Bella Goes To the Park

I recently took Bella, a pit bull at the animal shelter I volunteer, to the park. It was a gorgeous day, and she deserved a reprieve from the mostly noisy and crowded shelter for a little while.

I’ve been spending some extra time with her for the last few months, so every time she sees me walking through the shelter, she goes to the front of the kennel and stares curiously at me, with a tilt of her head, because she thinks I’m taking it her out.

A fellow volunteer once commented that “when Bella looks at you, it’s like she’s looking at your soul.” I knew what she meant. Bella just has those soulful eyes.

 

          Bella 4

Usually, I walk Bella to a park close to the shelter, but this week I decided to take her for a car ride to a park she’s never been before. Lots of new scents! As we walked out of the shelter, the wag of her hard tail quickened when she realized she was going for a car ride. I rolled the windows down just enough for her to squeeze her boxy head out and feel the wind at her face. When I caught her trying to climb out the window, I abruptly closed the windows. No shelter dogs jumping out of moving cars on my time.

 

Bella 2

 

I parked the car, and since I was warned by the director of the shelter that Bella excitedly darts out of cars when taking her out, I proceeded cautiously. Bella, however, waited patiently as I hooked her up to a leash. Once out of the car, she was anxious to get to know this new place.

It’s always so wonderful to watch shelter dogs enjoying their time away from the stressful kennels. Bella sniffed the trees, ate some grass, watched curiously every person we passed, and acted a little too reactively to a dog. But once I got her back into a heel, she found her serenity. She didn’t tweak at all when we passed a group of about 15 geese just five feet away from the trail we walked. Bella was definitely intrigued by the feathered animals, but she seemed happy to pass them by.

Bella liked waking close to the water. She kept looking out over the water. I didn’t blame her. It was a beautiful view.

Bella 3

 

 

 

I will aim to take her for a car ride once a week and get her back to this park she seemed to love so much. My hope is that someday soon it will be her own family taking her for car rides and visiting her favorite park. Until then, I’ll love her like she’s mine.

 

Bella is a pit bull, and that usually automatically means that she’s going to have a tougher time finding a home. That’s definitely been true in her case, because she’s just too sweet of a dog to have been at the shelter for as long as she has. Pit bulls not only have to overcome the stigma attached to the breed, but they also have to endure the many city bans against the breed, as well as landlords who won’t rent to pit bull owners, and insurers that won’t insure properties with the breed.

These are the obstacles these loving dogs have to face while trying to find homes. Is it any wonder why most pit bulls don’t make it out of shelters alive? If you’re looking for a dog, please give the pit bull/pit bull mix sitting in a kennel at your local shelter a chance. Their time most likely is running out.

 

Please support your local animal shelter. Donate. Volunteer. Adopt. Foster.

 

 

Shelter Dogs are Not Broken.

A friend on social media recently asked for recommendations for local dog breeders. She described the kind of dog she’s looking for, and since the animal shelter I volunteer at has dogs that match perfectly to those descriptions, I suggested my shelter to her. She was not open to the idea of adopting right now because she has a toddler daughter, but she said maybe when the girl gets “much older.”

I left it at that. I didn’t press her by asking why she thought she couldn’t adopt a dog with a toddler. Everyone has a right to get a dog where they want. I advocated for a shelter dog, as I will always do, but she went the other way. That happens.

That was the end of it until another person, we’ll call her Sally, joined in on the exchange and agreed with the woman that she shouldn’t get a rescue dog with a toddler. Sally said she wouldn’t adopt when her kids were young, and now that she has grandchildren, adopting is again out of the question even though she feels bad for shelter dogs.

I couldn’t keep quiet. I was cordial. No cussing. No writing in caps. But I couldn’t stand by and let these two women imply a falsehood that shelter dogs are more dangerous than other dogs. There is no truth to that. I have never seen any scientific research that states rescue dogs are inherently more dangerous than dogs that come from breeders.

I responded by first acknowledging that people can get their dogs anywhere they want, but I politely asked that they stop spreading this falsehood that families with toddlers shouldn’t adopt. Hundreds of families adopt from my shelter every year, and thousands across the country, and we can’t let the sentiment be that those parents are putting their kids in danger because they went to a rescue.

It is true that some dogs come to my shelter with behavioral issues because of the abuse they endured at the hands of a human, but animals are temperament tested and it is decided which dogs can be in a home with children. Dogs suffering from the effects of an abusive background work with a trainer to help alleviate their issues, and then they are placed in a compatible home. But if a parent is concerned about a dog’s past, shelters are filled with puppies. I know mine always is.

If a person decides not to rescue a dog and be a part of the solution to reducing the number of dogs killed every year, then at the very least don’t deter other people from adopting by spreading untruths about shelter dogs. At the very least, speak up for rescue dogs. Encourage other people to adopt even if adopting doesn’t fit your needs. Donate to your local shelter. Volunteer. Give a shelter dog your time. They deserve it.

Millions of dogs enter shelters across the country and never make it out alive. The odds are already stacked against shelter dogs, please don’t make it harder for them to find homes.

Be their advocate.

We are their voice.

 

I've waited for you

Did you know

 

 

 

Victor

Last week I went to the animal shelter I volunteer at and was meant with tragic news. A dog that had been with us for over a year had died some time during the night. The news was devastating, but not shocking. Victor had been going through medical issues for a while. The shelter had been asking volunteers for months if anyone would take him in an a permanent foster so that he could live out whatever life he had left in the comfort of a home. The problem was that Victor needed to be in a home with no other pets. Most volunteers, like myself, have pets at home.

It was sad to watch Victor spend his days in a loud and crowded shelter. It’s a stressing place to be. No place for any dog, let alone a sick, older guy. He was nine. He had come to the shelter when he was eight. The circumstances to how he ended up with us are not fair at all. Victor had been living a good life with his owner on property the owner managed. Then a new landlord came in, took one look at Victor (an American Bulldog) and said that dog’s got to go. Suddenly Victor found himself in a shelter where he stayed until the day he died.

Victor didn’t bite anyone. He didn’t attack anyone. He did no harm. Yet, still he got locked up. That’s what a shelter is to a dog. Even shelters like mine, who treat their animals with loving care and give them all the medical attention they need, are still prisons to these dogs. Shelters are not supposed to be permanent homes, but way too often, too many dogs die there. Either naturally due to medical/age reasons. Or by euthanasia because there is juts not enough space for all of them.

But there would be if more people got involved to help with this overpopulation epidemic this country has. I saw a picture on social media last week of a line of people waiting to foster dogs before hurricane Florence came. My first thought was, where are all these people when local shelters and animals controls have to kill dogs for lack of room? Why is the thought of a dog dying in a hurricane so much worse than a dogs getting a needle or the gas chamber that people flocked to line up to take these dogs in? I’m glad they did, but where are they all the other times a dog’s life is in danger, which is every day?

Maybe because there’s more hoopla with a hurricane. People feel like they’re doing a bigger deed when they foster or adopt a “hurricane dog” as opposed to just a regular dog from the local shelter. I remember when Hurricane Harvey happened and many local shelters, including my own, took in many of those dogs left abandoned and people came out in droves to help out.

Again, it’s great that they do that, but where are they when dogs are killed every single day? It is beyond frustrating. You’re not a bigger hero when you save a hurricane dog as opposed to a dog sitting in a kennel with the clock ticking against it. Most dogs run out of time. Maybe shelters have to be more vocal about what will happen to these dogs if they don’t get out. The shelter I volunteer at is no-kill. I have that luxury of knowing the dogs I come to love, like I did Victor, will get all the time they need to find a home. But they’re still racing against the clock because the older a dog gets, the less likely a person will adopt them. And as in Victor’s case, sometimes your health takes you before you find a home.

Victor deserved better than taking his last breath alone in a kennel. He deserved to be in a comfy bed or snuggled on the couch with his human who loved him, but he was cruelly taken away from his human. He just wanted a home with a bed and lots of hugs and kisses.These breed-specific-laws and breed discrimination has to end. Victor wasn’t a danger to anyone. He was a shelter favorite.

Victor was a goofy, gentle, and playful dog, despite the pain his condition put him through. Make no mistake, Victor was loved where he was. It’s hard seeing his kennel empty and will be even harder to see his kennel with another dog in it because for over a year I have been used to seeing his beautiful face. Miss you. Love you.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter. Please don’t go to breeders or pet stores while shelter animals die.

 

 

Give a Shelter Dog a Look

I was talking to a fellow volunteer at the animal shelter tonight and with a very somber tone she told me that fifteen of her friends have gotten their dogs from breeders, some just recently.

She was disappointed because everyone who knows enough about her to be considered a friend, knows that she volunteers at a dog rescue. Yet, not one of those friends had inquired about any of the dogs at the shelter.

She expressed to me her disbelief that her friends had not considered giving a home to a shelter dog since millions of dogs are killed each year because shelters run out of space to keep them. “They all want purebreds,” she’d said hopelessly.

I knew what this woman was feeling. I have friends, family, and neighbors who got their dogs from breeders, and I have a hard time with it too. I know everyone has the right to get their dog wherever they want (a breeder or those dreaded pet stores), but it’s so hard to understand why a person wouldn’t jump at the chance to save a life.

When you’re involved in rescue and see these amazing animals that are so deserving of loving homes, as well as being around other volunteers who also see adoption as the only option, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole part of the population that has never stepped foot into an animal shelter or have any consideration for their lives.

People in rescue think about the lives of these animals all the time and want to save them all, and it’s easy to assume everyone else does too, because…why wouldn’t they? These are homeless dogs we’re talking about.

Yet, there are people who think shelter dogs are broken and dirty and don’t live up to the status they feel having a pure-breed brings. Not everyone is like this, but I’ve seen and heard stories about enough of them to know there is sometimes a stigma attached to rescue dogs.

I’d like to help break this. If you’re reading this, and you have never considered rescuing a dog, please do. Give a shelter dog a try.  I promise, it will quickly become the best thing you’ve ever done.

I have a pit bull mix that I adopted. I would say pit bulls are my favorite breed, but really, rescue is my favorite breed.

Please rescue your next pet.

 

This is Sevvy. She’s a dog who has been at my shelter for almost two years. She is great with people, but has issues with other dogs. Still, she is so deserving of a loving home because she is am absolute sweetheart.

When searching for your next pet, please don’t overlook the ones who may not be perfect on paper, like Sevvy. She may need some extra work and patience to overcome her dog aggression, but she is definitely worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Why You Should Adopt Your Next Pet

I write a lot about shelter animals on this blog. They’ve been a passion of mine since I rescued my pit bull mix, Phil, from my local Animal Control facility seven years ago and started volunteering at my local humane society.  I advocate for people to get their pets from shelters, as opposed to pet stores or breeders, because I’ve seen first hand the many dogs in need of homes.

Human failure is usually the reason these innocent babies end up in shelters and the reason for these dogs’ pain, so humans should be the reason they are saved. We owe them that.

For every scared dog, there is a human who brought fear into its life.

For every dog needy for attention, there is a human who never showed it affection.

For every dog emaciated, there is a human who let it starve.

The place I got Phil is an open, public facility. They have room to house 300 dogs, and last week they sent out an SOS all over social media that they are full, and they put out a list of super urgent dogs–dogs that are days or even hours away from being killed.

Last month, this facility was in the same situation they’re in now. They were full and begging for people to adopt or foster their dogs. The public came through, and there was a record number of adoptions for January.

Lots of dogs were saved.

But then February crashed the party and adoptions slowed, while the line of people surrendering their dogs to the facility splayed out the door. If eleven dogs were adopted, twenty-nine were left at the shelter by their owner.

This is another way humans fail these dogs–they give them up. Shelters are filled with animals people no longer want. The most common reason is the dogs’ families no longer have time for them.

It’s heartbreaking because after a life of living in a home, these dogs are left in a stressful, crowded place, filled with barking dogs. These confused dogs have no idea what is happening or why they are there.

Some dogs simply shutdown.

I’ve been monitoring the Animal Control’s Facebook Page to keep up with the status of the most urgent dogs, and it seems I’m not the only one. There is an entire community of people networking for these dogs. It’s so inspiring to see and gives me so much hope that more people are seeing that dogs in shelters are not broken, and they are deserving of a home.

Millions of dogs are killed every year. Please adopt your next pet. If financial reason are keeping you from adopting, please consider fostering. Shelters and rescues pay all expenses. If you’re concerned about getting attached to a dog and then having to  say goodbye, I understand. I’ve considered that, too. But I decided my temporary heartbreak is worth saving a life.  If fostering isn’t an option for you, volunteer at your local shelter, or support them by donating.

Phil wants the rest of his furry friends to find their furever homes, too.

 

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Rupert, A Shelter Dog

A week ago, I received the best news. One of the dogs that had been at my shelter for eight months was finally adopted. I was ecstatic. I cried a mixture of happy and sad tears.  Happy tears because this little guy, Rupert, was so deserving of a loving family (they all are), and sad tears because I had developed a special bond with Rupert.

I was his handler for over five months of training courses. He wasn’t a very good student and together we failed the first Basic Training class, but in the second go-round we were head of the class. 🙂

Rupert had come to the shelter as a rambunctious 7 month old boxer/pit mix whose previous family used drugs in lieu of proper training to keep this energetic puppy under control. This lazy approach wasn’t effective, but with a lot of work from all the shelter volunteers, Rupert learned his manners and became a very polite little boy.

Three days ago, Rupert’s new family returned him to the shelter. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking this sweet baby home only to have second thoughts. But despite the tremendous strides Rupert had taken in his behavior, a chaotic life with young kids may have been too much for him. When Rupert saw the children playing he most likely got overly-excited, and when he decided he wanted to play too he scared one of the kids.

That was all it took for Rupert to find himself back in the confines of his little kennel. I went to see him today. He doesn’t seem too phased by what happened. Maybe he thinks he was just away on a mini-vacation. I hope that’s the case. The last thing I want is for this little guy’s morale to break. I’ve seen dogs shut down in shelters and it’s an awful sight to witness.

Until the day some other lucky family discovers this gem of a dog, I’ll enjoy whatever time I have left with this sweet baby and give him all the love I can.

If you’re considering getting a pet, please visit your local shelter. So many wonderful animals, like Rupert, are waiting for their furever home.

 

PETA Sucks

I hate PETA. I haven’t been shy about sharing my feelings about the group that claims to be fighting for the ethical treatment of animals. I base my judgement on a piece written by the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, as well as an incident that occurred between PETA and a chihuahua named Maya.

In the article, (the link is posted at the bottom of post) Newkirk writes about her support for policies in some shelters across the country to kill “pit bull” type of dogs the moment they walk through the door. There is no getting to know the dog. No temperament testing. Nothing. I don’t believe PETA will even scan for a microchip to find an owner, who may be frantically looking for their lost baby, because PETA doesn’t believe this breed should be pets. They only believe this breed should be dead.

This action doesn’t seem very ethical to me. Newkirk argues that she is doing the dogs a favor by killing them because pit bulls are the most abused breed. She may be right about that. Pit bulls have been, and still are, used in dog fighting. But because pit bulls have been so abused should make people want to take them in and show them love for what could be the first time in their doggie life.

Newkirk goes on to tell stories of people who have been hurt by pit bulls. I believe people have because I know someone who has been hurt by a pit bull. I also know someone who has been hurt by a St. Bernard, another person by a Rottweiler, someone else by a Boxer, and another by a Labrador.

No one will say to ban the entire breed because of those attacks, but if the incident involves a pit, then the entire breed gets blamed. Discriminate much?

I have a pit mix so stories like these are personal to me. No one can tell me pit bulls can’t make great dogs. I live with one, and the shelter I volunteer at makes sure to take in a set amount of bully breeds, as well as special needs dogs. There are currently five pit bull mixes in my shelter that houses twenty dogs.

Those pits will get all the time they need to get adopted. One pit has been thee for six months and the other, eight months. They are terrific dogs that love people, but the stigma that is attached to this breed seems to keep people away. Luckily, my shelter is no–kill so those dogs don’t have to worry about time.

But that isn’t the case in most shelters. These dogs have a time-clock on them and people like Newkirk aren’t helping their case at all. There is nothing ethical about an animal rights group supporting the killing of an animal just because of the way it looks.

No surprise that PETA also supports Breed Specific Legislation, which can ban certain breeds from cities and apartments and homeowner’s associations. PETA is working for legislation that will ban pit bulls everywhere. They truly want this breed dead.

I hope people will stop donating to this awful group so that one day PETA will be dead. No more. Gone. We don’t need them.

If you want to help animals, donate to your local shelter. They need the money more and are most likely saving more animals than PETA. It seems PETA kills more than just pit bulls. According to The Center for Consumer Freedom, PETA killed 72% of dogs and cats that came through to their shelter in Virginia. Per this article, that is 16.3 times higher than other shelters in the state.

Reputable animal groups usually do their best to keep their kill rate as low as it can be. Not PETA. The group recently paid a family $49,000 for killing its Chihuahua, Maya. You can watch the video on YouTube of PETA workers luring the tiny dog into its van and records show that PETA killed the dog five hours later. PETA was so excited and anxious to kill that dog, they didn’t even wait the mandatory five day stray hold.

It is sick that a supposed animal rights group loves to kill animals so much, but they do. I was horrified when I saw PETA’s white vans enter Texas for the hurricane. Those dogs had a better chance against Harvey than they did against PETA. Rest in Peace, sweet babies.

Let’s work to put an end to this sick group.

 

My Phil, enjoying cuddle time. He deserves to live. All those dogs that PETA kills do.

 

Just a few pit bulls that were lucky to have come through my shelter, and not PETA, who have been adopted. Beautiful babies.

 

 

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Controlling-an-animal-as-deadly-as-a-weapon-2629558.php