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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The Love/Hate Relationship of Social Media and Rescue

Oh, the double-edged sword of Facebook. Rescuers know it well – what started as a brilliant method for sharing dogs in need and utilizing well-meaning volunteers has effectively become what many of us will consider the biggest thorn in our sides. This is a long read, so get comfortable.

Facebook – social media in general, really – is responsible for the lives of thousands of animals that would have never made it out of the shelter alive. Suddenly, low-budget shelters with no ability to share photos and information of the dogs in their facilities gained a free platform to spread the word about their strays and adoptables. Animals started finding rescues and adopters from all over, just because somebody saw their picture on Facebook and decided to help. Groups were formed for transport coordination, breed rescues, etc. and folks really jumped on the bandwagon to help the animals. I mean really jumped on the bandwagon.

I know I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. Facebook is wonderful; Facebook users, not always so. What was once such a blessing has turned into chaos and frustration. Many rescuers, myself included, have started avoiding social media altogether due to the pandemonium it creates.

At one point (I’ve worked very hard to rectify this situation), you could look at my personal Facebook page and legitimately think I was a dog. There were no pictures of me – just dogs! Dogs, dogs, dogs! Not even my dogs, but dogs of every make and model all across the country that somebody, somewhere thought I needed to be aware of. Fortunately for me, I do have a social life and employers, and I would rather them see pretty little ol’ me on my Facebook, not some hound dog in Florida.

I digress… There is a right and a wrong way to use social media for the benefit of everyone – rescues and dogs alike. Unfortunately, many people have come to see social media as a way to feel needed and important. They have a purpose in life, even if it’s just sitting on their couch tagging everyone in kingdom come in a shelter dog’s picture. That, my friends, is the wrong way. And below, I have explained this in more detail, as well as things you can do to actually help your local shelter dogs and rescues.

Things You Need To Stop Doing:

1. Crosspost Crosspost Crosspost!

If your Facebook name includes “Crossposter” or “Xposter” or anything similar, don’t request to be my friend. I’m going to deny it. Why? Because I really don’t want to get fifty notifications a day from you, tagging my name on pictures and sharing dogs on my wall. That’s my Facebook page! For me! Plus, chances are, I already know about the dog if it’s the type of dog I rescue. It’s probably been emailed to me five times by 10 a.m., the shelter has probably already called me themselves to ask for my help, and I do check all the shelter pages myself.

Another issue I have with rampant crossposting – it scatters the information to the wind. Every thread has a different set of comments and nobody ever checks the original thread for updates. I’ve all but ceased posting updates on dogs on Facebook because nobody pays attention. Also – if I’m rescuing a dog, letting everyone know the status on Facebook is not my first priority. Believe it or not, coordinating with the shelter and local volunteers personally is my priority. And my guess is, any other serious rescuer trying to help that dog is probably doing the exact same thing, so they don’t need to see it on Facebook either.

Crossposting these days does little more than create absolute hysteria surrounding shelter animals. It feeds off the over-emotional users who aren’t checking the facts before posting, and frankly it’s making our lives (rescuers and shelter workers) more difficult. Panic does not solve problems, coordination and action does.

2. “I wish I could help, but…”

Stop, stop, stop. STOP. If you can’t help, cool. We get it. But there is absolutely no point in posting, “I wish I could help, but I’m 1,000 miles away,” or “I wish I could help, but I have five dogs already.” If you can’t help, that’s fine, but stop cluttering threads with your sentiment. I can look at a thread for a shelter dog with forty-something comments, and not one single one will actually be offering to help – they’re all just crossposters tagging names and people saying, “Oh my, look at that baby, what an angel, I wish I could help.” You’re just trying to make yourself feel better about not helping, and nobody needs to see that.

Well, those comments sure are helpful.

Similarly, stop finding dogs in shelters that are a five hour’s drive from you, and posting, “I’ll take this baby but I can’t drive.” What a HUGE help you are. Unless that comment is followed by, “But I’ll pay to have the dog boarded and transported to me,” you just need to stay out of it. Frankly, I think that any group who relies on the word of some rando on Facebook committing to adopting a dog and pulls that dog under that assumption is just asking for a world of trouble. I’ve done it once, and lo’ and behold, guess who got stuck with a dog? Mmmhm. Fortunately for that dog, I don’t back out on my commitments and she came into my own rescue program. Not every rescue abides by those same standards, however (and that is a blog for another day).

3. “Someone NEEDS to save this dog!”

This one really, really irritates me. Unless that someone is you, keep your dang mouth shut. Because, at that point, you are taking it upon yourself to place responsibility on others beside yourself, and that, my friend, is a load of B.S. If you’re not willing to get off your butt and do something yourself, don’t you ever expect someone else to do it. That’s about all I have to say about that one… pretty self-explanatory.

 

Things You Should Do More:

1. Donate

Whether I agree with rescues pulling based on pledges and sponsorship or not, the fact is that many do. Especially with dogs in the South, where heartworm disease is rampant, many rescues can’t afford to take dogs whose vet bills will run in the multiples of hundreds. The adoption fees will never cover the treatment, and that’s a surefire way to run a rescue into the ground – take dogs you can’t afford. However, when dogs get pledges and sponsorships, doors open. That money can go toward vetting and/or transportation (since many northern groups use professional transportation services) and it actually can be the difference to whether or not a dog lives or dies. We all have little things we spend money on that we don’t need – if forgoing that daily latte´ means you can donate twenty bucks a week to getting shelter dogs out and to rescue, why wouldn’t you?

2. Get Off Your Butt

Seriously. Get off your butt and out from behind the computer. FOSTER. It’s not that hard, really – I promise. Even if you’re just a temporary foster that holds animals for transport, you’re saving two lives – the animal you’re taking home and the animal filling its space at the shelter. Most rescues cover all expenses for fosters, and anything they don’t cover is tax-deductible. You’ve all seen that meme that floats around Facebook with the cute dog that says, “I’m Alive – Because I Had A Foster Home.” It’s as simple as that. Fostering saves lives, more than anything else.

If you genuinely cannot foster, there are still other ways to help. Drive for transports, evaluate dogs in your local animal shelter, or take pictures of their available animals. Become a general volunteer for the rescue of your choice and call references, help with data entry, do home visits, help at local events. The folks who run rescues have jobs, lives, families, and a million things to do that actually have nothing to do with rescue, on top of what rescue responsibilities they have. You have no idea how wonderfully helpful it is to have somebody help us with the little things.

3. Utilize your skills/time

Finally, we all have skills. A lot of rescues could really benefit from those skills. If you’re good with a computer, web design, graphic design, etc., offer to help build a rescue’s website or design a snazzy logo for them. I am sooo lucky that I have both a graphic and a web designer on my board, and because of them my rescue’s stuff looks pretty bomb-ass, if I may be so bold. Not all rescues are that lucky, however, and they definitely don’t have the budget to pay someone to do it. If you’re a good photographer with a decent camera, offer to take pictures of foster dogs or dogs in shelters. A picture is worth a thousand words, we know, and it’s proven than better pictures get animals adopted faster.

Your skills could really be used for just about anything. If you’re an accountant or a bookkeeper, offer to help with records. If you like to sew, make collars or beds that can be donated to shelter dogs or sold at events. Two of my volunteers make tutus in their spare time for us to sell – TUTUS! The list goes on!

tl;dr – Social media is not your platform for affirming self-worth in the rescue world. If you really want to help, do something more constructive than creating mass hysteria and begging for 11th hour rescue.

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.

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For information about adopting Cyrus, contact me here!