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.

Villalobos and #367rescue: Changing Lives

The busier I am, the happier I am.  Lately, you can find me on cloud nine.  There are quite a few new things I have gotten involved with lately, and I’m sure I’ll talk excitedly about them one day, but for now I wanted to share the first of two very exciting pieces of news:  I will be deploying the end of February for one week to help with the #367 dogs from the fighting ring bust last summer!  I am honored and excited beyond words to be part of this amazing experience.  Adding to the extreme awesomeness is the fact that my dear friend from And Foster Makes Five will be there at the exact. same. time!  Um, yea.  That’s happening.

A friend sent this link about the #367 dogs to me a couple of days ago and (if you have a box of tissues handy) I highly recommend reading it.  I was instantly transported back to my time at Villalobos Rescue in New Orleans (from the show Pit Bulls and Parolees if you aren’t familiar with the name.)  I’ve mentioned my time there in passing once or twice and many people have asked me to talk more about it, but I haven’t felt I possess the eloquence necessary to do the experience the justice it deserves.  I still don’t think I do I will do my best to sum it up in a couple of “quick” paragraphs:

Life changing.  If I could only use two words, those would be the ones.  I can’t honestly say that I remember much from my drive to NOLA but what probably sticks out the most in my mind was the drive home from NOLA.  I cried so hard that I had to pull over at one point.  I distinctly remember sitting at a rest stop and debating just turning around and going back.  Surely I could find a job bartending or something so I had food money and I was happy to just continue living in the warehouse that us volunteers had called home for the week.  All I could think about were the things I was so ready to give up just so I could be there doing what I finally realized, with stunning clarity, was my true purpose in life.  Obviously my head prevailed and I managed to make my way back to Florida and my regular life.

It was jarring to realize that sleeping on a cot, surrounded by strangers, showering (yes, showering) in a cold porta-potty, and eating processed crap had lead me to realize my purpose, but that’s exactly what it did.  Why did I ever think I cared about clothes, or shoes, or a real bed with real sheets?  So unnecessary and frivolous.  I had always loved animals and I’d volunteered or taken in strays here and there, but it was now blindingly clear that this is where my heart is.  I had a semester left of college, which I knew I had to finish, but it was clear that this was the only “career” I had any interest in.  Being flat broke and possessing nothing more than rain boots was all I needed to fulfill my purpose in life.  Fast forward to today and admittedly the drama of my drive home has worn off some, but my heart still beats to a slightly different drum, and I still view many things I previously thought were oh-so necessary as frivolous.

Home Sweet Home

Home, Sweet Home for the week.

I had only seen clips of the show prior to my trip (and honestly I still have yet to see more than 10 minutes here or there) so I didn’t really know who anyone was, aside from knowing Tia called the shots.  There were two momma dogs with litters of very young puppies and we were asked who wanted to step up to be on “puppy duty”.  I assumed everyone would fight for this job but no one seemed particularly excited about it.  Desperate to show I was worthy of being there, I tried to maintain my composure when I said I would do it (it was puppies people, putting a lid on my excitement was not easy!)  The previous “puppy duty” volunteer was getting ready to leave and showed us everything that needed to be done.  Aaaand now I realized why people weren’t fighting for the job.  Those things were food devouring poop machines!

Puppies

And then I met her: brown momma dog.  I instantly fell hard and fast for her.  While visitors came to “oooo” and “awww” over the puppies, she was the only dog I had eyes for.  She was a plain little brown thing.  No discernible markings, no discernible breed.  Just a plain brown mutt, and it was love.  When there was down time, which wasn’t often, I would go sit in her kennel with her.  And by sit with her, I mean she would do her best to climb into my lap so every possible inch of her was touching me.  I would murmur in her ear, telling her what a good girl she was, that she was the best mom ever, and that she was safe now.  She was the biggest reason I wanted to turn my car around and come back, forever.

Momma Dog

Pardon the poor quality, all I had with me was a crappy old phone!

The days were long and the work was manual.  I loved it.  I’m not a particularly large person (I claim to be 5’2″ but I don’t think I’m even that) so of course I felt that I had to prove myself.  I was partnered up with a guy named Ben and I was damned if I let him work faster than me.  As we worked through cleaning our section of kennels he would tell me what he knew about the dogs and their lives before Villalobos.  Initially all I could think about was how terribly depressing it was for these dogs to live in a loud warehouse, in a kennel, with minimal exercise and interaction.  There just isn’t time in the day to sit and play with each dog, unless maybe you are a zombie that requires absolutely no sleep.  Intuitively I knew that crying in front of these dogs was a selfish thing to do.  It’s been said many times before, but they don’t need our tears, they need our strength.  Holding it in all week is probably what lead to my torrent of tears on the drive home though.  But like I was saying, Ben helped me realize just how much happier they were in this setting.  They weren’t being beaten, living on chains, forced to fight, scrounging for food, or roaming the streets looking for shelter from storms, or, like my favorite brown momma dog, a safe place to have their babies.  They were safe.  And they were loved.

There is so much more I could say or describe about this experience but the main things I took away from it were: a deep appreciation and respect for the guys (and girls!) that work there.  They are quite possibly the most compassionate people I have ever met.  Tia knew everything about every single dog there.  It was amazing.  Not to mention the other volunteers that week were seriously so cool, and I still keep in touch with some of them!  I took away a burning desire to keep at this rescue from now til forever.  I learned first hand just how amazingly resilient dogs are.  I mean, I had always known that to some extent, but seeing these happy, grinning faces, despite their varying backgrounds was truly amazing.  I realized how little I need to truly be happy.  A new purse can never, ever make me feel the way I felt while running through the yard with a dog that was just thankful to be out of his kennel.  And I learned that sometimes a plain brown momma mutt is truly the coolest dog of all.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the #367 experience will be like compared to my time at Villalobos.  I’m guessing it will be even more intense.  These are all dogs from a fighting ring.  I’m already repeating the mantra “They need my strength, not my tears” in preparation for the week.  If my time at Villalobos taught me anything though, it’s that I’ll be giving their past much more thought than they will.  I’m quite sure they will just be happy for the safety, regular meals, and especially love, that they are already receiving.  Check back in a couple of days for my second piece of super exciting news!

Help a Sister Out?

Oh my.  Based on some of the comments on my last post, I’m afraid I may have made it sound like I don’t intend to stay involved in rescue!  That my friends is about as far from the truth as Miley Cyrus is from becoming a nun.  It’s true, I will not be taking in any fosters in the foreseeable future, but there is SO much more to rescue than just fostering.  (Obviously fostering is an integral component though…please consider fostering if you haven’t already!)  Don’t believe me?  Read what my friend wrote here.  I have done and/or still do all the things she talks about, and even some other things she didn’t mention.  Rescues are a seriously complicated business!  It’s a constantly moving target.  A target that is also a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that you’re usually waiting to find the last pieces to.

Elliot

Plus, did you guys forget this announcement?!  Even though I’d love nothing more than to keep fostering, by branching out Last Hope I will potentially be able to help many, maaany more dogs than I would by fostering one at a time.  I’m excited!  But this leads me to the point of this post.  I need your help.  I know many of you that choose to take 5 minutes out of your day to read my little blog are also involved in dog rescue in one way or another.  I need your creative brains, experiences, and opinions!  I’m not having any luck in finding foster families here in Jacksonville, and until I do that, I can’t do anything else.

Joffy

I sent out an email to basically everyone I know announcing the plans and asking that they please forward the email along to anyone that might be interested in fostering.  There was also a flyer attached that I asked them to print and post around the offices, favorite coffee shops, etc.  (I offered to hand deliver flyers if they didn’t want to use their own paper and ink.)  So far I’ve gotten no response.  I think because I did this right before the holidays a lot of people may have disregarded it just because they had a lot going on.  So I’m going to send out another similar email in a week or so.  And I’ve also ordered cute pamphlets that I plan to distribute to vets office, pet stores, etc. all about fostering.  But that’s all I’ve got.  “Sales” is not my strong point and that’s basically what I need to be doing.  I need to sell the idea of fostering and get people, in a city where I just moved and basically know no one, excited and wanting to foster.  SOS!  I need help.  Ideas.  Suggestions.  How do I get complete strangers on board with fostering?  Brilliant Readers Of This Blog, help a sister out!  I would oh-so greatly appreciate any and all ideas you might have and be willing to share.  Thank you in advance!

Daddy

As if you haven’t seen enough of them lately, the pups in this post are some of the ones at the top of my priority list.  They are already part of Last Hope Rescue but for various reasons are living in a boarding facility, even though they are fabulous dogs.  I want to get them out but I need foster families to do that!  If one catches your eye or you would like more information about them, or becoming a foster, please email me at morganrivera518(at)gmail(dot)com.  Thanks!

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

I really can’t say enough good things about Joffy.  Just look at him, he’s stunning!

Joffy 2

Joffy is a long-time resident of the kennel and I know that this is because he just isn’t seen by enough people.  Not only is he a looker, but he’s got the greatest personality.  Big and strong, but sweet and gentle.  Smart and willing to please, but goofy and full of personality.

Joffy

Can you all help me help Joffy find a home for the holidays?  Please share this so everyone can see his gorgeous mug.  If ever I were going to bring a fourth dog him, this would be the man, and that’s really saying something!

Contact me at morganrivera518(at)gmail(dot)com for more information or if you are interested in this fantastic boy!

“I Created You”

“I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter, the cast offs of human society.  I saw in their eyes love, hope, fear, dread, sadness and betrayal.  I was angry.  “God,” I said, “Why don’t you do something?”  And God replied, “I did, I created you.” – Jim Willis

FUR 035-(ZF-1860-91697-1-007)

The first time I read this, I burst into tears.  It’s like it was written just for me.  I never understand why no one, God included, did anything about all of the suffering?  I have started trying to live up to what I believe God’s plan for me is.  And after this weekend, I hope to be able to make a big announcement that will take everything to the next level.  I know, that was vague, but keep your fingers crossed that everything goes as well as I think it will.  And have a fantastic weekend, friends!

Throw Back Thursday

I’ve been doin’ a little work around the blog here lately.  Have you noticed any of the changes?  On the left you can see what Wordpess tells me are my most popular posts.  I’ve also linked my Instagram account so now you can see, in real time I might add, whatever goofy thing the pups are up to at my house.  Also, I made a new page at the top called “favorites“.  I spent a very long afternoon going through all, yes all, of my posts since I started this blog.  I picked out my very favorites and placed them all here!

Maggie, a rescued pit bull, in deep thought.

While you can see Maggie isn’t impressed by my efforts, I’m hoping you all might be!  So today’s post isn’t much more than a shameless self-promotion, but I hope if you find yourself bored you take the time to read some of my favorite posts from the last year and a half.  I like to think they are the ones that do the best job of illustrating who I am and what I’m about.  Throwin’ it back on this Thursday, folks!