Tag Archives: Rescue

Murphy

Wow, has it really been a month since my last blog post?  I’m sorry.  There has been so much going on, and I’ve let this go unintentionally.

Just recently, we’ve added a new permanent dog to our household.  It’s not the way I thought it would happen, and I am so glad that I hadn’t recently followed through with my desire to adopt and bring home a missing pet search candidate to train, because things might have ended differently for this dog.  Murphy was returned to our rescue after three and a half years in a loving home because of a bite that sent his human girl to the hospital.  It was provoked- he was grabbed and startled when he got loose while out on a walk, and he was reacting to that fear- but unfortunately, we can’t erase mistakes even when made in earnest.

When a dog bites so severely, there are few options.  It is irresponsible to attempt to rehome this dog, even if a rescue deems it “rehabilitated”- stay away from groups that claim that an animal’s aggression is rehabbed and gone, because they are showing serious inexperience with dog behavior.  Management and safety will always be a necessary part of that animal’s life from the moment of the bite until the day the dog dies.  This leaves the following options.  First, the adopter/owner keeps the dog forever, providing management and seeking professional help to work out the cause of the behavior, following any dangerous-dog laws that may encompass their situation.  Second, if returned to a rescue group, the rescue may wish to keep the dog forever but this is only humane, in my opinion, if they are providing a quality home environment for the dog, not permanency in a shelter/kennel.  The last alternative is euthanasia.

When I picked up Murphy, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but I was pretty sure we were going to have to go with the last option and had, in not as many words, told the family so.  He was reportedly very bad with most other dogs, and we’d seen this during his first stay in our rescue so we knew it was true.  He had bitten someone that he had known for many years very badly.  There was not much we could do and it seemed unlikely that keeping him would ever be an option.  I had run through all the possible scenarios many times in my head on the three hour drive to the arranged meeting spot three hours away.  I had come to the decision that if he needed to be euthanized, I could provide that last kindness for him with as much peace of mind as is possible in such a sad situation.  Once arriving at the meeting place and seeing the profound love the adopters had for this dog, though, all that changed.  The obvious heartbreak they were feeling was a testament to the wonderful dog that he is.  After a day of crying and soul-searching while this dog napped at my feet, only one option seemed right and my husband and I adopted him ourselves.

Murphy is good with the dogs, if a little unsure what to think about them, and he has bonded with me, deciding that I am A-ok.  He already responds pretty well to me and wants to spend as much time as possible sitting with me.  He laid at the gate at the top of the stairs all afternoon yesterday while I was cleaning my guinea pig and rat cages, even napping at one point but making sure that he knew where I was.

Let me back up a bit now.  Four years ago I had a dog, Buddy, that arrived as a foster the day before “Matty,” the dog that became Murphy.  While Matty went to another foster home, Buddy stayed with me due to his issues. Buddy was horribly insecure and had a history of biting. His saving grace was that he never bit hard enough to really be dangerous. I worked with him for six months before making the decision to adopt him. We had bonded deeply by that time. Buddy’s routine involved classes and training at home to help build his confidence, exercise and socialization, and we used medication, supplements and other measures to help him get over his fears.  He was a horribly anxious dog, would pick fights with the other dogs out of fear/insecurity, and was starting to display severe symptoms of anxiety when I was not home (even if my husband was) and during any mealtime. After a year and a half together, we made one last trip to the vet to release him from his suffering. I loved him so much, and was not the same after losing him. Every day had revolved around keeping Buddy happy, and then he was just… gone.

I see a lot of qualities in Murphy that my Buddy had- not just quirky insecure behavior but the good ones, the endearing things that I remember when I think of him. Even when I look at Murphy’s face, there is something there that I see that looks so familiar. Murphy obviously does not have the depth and severity that Buddy had, but his root issues are the same and it feels so… normal… to work with them again. It is strange to think that they became “STAR”s in the same weekend, and are so similar, and now both have ended up with me. Having Murphy here is actually comforting because it feels almost like I didn’t lose Buddy, not completely. Buddy would stand sentry at the top of that gate when I cleaned cages, too, and so yesterday, though I wished Murphy would go hang out with my hubby, there was something in that simple act that made the void Buddy left feel way smaller. I had to say goodbye to Buddy and have always wondered if I could have done something differently, or if there was some other way to keep him here.  Euthanasia is a serious, permanent situation that I only believe in as a last resort and though I don’t regret doing what I really believe was the right decision for my mentally anguished dog, I’ll always wonder if I’d done everything I could.  I have spent a lot of time learning about dogs and behavior since his passing, hoping I never end up in a situation like that again.

Maybe Murphy is here because we both needed a second chance.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Personal, Pets, Rescue

Rescue means rescue

Cody's rescue backed out of their commitment to him, leaving his fate uncertain if we had not stepped in to take him.

I wish I didn’t feel that there was a need for me to make a post like this, but after the experiences of the past week, I know that there is.  If you are following my blog or know me on Facebook, you already know that I am an animal rescuer (among other things…)  I assumed that responsible rescue was something with a real definition and generally understood protocol that were in place, but now I see that mileage varies among people in the “rescue” world.

What is Rescue?

I cannot speak for others, unfortunately, but below are the six key parameters that outline “rescue” to me.  These are the principles that govern the way I make my choices and take my actions.  I can’t say that I do the “best” job, but I can tell you that I do what is right.

1. Rescue is a lifetime commitment. We say this about adoption and attempt to drill into the public’s mind that when you adopt an animal, you are adopting it for “life.”  We tell them to be ready to commit to 5, 10, 15 years or more and we expect that they will.  What some rescuers don’t realize, however, is that RESCUE is a lifetime commitment, as well.  Once you have raised your hand and verbally agreed to accept responsibility for that animal’s life- this is, before it is even in your arms; do not SAY you will help if you don’t intend to follow through, your word is your reputation– it means you will do whatever is necessary to care for it in a way that meets or even exceeds the standards and expectations that you hold your adopters to.  Rescue requires making sometimes huge sacrifices for the sake of the animals you have agreed to help.

2. Rescue is a safety net. There must always be someone ultimately responsible for the care of each animal that is rescued and you must be prepared to be that person.  You do not get to remove it from a shelter, hand it to someone else, pat yourself on the back and move on.  Foster home placements fail, adoptions fail, things happen that we were not prepared for.  You must be that animal’s safety net because when others turn their backs, you are the one that made the original lifetime commitment to that animal (see #1.)  Note: You should microchip (and REGISTER) the animals you place because you can never be sure that anyone is going to be perfectly responsible with the animal you entrusted to them and this step can keep them from ending up in a distant shelter or PTS.

3. Rescue means rescue. The Merriam-Webster definition of rescue is “to free from confinement, danger, [harm: by proxy via “save”] or evil: to save, deliver.”  Rescue is not simply taking an animal from a bad situation or the threat of a bad situation and placing it in something kind of better.  Your duty is to keep that animal safe from all harm and danger.  This requires proper veterinary care and husbandry with no boundaries.   This means spaying and neutering to prevent your rescues from adding to the population of pets needing homes.  “Any place is better than no place at all” does NOT apply.  We hear and see stories almost daily about animal “rescuers” who “got in over their heads” by hoarding, keeping animals inhumanely or not providing proper daily care or diet.  Pulling an animal from a shelter or a bad situation in order to keep it in an inhumane or irresponsible way is NOT rescue.  Additionally, you must PLACE these animals with proper care and attention to their future homes, matching them with people that will understand and meet their needs.  Adopting them out to just anyone versus taking the time to properly screen homes is lazy and dangerous.   Take what you can handle and appropriately place, and leave what you can’t.  You are not a superhero, and rescue work is about quality, not quantity (the Starfish Story tells us this.)

Baxter had dangerous animal aggression and a human bite on his record but was not a candidate for permanent adoption in our home. In order to keep others safe without condemning him to life in a crate, we said goodbye to him. It is hard to read (harder for me to write) but this was the (unfair) decision we were forced to make.

4. Rescue sometimes means goodbyes and broken hearts. In the past, I have gone above and beyond what many of my rescue friends tell me they could have or would have done for animals in my rescue.  I have adopted most of my fosters that turned out to be “unadoptable” due to temperament or health so I could focus on giving them the life they needed and deserved, but sometimes that isn’t an option. In the saddest of cases, the last thing I can do for an animal in need is hold him in my arms and tell him that I love him and that this was not his fault, as he is put to rest forever.  This is hard, but it is a part of rescue.  If you do not have the heart to euthanize an animal and would instead let it suffer with low quality of life (mentally or physically) or languish in a cage for the rest of its life because you are too selfish to make that trip to the vet, you have NO business being an animal rescuer.  “Suck it up” and deal with the heartache, because this isn’t about you and if your emotions are more important than the animal’s well-being, you’re not a rescuer anyway.

5. Rescue is a people business. If you are rescuing animals because you “like them more than people” or think that it is an opportunity to feel superior to others, you may want to re-think your line of work.  Animal rescue is about educating others (see #6) and helping them to become better stewards for their pets.  It is about completing families and helping them find the right fit for their home.  It is about working together, with volunteers and other rescue groups, to save lives. If you are a  mean, jaded, bitchy individual, and you do not try to put on a professional front, shame on you.  The face YOU put forward is the face of all rescue.  I do not care to be considered a peer to someone that treats other people poorly.  At all times, you are responsible for maintaining the reputation of animal rescuers everywhere and that means first and foremost, you need to be NICE to people.  Return your phone calls and emails, don’t be too judgmental and don’t treat others like they are an annoyance.  Rescue is non-profit work, but it is still a business and you are supposed to be a professional.

6. Rescuers are teachers. At some point in your life, you were probably not as good a pet owner as you are now.  You didn’t know the things you know, you didn’t have the experience you do now.  Please do not assume that every person that is taking poor care of their pets is doing so because he or she is evil and abusive.  Many are simply uneducated or lack the resources to do better.  Sometimes, opening a friendly line of communication about animal care can encourage people to do some research and become better caretakers of their pets.  Sometimes, we need to be more direct and tell them what changes they can make.  Sometimes we simply grab the animals from a bad situation and run with it, but no matter what it takes I believe in the “teach a man to fish” perspective.  Yes, I want to get animals out of bad situations and that is the first priority, but if I can prevent future pets for that family from being treated inhumanely or being cared for poorly due to ignorance on the part of the owners, then I am doing more for the animal population in general.  You must be friendly and polite (see #5) even when you don’t feel like it, but if you manage to get through you may have saved many more lives than the one cradled in your protective care now.

This job is about making people happy, and helping them become better pet owners.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Japan Disaster Relief: you can make a difference!

I’ve been relatively quiet about the situation in Japan.  It is time to bring it up, however.  When Hurricane Katrina struck, the rest of the country mobilized to come together and help the people and animals that were displaced by the tragic natural disaster.  The landscape in some areas of the Gulf Coast remains empty and changed, homes ruined and clutter and debris scattered about, more than five years later.

Japan is a country with amazing culture, beautiful landscape and a rich history.  They need our help.  Stop here for a list of ways you can help. WorldVets is trying to help with donations, vet care, and relief support.   You can like them on Facebook to get real updates on their progress. Click here to see the blog hop; check out how some bloggers like Sparkle the Cat (donating $1 for every comment today…) are trying to help.  Consider donating or just spread awareness and messages of compassion and encourage others to pitch in and help.  This all goes, of course, hand in hand with supporting the efforts of disaster relief and humanitarian groups such as the Red Cross.  Japan has been an ally of ours, with an overwhelming response to Hurricane Katrina, and if we can help, we should.  When a natural disaster of this magnitude strikes, our loyalty, compassion and kindness should NOT have borders.  It’s not a nation that struggles now.  Individuals do.  There are so many things, even small things, that we can do to make a difference for someone in need.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Personal, Rescue