Tag Archives: shelter

Tails: Fostering- a Dichotomy of Heartbreak and Hope

This Friday I will say goodbye to my foster dog, Maisy.  I am teary eyed just typing the sentence.  Maisy was a 12 year old owner surrender to Chicago Animal Control.  I happened about her picture on Facebook one day and noticed that no rescues had come to her rescue.  Her picture was gut wrenching.  A tiny little furball who looked beyond scared and neglected.  Her eyes pierced my soul and immediately, I found myself on a mission to free her.

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At the time, our rescue wasn’t able, but by the time we got her pulled, circumstances changed (as rescue is always changing) and she became ours.  I took her to an ISO at a vet clinic outside the city.  Maisy had half the coat she should, mostly elephant skin… Her ears were infected, she smelled like she hadn’t been bathed in years, her nails were curled into her legs… The dog was a hot mess.  (If I had a favorite breed, it would be “hot mess.”)

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She spent a week at the vet clinic.  I went to visit her in the basement where they kept her.  I wasn’t at all impressed with the situation and as soon as she was cleared from the canine flu, I drove there and got her out.  Maisy is tiny.  Weighing in at only 9 pounds, she seems just skin and bones.  Frail in some ways and feisty in others.  She is resilient.  She is a survivor.

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I have spent the last 10 years immersed in rescue and animal welfare and though I am often surrounded by dogs in need, there are just certain ones that find their way directly into my heart.  Maisy is one of those dogs.

Her eyes, well, they saved her life because they are so profound.  She is not blind like we initially thought from the picture.  But, she does have dry eye and will probably always need eye meds.  Whether her lack of coat is from mange or diet or allergies or stress, we have every possible issue covered.  In the last two weeks, her hair has started to grow back.  Her eyes sparkle and her smell… I took care of that, too.  She still has far to go to appear, “normal,” but truthfully, I don’t see any of her scars or illnesses anymore.  I only see her as the lovable, sassy dog she always was.

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My three dogs aren’t the best hosts.  You would think since they were each once foster dogs, they would understand the situation better and be kinder.  Instead, they cling to the pack they know and sadly, shun most others who come for a stay.  They would never hurt her or any dog.  They just don’t go out of their way to make anyone else feel welcome.  Maybe they think you have to earn your right to stay?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that Maisy longs for someone to play with.  It appears she has never seen a cat before and has resorted to practically begging our cats to play.  She tosses her own toys and plays fetch with herself.  My dogs just look on with irritation and eyes that seem to ask,”When will she be leaving?”

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A few years ago, I would have kept Maisy.  It wouldn’t have mattered if she fit in with my group.  It wouldn’t have mattered what the rest of my family thought.  The reality was I couldn’t bear to let a dog go.

That is until two years ago when Lin, our President, sent me the picture of my foster dog with her new family. There she was, sitting on the lap of her new owner, as the couple drove away waving goodbye in their convertible.  I wasn’t there, but the picture was proof enough that the dog found her perfect home and that it would be a happy ending.  I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to “keep”  them all in order for them to be fully loved and cared for.

Fostering is hard.  You are letting someone into your heart knowing full well that they will leave and you will be crushed.  Many foster dogs require a lot of attention and care.  They might need meds and baths and training.  Often you give more to them when they are with you than your own dogs.  You give them everything without a second thought because you see in their eyes how thankful they are to be safe, to be cared for and to be loved.

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Friday is only a few days away.  I have already teared up a dozen times in anticipation of saying goodbye.  I always worry that Maisy, or any foster, will think I didn’t love them, that they weren’t good enough to keep.  After all they have been through, it kills me to believe they could think that.  I only want them to know how deserving of a family they truly are.

I am fortunate this time because Lin is going to foster her.  I have known Lin for a long time.  I have stayed at her home, I have snuggled with her dogs.  I KNOW Maisy will be loved.  None the less, my heart will break a little on Friday because when I take in a dog, any dog, I love it with everything I have.  Maisy is no exception.

Here’s the hard truth about fostering.  If I hadn’t fostered Maisy, she would have been dead by now.  No other rescues came forward to save her.  She was a senior in need of a lot of care.  She is the kind of dog who enters a shelter everyday and rarely gets the chance to leave alive.  Sometimes, I think, people think I, and others like me, exaggerate when we say things like that, but it is the honest truth.  Millions of dogs, just like Maisy, will be killed this year simply because there wasn’t an available foster home to save them.

Fostering is emotionally challenging, but to actually KNOW you are saving a life – there are very few things that can be so rewarding.  I will cry, maybe for days, but Maisy will live on for years to come.  She will dazzle others with her personality. She will melt hearts with her eyes.  She will become part of a family.  She gets her second chance.

My tears are selfish and  short-lived, but fostering is selfless and life-changing.  Please, if you love dogs (or cats) and have temporary space in your home, consider becoming a foster.  There are so many great rescues across the country looking for you.  And, there are so many dogs like Maisy, who long for a second chance to be loved.

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Tails: It is Time to See the BIG Picture

Every day people, just like me, post things declaring “millions of dogs and cats euthanized each year.”  Yet, I don’t think many of the people who post those phrases truly grasp the gravity of the words.

I write this blog under duress.  I am pissed off and frustrated.  I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed.  Once again the municipal shelter system is to blame.  For me it is CACC, but I know Chicago, sadly, isn’t alone.  There are hundreds of these crappy shelters across the United States.  Hundreds of shelters killing thousands of animals for NO good reason.

Let me describe my current situation.  A woman contacted me through Facebook.  Her rescue would like to pull two dogs who are “transfer only” from CACC, but her rescue has not been approved yet as a Homeward Bound Partner, so she can’t.  Unfortunately, like her, our rescue, who applied months ago, has not been approved either, so I can’t help her.

Before I continue down what I deem a horrific path, let me address the issue of “transfer only” because, it, too, is one of the ridiculous practices of CACC.  There are hundreds of “transfer only” dogs listed everyday for CACC.  Transfer only means that the dog must go to an approved rescue.  If no rescue pulls it, it will be killed.  The crazy thing about this policy is that we have pulled “transfer only” dogs only to turn around and adopt them almost immediately to people living in Chicago.  The very same people who would have adopted the dog at CACC.  The process would have been quicker and cheaper.  Our adoption fee is $300, CACC’s is like $70.  Why does a perfectly good dog have to be “transfer only?”

I have attended meetings at CACC only to hear their volunteers voice the same concerns.  They say repeatedly, “We never have any dogs for adoption.  People come here from all over the city on a Saturday and the adoption room is empty.”  So, the citizens leave pissed off and never return because who wants to waste their time?

CACC could have lots of dogs for adoption – all different kinds of dogs.  The dogs we pull are small, fluffy dogs – the cute ones – the ones who are almost always easily adopted.  There is no reason why CACC can’t be adopting these dogs out themselves.  Well, there are a few reasons but they only scream words like, “lazy, irresponsible, uncaring, pathetic, etc…”

Back to the scenario…  So, knowing that I can’t help this woman and her rescue,  I turn to FB contacts begging for help.  No answer.  Two dogs are sitting in a city shelter days from euthanasia… there is a rescue who is willing to take them…and yet, absolutely nothing can be done.  Can anyone feel my rage?

I got comments, of course I did.  “Quit whining and network.”  (I believe that is what I am trying to do) “I won’t help anyone right now, there are too many hoarders.”  (So fear of a possible hoarder trumps saving the life of these two dogs?)

In July, I attended the Best Friends Animal Society conference.  I was fortunate to choose to attend  The Kansas City Pet Project session and meet Brent Toellner.  During his presentation he described this scenario:

“Imagine you are walking by a pond and see hundreds of dogs drowning.  You immediately jump in the pond and start saving the dogs by throwing them to anyone who will help on the shoreline.  You don’t ask if they own a fence or if they work all day.  You don’t even care if they have another dog.  You are just grateful that they are willing to help you.”

He went on to say, “That is where we are right now.  Millions of dogs are drowning (dying) in shelters.  We cannot afford to be choosey.”

We have convinced ourselves that saving one is better than saving none.  We say things like, “Saving the life of one dog might not make a big difference, but it is everything to that dog.”  The truth is WE can save them all, if we are willing to fathom the whole problem and not just the two eyes staring us in the face.

No, you or me can’t take a million dogs into our homes, but we can create policies and procedures that take into account the BIG picture and not just a few dogs at a time.

The truth is if we really want to save them all, we can no longer compartmentalize a problem that is in actuality a monumental disaster.  We MUST see the entire picture.

In a nation euthanizing a million good dogs a year, it makes ZERO sense that it takes months to process a rescue application, especially in a giant city euthanizing thousands of dogs a year.  If the applications were processed faster, MORE dogs would be leaving that shelter sooner.

Oh, I know, some of you are worried about hoarders or dog fighters or all of the other terrible possibilities, but as you sit there, why not start counting the number of dogs killed while you were wasting time thinking about all the “what ifs.”  Euthanasia is a given, for each dog you ponder cautiously, at least 5 other wonderful dogs are killed.

If we truly want to save them all, we have to stop being so cautious.  We have to believe what is actually true: there are more good people than bad.

We have to bank on these odds because the numbers don’t lie.  Millions of dogs are killed each year.  We can either choose to change that statistic or we can continue to drag our feet and let dogs die.