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

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Adopt a Rescue Dog

Two weeks ago I was given news I had spent years asking the universe for. Sevvy, a dog that had lived over two years at the shelter I volunteer at, was finally adopted. We’ve had some teases before of pending adoptions that never went through, but finally it seems that Sevvy has found her home.

Sevvy is a five-year old pit-bull mix who had been adopted from the shelter as a puppy, but brought back, adopted out again, and then returned again when she became possessive of her toys with the children in the house.

Finally, after two long years, Sevvy has found a home, and I hope she never steps foot in the shelter again. As much I love and miss her, I hope to never see her face again, except through a chance meeting at a park somewhere. It would be wonderful to run into Sevvy and see her enjoying life on the “outside.”

There are so many loving animals in shelters all over the country like Sevvy who are great dogs, but have been let down by humans. I don’t know if the couple who rescued Sevvy really understand the importance of what they did. Sevvy was taking anti-anxiety medication because life in a shelter is chaotic and loud and unsettling. Sevvy was showing signs of distress that only medication could help. Hopefully Sevvy doesn’t have to take anti-anxiety medications anymore.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local animal shelter or animal control facilities. There may be an anxiety-ridden dog there like Sevvy who desperately wants to get off her meds.

 

 

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.