deaths are pedestrians or passengers.  Maybe we should just ban all motor vehicles?
Men:  Most domestic violence is performed by a man.  Should we eliminate all men?  Keep them in a highly secure area?
Thunderstorms:  You have a higher chance of dying from a lightning strike than a dog attack (of any breed).  Should we legislate that people must remain indoors during a storm?
Water:  Drowning was the leading cause of death in children aged 1-4 in 2007.  Should water be outlawed?
Hoodies/Jeans/Sneakers:  Some criminals wear hoodies.  They also wear jeans.  And sneakers.  Should we label anyone wearing this attire a criminal and dangerous?

Okay, okay, but the critics would start talking genetics and breeding.  We could get into a whole nature versus nuture discussion here.  But to continue with my analogies....

Alcohol: The risk of becoming an alcoholic rises if your parent is an alcoholic.  Should we euthanize all children of alcoholics?
Mental Illness: Mental illness can also be hereditary, should we euthanize children born to the mentally ill?   After all, aren't they "bred" to be mentally ill themselves?

The bottom line to me is that every dog is an individual, just like people are individuals and nature and nurture work together.  I have a rescued newfoundland that hates the water.  I'm Italian and talk with my hands but I'm also allergic to tomatoes (talk about being the black sheep of the family!)  Of course I am a "mixed breed" so maybe the allergy came from the other half.

We simply cannot discriminate against an entire breed(s) of dog because of the actions of a few as horrible as those actions are.  Again, the critics would say that the potential of a large breed or a dog with very strong jaw strength makes them a dangerous dog, but my analogy comes right back -- a bodybuilder could potentially do more damage to we get rid of strong people because they potentially could murder someone?

I totally get the emotional charge here and it's hard for advocates to defend without seeming like they are unsympathetic to the victims and their families.  But if my child were murdered by let's say a Swedish person (no offense to the Swedish intended) I certainly wouldn't be advocating for the decimation of all Swedes even if all Swedes happened to be very muscular strong people.  Depending on your view on capital punishment, it would make sense to be advocating for the decimation of that particular Swedish person and punishment for anyone else who may have played a role in it.