Faith in Fate: Dixie Edition

When I was offered the job at the Humane Society, the decision to accept it or not wasn’t as easy as you might assume.  For one, it would mean that I would go from working a little over part-time to working more than full-time.  It would mean long days alone for my dogs.  It would mean working weekends which I hadn’t had to do in years, and frankly dreaded.  But it also would mean that I would have to facilitate adoptions with none of the background work that I was used to doing through the rescue.

Play Group

In the rescue, when there is a potential adopter, they fill out an in-depth application, we check vet references, and we perform a home visit.  You might remember there was a family interested in Maggie and I thought they were an absolutely perfect fit for her.  Everything checked out and I decided to do the home visit and meet-n-greet all at the same time.  When I got to their home it was, to put it lightly, not in a condition that I would find safe for any dog, let alone one that had a propensity for getting into things she shouldn’t and sending herself to the hospital.  I thank God all of the time that I did that home visit and didn’t just let Maggie be adopted by this seemingly perfect family because there is no doubt in my mind that while they would have adored her, she would have been miserable in this home.  So you can imagine my apprehension when I learned that basically anyone that wants to adopt a dog (or cat) from the Humane Society is allowed to.  Unless their is a note in our system about the person, which only happens if they have been convicted of animal abuse (that we know of), or the person basically tells us they plan to leave the animal chained outside (or worse), we must allow them to adopt the dog or cat of their choice, even if we know it’s not a good fit.  Take a minute and think about just truly frightening that is.  Talk about needing to have faith.

Play Group

While speaking with the director about my concerns, because I truly wasn’t sure if I was going to take the job or just continue on my merry way, volunteering as I saw fit, she told me that statistically speaking, the Humane Society’s return rate was actually lower than most rescues.  I found that hard to believe at first but we went into a discussion about the expectations that adopters have when adopting from a shelter vs. a rescue (this is an entire post for another day) and I realized that it does actually make sense that people would, generally speaking, have lower expectations of a dog coming out of a shelter than one coming out of a foster home.  If the dog exhibited an unwanted behavior, the shelter adopters are theoretically more likely to accept it (and hopefully work to correct it) than rescue adopters.  I know it guarantees nothing, but numbers don’t lie either.  It was enough to convince me, and I (obviously) accepted the job.

Play Group

From January 1st thru today, the Humane Society has adopted about 1100 animals out to homes.  That is significantly higher than most rescues do in years.  And we have also seen returns.  When you’re used to a rescue that only gets a couple of returns a year, and you see a couple in a month, it feels like a lot.  A whole hell of a lot.  I know that statistically speaking it is less than rescues, but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting when a dog you did the adoption for is sitting back in her kennel, scared and confused out of her mind.  For me, my normal emotional reactions go something like this: first incredulity, then a deep raging anger, first at the adopter, then at myself, all with constant underlying sadness, to finally a feeling of hopelessness.  How will things ever change if people keep abandoning their dogs?  Not upholding their commitments?  The last one is a fleeting emotion though, because in my years of doing this work I have learned that for all of the bad people, there truly are more good ones, but it still clutches my chest like a vice grip.  Once these emotions have come and gone there are two that remain: sadness and instead of hopelessness it’s now hopefulness.  I will be sad until the day that dog leaves again but I quickly become hopeful for it’s new family.  Because I have learned to have faith in fate.  And that dog is back because there truly is a much better family for them on their way.  Of this I am sure.

Play Group

You’ll notice that the title is Faith in Fate: Dixie Edition.  I did that because as I was mentally plotting out this post I realized there was no way I could pick just one story to share on the topic.  I decided I would randomly share these stories as a way to remind the public, my fellow animals rescuers, and most of all myself, to continue to have faith in fate.  So, without further ado, I give you the story of Dixie, the first of many wonderful stories I plan to share.

Play Group

Dixie, a scruffy little Schnauzer mix, was transfered to us from a rescue and we knew nothing about her prior to that.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  We knew that she was not well cared for.  Dixie had cataracts, a mammary tumor, hair loss, dental disease, kennel cough, and seriously overgrown toenails.  In short, she was a hot mess.  She was allowed to live in one of the offices; the kennel setting was just to scary for this 7-year-young lady dog.  We all adored her sweet temperament and when a nice woman and her daughter came to adopt her, we were all so excited.  Finally she was going home where she would be doted on like she deserved.  When I walked in to work the next day and learned that Dixie was back, I was flabbergasted to say the least.  “But she was adopted just last night?!  What the hell happened?!”  Turns out the “nice lady” and her daughter got Dixie home where she had the nerve to whine.  Imagine, a 7 year old dog, who had been bounced around, countless times at this point, was confused and whined the first night in yet another new environment.  Remember the emotions I mentioned earlier?  I was pretty much just feeling rage over this particular return.

Play Group

The day Dixie was adopted another woman came in to meet her, just as she was leaving with her new family (for that night anyway.)  She had seen Dixie’s picture and knew that she was the dog she had been searching for.  She was so set on Dixie, in fact, that when she learned Dixie had just been adopted she cried.  In a flash of not-yet-realized genius, we took down her phone number and told her that we would call her if another dog like Dixie came along (something we really never do.)  As soon as Dixie came back we called her and she rushed over, in tears again, but this time from happiness.  Once Dixie’s second adoption in two days was complete I walked out with her new, forever mom.  She gave me a big hug and said, “I’m sorry that we have to rush off, but I have 7 years worth of love and fun to catch her up on.”

Have faith in Fate.

All of the dogs in this post, pictured having a blast in playgroup, are adoptable thru the Jacksonville Humane Society.

Sunday Funday (brought to you on Monday.)

Since accepting the job at the Humane Society I have only had one day a week off: Sundays.  My guilt level has been through the roof regarding my own dogs and their lack of entertainment/exercise lately, so you better bet we take full advantage of our Sundays.  Check out some photos from yesterday’s adventures:

Sisters

Buddy

Tag

Flowers

My guilt has been so bad in fact, that when the girls found disgusting things to roll in, I just let them have at it.  I know.  It’s crazy.

Maggie

Sisters

Tag

But really, is there anything happier than a dirty dog?  I think not.  Besides, I’m certainly not going to deny them this simple joy after neglecting them all week!

Water Lillies

Stream

Do you have a job (or jobs) that require you to be away from your dogs for long hours?  Do you share the same soul crushing guilt as me?  We take Maggie to “camp” occasionally, which helps, and of course we leave them with entertainment like Kongs, but that all only goes so far.  Knowing that you are your dogs’ entire world, how do you not feel guilty when you are away from them for long hours?  No really, I’d like to know!

Play!

One of the things that rocks my world is getting to help with play groups.  What does that mean?  Have a looksie:

Pit Bulls Playing

Those are the faces of two very happy girls.  Every morning we take multiple dogs out and put them in play groups.  We rotate through the dogs that we know enjoy playing with friends and give them a seriously needed outlet for their pent up energy and kennel stress.

Pit Bulls Playing

Pit Bulls Playing

Not only does it tire the pups out in record time, and give them a mental breather, it also gives us valuable information about the dogs.

Crazy Eyes

Play Group

Play Group

For example, the crazy-eyed little pooch above seems rather anti-social when in her kennel, but the second you get her out she is a total social butterfly, bouncing from friend to friend, both canine and human.  Other dogs, like Armand (the black, tan, and white boy below) are painfully shy but quickly gain confidence when surrounded by canine friends.

Friends

FriendsAnd how do we figure out who likes play groups?  Well we test them of course!  Everyone gets a chance to see how they like it.  This lets us know if the dogs love canine friends, only prefer human friends, or fall somewhere in the middle.  Talk about valuable knowledge when speaking with potential adopters!  For example, if I know a certain dog really likes other dogs of the opposite sex, but not of the same, and a family is interested in her that happens to have a resident canine of the same sex, then I can warn them that it’s likely not a good match and work with them to find a different dog that would love their current canine and therefore be a success match.  By utilizing this knowledge on the front end I can prevent a dog from going home, things not going well, and getting returned to the shelter where she potentially may have developed behavioral problems.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Adoptable DogsA happy dog is a more adoptable dog; just another reason I am loving my job at the Jacksonville Humane Society.  Have you heard of play groups at shelters before?  What do you think about it?  Have you ever gotten to be part of this magical time?

All of the happy pooches seen here today are still looking for their forever homes!  If you are in the Jacksonville, FL area and in need of a playful friend email me or contact JHS!

Future Fly Ball Champ

I shared a picture of my favorite resident at the Jacksonville Humane Society on Facebook yesterday.  Her name is Barbara (I know, it’s terrible) and when I look at her I see a Fly Ball or Agility champion.  I am obsessed; she is just so.freakin.awesome.  Here, see for yourself:

Agility Dog

Fly Ball Dog

Pit Bull

Tennis Ball

Right?  Oh, you’re not convinced that this is the coolest dog ever?  Check out this beautifully dirty mug:

Dirty Mouth

and Super ears!

Tongue

Fly Ball Dog

This girl needs to be on a Fly Ball team.  In fact, I have been able to teach her some tricks without using one single treat.  Her obsession with tennis balls is so great that they are an even bigger reward for her than any treat could ever be.  B’s future is absolutely limitless, she just needs to get the heck out of the shelter system.  I think she would be pretty perfect for a younger guy that could take her to the beach for endless games of fetch and picking up chicks.  I mean, I certainly would go talk to any guy that had a pup as cool as her!

Gorgeous Pit Bull

Barbara is available through the Jacksonville Humane Society.  If you know of anyone in the market for a super athletic, smart, and loving pocket pit tie, feel free to share this post!