Tag Archives: animal shelters

Can’t keep your pet?

I took this from Facebook and shortened it some. Be warned: it is a chilling story. If you haven’t got time or money for a pet, don’t get one. But if you do have, please consider adopting one – or another one. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 10, 2011.)

St. Thomas Times-Journal ad for animals at City Shelter, Apr 7/11 shelter manager

You can’t keep your pet? Really? By A Shelter Director (Everywhere)

Edited by MuttShack.org (Click title for the entire Facebook post)

As a shelter manager, I am going to share a view from the inside. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would stop flagging the ads on craigslist and help these animals find homes. That puppy you just bought will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore.

They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her. We know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog.” There’s a 90% chance she won’t leave the shelter alive. Purebred or not! About 25% of “owner surrenders” or “strays” that come into a shelter are purebred dogs.

72 hours

Your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog stays completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies.

Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose.

Big, black or Bully breed

Black_dog_looks_up_at_the_camera_17-08-2004-Andre-Engels-wikicommonsIf your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc.) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those dogs just don’t get adopted, no matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long.

Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because the shelter gets paid a fee to euthanize each animal and making money is better than spending money to take this animal to the vet.

Euthanasia 101

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”. First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there. It’s strange, but it happens with every one of them.

Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 shelter workers depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a shelter worker who we call a euthanasia tech (not a vet) finds a vein in the front leg and injects a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

No money for tranquilizers

Shelters are trying to make money to pay employees and don’t forget the board of directors needs to be paid too. So we don’t spend our funds to tranquilize the animal before injecting them with the lethal drug. We just put the burning lethal drug in the vein and let them suffer until dead. If it were not a “making money issue” and we had a licensed vet do this procedure, the animal would be sedated and then euthanized. But this would cost more so we do not follow what is right for the animal. We just follow what is the fastest way we can make a dollar. Even if it takes our employee 50 pokes with a needle and 3 hours to get the vein, that is what we do. Making money is the issue here not losing money.

Stacked like firewood

When it all ends, your pet’s corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer with all of the other animals that were killed. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? Or used for the schools to dissect and experiment on? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hate my job

I deal with this every day. I hate my job; I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless people make some changes. Do your homework, and know exactly what you are getting into before getting a pet.

A_lost_dog-28-Apr-2010-Beverly-and-Pack-wikicommons
“This girl was once loved and lived in a home with a couple, even sleeping with them in their bed. The woman discovered she was pregnant and they dumped the dog at the pound, stating they did not care what happened to her. This beautiful girl’s name is Bryndelyn.” – Beverly & Pack, Wikimedia Commons

Animal shelters are an easy way out when you get tired of your dog or cat. Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I just hope I maybe changed one person’s mind about taking their dog to a shelter, a humane society, or buying a dog. Please repost this to at least one other craiglist in another city/state. Let’s see if we can get this all around the US and have an impact.

Acts of kindness

Amazon link #BeccaToldMeTo
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From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb. 3, 2012. Reposted in honour of Rebecca Schofield of #BeccaToldMeTo acts of kindness renown.

Ms. Schofield, of Riverview NB, passed away Feb. 17, 2018. She wanted to make the world a better place, she said. Becca, you did. Visit BeccaToldMeTo and you too can see just how much she achieved.

This week, I stopped at Elgin Animal Hospital to check their Caring Pet Cupboard donation bin. There was a bag of cat kibble in it, high-quality food sold by the clinic. There’s usually a bag cat and kitten eating side by side - acts of kindnessor two of it in the bin and it’s never past its expiry date. It’s always that same kind. So it didn’t seem likely it was excess stock the clinic wanted to clear out. It is always unopened, so it didn’t come from someone whose cat didn’t like it or had passed away.  It being there with such regularity made me wonder who provided it. But I hadn’t asked.

This day, the receptionist looked at the bag in my hands and smiled, “Mrs. [–] was in.” She explained when she saw my puzzlement. “That food comes from her.” All the way home, I felt good knowing there’s a lady out there who makes a point of coming in and buying a bag, sometimes two, of this food for other people’s cats. She’s probably got cats of her own to feed. With rebagging one of her bags, she’s also feeding 8 other cats for a week.

A Day for Acts of Kindness

farm cats investigate dog and cat food deliveryLast Wednesday Feb. 1st was “Random Act of Kindness Day” here in St. Thomas/Elgin. It was designated in honour of the late Laurie Houston. Her family had suggested that everyone do what she had done throughout her life: something nice for someone – just because.

Caring Pet Cupboard

In the past year, with the Caring Pet Cupboard, we’ve been seeing a lot of those acts from kind people. The lady who buys the cat food for our bin at Elgin Animal Hospital is one. The lady who always buys a couple extra cans of cat food at Pet Valu “for the poor cats” is another. She buys in bulk, they told me, for her own cats and the neighbourhood strays and ferals. But she always puts a few cans in our bin as well. Two boys who buy a box of dog treats for our bin when they come with their mother to buy food for their own dog.

German Shepherd waiting to eat his dinnerThe people who think of our bins or the animal shelter when their pet passes away. Partial bags of special diet food along with cat toys never played with, geriatric care dog food. Sometimes you can piece the story together just from the kind of food. I want to give those people my condolences on their loss, but I don’t know who they are. Still I thank them. Another cat or dog with kidney problems or diabetes is going to have the special food they need because of the thoughtfulness of those bereaved people.

The stores who give us their unsold or extra food and supplies. “It’s better than throwing it out,” they say. The pet food companies that take their corporate citizen role seriously and make donations of food to us and to animal shelters. Also department stores that donate pet food directly to the food banks.

dogs watching cat eat - are you done yet?From the small bag of kibble you hoped would tempt finicky Fluffy but didn’t, the extra can you bought for the donation bin, all the way to skids of food straight from the manufacturer – it’s added up. In this past year over 5 tons of kibble, nearly 600 cans and lots of treats have gone to people who need help providing food for their pets and to rescue groups. Random or not, all these are acts of kindness. Thank you.

So this is Christmas

From the St. Thomas Dog Blog, December 2011, this is my summary of STDOA events and animals of the year.

dog looking through decorated gate into yard D StewartChristmas – and what have you done. Looking back at 2011, I am proud of what STDOA has done. It has been a hard year in St. Thomas, with plant closures and the world economic debacle. A deluge of abandoned pets in the city reflects that.

It was last Christmas Eve that I put the first Caring Pet Cupboard blue donation bins in local businesses. In one year, we have collected 5,439 lbs of kibble in 11 bins and another 4,355 pounds from Darford Pet Foods and Royal Canin. We have distributed all of it, plus hundreds of cans and treats, to people who need help feeding their pets.

But the pound and rescue groups are overwhelmed with unwanted dog wearing reindeer antlers D Stewart STDOAanimals. The need to pool resources to deal with the staggering numbers of animals led to the formation of the Animal Coalition, of which STDOA is a member. The Rogers telethon we all hosted raised nearly $6,000. Our thanks to all who contributed.

City Council struck a committee this year to deal with animal welfare. City staff and volunteer rescue groups sit on it. Joe Spencer represents STDOA. The pound has extended its hours and redesigned its website. So getting pets home should be easier. Treatment of incoming animals, particularly emergency vet care for sick or injured animals, has been discussed and steps taken to have basic care done. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s an improvement.

The creation of the City’s Animal Welfare Committee and the Caring Pet Cupboard are due, in large part, to two dogs. In the fall of 2010, Bear was abandoned at Dalewood Conservation Area and Bosco was left tied to the St. Thomas pound fence. Their plight struck a chord for all of us. They have happy endings to their stories, both now with new homes.

the late dog, Myles, euthanizedOther dogs haven’t been so lucky. Myles, a dog at the pound (photo at right),  needed help to trust people. But he was euthanized. A sick small dog just two nights ago died from unknown causes: unknown because vet care was not authorized. I hope their deaths serve as a reminder that care is owed to all creatures.

STDOA + Cats

Through our new “subsidiary” Charity Cat, STDOA is now involved with homeless cats. When our Caring Pet Cupboard has excess food, cat with Santa hat D Stewartwe take it to rescue groups and cat caretakers. In getting to know those dedicated people, we found out their other needs. For feral cats, it’s money for spaying/neutering and vaccinations. While raising money for that, one member inadvertently became a cat caretaker. Someone left a box of cats, literally, on her doorstep. So she’s looking after them and seeking new homes for lovely cats and kittens. Solved the problem of unwanted cats for some people and gave her the problem instead.

STDOA had the sorrow of the deaths this year of our first president, Luanne Demers, and our friend and supporter, Gord Burt. We miss them dearly.

Happy Holidays to all. Enjoy Xip and John Lennon.

Redemption: Shelter Plan B

Nathan Winograd with cat Shelter Plan BMy impression after reading about Nathan Winograd is that it’s animal shelters that need redemption. He is Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in the US and is giving a lecture and workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Apr. 14th [2012] . I don’t get star-struck that often, but this sounds like one very impressive man.

In 1993-94, he turned the San Francisco SPCA from a kill processing plant to a shelter where animals got homes. Killing healthy animals “declined 100 percent” and for sick or injured animals “it declined by about 50 percent” (Redemption). He did the same at the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York.

Are these places with less of an ‘animal problem’? Not likely. If you can do that in San Francisco, heart of ‘disposable land’, or upstate NY amid wilderness that people would see as perfect for dumping Fluffy, you can do it anywhere! Here is how Mr. Winograd looks at shelter management, from a 2007 article by Christie Keith.

“If … motherless kittens are killed because the shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive foster care program, that’s not pet overpopulation. That’s the lack of a foster care program.

Amazon link for Redemption
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“If adoptions are low because people are getting those dogs and cats from other places because the shelter isn’t doing outside adoptions (adoptions done off the shelter premises), that’s a failure to do outside adoptions, not pet overpopulation.

“…If animals are killed because working with rescue groups is discouraged, again, that’s not pet overpopulation. If dogs are going cage-crazy because volunteers and staff aren’t allowed to socialize them, and then those dogs are killed because they’re quote-unquote “cage crazy,” because the shelter doesn’t have a behavior rehabilitation program in place, once again, that’s not pet overpopulation; that’s the lack of programs and services that save lives.”

Animal Shelter Plan B

Commonsense, when you approach it from the shelter side of the equation. “If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission… And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter’s director.”

Lab looking out from shelter pen, Wikimedia Commons, NhandlerHe describes his second day at the Tompkins Co. SPCA. “’My staff informed me that our dog kennels were full and since a litter of six puppies had come in, I needed to decide who was going to be killed in order to make space. I asked for ‘Plan B’; there was none. I asked for suggestions; there were none.’

“He spoke directly to his staff, saying, ‘Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says, ‘I can’t do it,’ I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?’”  Wow.

Nathan Winograd’s publications:

Welcome Home: An animal rights perspective on living with dogs & cats

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

Irreconcilable Differences: The battle for the heart and soul of America’s animal shelters

All American Vegan: Veganism for the Rest of Us

Friendly Fire

Reforming Animal Control/Building a No Kill Community Resource CD.

1 day body count of dog and cat corpses in 50 gal drums at pound
1 day body count at pound – click image to go to Imagine blog

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 5, 2012. See comments below.

Diseases of Friend and Foe

(From Aug. 5, 2011 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog)

When Waterworks Wally got his shots last week, his vet tested him for diseases I’d rarely heard of in cats. He was tested for FIV (cat HIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV).

The doctor said FIV is “a disease of foes,” transmitted by Cats lying on settee, peacefully - no diseasesblood exchange usually through fighting. Leukemia (FELV) is “a disease of friends,” transmitted by saliva shared by grooming another cat or eating from the same bowl.

Without knowing Wally’s history, the chance that he might have either disease was too great. If positive, special care would have to be taken if he were around other cats and the vaccines he would be given would be “dead” instead of “live.” That’s if it was so far progressed that euthanasia was the only humane option. Both diseases are incurable.

Two cats tested for diseases

FIV and FeLV were on our minds right then. Earlier that same day, my husband took a feral cat to the vet to be fixed and vaccinated. There are many dumped and wild cats living around his shop. This year a male and female have been living in the yard.  Kittens too, we suspect, half-grown by now.  They evaded the live trap for a long time, but the male finally was caught.

Feral cat in VirginiaA dumped house cat becomes wild fast enough if he or she is to survive, and, if not fixed, produces kittens born feral. Within a year, those kittens are producing another generation of feral cats and on it goes. TNR, “trap, neuter and return,” is a humane way of controlling the wild cat population by stopping that cycle.

When the vet saw our wild cat’s battle scars, he tested for FIV and FeLV. Very positive for FIV. He didn’t have long to live but he’d pass the disease on in a feral cat colony. So wild cat went to kitty heaven, balls intact.

Wally was negative, thank goodness. Maybe, as someone told me, I am being “holier than thou” in assuming he was dumped. If thinking that abandoning a creature is a despicable and cowardly act, then I guess I am. If Wally is just lost and not found yet, I only want to reunite him with his person and commiserate on the panic you feel when your pet is missing.*

So many cats

But I see that feral cat who had to die due to a preventable disease. I see a pound full of unclaimed cats. A small town with two large cat shelters  – overflowing with cats. I see dog rescue people exhausted by trying to look after dogs people leave tied to doorways, or to wander in the woods or be hit by cars. Volunteers Kitten climbing bars of cage in shelterstretched to their physical and emotional limits tending animals and raising money for kibble and vet bills.

Trying to keep up with the mess left by people who let their cats have litter after litter because “the kids like kittens.” The people who think it’s unmanly for a dog to be neutered. The ones who figure selling pups on Kijiji is fast, easy money.

I had told the vet tech that Wally couldn’t have been wandering long because he had no fleas. She said, “That feral tom Jim brought in this morning? He didn’t have fleas either.” He was only about a year old, they thought. Scars of many fights and a fatal disease. Probably never knew the shelter of a building. But he didn’t have fleas. Poor kitty.

*Wally never was claimed so he’s still with us.

The Miracle of Birth

A while ago, I met a man, his son and their two dogs.  I was making a fuss over the dogs, and the boy said “she’s going to have babies”.  The Kylie & Pups St. Louisdad confirmed it.  She was purebred, he said, as was the father of the pups.  So I figured daddy dog wasn’t their other dog, an unneutered male, but not the same breed.  Both dogs were about 2 years old, and after the puppies were born, the man said, they’d have both dogs neutered.  But they wanted her to have one litter of puppies – for her sake, for the kids to see.

“A Good Dog”

I didn’t say much about it, other than asking if they were breeders.  “Oh no, just she’s a good dog and we know people who’d like one of her pups.”  I agreed that neutering them was certainly a good idea.  They seemed like nice people.  They had got the female from a breeder they know who enters his dogs in field trials (she was a hound).  This guy wants to hunt with her.  She clearly was a beloved pet, both dogs were. Her people knew and appreciated her lineage even though they weren’t into dog showing or competitions.  Probably those pups will get good homes.

But what I wanted to say – scream even – was why?  why?  why? You’re not breeding her at the request of her breeder, so that her pups can add to the prestige of his kennel.  You’re not, fortunately, breeding her so you can make some extra money off selling them on Kijiji.  You are doing it so she has the experience of having puppies and so your children can watch the miracle of birth.  Nice, family-oriented ideals – but why?

Why, at age 2 with no breeding plans in his future, was the male not Penny & foster pupsalready neutered?  Why do people think it’s necessary for a dog’s fulfillment to have puppies?  And why is deliberately letting a dog (or cat) get pregnant the only way to let your children witness the giving of birth?

A dog adjusts very quickly to being neutered.  At least, it’s quick if he’s young.  When older, when used to being “Mr. Testosterone”, the adjustment can be harder.  Still, the adjustment he has to undergo is preferable to the fights he’ll get in, the roaming he’ll feel compelled to do, and the unwanted puppies he’ll create given half a chance if he is not neutered.  A female dog does not feel she’s missing out on something if she never has puppies.  There is no health benefit for her in having puppies.

Foster Pups

If it’s important to you that your children witness birth and the first weeks of animals’ lives, there are other ways of doing it.  There are always irresponsible people who let their dogs or cats get pregnant, then don’t want to be bothered with them.  Those pregnant animals end up in shelters or wandering the streets until they get picked up by the dog catcher.  In every city and town, there are animal pounds and rescue groups looking for foster homes for pregnant dogs and cats.

You can take the mother in and look after her, experience the miracle of birth and help her look after the newborns.  When they are old enough to leave their mother, the babies and mother will go into the foster/adoption system.  You can have the joy of nurturing a mother and her babies and you have a support system finding homes St. Thomas, Ontario, Aug 2010 pound sign no cats acceptedfor them.  You’ve got what you wanted for yourself or your kids. You’ve helped animals in need, and you haven’t contributed to the problem of too many pets and not enough homes.

Anyone willing to foster a pregnant animal for a couple of months can witness the miracle of birth.  Unfortunately, the supply of unwanted and/or unneutered pets so far seems inexhaustible, so finding a needy animal to foster isn’t likely to be a problem.

Contact a local shelter

If you can foster a pregnant dog or cat, contact All Breed Canine Rescue, St. Thomas Animal Control, Animal Aide or Pets/Friends 4 Life.  The miracle of birth will be just as miraculous and moving.

The dog and her 12 puppies in the top photo is Kylie.  An elderly feral dog, she was rescued by Stray Rescue of St. Louis in Missouri while pregnant for the umpteenth time.  The middle photo is of Penny who, after weaning her own puppies, nursed a litter of abandoned pups.  She, and they, were at Save a Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue in East Sparta, Ohio.  The third photo, in St. Thomas ON, speaks for itself.  What happens to the cats and dogs when there’s no room at the pound?

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 14, 2010

Bear

“A sad Goodbye to Bear, the dog who you may remember that was abandoned at Dalewood, that became a ABCR rescue dog. Bear was Bear-2015-FBadopted by a young man who dearly cherished this sweet boy and lived the rest of his life well fed and very much loved until cancer took his breath from him today. RIP Bear.” Mar. 15/16 ABCR Facebook

St. Thomas people and pets have a lot to thank Bear for. He caused a pet food bank to be set up, and major policy and procedure changes to be made in Animal Control. Below is a post from my St. Thomas Dog Blog that tells his story and, after it, a bit of what happened next. My condolences to Bear’s family.

Dumped and Found (Oct. 2, 2010)

The Dalewood dog is found and at the City animal shelter. His name is Bear. His is a story more of sadness and desperation than thoughtless cruelty. It sounds like a desperate man took what he thought were his only options. For whatever reason, he had to be ‘dogless’ by the next morning (moving? an apartment? I don’t know). But he didn’t have the $50 for the pound surrender fee. So he fed Bear a good meal, and took him to Dalewood and left him. Then he called All Breed Canine Rescue and told them what he’d done. People went looking for Bear, and they found him.

I can’t be angry at this man anymore. I’m saddened and frustrated. I wish he’d phoned ABCR first. But maybe he feared he’d be refused (Bear) pound #233 Sept 29again unless he could pay. Maybe he figured desperate action would get him the result he wanted – a good home for his dog. It’s still Bear who paid the biggest price. He still wandered around alone, looking for his person, wondering how he’d lost him. Bear is a Lab/Shepherd cross. I don’t know much about Labs, but I do know Shepherds will not lose you easily. No matter what they’re doing, they will always do their best to also keep track of you.

Shelter Fails

There has to be a better way of dealing with unwanted and stray animals without making the animals pay the price of abandonment. People are discussing ways of reorganizing the management and operation of the City shelter. The idea, in essence, is to involve the city’s animal rescue groups in the administration of the pound along with the City. What’s needed is a focus on education and actions to reduce the number of animals needing the services of the pound and finding homes instead of euthanasia or refusal to accept animals.

This type of thing is being talked about in City shelters across the country. Calgary has a very good model which has been very successful. I wrote in an earlier post (Giving Shelter) about the manager of the St. John’s Animal Control Shelter who had created a pound environment very different from the usual cages of dogs and cats left essentially alone. Change must be made in our Animal Shelter. It is doable and it’s urgent. With job losses, the number of animals needing the help of the pound and rescue groups will increase. That is on top of the normal levels of strayed and abandoned pets.

Changes Bear made

In early October 2010 a committee was struck to assess and improve operations of the St. Thomas Animal Shelter. Shelter employees, City staff and rescue group members have worked to better reunite lost pets with Charity-Cat-TNRtheir people, started a spay/neuter programme, and held micro-chipping clinics.

After thinking about pets like Bear – dumped maybe only because of lack of money, we in the STDOA decided to try to make a change. We started a pet food bank.

With the Caring Cupboard, the local human food bank, and other businesses in town, pet food was collected and distributed to those in need. In the first 10 weeks, over 1,000 pounds of kibble went through our hands. The programme is still going, and tons of kibble, canned food, litter, leashes and dog beds have been collected and distributed in St. Thomas and Aylmer in those six years. I think it’s helped a lot of people keep their pets during times of financial difficulty. And it’s all thanks to Bear.

Home for the Holidays

Don’t give a dog as a Christmas present.  At least not as a spur of the moment gift.  But if you are planning to get a dog anyway, why not?  If you are aware that your “present” is alive and, with luck, will live many years, you will give an enormous gift to the dog as well.  A home – permanent and loving.

Home for the Holidays "No one came, now I'm gone" dog

Adopt

The St. Thomas Animal Shelter gives you a $75 spay/neuter rebate when you adopt an eligible pet (at least did so at time of writing).  Wherever you live, if you can give a dog or cat a home, please do.

Adopting from a rescue group or pound rather than a pet store or off Kijiji or Craig’s List means you also are not supporting puppy mills or backyard breeders. Support “No-Kill” shelters, but adopt from any shelter or pound.  Don’t let more pets be killed just because they couldn’t get adopted in 3 or 7 days.

Donate

If you can’t have a pet, give to an animal shelter or rescue group.  Money is always welcome, or ask what is needed.  They always have a wish list of goods they need most.

Sponsor/Volunteer

If you’d like a connection with a specific dog but can’t have one, sponsor a shelter dog.  You give a monthly donation in the name of that dog and you’re welcome to spend time with “your” dog.  If your shelter doesn’t have such a programme, you can do it unofficially.  Shelters generally always welcome volunteers who will play with dogs, walk them and clean kennels.  That’s a way you can spend time with your special dog and help all of them.

Foster

If you could have a dog but can’t commit for the long term, consider fostering. You’ll have to give him or her up when a permanent home is found, but you’ll have the fun of canine companionship until then.  It’s work too.  You have to properly socialize the dog, but you’ll learn as much as the dog does.  If you’re a post-secondary student and wish you could have a Puppy (or Kitty) Room at home, talk to an animal shelter near you. Some are happy to have students foster dogs and cats.

Transport

If you like driving, volunteer with a group such as Open Arms Pound Rescue.  They need people to drive animals to new homes or to shelters where there’s a better chance of finding homes.  If you’re a pilot and love excuses to go flying, check out Pilots N Paws (USA) or talk to your buddies about setting up something similar in conjunction with a rescue group or shelter.

Everything above also applies to cats, horses and other domestic animals.  There are rescue groups for all of them across the country.  Give an animal somewhere a very happy holiday season.  It will make you happy too.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 10, 2012, minus information on adoption events specific to that time. (Below and right are Amazon links to some Christmas dog stories that look guaranteed to make you cry happy tears.)

 

Movin’ dogs: An underground railway

dog underground railway Sept 2008 photo D StewartWho can resist this little face! Small, friendly terrier mix desperately needs a home. House-trained, healthy 1 year old male.

That might have been the ad for Charlie placed by the pound near Lexington, Kentucky where he was in September 2008. Maybe he never was advertised. That pound, like many in the US, was overcrowded that summer. It was the height of the subprime mortgage collapse, house foreclosures, abandoned homes, abandoned pets. Charlie might have been one of those pets, or he may have come to the shelter by a different route and got lost in the crowd of dogs. Either way, no adopter and no shelter space meant he was scheduled for euthanasia. It didn’t happen. Charlie is “top dog” in my house, thanks to a reinvented underground railway.

Dog Underground Railway

Open Arms Pound Rescue is a rescue and transport group based in Ohio. They work with US pounds and US and Canadian animal rescue groups, Charlie at the dogpark 2010 photo John Blake moving dogs from pounds to shelters to foster and adoptive homes. Photos and descriptions of dogs on ‘death row’ are posted online by the pounds or Open Arms. Rescue groups and individuals arrange to have dogs brought to them and Open Arms organizes the transport.

Volunteers drive dogs from one town to another, where they meet new drivers and transfer the dogs to their vehicles for the next leg of the journey. Dogs are left in receiving shelters and homes along the way, and dogs are picked up. The relay continues north. When the dogs are safely across the border with their final American drivers, they are met by Canadian volunteers and are driven on to their receiving shelters or foster homes.

Lois, of All Breed Canine Rescue in St. Thomas ON, saw Charlie’s picture while checking for ‘last chance’ dogs scheduled to be put down. She earmarked him and other small dogs for the next transport. She didn’t have adoptive, or even foster, homes but she figured she’d be able to place these little dogs. For big dogs, it’s not so easy to find homes. They aren’t ‘pulled’ from pounds unless someone specifically asks for them.

We wanted a dog, but were still recovering from the deaths of two dogs and a cat. Fostering seemed like a good ‘grieving time’ option – have the company of a dog, but don’t get attached. Charlie was supposed to only stay overnight until his foster home could take him.

Little and Big

“Aaahh,” I thought when I saw him peeking out of the pickup he arrived in, “isn’t he just the cutest ever!” I’m not a small dog person, so I was somewhat immune to his charms. But within five minutes of seeing him, my husband said this dog’s not going anywhere. I made some calls and Charlie stayed with us as a foster.  His picture was posted on ABCR’s website and enquires started.

Charlie 2008 photo Dorothy StewartWe had to decide quickly. Jim was all for keeping him. And Charlie had quickly claimed a spot in my heart. But I still wanted “a real dog” you could take long walks with. Also, if Charlie got a good home, we could foster another, less adoptable, dog. Charlie was happy with us but, that early on in our relationship, he’d be happy with anybody who loved him and kept his belly full. I did a lot of soul-searching and, in the end, decided to be selfish. We adopted him.

A month later, in another Open Arms transport, I got my ‘big dog’. A Standard Poodle, Leo came out of five years as a stud dog in a puppy mill. He started with us as a foster, and there was a lot of interest as soon as his picture was posted.  Again a decision was needed and Leo made it:  frightened, needy and weird, he adopted us.

Adoption Geography

Two highly adoptable dogs – unadoptable in their home Leo-Oct-2008-photo-D-Stewartcommunities. How many cute dogs must there be in pounds for a dog like Charlie to be overlooked long enough that he’s going to be put down? How many purebred and ‘designer’ dogs must there be that rescue groups send Poodles and Labradoodles across the border? Supply and demand of dogs are often out of whack: too many dogs in one area, not enough in others. Too many dogs leads to abandonment and needless euthanasia, too few dogs leads to ‘backyard breeders’ and puppy mills finding ready buyers willing to pay exorbitant prices  for pups. Groups like Open Arms Pound Rescue try to even out the supply and demand problems by sending dogs unwanted in one area to places where there are homes for them.

The internet has made dog rehoming much easier. If you want a particular type of dog, you can just search through petfinder.com or breed rescue groups and find ways of getting together with a dog no matter where he or she is. Breeders of purebred dogs have been doing it for years, sending pups across the country or further to new homes. Now rescue groups are doing it for stray and abandoned animals too. And we’ve got two of them, my Dixie Dogs I call them.

Charlie 2009 photo Dorothy StewartBy the way, I found out little dogs can walk just as far and just as fast as big dogs. Charlie goes like a little steam engine and, the few times he gets too tired to walk, I can carry him home.

It’s seven years since the dogs came to live with us, and five years since I posted this on my St. Thomas Dog Blog (Jul. 15/10)

 

Lost and Found

Amazon link Lost and Found: dogs cats and heroes by Elizabeth Hess
Click for Amazon link

Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter is a wonderful book. Elizabeth Hess, a New York City arts journalist and author of Nim Chimpsky, writes about volunteering at the Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter near Hudson, New York. She and her family were among the “weekenders” who travel between this rural area and the city. When her daughter wanted a dog, they found one at the shelter and Elizabeth found a world that she hadn’t known before. She volunteered and kept notes.

I’ve had this book for a while, but put off reading it. I thought I would cry too much. I did, and got angry, but not as often as I feared. That’s due to Ms. Hess’ writing. She is empathetic but analytic. She acts as a camera, showing us a whole picture from her perspective. She records events and puts them in a larger framework. She says what she thinks about it but lets us draw our own conclusions.

A box of kittens

One story stood out for me. A “week-ender” came into the shelter one hot summer day, saying he’d found kittens and couldn’t keep them. Elizabeth knew him from gallery events in New York City, so they chatted about new shows and gossip in the artsy crowd. Finally he remembered the kittens and said they were in a box in his car! But the heat inside a sturdy box with only “a few pencil-sized holes” had done its job. The kittens were already nearly dead. “While Fitzgerald was chatting with me… the cats were in his car baking.” She doesn’t need to say that clearly this urbane man didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain (or bring kittens out of the sun) or that she felt guilt for not asking the cats’ whereabouts. Both things are there, between the lines.

rescue dog Max before and after picturesThe Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter was a county operation, and therefore responsible for cruelty investigations as well as taking in owner-surrendered animals and strays. It adopted animals out and, at the time, also euthanized.* It had animal quarters in the shelter and used foster homes and farms. Knowledgeable people committed to the well-being of animals staffed this shelter, fortunately.

Grim circumstances for heroes

Ms. Hess talks about puppy mills and describes a raid on one. She talks about euthanasia of animals for no reason other than homes have not been found for them. She takes us into the euthanasia room and introduces us to the people who do the killing.

A story from a euthanasia technician: just after euthanizing a young dog sick with pneumonia, she saw the young couple who had surrendered her. She overheard them excitedly talking about going to the pet store and what kind of puppy they would buy. They asked how their other dog was. “She’s such a good little dog.  You’ll have no trouble placing her.” The Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter, poster for Animal Art at 2012dog’s illness was curable, but this couple evidently didn’t want to be bothered, and the shelter was full. The “good little dog” had been killed.

You become engaged in the stories and you think long and hard about the issues. This book is neither fluffy animal tales nor a diatribe.  It’s a valuable ethnography of our society’s treatment and attitudes towards pets and those who clean up the mess. And, yes, it’s also about heroes.

*The shelter’s website states: “We do not euthanize animals for space constraints.” (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 13/12)