Sometimes people need the help.

Yesterday morning while waking up I laid in bed and scrolled through Facebook on my phone.  This article by Your Pit Bull & You caught my attention and as I was reading it I was mentally screaming “Yes!  This!”  Of course, my mind runs at warp speed in the mornings and I started thinking even more about what they were saying.  As I shared the link on the blog’s Facebook page (which you should totally be following if you aren’t already) I said, “This. A million times this exact message needs to be shared. THIS is why I am all about education and outreach.  It’s great to save one dog at a time, and that should never be devalued, but to make an impact on countless future lives and actually have a chance of one day living in a nation where we don’t kill thousands of adoptable dogs each week, we need empathy. Empathy for the dogs’ driving forces and empathy for owners that can’t or don’t understand the right way to care for them.”

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YPB&Y did a fantastic job talking about why it is SO important to understand the driving forces behind what dogs do, and how it most certainly can help keep them out of shelters, but I want to expand a little on the last part of what I said.  Raise your hand if you have ever been scrolling through FB, seen a picture of a sick or abused dog in need, and said something like, “I really hate humans.”  You can’t see me, but I’m hanging my head and raising both hands.  I am incredibly guilty of this line of thinking.  And when you hold a dog like Annie or Hollie in your arms, it’s really hard not to feel some hatred towards the person that let them get like this.  But what I have slowly been learning is that not all “cruelty” is as it appears.  You might remember, but Annie was living under an abandoned, bank-owned house.  I never once stopped to wonder about what devastation must have happened to cause this family to move away and leave their dog.  Annie clearly had been living alone under the house awhile, but she was so trusting and loving from the moment I crawled under there and got her, that it leads me to think that she must have been loved and treated well by this family.  We think she was hit by a car.  What if on the day the family was getting ready to move she got hit and hid because she was hurt.  Her family might have searched for her for hours before they had no choice but to leave.  Her family very well could have been devastated by the fact that they left behind sweet Annie.  But I never once gave any of that a thought.  Instead I just cursed them for being evil, horrible people.

Raise your hand again if you have said the phrase, “I would live in my car before I got rid of my dog!”  I’m hanging my head and raising my hand again.  But would I?  Would you?  Would you really live out of your car rather than give up your dog?  This statement implies that the family giving up their dog just didn’t care or love them enough.  But what if they could only afford housing that cost below a certain threshold and not a single one of the rentals that they could afford allowed dogs?  What if they actually love their dog so much that they realize someone else can give it a better life than them.  Now that’s something to think about.

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While volunteering at a rural Animal Control facility we would frequently get dogs left in the “drop box”.  It disgusted and infuriated me beyond words that someone would come in the night and stuff their dog in this little concrete cell until we found them the next morning.  I said to one of the officers, “We should install a camera and post these people’s faces all over the internet!”  And you know what she said?  “Morgan, if we did that, they would just let them run loose or worse, take them in the woods and shoot them.”  Well that stopped me in my tracks.  This was particular conversation was probably over a year ago, and it has taken me until very recently to begin to understand things: Sometimes people need the help.

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It’s unfathomable to me that someone wouldn’t know that shelters kill dogs and cats…but many people don’t know that.  And sometimes they find themselves in situations that lead them to believe that turning their dog over to a “shelter” actually is the best way to get their dog cared for.  Let’s think about that word, which is so commonly used: shelter.  You seek shelter from a storm.  You take shelter in your friends’ arms.  Shelter sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  And you know what?  Some shelters are lovely, well-funded places that do offer the animals a better life until a few family comes along.  And some aren’t.  Some shelters automatically euthanize anything they deem a “pit bull”.  Some automatically euthanize anything after the stray hold is up, which is usually about a week.  Some have 5 or 6 dogs crammed in one tiny cell because they are so overcrowded.  I know these things because I have see them with my own eyes.  But I also have made this line of work my life’s mission.  Average Joe down the block that lost his job and is now losing his house and has to move in with his uncle that is allergic to dogs, likely has never been to a shelter and genuinely doesn’t know any better.

So what’s my point?  It’s no secret I believe in personal responsibility.  And that commitments are kindofabigdeal to me.  (Boy, I was a little preach-y in those posts, wasn’t I?)  And yes, I think there are some horrible people out there that do horrible things to animals.  And some that just genuinely don’t care at all.  But how can I throw out a blanket statement like “I hate people” when it’s people like me and you work to save these dogs?  What sense does it make to make myself unapproachable by having that attitude?  None.  My point it this: All of us in the animal welfare and advocacy world would probably be best served in our efforts by occasionally taking the time to see things from the perspective of a person that might be seeking our help.  You never know when you might be able to assist someone with training and therefore enable them to keep the dog in their home.  Or help them find a low-cost clinic to care for their pet so they can afford keep him.  The possibilities are endless.  I am probably writing all of this out of guilt for my own negative attitude in the past, but I hope it touches someone and they decide that sometimes people need the help.  And in turn, we all help the animals.

17 thoughts on “Sometimes people need the help.

  1. Interesting post. Although I am not crazy about people dropping dogs at a shelter, you are right, maybe that dog will have a better life somewhere else. Last night, I went to pick up some meds for Bella, our foster dog, and while waiting on the lobby, I saw a big guy with, what looked like a rottie, maybe of about 5-7 months old and the puppy was so friendly. He went to surrender his dog, but because it was after 5pm he was told that they could not take his dog. He did not leave and was adamant that he could not take the dog back with him. A lady approached him and very calmly told him, “Sir, I’ll take the dog. Do you have your driver license with you?” The man said yes and they did some paper work and a few minutes later a volunteer took the dog to the back. Honestly, I think that dog will be better off with anybody else than with that man. Why? I think that if they did not take the dog he would have probably left him out on the street.

  2. Great post, no, awesome post!

    I’ll admit it, I’ve had to change my way of thinking. It wasn’t until I started working more with a local shelter that I realized I needed to change. And, it’s hard, sometimes I still get angry and wonder how people can be so cruel. But, I have to remind myself to calm down, not get tunnel vision and to see the big picture.

  3. I think that you are right. I never understood how people can give up their dog, and part of me still doesn’t. Sometimes I think people use the ‘it’s for their own good’ excuse too easily. My work pattern has changed…. I have to move… things like that should be thought about before getting a pet. I have had a bit of a crappy week, the ex has been caught working late and I have been having to visit BD around the plans I made before I knew he would be working all hours god sends. This means that he has been alone more than either of us likes, and yesterday when I let him out for a quick wee before leaving him to be alone for another few hours I thought about if we were being cruel, if he did deserve a better life with someone else. But he is so bonded to my ex, and I hope a little to me, I am certain he would not cope in a shelter/rescue and so we muddle on.

    • I definitely agree that some people use the excuses too often, and ill never fully understand how they can give them up either. I guess I’ve started to think that these dogs might truly be better off with the chance to find a family that genuinely loves them than stuck w the current family that obviously doesn’t care.

      I think w BD if his bond really is that strong, even though he might not get as much attention as you’d like, he’s sill better off w your ex (and you!) because being taken away from you would be infinitely for devastating to him than getting a couple of hours less attention than usual. Just my opinion though!

  4. I would give up everything I had (food for me, etc.) just to feed my two dogs. If our living situation ever got so bad, I would never surrender our dogs for anything. I personally would do without, just so they would be well taken care of. The loving bond I have for our dogs can never be broken, and I personally could never surrender them, as I could never live with myself if I did that. Some people might have a dog, just to have a pet, and that is all the dogs are to them. As for me, our dogs are a huge part of our family and their needs come first. There is a lot more that goes into just “owning” a dog – there is a lot of responsibilities that go along with it. Dogs are just like people. When you hang around negative people, you eventually become negative too. If dogs are around people who bring them up badly and influence them in a bad way, then the dog knows nothing else. Love and affection are always the best medicine.

  5. I read this article on YPB&Y and loved it as well, I was actually going to write a blog on it myself today, but you beat me to it! Always interesting to see what people take out of writings though, because I focused more from a training standpoint on it. But this is an excellent post, as always and another excellent point to be gleaned from the article. It comes right on the heels of an incident with a local rescue I was reading about too. The rescue took in a dog without knowing it had a severe bite history. After the dog tried to attack a dog and bit the foster mom and her daughter, the rescue started to track down the dog’s history, and it was discovered the dog had previously hospitalized two people. The rescue did what I felt was the right thing and euthanized the dog, and then took another step to be transparent about it. There were a lot of nasty things said and a lot of supportive things said as you know, the internet goes, but it did ask some tough questions like your post and the article it stems from. One of the questions I found myself asking of these people was – do you know what it’s like to live with a severely aggressive dog? Do you have any idea how torturous it can be? We live with two aggressive dogs (I wouldn’t even call them severely, they’ve never bitten) but just to be able to have an “XBox night” with his friend Joe and I had to prepare the house and make things safe for the dogs and the guest and work on strategies to reduce their stress. Planning began for this event three days ago. Sorry for the novel, but your post is very compelling and it spirals outward into a lot of other hard hitting questions in the animal welfare community as well I think.

    • First of all, I really hope you do write about it! The more people that discuss these things the better (plus you will have readers that I don’t and vice a versa so you’ll reach more people!) And I definitely think the training aspect is really important. If we can help people learn how to better communicate w their dogs, I think we can keep a lot of them out of shelters. There is a group in LA (I think) that literally just sits out front of the shelter and asks people why they are turning in their dog. They then help in any way they can (training, help finding a low cost clinic, food donations, etc) and they have seen a drastic decrease in the number of dogs in the shelter. I think it all spirals out and simultaneously is all intertwined if that makes any sense.

      I didn’t hear about the dog bite incident that you mentioned? From what you said, I would agree with the decision, too. I feel like a lot of rescues are afraid to make tough calls like this for fear of backlash but who does that ultimately help? No one.

      Anyways, I do hope you post about this! And major kudos to you for handling your aggressive (though I wonder, are they truly aggressive and not just reactive?) dogs the way you do. Mine certainly have their fair share of issues but you are amazing for handling yours with the grace that I know I wouldn’t have!

  6. Excellent points! People, like dogs, need grace and kindness — even when they make decisions that we would never make ourselves. I can imagine that this is a difficult perspective to maintain when you get so closely involved with a rescue, but it’s heartening to hear that you are able to derive this from your experiences. Hear, hear!

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