Merry Christmas! Now let me break your heart.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write an article; pulling sixteen hour days between law school and paying the bills, and somehow fitting in running a rescue, has not left much time for my creative muse. Plus, let’s be real – law school will suck your soul out through your nose and leave you feeling akin to something frightening from an AMC show. Never fear, though. I’m still around and pissing off fun-sponges and armchair quarterbacks just as well.

What am I going to hit y’all with today? Well, actually, I’m going to be nice for a change. Believe me, there are plenty of snarky rants dancing like sugar plums through my head, but in the spirit of Christmas, I will save those for the New Year. Today, I want to make you cry, and then I want to make you get in your car and go save a dog’s life.

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I need to tell y’all a story. A few weeks ago, I got my daily email loaded with photos of all the dogs and cats sitting in my two largest local animal control facilities. As usual, I opened and scrolled straight to the bottom, so I could see the new editions. Immediately, I noticed the Boykin (if you don’t know what a Boykin is, go here later). It was an awful photo, like all the shelter photos I tend to get, but I recognized him immediately and sent a text within the next thirty seconds to the director of the nonprofit that sends out this daily digest.

Two days later, I had the smelliest dog ever in the back of my car. Within two minutes, he shit bloody diarrhea all over everything, but than goodness I only had a few blocks to go to get home. I wasn’t even upset – this dog was at least twelve years old, blind as a bat, emaciated, and could barely walk straight. Green slime crusted his eyes shut and his nose looked like a desert, it was so dry and cracked. Shit, I thought. Give him a week, maybe a month.

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And such is the glamorous story of how I came to own my sixth dog. Sullivan, he is named, has now been with me almost a month. It took two weeks to clear up the respiratory infection, and he’s slowly putting on weight. With the help of twice-weekly medicated baths, his skin is softening and his fur is growing back (it took four baths to get rid of the stench of weeks-old urine). At first, Sully didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Now he comes when called, if you say it loud enough. He loves his softy, squishy bed, and likes to find me and press his head into my legs and touch my hands with his nose. He tries to look at me when he hears my voice, but he can’t see anything.

I have always had a soft spot for old dogs, since my experience with Tala. This year I pulled a seven year old Great Dane named Cyrus from my local shelter, and a blind senior cocker spaniel left by her owners at Miami Dade animal control. Sometimes they find homes, like Tala. Cyrus has a foster home who loves him and understands that he may be theirs forever. Roomba, my goofy little Florida cocker, was adopted just last week – I truly expected her to be with me for her entire life, too.

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Sullivan is old, and Sullivan is going to die. It could be tonight. He could be lifeless when I come home today from work. He could live another six months or a year. And when he does die, I am going to be absolutely heartbroken. I am going to cry and it’s going to tear me up inside as if I had owned Sully since he was eight weeks old. It doesn’t matter, though, because every single minute Sully spends in my home is worth all the heartache I could ever imagine.

There’s a special place for people who dump old dogs. There’s an even more special place for people who stick their old dogs outside to rot for months – years, maybe – before they finally succumb to the pain, or, like in Sully’s case, somehow by the grace of Dog escape that hell and get lucky enough to find solace. But, like I said, I’m not here today to bitch about those people. They exist, there’s nothing we can do about it, and I sincerely hope that when they are old and frail, their children leave them to rot from bed sores and dementia in nursing homes.

The silver lining to all of this is simple: we can do something to make these dogs’ lives better. We being me, you, and all dog lovers and rescue advocates. Anybody with space in their home to fit a soft, warm dog bed and enough money to spare to feed an extra mouth. Old dogs don’t do much – they sleep, they eat, they go to the bathroom. Some of them are spry enough to enjoy tagging along on a walk, but others, like Sully, are too weak and wobbly to go far and would rather just sleep all day. They don’t even need much as far as vet work goes. I did a routine blood panel on Sullivan just to get a baseline, and I paid for antibiotics and prescription wet food that would be easier on his stomach. But nobody is asking you to spend a fortune on testing and medications, and cancer or heartworm treatments. All these dogs need is love.

It’s really, really easy. Get in your car and drive to your local shelter. Ask them if you can see their available senior dogs. Go pick one out – you’ll find them in all shapes and sizes. Then, take them home, give them a bath and a good meal, and love the hell out of them. Rinse and repeat. These dogs have done nothing but give their hearts and souls to humans for their entire life. No matter what kind of terrible person left them to die, they don’t deserve to spend their last days on a cold, wet concrete floor surrounded by the stench of feces (probably covered in it, too) and the cacophony of barking. They deserve to sleep on a warm bed, feel the kind touch of a human hand on their head, and die with a little goddamn dignity.

And you know what’s really, really cool about all of this? After you’ve taken your sweet old dog home and loved it, and it passes on to the other side, you can do it all over again.

December-3

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A Very Unscientific Index of Adopters

I’m going on my seventh year of active dog rescue, and I’ll be the first to admit that I still have a lot to learn about dogs, fostering, running a rescue, and dealing with the wide variety of people that I come into contact with daily. You have your volunteers, your shelter workers, your donors, your wannabe-rescuers, your surrender-ers, and your adopters, just to name a few.

Today I want to talk about the adopters. I’m going to resist the urge to rant on about some of the more pet-peeve issues regarding adopters (you know, like being needy, thinking they’re the only adopters in the world, forgetting that we have lives and paying jobs…), and just focus on sweeping generalizations about adopters as a whole. I’ll divide them up into classifications to make it a little easier.

Category One – The Ignoramus

These “adopters” (or wannabe adopters, because you couldn’t pay me to give them a dog) are the most entertaining. They offer plenty of opportunities to poke fun and share screenshots among board members, and their fair share of head-scratching as well.

Mode of contact? Typically Petfinder inquiries, complete with bad grammar and incorrectly spelled everything. Oftentimes the dog’s name is spelled wrong and they forget the gender halfway through, and they never actually read directions and follow the link to our website for complete biographies and adoption procedures. Most inquiries are no more than, “Is _____ still available?” or “How much does ______ cost?”

However, some of them are a bit more exciting. Here’s a little taste of “Shit Adopters Say” (complete with my desired responses):

RE: Auskie Males
FROM: E
MESSAGE: does this dog eat only dog food or he could eat other type of food to
Why yes, E, this dog actually prefers filet mignon.

RE: Auskie Girls
FROM: E (a different E)
MESSAGE: Has the Blue Merle puppy with pure blue eyes still there
My brain doesn’t compute terrible grammar. However, props to you, E, for being original and wanting to adopt the blue merle puppy with blue eyes. We’re working on our Aussie eugenics experiment; we’ll keep ya posted.

RE: I really don’t know
FROM: I
MESSAGE: As the adoption costs?
As the wind blows?

RE: Auskie Males
FROM : Z
MESSAGE: i would love two have a puppie
I would love two have a million dollars and a private jet.

 

Long story short, Ignoramuses will never get a dog from me, but I do genuinely appreciate the bright moments of laughter they add to my life.

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Category Two – Rebels With No Cause Whatsoever

These adopters are serious enough to actually fill out an adoption application, but that’s typically where the positives end. In many ways, they are the most obnoxious of adopters, because they did read the qualifications and procedures and they clearly just don’t care, or think the rules don’t apply to them. Or, they checked the box that said they read, when they obviously didn’t.

Most often, these adopters provide vet references that don’t check out, don’t contact their personal references to let them know we’re calling, and apply for dogs they are seriously under-qualified for. Then, they get frustrated with us when it takes two or three weeks to process their applications and the dog they wanted has been adopted by another family that was pre-approved or had their shit together.

To make matters even more fun, the “Rebels” usually get quite the bad attitude when we deny them for whatever reason – their dogs aren’t vaccinated or altered, they have an adult female and applied for a dominant Aussie bitch (most are). They demand their application fee be returned, tell us that we’re hurting dogs by being too picky, and exhibit plenty of other less-than-classy reactions. These adopters almost always end up going to a rescue of less caliber or a shelter to find a dog, because the rescue process “is just too hard”.

Category Three – The Flakes

The Flakes – the category of adopter loathed most by rescuers around the board (or so I would imagine). These adopters look great on paper and pass all the reference checks and home visits, and thusly we generally devote a great deal of time to them. We answer their emails more quickly than anyone else’s; we may even venture to speak to them on the phone. Everything is perfect and ready to go, the dog has an adopter in the bag, and then BAM – “we’ve decided to wait,” or even better, “we stopped by the shelter this weekend and took a puppy home.” OR, no communication at all – mysteriously radio silent on emails following weeks of conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that situations change. I also get that there is a level of positivity to the fact that at least they saved a dog, no matter where from. However, many Flakes back out for other much less respectable reasons – they realized that the four hour drive was just too much for them to handle in a weekend, or the Craigslist puppy for fifty bucks was easier to swing this month. All in all, the most appropriate word to describe the Flakes is simply “rude”. Flakes are the reason why my rescue requires an application fee, as well as puppy deposits to secure puppies from in-house litters. (Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to have an adopter back out on a 9 week old puppy two days before pick up?)adoptermeme

To top it off, Flakes also tend to be the most argumentative adopters – they know best, no matter what we say. Because there’s no way that the actual rescuers and foster homes could know their dogs best.

Category Four – Plain Jane

Plain Janes are cool and easy… we like them. They pass the approval process, adopt a dog, and if we’re lucky they will supply us with regular-ish updates. Pretty clean operation, and they are definitely a breath of fresh air when the majority of our applicants fall into categories one and two.

I wish there was more to say about Plain Janes. Occasionally, down the road, they graduate into Category Five. Sometimes, they go the opposite direction and become late-term Flakes, returning a dog six months or a year later for one silly reason or another (“I didn’t realize how much time/training/money/common sense owning a dog required!”). Usually, however, they simply live their lives and we live ours, and there is a lot to be said about a relationship as mutually beneficial and simplistic as that.

Category Five – The Golden Children

There are always those class-pet overachievers in every group, and adopters are not exempt. The Golden Children are the cream of the crop and we love them.

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Adopters turned volunteers – I heart them.

Golden Children not only pass the approval process with flying colors, but we may or may not literally beg them to adopt a dog. Or two, or three, or however many they want because we will give them anything they ask for. They typically have a specific type of dog in mind, but are flexible and open to our suggestions. Oftentimes, Golden Children are repeat adopters, whether from our rescue or another. They also have a greater frequency of being involved in canine extracurricular. Most of them drive great distances to adopt the dogs they are interested in, or wait weeks or months for the right dog to come around.

Beyond that, Golden Children are often invited to be a part of our cool kids club. They enlist into the ranks of volunteers and/or foster homes after adoption, and might even climb the ranks into a leadership position. I may or may not save their numbers in my phone and text them regularly.

Did I mention that we LOVE them?

 

If you’re looking for a moral to this story or a takeaway point… well, there is none. Do you have a category you would like to add? Comment away! Until next time, y’all.

Foster Spotlight: Cyrus the Great

This is Cyrus – he is a Great Dane (maybe mix?) around eight years old. He weighs a skinny 100 pounds, but I’m not putting too much more weight on him for the well-being of his joints.

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Cyrus was left at a county shelter in South Carolina. This is one of my favorite shelters to work with – they hate rescues, won’t allow evaluations, and really can’t be bothered to hold any dog past its euthanasia date. I sure hope y’all get my sarcasm.

Anyways, Cyrus’s “family” left him with nothing – not a collar, not a name, not a damn clue anything about him other than they just didn’t want him anymore. So, when his time was up and no other rescue had raised their hand, I did. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really, really can’t stand when people leave old dogs to die in a shelter. When I picked him up from the adoption center, he sat beside me and leaned up against me with that big ol’ body of his, and I could just feel the tension melt out of him.

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Cyrus came with good news and bad news. The good news – he was heartworm negative, and oh so sweet and friendly! Cyrus loves dogs, cats, kids, you name it. He’s pretty awesome. The bad news – Cyrus’s back end doesn’t work too well, and he tends to loose balance and fall a lot. The vet thinks it’s a neurological thing, not a joint issue. On solid ground, Cyrus is perfect, but he has trouble navigating stairs, hardwood floors, and tight spaces.

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Cyrus is, of course, looking for a home. It’s hard to place senior dogs, especially ones like Cy who already come with the signs of aging. Cyrus doesn’t know he’s old, or that he’s “damaged goods”. He just wants a nice bed to sleep on and somebody to lean up against. He loves going on walks – he actually loves running in the back yard, too. He goes pretty fast for an old man.

Cyrus is fully vetted and microchipped.IMG_3323

For information about adopting Cyrus, contact me here!