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.

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!

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

This sweet girl is breaking my heart.  She’s about 8-9 and, despite having lead a rough life, she is sweeter than sugar and one of the most loving dogs I have met.  She truly wants nothing more than to sit next to you and snuggle.  We think that she has cancer and I am praying that someone will see how special she is and decide to give her a wonderful ending to what has clearly been a rough life.  Meet Macy:

Macy 1

Macy 2

Macy 3

Mac

Mac 2

Macy deserves better than to die of cancer, all alone in the shelter.  If you have a warm spot on your couch that you’re willing to share with a sweet old girl, that loves to give kisses, please get in touch with me.

The Butterfly Effect

Saturday night I finally got off the phone with a fellow volunteer around midnight and as I lay in bed I started thinking about the butterfly effect.  You’ve all heard of it, right?  The theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can create a chain of events that leads to a tsunami on the other side of the world?  Well, I felt like I was smack dab in the middle of one of those tsunamis, and realized that not only was I, but tons of other people, in this position because of one person’s actions.

IMG_0446To make an incredibly long story short, the animal control that I volunteer at had a Great Dane surrendered by the owner last week.  Hell broke loose across the state of Florida on Friday night after I posted his picture with people wanting to save this dog.  On an unrelated note, I find it extremely frustrating that people were literally fighting over this dog while we have tons of other beautiful and healthy dogs (the dogs featured in this post are just some of them) that are sitting there with no interest in them at all-but that’s another issue for another day.  Anyways, I lay there thinking about all of the people that were working to save this dog.  There are the three officers at animal control, plus the volunteers (there are four of us), plus all of the people that do crossposting and help us keep track of comments on Facebook, plus the various decision makers at the rescues that were interested in him, plus the volunteers that they got in touch with to try and help them with transport, plus all of the people that those volunteers reached out to for help….the list goes on and on.  Here we were, midnight on a Saturday, not much more than 24 hours after we had posted his picture, and I’m guessing a couple of hundred people were in a state of panic.

IMG_0508

And why are all of these people in a panic?  Because one person decided that they could not care for their dog and, instead of taking any personal responsibility for their animal, they dumped the dog at animal control where it would become someone else’s problem. It’s this attitude, this “it’s someone else’s problem” mindset that is making me crazy.  Because that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it?  The dog/cat/whatever isn’t the owner’s problem once they don’t want it anymore; there is someone else that will clean up their mess.

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And it’s not just pets that people seem to have this attitude with.  There is the person that throws their trash out the car window because someone else will pick it up.  Or the person that leaves their cart in the middle of the parking lot instead of walking 10 extra feet and putting it in the cart spot because someone else will do it for them.  Or the people that see a person with a flat tire but continue driving because surely there is someone else that will stop and help them.

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Last week I was very graciously invited to an hour long radio interview where I got to talk all about Last Hope Rescue and at the very end, the host asked us, “If you could have just one wish, any wish, what would it be?”  The other person said it would be to win the lottery and build a huge facility for Last Hope to use.  Since this was a pretty great wish I felt a little put on the spot and answered “increased education so people would understand the importance of spaying and neutering, and responsible pet ownership so that we can get to the root of the problem”.  I see now that I made a mistake.  My wish should have been for people to take responsibility for their actions.  Because until people start to do that, other people are going to continuing using their time and resources to fix what becomes a huge problem when really there shouldn’t even be a problem that needs fixing to begin with.

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Can you imagine if everyone that made the decision to own a pet took it as a lifelong commitment?  It would mean that all of the energy myself and other volunteers spend saving the life of a dog that the owner no longer deemed their problem, could be spent saving dogs that never had a home to begin with.  Or educating people on responsible pet ownership.  Or lobbying for better laws surrounding pet ownership, breeding, and breed specific legislation.  We could actually get to the root of these problems.  It would be the butterfly effect but in a positive direction instead of the negative one we seem to be stuck in.  Hey, a girl can dream, right?

King - the dog an entire state fought over.

King – the dog an entire state fought over.

Christmas Miracles

I started this blog with the idea that if I could chronicle my adventures fostering dogs, I might be able to convince more people to do the same.  As you may or may not know, I have had my current foster dog for about 6 months now.  Despite the fact that I think she is cute as pie, and has a hilarious personality, apparently not many other people see that because she never has any interest in her.  She has a home with me until someone better comes along, so I’m not worried about anything, but since I have had her for so long and we are so settled into our routines, it leaves me with little to talk about in regard to fostering.  While I consider myself a weak writer at best, I don’t want to stop blogging because I want to change minds and hopefully encourage more people to get involved.  Because of these things, I tend to talk a lot about  some of the other things I do, which include volunteering at a tiny Animal Control in an even smaller county here in Florida.  If I can shed some light on all the wonderful homeless pets that are out there and in need, then I have done a good job.

So, why did I just give you that lengthy explanation?  Because I wanted to talk about some amazing things that have been happening lately at this little Animal Control.  I have talked a couple of times about the Facebook page that I helped to start and what a difference it has made in such a short amount of time (here and here and here) but what I haven’t talked much about is the support that we have started getting from literally all over the country and the wonderful people that have stepped up to help us save these lives.  Let me give you some examples:

IMG_0077This handsome guy is Ace.  Being a large black dog, we didn’t think he was going to make it out of the shelter alive.  If you have ever been involved in rescue, you have probably heard of the “black dog curse”.  Basically, for whatever reason, black dogs are the most frequently euthanized dogs of all.  Well, that all changed when Ace caught the eye of a man in Kansas–yes, Kansas!  He got in touch with us and went on and on about how much he wanted Ace.  We all loved this guy, and knew he would make a wonderful owner for Ace, but man, Kansas is far!

Our plan was to drive and meet half way so that we could Ace to his home.  Half way was still over a 9 hour drive, so we really weren’t excited about that or the amount of gas money we would spend, so I decided to reach out and ask a person that I know arranges transport if she could help us.  Lo and behold, she could!  She got the ball rolling and, after a major personal emergency, got me in touch with the lady in charge of the whole transport.  We were trying to add Ace onto a transport that had already been arranged for another dog so she had to get in touch with ALL of the drivers (I think about 30 total) plus the places where they would stay over night, and get everyone to agree to adding a second dog.  I thought there was no way it was going to happen in just a couple of days, but sure enough, she did it!  I was on cloud nine.  Then we found out the other dog didn’t do well with some dogs.  We had no choice but to drive Ace 3 hours to meet the dog and see if they got along.  If they didn’t, the whole thing was off, and we were back to square one.  Sure enough, they were instantly best buddies and as I type this Ace is approximately half way home.  How amazing is that?  Roughly 35 complete strangers worked together to help us get a dog home for the holidays.  Pretty amazing, huh?

MollyAnd then there is the story of Molly.  At roughly the same time as we were starting to figure things out for Ace, and learning how much goes into arranging transport, we were contacted by a woman in upstate New York that wanted to bring this scared little girl into their rescue!  She has been extremely kind, gotten another person started on arranging transport, and already paid to have Molly completely vetted!  Assuming everything continues on as planned, Molly will be going all the way to New York next week!

As if that weren’t special enough, somehow in the (long!) chain of emails that I’ve had going with this woman, someone else saw that we don’t have any beds for our dogs.  Like most shelters, ours is just concrete floors and cinder block walls.  A woman saw this and ordered SEVEN Kurunda beds for us.  This came to over $400!  I’ve never even spoken to this woman and she did this without being asked, simply because she saw our need and wanted to help.  She also emailed us saying that she was going to try and get us some cats beds as well.  And the woman that is taking Molly asked us what size beds we could use.  Seriously, is this not amazing?

And here’s another cool story:  One of the other volunteers at this shelter got in touch with a person she worked for years ago and told her all about what she is doing down in Florida and how under-funded this Animal Control is.  The woman decided she was going to auction a saddle of hers and donate the proceeds to us!  She raised $400 for us, again, without ever being asked.  Is that not generosity at it’s finest?

kittens

Oh!  And how could I forget about the girl that arranged for a private pilot to fly SIX kittens to a rescue in Boston?

I guess my point with this post is, all we had to do was start getting the word out there.  I tend to forget, because things are pretty rough down in Wakulla, that that is not the case for the rest of the country.  There are places in the United States where kill shelters are unheard of.  And there are people willing to dedicate their own time and money to help places where kill shelters are the norm.

Until we can get to the root of the problem, educate people on responsible pet ownership, create ways to help low-income people spay and neuter their pets, and somehow get funding for places Wakulla, the problem will still exist, but we are starting to make a difference!  So many people never even knew this tiny place existed and now we are getting support from literally all over the country.  And these are just a couple of our stories.  There are so many other people that have started fostering, sponsoring dogs, and more.  Feels like a Christmas Miracle to me!

A Million Thanks

On Friday, November 3rd (just 11 days ago) I helped set up a Facebook page for the Animal Control of Wakulla County.  The goal was to help get their wonderful animals the exposure that they so desperately needed to stay alive.  While the officers of the shelter are truly amazing human beings, alone they just weren’t able to get the exposure necessary to save every life that ended up in their shelter, and that is why we decided to try and help.

Since the inception Facebook page, and my slightly pushy post about sharing, we have already saved a huge number of lives!  Now, I am the very first to admit, the Facebook page certainly does not get all of the credit for this.  I cannot say for certain how many of the lives were saved due to Facebook and how many through the networking of the officers and other volunteers, but without a doubt, I know that we have helped.  So, to all of my followers, the other volunteers (who dedicate so much more of their own time than I do) and most of all, our Facebook followers, on the behalf of Friends of Wakulla County Animal Control: THANK YOU!  A million times over, thank you!

Now, want to see some of the animals that have been rescued?

Birdie was taken in by C.H.A.T. where she is now safe but still awaiting adoption.

This fur ball now lives in a home with a little girl to play with him everyday!

Freckles was a adopted by a woman in Miami where he now lives with an almost identical brother!

These two got adopted together by a gentleman that will train them to hunt and then pamper them in the off season.

All 4 of these babies were taken in by C.H.A.T. where they too are safe but also still awaiting adoption.

Precious Lady was adopted by a family in S. Carolina where she has TWO human sisters to cuddle and play with every day!

Saved by Poodles and Pooches down in Orlando!

Sooner was adopted within one week!

Walker worked his way into a very nice gentleman’s heart!

In addition to those listed above, we have also found foster homes for some of our dogs and kittens too!  This is a huge deal because all of the animals that are now in foster care are: out of danger, being socialized and loved, and have created a space in the shelter for the dogs that are still there.  Check them out:

The ones in foster care are still awaiting their permanent homes!  Remember, if they are adopted then their foster parent can take in another one, open another space in the shelter, and save another life.  It’s that simple.

So, once again, thank you a million times to everyone that has liked our page, shared our pictures, and especially the foster parents for opening your homes.  You all are directly responsible for helping save these precious lives!

The Weekend’s Here

…and boy is there a lot going on!  Today I’m sneaking out of work a few hours early and heading to a small shelter outside of Tallahassee with a fellow volunteer.  Our mission?  Get pictures of all their dogs, set up a Facebook account for the shelter, and promote the living daylights out of it.  Why in the world are we doing that you ask?  Well, it’s a very small shelter and currently the rescue I volunteer for has been promoting their dogs for them but it’s getting to be quite confusing.

The shelter is a “kill” shelter which means that once they hit capacity, they have to start putting down dogs.  Pretty sad, huh?  No one wants that, especially the people that work and volunteer at the shelter, which is why we are doing this.  So, wish us luck and don’t you worry, I’ll flood my blog with pictures of the adorable dogs.

The rest of the weekend consists of running errands (mostly rescue related), a group dog walk, and for adoptable Maggie a whole lot of this:

 Happy Friday everyone!