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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tail of Woes...

Time for a tail of woes, oops, I mean TALE of woes.

We took in the most adorable little golden retriever puppy today, only three months old. She was found walking on a gravel road, by a concerned citizen. She is blind. I bring this sweet angel up for two reasons...

Reason 1. To discuss the cynicism that eventually takes control of all rescuers at some point. The shelter volunteer who brought this sweet pup to me, believed the concerned citizen who claimed to find her wandering on the road, may actually have been her owner who decided not to keep her once he realized she was blind.

Reason 2. To discuss the extreme cruelty to animals that goes unpunished daily. If someone really dumped a blind 3 month old puppy on the side of a ROAD, is there really anything more negligent, cruel, despicable, heartless, irresponsible... The thought of this poor puppy unable to find food on her own, getting hit by a car because she cannot see the car coming, although she is running because she hears it coming her way.

It happens to all rescuers/shelter personel at some point. Someone walks into the shelter or rescue, and says they cannot keep their pet. Rather than sympathize with the situation of which we know little about, we sigh, hand them a form to "sign over their pet", then we send them on their way.  We then look into the pet's eyes, and say, "How could anyone just give you away?" It is not something we do intentionally. It is not something we do just to be mean. It is not something we do just because we do not like people. It happens because it is a learned response, an emotional scar. We have heard the tale so many times. We forget that there may be heartbreak for the owner. We remember when the people brought their 7 year old dogto us because their 3 year old son wanted a puppy. The new puppy and the resident dog who they had since puppyhood did not get along, so the older dog is tossed in our direction as worthless.  We remember the time when John found three pups on the side of the road and brought them to us, only to discover later that the pups really came from John's farm dog which he has not had fixed and has no plans to get fixed. We recall the people whose kids outgrew the pets, so it is time to discard them like clothes that are two sizes too small. 

These deceptions or heartless handovers may seem to be rare to you, but we in rescue hear them all too often.  The poor excuses are much more abundant than the heartbroken owners that are devastated by the decision they have had to make. A woman comes in sobbing with her pet because her house burned down and she was forced to rent a place that did not allow pets. The man whose eyes well up with tears when he hands over his pet because he is going to assisted living and cannot take the dog... He loves the dog but his wife passed last month and she used to care for the dog and for him due to his special needs.

I try to keep my team from developing this scar, or at least from showing it. We try to control it, but we all feel it at times. We try to remember that "there but for the sake of God go I".

So, was our little golden retriever puppy brought in by a concerned citizen?  Was the person who handed over the dog being honest?  This is possible. Or was this person the actual owner and relinquishing the pup because of its handicap and just too embarrassed to admit it. This is also possible. Either scenario, the man who brought the dog to us is a better man than the one who would leave an animal out in the country rather than bringing it to a shelter or rescue. We will never know the truth. But I do know that puppy is going to be very well cared for despite it's special needs!

The cruel nature of the act of abandoning an animal on a road, or in a field or at a farm where "hopefully the farmer will take it in" is lost on me. So many shelters, so many rescues, reckless abandonment should not be the chosen option. There are times when we get phone calls about a pet that needs to be rehomed, but we are full to the brim and cannot take in another animal. The guilt we feel after we say no and hang up the phone can be overwhelming. You wonder what happened to this cat or dog when the dial tone sounds...  We hope the owners care enough to continue the search for a rescue or shelter with space, and ask the right questions about whether their pet will be safe at that rescue or shelter.

There have been many times when I have arrived at my clinic to find a box sitting in front of the door. The box moves, and makes a curious noise. One time the box included a note from the cat's previous owner. It asked us to care for her cat, Snowy, because she was going to a nursing home.  The last line of the note was "Don't ever grow old, because no one will take care of you." I wanted to find the woman who wrote this note and take HER into my shelter!

I have been called by the police after hours because a dog was tied to the fire hydrant in front of my clinic. I received a phone call once from my assistant wondering why there was a black lab in our back yard. I knew nothing of a black lab. We had no such dog in the clinic at that time. The dog was dropped OVER a 6 foot fence and into my backyard. Thank goodness it was not a black lab with a newly broken leg! We recalled having to say no to someone who requested we take in their black lab only a few days earlier. We named the lab Hopper for his uncanny ability to leap 6 foot fences in a single bound. He has a family who loves him now. He still comes to board with us, and has not leaped over that 6 foot fence since then... hmm, I suspect he had a little help the first time.

Initially upon finding an unexpected arrival at the clinic, I feel panic upon the discovery. I wonder if I will ever find homes for all these animals, and now I have another one to add to the bunch! The next feeling I get, as I look into their eyes, is thankfulness. Thank goodness you are not in a box on the side of a highway.

If you have ever had to heartbreakingly relinquish your pet at any shelter, and were not treated as well as you think you should have been by the staff, please keep this information in mind. It is not an excuse for the shelter employee's poor behavior. It is a reason for it. It does not excuse poor personal skills at the front desk. I just thought if you knew about the emotional side of these jobs, it might help you to forgive that person who hugged your pet as she or he took it to it's kennel.

Most small animal shelters are staffed by volunteers whose work unfortunately goes unappreciated day in and day out. Even if they left the shelter crying over a dog or cat yesterday, they will likely be coming in to work today. Their reward is the love they feel when that homeless kitten's whiskers brush across their cheek, and the warmth they feel when a paw and chin is laid upon their knee as they place a food bowl in a homeless dog's kennel.

If you have never had to heartbreakingly relinquish your pet, thank goodness. Perhaps you could help your shelter comfort those animals who are not so lucky.  You could bake a batch of brownies or cookies for the people at your local shelter, donate some much needed supplies, or just walk in and say "Thank you for what you do for the animals" to show your support for the emotional days they put in every day.  

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Lisa said...

yes, I give a big "ATTA BOY/GIRL" to all employees and volunteers that work/help at shelters, rescues, clinics. It is a double edged sword, rewarding and heart braking at the same time.

Mary said...

Lisa, what a blessing you are. I've heard you tell some of your stories, but reading all of these is an entirely different experience. You make me cry and you make me very, very proud. Thank God the animals have you. Thank God we have you. Thank God the world has you!

ameow2002 said...

5 days without a new blog entry...i need a fix..please!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, little Blossom is blossoming :) you should read her updates :)

Denise K Beaudoin said...

in hopes to educate the people on love and compassion for animals

Kat Parker said...

I do not know what shelter you deal with, but I, and my rescue network and our lawyers, at times, must try to rescue the animals here in LA County despite LA County DACC's horrendous "relationship" with rescue people/orgs. I would love for you to read some of the tidbits from any of the three lawsuits brought against LADACC in 97,98,99. The shelters are criminal, were ordered by a judge to treat the animals kindly, and other things in the order that would make it more of a "Shelter" and less of a hellhole for innocents. Hit me up. I will show you things they did, and continue to do to the animals in their care, that will chill your soul.

Kathy Hayes said...

This is so true. Sometimes us animal rescuers forget and get a little hard on "people".