Finja and Her Friends, Chapter 2

I spent 2 weeks going to Conny’s every other day to give Finja her medicated bath. She was very wary of me, the bathtub, and the whole process, but we endured. When the 2 weeks were up, it was time to bring Finja home.

Finja under the table

Homecoming was an exciting day – for me, not so much for Finja. I held my new little Boston in my arms as we drove the short distance to our home. She trembled like a leaf in a windstorm the whole way. The tighter I held her, the more she shook.

Welcome home. We’d put the other 3 dogs in another room to avoid Finja going on complete overload, but on overload she went anyway. She made a beeline for under the dining room table and except for going potty and eating, that’s where she stayed for 2 weeks, growling all the way.

How did it go with our other dogs? At Conny’s Finja was part of a pack of 5, so our meager 3 actually gave her some comfort. Let’s put it this way, when they were around, the growling ceased, and when they were off doing their thing, back under the table Finja went, growling every time one of us looked at her.

The Last Breath

The hardest part was feeling his soft breath on my arm as I held him, knowing that in just a few minutes his breath would be no more.  Lying in my arms, cradled in a blue and white flannel blanket, he was calm and relaxed, free from the illness that ravaged him and made his body so fragile and deformed.

Brinkley was 15. He’d had a good run, though his last few years were tough. He developed Addison’s disease and had many bouts of illness where, as my vet said, we did not think he’s be going home with you. He always came home. Like a cat with 9 lives, only there weren’t that many for Brinkley.

Brinkley always rallied. He was on long-term prednisone, which kept him going and comfortable, except when it didn’t. He was also blind and deaf. He negotiated where he was going by swinging his head back and forth to catch tell-tale odors that guided him. We had to be ever-so-careful to keep him from falling, but despite our efforts, he had several rendezvous apiece with the water bowl and the window well. Towards the end we had to carry him in and out to go potty. Even closer to the end, he couldn’t poop at all.

It was time. He told me so. He told me so when he turned his nose away from his food bowl, when he had no interest in cuddling, and when it was obvious to me that he didn’t know where he was anymore. It was time for that dreaded drive when he wouldn’t come home.

I will forever cherish the memory of my Brinkley’s final breaths on my arm.

No Roses at the Animal Shelter

Tis the season and the antics at the shelter are in full swing – and not by the animals!

Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst

One of the things this shelter does regularly is hold free adoption days where it’s just that – you can get a dog or cat for free. Sounds good? It is not. Granted, there are some honest, caring people who come committed to adopt an animal and give it the love and care it needs. But there are also those who lie and present a false picture of a huge, fenced-in yard, no other pets in the house, and so on.

One of these events was held a month ago, and a shelter favorite dog, Carlotta, was adopted by an older man who said all these things about the wonderful life Carlotta would have with him. Initial conversations after the adoption rang glaringly false About a week after he took her home, Carlotta was back. Not only was she back, but so was another dog, adopted the same day by his brother, only they never bothered to inform us of that fact. In fact, they live together. The man was told that Carlotta was not to live with any other dogs. When she arrived back at the shelter, we were told she fought with the other dog. She was a mass of cuts and bite marks, and needed surgery to close her wounds.

Another free event is happening this Saturday and I plan to be on the other side of the county while it’s taking place.

I have recently taken on another volunteer job at the shelter, and that is to follow up with adopters to see how things are going with their new furbaby in the home. I recently exchanged texts with one gent who adopted one of my all-time favorite pups. He had taken the dog to his vet only to get a positive heartworm test. Heartbreak! This shelter has a “live-in” vet and I am appalled that the dogs are not heartworm tested before they are adopted out. I have also known of many dogs who have gone to homes with various degrees of intestinal and respiratory illnesses.

Dealing with dogs, adoptions, and the shelter environment is never going to be pretty. But by implementing some basic new strategies, and eliminating things that have proven to provide pain and heartbreak, the whole adoption process can be made significantly more successful.

Crimson, a Very Nice Dog

She was big and huge and clearly uncomfortable. She was due any day and very reluctantly obliged any of us by getting up for a walk. She was a stray and the shelter staff had named her Crimson. We all couldn’t wait to see her puppies.

Photo by Tess O’Brien from Burst

They moved her into the quiet row of kennels, as a calm and peaceful place to have her litter. I was happy they did this for her.

Tonight, I came in to find that her puppies were gone. They spayed her and took them away at the same time.  When I went to see her, I was met with a much smaller and younger-looking dog, but one who panted non-stop and was in obvious distress. My heart broke for this lovely dog who wondered where her babies were.

It is heartbreaking to see things like this, but then there are all the living dogs who need us to give them a glimmer of hope and love, which we do, unfailingly.

A Young Dog Named Hershey

A wonderful happy and fun-loving 1-year old pitbull pup was surrendered to the shelter a week ago by the only family he had ever known. They got Hershey when he was a puppy and that’s when the trouble began. This family thought crating was cruel, so little Hershey, complete with puppy energy and teething gums, set about to chew and play with everything he could get his paws and teeth on. This included when the family was gone and they left Hershey to his own devices.

We all loved him at the shelter. I walked him several times, or rather, he romped and I followed at a good clip. But he would periodically stop to check in with me, make sure I was still there having as much fun as he was. One time I spent some crazy amount of time trying to get his halter on him while he just patiently stood. I never did get it on so we went by collar and leash.

I was looking forward to my next visit with him when I discovered that he was on “The List.” The shelter staff had tried to get a rescue group to pull him but because of the really bad write-up left by his owners, takers were not forthcoming. I went into frantic-forward as did untold number of other volunteers to find an answer for this beautiful, sweet and innocent boy, a boy who was about to be condemned through no fault of his own.

The good news is – Hershey was pulled by the rescue Operation Freedom Ride – literally hours before his time was up.  In a warm, loving foster home, he can now decompress and get ready for an adoptive home that will love him and treat him like the wonderful dog he is!

Shelter Dog Lessons

underbite

She was timid. She would come out of her kennel, but the brakes went on when it was time to move on. So rather than push, I sat down on the floor right in front of her kennel and she crawled into my lap and right there and then I wanted her to be mine. But with four babies of my own at home, that was not to be. But still, I became attached. I wanted to be the one to walk her, to pet her, to love her and I felt a sense of ownership I had no right to feel. She taught me this. She taught me that she needed love from whoever would give it to her. She loved my love, but she loved everyone’s love, too. She taught me that I am lucky to have even a little precious time and that I must celebrate all the other walks, pets, and loving she gets from all the other volunteers. She taught me it’s about the dogs, not about me.

My shelter friends are teaching me more about life and love than I learned anywhere else.

Bessie

I fell in love when I first saw her. She was old and ugly in that way that is endearing. She looked at me through the bars of her kennel with rheumy eyes that spoke of things I didn’t want to know. One ear stuck up straight, the other flopped, giving her a lopsided look. Her old, gray face was tired. She had served her previous master well with untold numbers of litters now weighing down her tits so low they reached the ground. Her people got what they wanted from her. She got nothing. I opened her kennel door and I spoke to her – quietly – but I am sure she understood me.

Today I ran right to her kennel and she looked at me, wouldn’t stop looking at me even though others stood before her kennel. After 2 weeks of being confused, though well taken care of and loved by everyone in the shelter, she was going to a foster home where she would be warm, cozy, and loved by a family. Wonderful news for her. I started my shift whispering sweet somethings in her ear and when my shift was done, she was gone. Her kennel still held the blanket she cozied up on, and the toy some kind soul gave her, but her essence was gone, and as ashamed as I am to admit it, I had to wipe away a few tears of grief and loss. Please, family, give her the love she needs and deserves.

Walking Dogs in Winter

It’s cold. Today I walk the shelter dogs. My heart is warm.

Photo by Ryan Bruce from Burst

Abandoned Pets

All wags, all wiggles, all bone. Despite being horribly abandoned by his owners, this little puppy greets all humans with great joy and excitement.

Abandoned – no one knows for exactly how long, certainly long enough to become a wiggly bag of bones – when his people left their home –and him, without water or food.

I do not know the back story but suspect someone heard his cries and called our animal services who brought him to a place of warmth, with plenty of food to fatten him up, his own kennel – all inside, and plenty of staff and volunteers to love him up.

Abandoning a poor helpless animal is despicable. No matter how desperate someone may be, there are options far better than to leave the animal with no hope of taking care of itself.

Why Are Pets Abandoned?

Here are some reasons why people say they abandon pets.

  1. Too busy – The pet takes more time than the owners thought, or they just don’t want to bother anymore.
  2. Too big – That cute little puppy or kitten grew into a much larger dog or cat.
  3. Too expensive – Little did they know that pets need medical care, too.
  4. Too “unhealthy” – No way should a new baby be exposed to a dirty animal.
  5. Too bothersome – The pet just doesn’t have a place in our new home or apartment.

By the Numbers

The good news is that the number of dogs and cats in shelters has declined since 2011. The bad news is that nearly 6.5 million pets end up in shelters each year. This does not include the number of animals wandering the streets as strays. Of these, 1.5 million pets in shelters are euthanized yearly, but this number has declined since 2011 by 2.6 million.

What do these numbers mean? They mean that things are happening, that awareness for the plight of homeless pets has increased and more people are opting to adopt.

Back to our skinny-boy. After a week in the shelter, I almost didn’t recognize him. His bones were not protruding nearly as much and he almost looked like a “normal” dog. As this shelter often does, he was put into a foster home where he’d get much more attention and the comfort of living in a real-live home until he eventually finds his way into a home of his own.