Rogue, A Shelter Dog

I volunteer at an animal shelter, so I’m obviously a big advocate for adopting over shopping for a pet. There are millions of loving animals who need homes. And since I have a pit bull mix who is the sweetest hunk of love you’ll ever meet, I, of course, advocate for pit bulls. 

Don’t believe everything you read or hear about this misunderstood and misrepresented breed of dog. Pit bulls make wonderful companion dogs. They love their humans and are very protective of them. They’re goofy. Love to cuddle while licking your face off. You’ll never be lonely because they follow you everywhere you go. 

There’s a pit bull mix at the shelter who I’ve been spending some extra time with. He’s going to be a great dog for the person who decides to take him home. I’ve been working on commands with him, though he gets impatient after a while because when he’s in the play yards, he’d rather play. His name’s Rogue. He’s young and has a lot of energy to exert.

We go on walks. He’s a great walking partner, although recently he got spooked by some Halloween decorations. It was quite funny. We were walking along the sidewalk and then he just came to a dead stop. I didn’t at first know why he had stopped. I looked down at him, and he was staring at something behind me.

On the front lawn of a house were huge blown-up Halloween decorations. One was of a Frankenstein-like monster and the other was of a huge black cat with a moving head. I’m pretty sure this was the one that stopped Rogue in his tracks. The cat was in attack position. 

Rogue wouldn’t budge when I tried to tug him forward. But I couldn’t blame him. If I were a dog who didn’t know what the heck Halloween decorations were, I’d be terrified too of something that looked like a giant cat. So we walked across the street and continued on with our walk.

Rogue was happy because we didn’t see anymore scary Halloween decorations. 

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. And while you’re there, please don’t pass up a dog just because it’s labeled a pit bull.

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.

 

 

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

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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.