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.

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.

 

Time to End BSL. It’s Discrimination.

In December, 2010 I adopted a dog named, Phil.  The same dog who is asleep right now in a tangled mess of sheets in my bed. The same dog I have been obsessed with since the day I brought him home. He is a pit/lab mix and I didn’t even consider the “pit” part of him when I saw him on Pet Harbor and decided to drive to Animal Control to visit him. I love Labradors. It was the Lab in him that caught my eye, but the pit bull mix part didn’t deter me in anyway because I had no preconceived notions about pit bulls. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to mainstream media news that love to portray pit bulls as inherently mean and aggressive dogs who want to do nothing but tear your limbs apart.

With all dogs come the possibility of a bite if the dog is mistreated, teased, or trained to be aggressive. And we know that pit bulls are the most abused breed out there. Every day I am so grateful that I didn’t let ignorance prevent me from bringing Phil home. But when I ask myself if my decision would have been different if I’d been paying a little more attention to the negative portrayal of pit bulls in the news headlines, and I wonder if Phil would be sleeping peacefully in my bed right now. I’m not sure. And that scares the hell out of me because Phil had already been with Animal Care and Control for a couple months by the time I got to him.

In fact, when I brought him in for his veterinary check-up shortly after adopting him, the Dr. told me she was surprised he was kept that long. I was crushed. Over-crowded kill shelters don’t give dogs a lot of time to find homes. And most of these shelters, especially city shelters where I found Phil, seem to be filled with mostly pit bulls, a breed not everyone is willing to bring home. (But I know from experience they are missing out on a great breed of dog.)

As a pit bull owner, I am really concerned about Breed Specific Legislation. BSL does nothing but make it harder for dogs like Phil to find homes. I didn’t know about BSL when I brought Phil home. I didn’t know there could have been external factors preventing me from having Phil as a pet, a companion. Phil has been an amazingly loving dog to me for six amazing years and it infuriates me to think that some city ban, or insurance policy, or association could have told me Phil wasn’t allowed to stay with me.

But yet, some people have to adhere to ordinances placed by people who have never known a pit bull personally (I am sure of this because to know a pit bull is to love a pit bull) and as a result, great dogs never make it out of shelters alive.

People who support BSL believe it is an effective way to prevent dog attacks by basically profiling and discriminating against a specific breed. Even though that “specific breed” has no “specific look” because it includes over five different breeds, including mixes, the legislation continues to ban dogs whether that particular dogs is a danger to society or not.

The term “pit bull” is actually an umbrella reference to include up to five different breed of dogs and mixes. There is no set rule to determine if a dog is actually a pit bull. If a dog looks strong and has a big head, it most likely will be deemed a pit bull, thus decreasing the odds that dog will find a home, despite how sweet and loving the dog may be, and also puts the dog at risk of being a victim of BSL.

BSL wreaks of mistaken identity and unfair judgement that cost innocent dogs their lives. Phil doesn’t know that being part pit bull means he’s supposed to be mean because all he wants to do is cuddle with his blankies and give sloppy kisses.

If the town I live in passed BSL they could legally force me to muzzle my dog any time he is in public despite the face that he has never bitten anyone as long for as I’ve had him.

If you’re interested in learning more about BSL and why it’s not effective, please visit the link below.

http://www.realpitbull.com/laws.html

And if you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter or Animal Control. Please don’t be put off if your shelter has an influx of pit bulls because despite being given the same generic breed name, all of these dogs are so different in looks and personalities.

 

My baby taking an afternoon nap in his mama’s bed

Don’t Just Read the Label. See the Dog!

The shelter I volunteer for caps how many pit bulls it will take in at one time.  I understand their reasoning for doing this, even though I don’t like it, but this practice won’t change until the stereotype changes. Dogs labeled “pit bull” take longer to adopt out because people are scared of them. Or their insurance won’t cover them. Or their city has banned the breed. (Technically, “pit bull” isn’t a breed. It’s an umbrella term that unfairly covers multiple breeds and mixes.) 

One of the pit bull mixes sitting at my shelter right now is named Gipsy, and she’s such a wonderful dog. If all goes right today, I will be with her in a few hours, playing with the tennis balls she loves so much. She is playful and sweet and loves human interaction, especially if that human has a tennis ball in his/her hand.

The second she walks into one of the yards, she’s searching for a ball, and if she doesn’t find one, she’ll walk to the fence and sit patiently in front of the toy box she knows her beloved balls are, on the other side of the fence. And if you aren’t quick enough in getting there, she may cast you an anxious look as if to say, “WTF are you waiting for? You know I only have fifteen minutes out here.”

It always amazes me how much dogs live in the moment. They take in every moment they have when outside. They don’t worry about when they’ll be taken back to their kennels, surrounded by other scared and anxious barking dogs. They just enjoy the time they have outside doing what they love.

It makes me reflect on how much time (moments) people waste worrying about what will happen three minutes, three hours, or even three years from now. Dogs don’t do that. They savor the moment they’re living AS they’re living it.

I hope all dogs in shelters find homes real soon because they’re all so deserving. We get dogs from all kinds of despicable situations – dogs picked up as homeless strays, dogs taken from neglectful or abusive homes living in vile conditions, dogs used as bait dogs, dogs who’ve been tied to a tree their entire lives. There are so many heart-wrenching scenarios and it’s so heart-warming when they finally find a loving furever home. But the dogs I wish for the most are the ones who have the most decks stacked against them – the pit bulls.

Gipsy shouldn’t be waiting so long for her furever home. She’ll make a loyal and loving pet for any lucky family out there. But instead of walking by her kennel, like so many people do, someone has to actually look and see her, instead of the label card hanging outside her kennel stating “pit bull mix,” and pass her by.

Gipsy is lucky to have ended up at my shelter because we are a no-kill shelter. So she will be with us however how long it takes for her to find a home, but so many pit bulls out there aren’t so lucky. They have no idea their time is about to run out. 

If you’re thinking about getting a pet, please consider adopting at your local shelter. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills.

Check out this cutie below. Gipsy knows how to play, (see how agile she is!) but she also knows how to chill. Plus, she’s got the best darn eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The unusually warm weather for this time of year is making it very hard to believe that Christmas is only a few short days away. Two weeks ago I went to the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. The gorgeous trees with its lights synchronized to classic Christmas music, and the entire production with all its festive decorations certainly helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

But despite the Illumination and all the houses I drive by dressed in green and red costumes with front lawns pinned with giant plastic Snowmen and blown-up Santa Clauses, I still feel that the holiday has crept up on me.

All this even after I purposely made sure I went to see the movie, Krampus, just to be certain the Christmas spirit stayed with me. And maybe it did a little because for a couple days after seeing that movie, I walked around the house yelling, “I believe! I believe! Do you hear me, Krampus? I believe so you don’t have to come for me on Christmas morning.”

Still, I think I’ll lock my bedroom door when I go to bed on Christmas Eve, just in case. And Phil may not know it yet, but he’s definitely sleeping in my room that night, even though my dog prefers a certain family member over me. This little habit of my baby favoring someone else took time for me to accept, and I am often compelled to remind Phil that I was the one who took him from that over-crowded shelter, with its constant barking and utter chaos, and gave him his furever home. 

But I don’t say that to him because I don’t want Phil to remember his life before he had a home.  Because dogs live in the moment, I’m quite certain he doesn’t dwell on the past or wonder about what the future holds. He lives in the “here and now” and as long as that “here and now” consists of lots of comfy blankets, bowls of food with scraps of chicken or steak, fresh water, a tennis ball and a soup bone smeared with peanut butter, Phil doesn’t worry about the future, only the “here”. 

I love that about dogs. Their ability to move on, even from the most abusive pasts, and love and trust again, absolutely amazes me.

This Christmas I’ll be thinking of all the dogs in crowded shelters, waiting for someone to come rescue them, many with only days or hours left to their lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, and remember they could be a 15-plus years commitment, please consider visiting your local shelter. If you can’t afford to care for a dog right now, but would like to have one, please consider fostering. The shelter provides everything for the dog. There is no cost to you, except to love the dog. If you don’t have time for an animal in your life right now, please consider sponsoring a shelter dog or cat.

All of these will help to save a dog’s life.

If you’re looking for a puppy, please know that shelters have lots of puppies, too. You don’t need to go to a pet store or a breeder for a puppy. But the more time I spend around animals, the more I appreciate and love older dogs. Puppies are cute, but it’s hard to explain the feeling that overcomes me when an older dog looks me directly in the eyes and licks the top of my nose.

It’s as though they’re saying, “I’ve known and met a lot of humans in my life, but not all of them have deserved a kiss on the nose, but you do.”

Aww….nothin’ beats that.

Since Christmas has sneaked up on me, I will be running around tomorrow, and possibly early Christmas Eve, picking up last-minute gifts.

And to be sure that I am in the holiday spirit come Christmas morning, tonight I will watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life and You’ve Got Mail.  Okay, maybe You’ve Got Mail isn’t technically a holiday movie, but it does have some Christmas scenes in it and it is sweet and revolves around books and online romance, a couple things I know very well (only one is kinda unfortunate).

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

 

phil in front of tree phil santa hat 2 phil santa hat cute phil santa hat tree

 

 

 

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!