My Shelter Dogs

The animal shelter I volunteer at has a program called, The Buddy Program, where during non-shift hours volunteers can buddy up with a dog and take that dog for car rides, walks to parks, or give them just some extra time playing in yards. This program is especially beneficial to the dogs who have been at the shelter a long time, or the dogs who have behavioral issues and need some extra training.

I enjoy the buddy program and have adored the bond I have created with the dogs I have buddied up with.

This is Sevvy. She was at the shelter for over two years. She was my buddy. She loved car rides and trips through the drive thru for cheese burgers (no onions or pickles) and vanilla ice cream. This girl has finally found her furever home and I hear she gets car rides to parks every day (weather permitting) and I couldn’t be happier for her. Sevvy doesn’t live far from me and it is my hope that one day I will run into her.

 

Gypsy was a sweet pit bull with the most gorgeous clear eyes. She loved snuggling with her blankets in her kennel. Whenever she’d see me walk into the shelter, she’d raise her front paws onto the chain link and wait for me to come to her. I’d pet her through the fence and she’d try to clasp onto my arms and lick my face. She was a snuggler that was finally adopted after two years.

 

 

Rupert was a brindle boxer mix that spent around a year or so at the shelter. He was a typical boxer in his crazy and fun (unruly at times) demeanor. He came to the shelter as just a young untrained boxer who wanted to do nothing but run and jump and chew and tug on everything, especially your sleeves. He needed a lot of extra training. He became my buddy and I took him to a lot of training sessions. The progress was slow but steady, and eventually Rupert calmed down and he was adopted last year. I’m so happy for him. I ran into Rupert at an event for the shelter last summer and it was so awesome to get dog kisses from him and know that he remembered me.

 

Sable was my first buddy, and as they say, you never forget your first. I was a couple months at the shelter when I took her on as a buddy. I was still getting used to being around a lot of dogs at once, mostly highly stressed dogs who were very unsure of me. I’ve learned some dogs will take to you quickly while others, pending on how they were treated in their past, take some time. Sable was a dog who I just loved the moment I saw her and she showed no reservations toward me. We simply took to each other from the start. She was a sweetheart and she became my buddy. I spent extra time with her in the play yards and it got to the point where every time I’d walk in the shelter, even during my regular shifts, she’d jump up and stand in front of her door, waiting for the guillotine door to open.  I always felt so bad because she couldn’t understand that I was there to clean the kennels, not take her out to play. So she’d just watch me with perked ears, waiting for me to walk to her dog run and open the door.

When I got word she was adopted after many months of loving my time with her, I went and said goodbye to her. I brought with me a bag of treats for the family to take and sat with her in her dog run and cried. It was my first goodbye with a dog from the shelter that I had grown attached to, so I was a bit emotional. I handle these things better now. I still cry, but they’re happy tears now.

 

I once asked a man who’s been at the shelter over twenty years how he handles saying goodbye to long-term dogs. He responded, “It’s like sending your kids off to college. You know they’re on to better things.”

Very good way to put it. That’s what every volunteer at a shelter hopes for. That every animal that leaves finds a better life. I’m grateful that I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and know all the animals there will get all the time they need to find a home. Dogs in kill shelters sometimes only get days.

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider you local animal shelter. If there’s a high-kill shelter near you, visit that one first. A dog’s life is running out somewhere.

 

 

We Could Save Them All if We Wanted To

I spent a couple hours today at the the animal shelter I volunteer at. The unusually warm weather we’re experiencing for this time of year affords me extra time to take the doggies out into the yards.

Like many people, dogs don’t really like the cold weather. Unless, the dog is a husky. If the dog is a husky then it relishes the cold and snow.

We don’t have any huskies with us right now, so while this awesome weather is around I intend to take advantage of it and get my furry friends outside as much as I can.

But I was a little more adamant today, than other days, about setting aside time for the shelter. Last Friday, my shelter took in fifteen dogs from animal control in Oklahoma because they were overflowing with dogs, as many animal controls unfortunately are. All of these dogs were on their last day, scheduled to be euthanized. 

While I was in the yard with one of the rescued dogs, Heather, a brown lab mix, I thought about all the poor babies that never make it out of the horrible places their trapped in. Being in rescue you hear a lot of stories, and their all terrible, but the horror of it all is more real, palpable, when you can hold a dog and understand why it is shaking, or look in a dog’s eyes and are aware why they’re petrified; because you know their story.

Heather is a young, very scared dog because she was taken from a property that had over two hundred dogs and one large trough. The big, stronger dogs got all they wanted, leaving the weaker, smaller dogs to fight over scraps.

Heather was shy and unsure when I took her out of her kennel, and she didn’t want to follow me right away. But when I gave her the time she needed and showed that I wasn’t going to force her, that she was in control, she slowly made her way toward me.

Once we were in the yard, I let go of the leash and let her roam and smell wherever her nose led her. I sat down in the gravel, hoping she’d trust me enough to come near me. I saw her look my way a couple times as she explored the area along the fence. She was definitely curious about me.

I left her alone, until, finally, curiosity got the best of her and she came over to me. I petted her gently on her back and sides, and that was all it took. Like most neglected dogs, Heather deeply craved attention and affection. She wasn’t interested in the toys in the yard or the treats in my pockets, all she wanted was love.

Heather is going to be a super-loving dog for a very lucky person someday. That is, if that person is willing to give a shelter dog a chance. Shelter dogs aren’t broken. From what I’ve seen, they have survived some of the most cruel and gruesome living conditions I’d never want to imagine.

That doesn’t sound very broken to me, in fact, it sounds pretty damn strong and resilient.

I’m so glad Heather was able to escape what fate, it seemed, had in store for her. I wish every dog did.

My shelter is a no-kill shelter. That fact means I don’t have to experience a very real side to rescue; killing dogs (oh, the irony in that). I feel for the people who have to administer that fatal, life-stealing shot to a completely healthy dog knowing the only reason the animal is seconds away from death is because someone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the poor baby in as their loving pet.

According to OxfordPets.com , 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S shelters every year, yet only 18% of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter.

What the heck is wrong with people? Why, when so many wonderful animals are being killed every day, year after year, would anyone buy a dog from a pet store, online, or even a breeder.

Whenever I see “Puppies for Sale” signs, I take them down. If I’m driving, I pull over and yank them out of wherever their hanging while cursing under my breath how people should get real jobs instead of contributing to the animal overpopulation by charging thousands of dollars for puppies.

Pet stores only take back the dogs they sell for a limited time, no refunds after a couple weeks. Shelters will take back one of their dogs any time in the dog’s lifetime. Because of this, we do get animals dropped off at our shelter that were bought from pet stores. Some of these dogs are sick because most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, which are inhumane and the mother pups receive zero veterinary care.

As if pet stores, puppy mills, and breeders weren’t enough, recently, I was told about a new craze called “Puppy Parties.”

Apparently, a group of people can rent puppies and gush over them like idiots for an hour or two. Scratch their ears, kiss their noses, and hold them like a baby.

My first thought when hearing about this was,”What happens when these cute little puppies aren’t cute little puppies anymore?” Puppies grow fast. To stay in business, there must be a high-turnaround rate. Which means, now dogs are being bred to produce puppies to keep adults amused.

How pathetic and how sad. When these puppies are grown, they will most likely end up in an already over-crowded shelter, maybe even a high kill-shelter.

So, if you ever attend one of these despicable parties, and you give a puppy a kiss, please ask yourself who will be kissing that puppy in a year, if that puppy will even still be alive.

Puppies are not here for your entertainment.

Strippers are here for your entertainment.

Use them instead.

 

*Note: If my writing about puppy parties made anyone reading this want to throw a puppy party, despite knowing that the puppies’ futures are precarious, (at best); you’re kind of a jerk. I hope the puppies poop all over your carpet, couch, and a couple of laps, too.

 

Below are four of the fifteen dogs that were about to be put-down. They are in a good place now. Waiting for their forever homes. Heather is the brown lab mix with the big ears.

Please adopt and don’t shop!

A (Not-So) Tiny Sacrifice

I had IVIG treatment today. For the next couple days I will feel fuzzy and foggy — a small sacrifice to endure for a treatment that has given me my life back (and will continue to for years to come because I’ve been doing this for fours years, every four weeks, and there is no foreseeable end). Four hours of lying in a bed with an IV stuck in my arm is a tiny sacrifice to endure to live again.

How did it come to be known that IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin) would help immune deficient patients battle whatever disease is attacking their body? This therapy has taken the body that has fallen off a couch, too weak to lift itself up off the floor, the body that has fallen down stairs, legs not strong enough to reach the top, and has transformed that body into one that can walk, do yoga, and swallow with no fear of choking.

I’m so grateful, but today, I lay in that hospital bed and wondered about the animals, chimpanzees, in particular.

I volunteer at an animal shelter. I feel empathy for neglected, abandoned, and abused animals. I want to take them all home with me and show them what love feels like. I want them to know hands that comfort, and not hurt. I want the dog who has lived its life tied to a tree to know the feeling of the warmth of a bed with soft blankets. I want the dog who almost died from thirst to know there’s a bowl of fresh water, in the same place, anytime he wants it.

I want all these things because I hate suffering. I participate in protests against puppy mills, and those pet stores who by from those horrible places (which is most pet stores) because I hate suffering. I changed my eating habits to a (mostly) compassionate diet because I hate suffering. I research companies who test on animals and buy a different brand because I hate suffering. I do all of this because I hate the idea of contributing to the suffering of another living being, and yet, I don’t know if the treatment I go for every month has been tested on animals.

A chimpanzee has a 98% genetic similarity to humans. If the therapy I get was tested on an animal to see if it would benefit patients with my disease, (I haven’t yet checked because I don’t want to know. I’m not ready to know. I’m a coward like that) it most likely would have been a chimpanzee. Ironically, my most beloved animal growing up. Stuffed monkeys crowded my room as a kid. My favorite was one where the hands velcroed together so you can sling the arms around your neck and pretend like the monkey was clinging to you. I carried this chimp around my hip all the time.

So how fitting would it be if the suffering of a chimpanzee is the reason I feel better?

Not fitting at all because the only way a company could test if IVIG would work for my disease (and any disease) is to take a species with a similar functioning healthy immune system and make it sick. Yes, make a healthy and vibrant animal sick for the benefit of a human life — my life — possibly.

I don’t believe that animals are here for humans to do with them what they will. Maybe the Bible states Man’s dominion over animals, but I don’t believe everything in the Bible anyway, so I’m comfortable disagreeing. They are not our trophies in a one-player sport, or our entertainment performing a display of tricks while enduring cruel treatment, and, some argue, they aren’t even here to be our food.

They are living creatures who know pain and fear, and experience joy and sadness.

I’ve heard the heart-wrenching screams of a mother cow as she watches her calf being dragged away only seconds after birth. I’ve watched terror take over a pig when it knows it’s about to be killed in a brutal way — thumping — the industry calls it. I’ve seen cows and Beagles, who have spent their entire lives in cages inside factories, without ever once feeling the sun on their skin, frolic joyfully in the grass for the first time. And when given an option to lay on the floor or a bed piled with pillows, my dog will always choose the bed. Why? Because it’s more comfortable, and animals, even farm animals, recognize comfort over discomfort.

Which one do you think they prefer?

Today, I lay in a comfortable hospital bed while receiving the fluid that will help my body function as normally as it can, but what conditions were the chimpanzees living in when they were (are) experimented on? I imagine they were forced into small cages, in a bland and cold room, locked up like a prisoner, frightened and sick, not knowing why they are there because they’ve done nothing wrong — except to have the unfortunate luck in sharing enough DNA similarity to perhaps the greediest, self-entitled, and morally inept race alive today.

And cowardly, too. That’s my race. That’s me. And maybe some day I’ll be brave enough to know how much suffering (sacrifice) a living being endured so I can have my life back.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net