Rescues and Shelters

Dogs leave paw prints on your heart, adopt one today!

Left to right--Gus and Tasha

If you are not moved by a warm furry body next to yours, big floppy ears, wagging tail, and a wet tongue eager to give you doggy kisses, then you aren’t human. October is “Adopt A Dog Month” and if currently you don’t have a dog, I strongly urge you to run to your nearest shelter or foster agency to find one. And if you do have a dog, then I urge to you to consider getting one more.

I have two adopted dogs that started out as foster dogs and they are surrounding me as I write this. I almost always have at least one dog under my desk, under my feet, or by my chair as I work at my desk each day. They have been rescued from a bad life and a terrible fate and they seem to know that they got lucky and have a pretty good life right now.

I began fostering dogs after hurricane Katrina in 2005. My heart broke as I watched people separated from their dogs when they were rescued. Most evacuation centers would not allow pets nor were they allowed on busses that provided transportation for the thousands suddenly homeless. I vividly remember crying as I watched a small white dog frantically pawing a closed bus’s door where its owner had just boarded. According to various statistics, somewhere between 8,000 to 15,000 pets were rescued after Katrina. Only 400 were reunited with their owners and, sadly, an estimated 600,000 pets died. I was so moved by what happened that I immediately found a foster organization, Columbus Dog Connection, and volunteered my services.

Officials of disaster preparedness learned that pet owners are extremely devoted to their furry friends. Many people died during Katrina because they refused to leave their pets behind. After seeing the devastation to both humans and pets, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Actwas passed requiring states seeking FEMA assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority on May 22, 2006.

Since that time I have fostered and/or adopted about a half-dozen dogs. I’m afraid I haven’t been a very good foster mom because instead of giving them up for adoption I have just adopted them myself. The ones that were adopted, even though I was sad to see them go, I was also happy to know they were going to good homes and I had been instrumental in their transition. Most of the dogs in the organization I have worked with have either been abused or neglected. I once nursed a schnauzer that was badly injured when it was hit by a car and the owner left the poor dog outside crying in agony until a concerned neighbor called the humane society to rescue the dog. The dog had a broken leg, its shoulder laid bare down to the bone, and numerous cuts and abrasions. A young professional woman adopted him and I’m sure he is now living in the lap of luxury.

The first foster we adopted was Queenie. Queenie’s owners left her in the parking lot of a local shelter because she was 13 and getting too old for them. She was adopted out to a young family but it turned out to be a family in the midst of a divorce with possible domestic abuse involved. Not a good atmosphere for a frightened dog that has been uprooted after 13 years in her home. We then became her second adopted home and I made sure it was her “forever home”. We had Queenie for another four years and finally had to put her down at 17 ½ years of age. For the first year she was very shy but when she finally decided this was her home she settled in and was an extremely good and loving dog.

We now have two dogs—Tasha and Gus. Tasha was another “senior” dog suddenly uprooted. She was ten years old when she was surrendered to the county dog shelter because her family became homeless. She was so frantic the people at the shelter thought she might have a stroke. She was sent to a vet where she continued to pace and pant. She even escaped from her cage and enclosed run several times. When I brought her home I left her in a metal crate for a little over an hour while we went out to dinner and returned home to find her frantically clawing trying to get out of the cage where she had pulled out several of the metal bars with her teeth—after dental surgery. I decided this dog had had enough trauma and needed a safe, calm place to live. I also knew no one would understand why this dog could never again be confined. She has been a loving and protective member of our family for several years now.

We got Gus a few months after Tasha. Gus is a happy-go-lucky Pekingese who had been neglected. As soon as Gus came into the family Tasha calmed down and the two developed a strong bond. Tasha is a stubborn 35 pound terrier mix however; Gus’s presence gave her reassurance. She has settled down and the two are now buddies.

The key to owning more than one pet is giving each equal amount of attention. They will know if one gets more attention or special favors over the other. They are always fed and exercised at the same time and they get the same amount of treats. What I do to one I always do to the other. Recently Tasha had an ear infection and I had to put drops in her ears. When I finished working on her ears Gus walked over and sat down in front of me ready for his ears to be checked. He wasn’t sure what I had done to Tasha but he wanted it also. I scratched his ears and he was happy.

I highly recommend working with a foster or rescue organization for finding a dog because they can tell you about the pet’s personality and quirks. They can also tell you whether or not the dog likes cats, is good with children, has allergies, or other special needs. When adopting from one of these organizations there is someone there you can talk to who can give you pointers on the care and training of the dogs and information on the various breeds. In addition, the dog will also have been spayed or neutered and up to date on all shots. In most cases the dog will also be housebroken and some obedience training, depending upon how much the foster family has been able to work with the dog.

Many good dogs also come from your local shelter. According to the American Humane Association, each year, approximately 8 million stray and unwanted animals are taken in by shelters across the country. Of those 8 million only a little over half find homes and approximately 3.7 million are euthanized. In fact, shelter euthanasia is the leading cause of death for both dogs and cats in the United States.  A shocking statistic!

So, if you need a best friend, one that will be forever loyal and loving, one that will eagerly greet you each time you come home, one that will guard and protect you, then, please, adopt a dog. They know they have been saved from a terrible fate and will repay you a thousand times over.

Please give a homeless dog another chance at life by offering your home as its “forever” home.

The author with her two adopted rescued dogs.

Queenie, another adopted rescued dog with a sad story.

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