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.

18 thoughts on “Faith in Fate: Dixie Edition

  1. What an awesome post, and I can’t stop crying. I remember when we first saw Nikita. She was running around with a few other pups from her litter and we picked her up, snuggled her, gave her kissies, and then set her down to talk. Once we saw another family coming over to look at the pups, we grabbed her and never set her down again. That was the happiest day ever, coming home with a little fluffy puppy sitting on my lap. Pure joy from the ground up, and we have had happiness for years now with her. ❤

      • Me too! They mean the world to us! Nikita always sleeps on the bed by our feet, and now Bella jumps up every night and snuggles with Mommy for a half hour then jumps back down to her own bed. Our dogs are so sweet and precious! ❤

  2. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, LOVE!!!! I understand the reservations you had about rescue versus shelter. I never really thought about it (certainly not from a career perspective) but that totally makes sense to me. The part about the mom and her daughter not being open hearted about the whining… I always celebrate when they bring the dog back (I know it sounds CRAZY) but one night of whining is NOTHING compared to what they may need to face with and for Dixie in her life. They were obviously not ready to champion her. So many people aren’t meant to be pet owners and sometimes they don’t know that until that first try/night. In those moments, I’m grateful for you. Someone who has an open door policy on returns, someone who feels passion, who champions the pets until Fate arrives. You are my hero!

    • Haha, you’re silly! I definitely don’t think I do anything worthy of “hero” status, BUT I totally agree with you about celebrating the return of dogs in situations like this. It took me a long time to figure it out, but you are completely right that these people clearly aren’t prepared to do whatever the dog needs, champion him to use your wonderful phrase, and someone truly better always comes along in these situations.

  3. That humane shelter is so lucky to have someone like you, first of all. I was involved in some rescue stuff on the periphery and it tore my heart to pieces when something would go wrong. It tore it in such pieces that I couldn’t do the work anymore, unfortunately, my mental health issues being what they may. At any rate, I love your blog and your doggie pictures and all the stories. Keep at it!

    • Thank you! And I’m sorry to hear that the rescue work was too much for you. I certainly can understand that feeling; it has very much overwhelmed me at times, too.

  4. Wow, thanks for explaining the difference in adopting at a rescue vs shelter. As a volunteer at a rescue I do take returns personally, adoptions are awesome and they do the house visit and check, but reruns are heartbreaking because the cats can’t talk to you and tell you what they’ve been through. It takes love and patience…lots of love sometimes for them to settle.

    • That’s definitely the hardest part, the fact that they can’t tell you what happened and you can’t tell them that someone even better for them will come along.

  5. Love how you talk about the emotions of the dogs and the people, also happy to know someone does do house checks this My Dear is a wonderful thing please keep up the good work

  6. This might be my favorite post on your blog ever, and I’ve loved so many of your posts. Absolutely cannot wait to read more editions of this new “series”!

  7. Wow, what an interesting post! It’s funny because the municipal shelter where we adopted our first dog, Meyer, is technically a pound, although they are no-kill. They adopt dogs out very easily, but they have such a low return rate!

    Both of our dogs were really challenging in ways that I think most people would have given up. Our second dog, Harvin, reminds me a lot of your Maggie and is still very much a work in progress. But we just accepted it like, these dogs are part of our family now, for better or worse. I so admire your attitude and how much you value commitments.

    My fiance and I adopted both our dogs from municipal shelters and during our search for a dog, we felt that if we had gone to a rescue, we probably would not have been approved. Initially, because we live in a smaller condo, but we more than compensate for our lack of space and a yard with lots of walks and exercise. We also did not have any references, other than family, who could attest to how we are with dogs. I’m all for having potential adopters fill out applications and doing interviews. My only issue with rescues is I feel like some of them (or maybe just some staff members) make it exceedingly difficult for some potential adopters, when many doubts could be resolved by just discussing it with them. I even saw a rescue application once that asked for the applicant’s salary. I understand wanting to ensure that a person can afford the costs of a dog, but I don’t believe that one’s salary indicates whether or not they’ll be a responsible dog owner.

    But anyway, I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to future posts about your experiences in this position. I really admire you for taking on the extra work and responsibility to help so many animals! You’re putting so much good out into the world.

    • Ok, I have to tell you, I just realized I follow (and love!) Harvin and Meyer on Instagram! Sorry, that was just so funny not to mention! But I agree with what you were saying, a lot of rescues really do make it too difficult to adopt. Essentially, they are doing more harm than good because while they are taking forever and denying adopters that very well could be wonderful, other dogs are dying because they have run out of time. Even a one bedroom, tiny condo is better than the shelter! Something I think a lot of rescues forget, and honestly need to be reminded of in my opinion. And thank you for your kind words! I’m off to stalk your IG…. 🙂

  8. Ah, Morgan. Lotso tears here. I’m going to be honest with you … I do NOT know how you do it. Though I have never worked in a shelter, I work in a vet’s office, and some of the stuff that comes through the doors, and the surrenders, and the shitty owners, and the abuse, and the euthanasia … it’s really, really hard for me to stomach some days. And I feel a lot of those same emotions you do when you experience a return. And I feel the emotions *I* feel must be magnified times a million in *your* environment when you’re dealing with the heartbreak of the confused, sad, scared animals.

    I could not do your job. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: Thank GOD for people like you.

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