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.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The core group of volunteers that I belong to will each admit -- we're addicted.  We simply cannot stay away from the shelter we volunteer at.  No matter how frustrated we get, no matter what new silly rule is instituted, no matter how burnt out we may be feeling.

Once we get there, it's all over.  We get our fix of sloppy kisses, hugs, playtime, stress relief, and overwhelming joy when we find one a home.

And right now we're all in withdrawl.

I had NINE dogs lined up for a great offsite event and being able to get that many volunteers for a particular Saturday was a great triumph.  And then another 5 for an offsite next Saturday.

And then they closed the kennel.  Some dogs came down with kennel cough and they're being "overly cautious".  No volunteers, no adoptions, no offsites.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to take sick dogs out and expose them to the public.  But there are healthy dogs there and the sooner we can get them adopted out, the less likely they are to catch it too.  And there are people willing to adopt and/or foster even the sick dogs.

But the "no volunteers" thing is really making me crazy.  They can use our help more than ever.  Some of the staff have told us that it is taking them forever to get all the dogs walked, watered, fed, and bedded without us.

Two weeks of no dog volunteers...ughhh!  I took my own 3 rescues for really long separate walks (I usually take them together) to compensate and I love my babies, but I miss the shelter pups and I just imagine them cooped up with only short potty walks....

I've got some of our foster dogs lined up for offsites which will be good for them since they don't get seen as often, but this is such a missed opportunity for so many of the others.

The core group of volunteers is so wonderful.  This post took me forever to type and is probably so full of broken thoughts because while I'm typing it, one of them is IMing me and we're chatting about all the wonderful dogs that we've found homes for.  It makes the withdrawl we're all going through bearable.  It reminds us that we'll keeping finding them homes and that 2 weeks is not a lifetime.  Meanwhile, we'll promote our fosters and the shelter itself.  And some of us dog people will even help out with the cats!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Return Policy

Another one of our adopts got returned after one week of going home.  This time - because he pulled too much on the leash. Puhleaseee!

First of all, the adopter spent time with the dog before adoption and was informed and felt for herself his strength and was advised to take him to obedience training.  Come on people, you expect the shelter to do ALL the work?  The dog is spayed, up to date on shots, microchipped all for a measily adoption fee of $75 and you expect to get a perfectly trained dog too?  Even when you knew he wasn't when you took him?

Once again I can see why this type of PEOPLE behavior leads rescuers to get too strict on adoptions.  We struggle with figuring out whether the adopter is going to be a good pet owner or not.  And we have to balance trying to figure out whether they are committed for life with making sure they bring the animal back to us if they can't care for it anymore.  If we make it too easy, we get these stupid reasons for returns.  If we make it hard, they could take the animal to a kill shelter, just let it loose, or something worse.  And if we are too strict on adoptions, less get adopted out, we run out of room and more end up at the kill shelters.

And once again, I do the anthropomorphism type thing in reverse by thinking -- if these people's kids had an undesireable behavior, would they just send them off to an orphanage?  When the world was outraged at the woman who tossed her newly adopted russian boy onto a plane back to russia, why don't people get outraged about it with family pets?  These adopters did not seem to be "bad" people....are we extreme animal advocates the exception to the rule on our belief that we've made a life long committment to the pets we've brought home?

I really don't think you can "educate" to change people's values.  I believe we can educate to change people's beliefs about pit bulls, the importance of spay/neutering, and to give alternatives to giving up a pet when a family is unaware of options/programs that can help them keep their pet.  But can we educate people on what commitment means?  That pets are not property, they are living, breathing, feeling, beings?

Maybe we need to put a whole lot more emphasis on working with kids if we ever want to change people's attitudes because I truly believe you develop your values early in life.  Hmmmm....maybe I'll have to see about doing some presentations at schools.

Yeah, because I have so much free time to do all these things!  But once again...all I can do is try and do as much as I can to help change the world for them.

On a separate note, I lost the battle of saving Jigger.  He and 2 others were put down over the weekend; one totally unexpected and to the dismay of many staff members and volunteers who adored her and despite the begging by one particular staff member who was there.  I can't even blog about it all now....I'm numb.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Jigger's mandatory quarantine is over and he's still with us....for now.  The entire dog staff is on his side; unfortunately only one of them has sign off power.  Turns out, his new owner gave him a big bear hug while he was eating.  Come on!  That's the time you think is appropriate for a bear hug?

I have hope because he's still here....but he's still in staff only and not up for adoption.  The staff tells me it's quieted down a little and they're hoping the fuss will just fade.  They did let me go down and see him tonight and he was the same ole happy go lucky Jigger even with the limited socialization he's been getting.  He was jumping up on the door with an "aren't you here to spring me?" look.  Then he rolled over onto his back for a good belly rub....which was hard to do through the cage.

I can understand how rescuers/shelters can start making it difficult to adopt.  Another long-termer got adopted tonight and as I was talking to the family I was listening for any cues that would make me think they'd end up bringing her back. Which was silly since their dog that they adopted from us 8 years ago just passed away.  But I do get nervous now because of what happened with Jigger.  I have to remind myself that's the exception, not the rule....even though we have quite a few who were returns.  Over the weekend, I met people who  adopted one of my all time favorite dogs who were in looking for a playmate for her.  They showed me pics of her now and she's being spoiled rotten. :)

We've really been moving them out lately and it feels so good.  But of course, as soon as once goes, a bunch more come in.

So many things to hope for.....
I hope Jigger gets a pardon and finds the RIGHT home.
I hope the special training we're getting for Snow, our deaf dog and longest resident helps her get the home she needs.
I hope people stop treating their furry family like used furniture that they can just toss out.
I hope more people spay and neuter.
I hope more people chose to adopt, rather than shop.
I hope bully breed dogs get rid of their bad rap.
I hope we truly become a no kill nation.

All I can do is hope and try to make it all happen...