Saturday, December 17, 2011

On Christmas, homeless pets, and the last gleaming ember of my spirituality

Christmas: That time of year when otherwise nearly normal people spend hundreds of dollars on giant, inflatable fat guys for their front yards, and dress up the dog in felt antlers. Charlie Brown thought Christmas had become too commercial 40 years ago, and look at us now.

I'm no Christian--sorry, mom--but I have to admit that there is one part of the Christmas story that always kind of made me emotional. That's the part about the family without a place to stay who has to sleep in the barn among the lowly animals. I totally got it when I was 7 that all the very best things were born in a barn, or so it seemed to this horse crazy girl. I also totally got it that there might have been no baby Jesus if no one had offered Mary and Joseph a place to stay. It made me sad to think that the innkeeper had no idea who these poor looking people were, or who their baby would grow up to be.
Thank god Kathie made room for Bea.    

So, fast forward about 30 years, and here I am, a non-believer and a blogging animal rescuer with a heart of mush. What I take from the Christmas story is this: When I look into the eyes of a creature in need I remind myself that we never know who this downtrodden soul might become. Ok, so, no. That dog you rescue from the pound is probably not Jesus. Not what I mean. But I could make you a list a mile long of rescued animals who have gone on to save us humans--to mend our hearts and give us hope, to remind us of our own capacity for compassion.

The holiday season is, hands down, the worst time to be a homeless animal. Rescues are stuffed, and adopters are few and far between. People are broke after buying all that blow-up crap for the front yard. What homeless pets need now, more than at any other time of the year, is for someone to say, yes, I'll make some room at the inn. Are you at home for the holidays? Would you consider opening your home to a foster dog or cat? If so, contact me or visit my friends at Hyde Park Cats or Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue. They can match you with a pet in desperate need of some compassion this winter.

Merry Christmas to you and your critters.

Eevie, Bea, Sushi K, and St. Falcon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happily Ever After--A Clover Update

A changed dog.

Anyone remember Clover, the teeny, miserable pittie mix that CBBR pulled from Anti-Cruelty Society late last summer? (Click here if you don't remember.) Well, Clover is now Latke, and it's hard to describe just how much this little guy's life has changed for the better since Ruth brought his catatinic little self home a few months ago. Latke has been adopted by an awesome family with lots of kitties and two very adorable little girls who like to play dress up and LOVE their teeny pit bull.

Latke has proven himself to be a top-notch citizen. He loves his humans, his kitties, and all of his dog friends from the park. He is playful, obedient, snuggly, and an all-around awesome little dog. As I understand it, he even enjoys playing dress up with the princesses in his house.

Latke with his girls.

If you want to know the truth, when I first met Clover I thought he might be a lost cause. I wasn't sure there was much of a soul left in there after all he had been through. But, boy, was I wrong. Never underestimate the power of patient care and attention or the heart of a pit bull. Good dog, Latke. And good people.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Horse World has a Dirty Little Secret

Hello, followers. My apologies for a long absence from the blogosphere. (Feeling better now, thanks.)  Well, I was until today. As many of you have surely read, horse slaughter is once again legal in the United States. See the Trib's decent article on it for more details.

Falcon is 25 years old and worth about $800
as meat and about $0 as a riding horse. The only
thing standing between him and the kill pen is
an owner with a conscience.

It's a complicated situation to be sure: tanking economy, growing numbers of neglected and abandoned horses starving on mud paddocks, and a flourishing less regulated slaughter business flourishing in Mexico in which horses are horrifically mistreated. But I must admit that I have been shocked by a couple of responses I've gotten to this legislation from old friends in the horse business. You know what they said? Good. At least when I sell my old horses to slaughter I know they'll be slaughtered "humanely" in the US now. They bemoaned the high cost of euthanasia and disposing of the body of a dead horse. They admitted to knowingly sending their horses to the "kill pen" auctions and shrugged it off as part of the business.
 I scratched my head for a minute. I did a gut check. Maybe they're right, I thought. Maybe if I were in the horse business professionally--as a trainer or a breeder--I would share this point of view. But then I shuddered. Really? REALLY? What kind of horseman--indeed, what kind of human--can sleep at night knowing that his or her life's work is dependent on the ability to dump an unprofitable, old, or lame horse for a few hundred bucks knowing his life will end in pain, terror, and confusion?

I write this as someone who has been a part of the horse show world for 25 years, and who has owned the same horse for 19. I love competition, and I understand the drive to breed and raise better and better horses. But in the end, I return to where it all began--the love of the horse. What is sacred and honorable about our continued relationship with the horse is our symbiosis, that we trade a lifetime of green grass, grain, care, and a humane end for the deep, magical bond that our horses allow us to have with them. We know they are our teachers and our therapists, and that we would not be who we are without them. And so I want to know why it is that so many horse people with whom I share so much are happy today with the news that the US has once again legalized horse slaughter. Who are you? What has become of the horse business? If we won't insist on protecting the horse who will?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome Back, Lillian

Lillian (right) is 7 months old, and delightful.
Sometimes even the most promising adoptions don't work out. Lil is a case in point. She was adopted by a great family as a young pup, but she never could stand to take orders from the resident bossy small dog. After much heartache, her adopters decided that for safety's sake they needed to return her. We're always sad when an adoption doesn't work out, but we are really not kidding when we say that our fosters all come with a lifetime return policy.

This week we welcomed Lil back into our family. We're happy to report that she is a non-stop cuddler and just loves "universal sister" Beatrice. Lil has even learned that that the cat is sharp and to be avoided. Good girl.

If you would like to adopt Lil, please stay tuned to for adoption information. For now, we'll enjoy having this little redhead around the house.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Michee loses a leg, gains a future.

Those of us in rescue see and hear about a lot of pretty hideous acts of  animal cruelty. But it never gets any easier to take. CBBR has just taken in a young pittie pup whose whole short life has been filled with suffering. Michee was "rescued" by some boneheads who told us that they took her from an abusive owner who kicked her repeatedly. These boneheads then allowed Michee to run into the street, where, of course, she was hit by a car. She suffered a severe compound fracture to a front leg. Said boneheads managed to take poor Michee to the vet, but refused to pay for her treatment. Instead, they took her home and wrapped her hideously broken leg in bandages and splinted it with used popsicle sticks and posted on Craigslist that they had a puppy who needed help. Meanwhile, the puppy was in such agony that she attempted to chew off her own leg, which had become infested with maggots.

12 week old Michee before her amputation. :(

Fortunately, a CBBR volunteer had a nagging gut feeling that she had better check the terrifying "pets" page of Craigslist. Thank god. Michee is now in the loving care of this awesome volunteer who has plenty of experience rehabilitating forsaken pups like Michee. Michee has lost her leg, but she has gained a second chance at a wonderful life. Please consider making a donation to CBBR to help cover the costs of Michee's surgery and rehabilitation. We're running a tab at every vet out there, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing and trust that the money will come. Click here if you can help.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Four-Legged Family

Pets are family. I'm guessing that, since you read my blog, that's not news to you. But after a lovely visit from my sister, her boyfriend, and their huge, wiggly pit bull named Sophie, I thought I'd take a moment to celebrate our inter-species families. Here's to all the families made up of critters and humans. What a beautiful part of being a person.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Friend like an Old Friend

Caring for Falcon is a joy that
reminds me I'm the same girl
I always was.
Ask any animal rescuer and they'll tell you the same thing: There's nothing sadder than an abandoned senior pet. The white-muzzled dog trembling in the back of his kennel wishing for his family to come back, the lonely old cat in her cold cage, or--maybe worst of all--the lame, skinny horse who was once a little girl's dream and is now on his way to the meat auction. It all really does happen. Every day.

Let's face it. Everyone loves a puppy or a kitten. (Well, people with souls, anyway.) But it can take real love to be there for your pet forever. That's forever, as in no matter what.  All any domestic animal has to its name is you, and when you give it up you leave it with no protection, no love, and no voice to tell who it is and has been over the years. The reality is that older pets tend not to get adopted, and many pounds euthanize them first because they assume they are unadoptable. So, here's the right thing to do:

    The little old man looking pretty
    athletic for his age.
  •  Never, ever dump your pet at a pound or shelter, period. Especially not if she's older.
  • If your senior pet is so ill that you cannot afford to care for him, ask for help. Contact friends and family. Swallow your pride and make a plea online. If none of this works, consider whether it is kinder in the end to euthanize your pet than to let him live his last days terrified at a pound.
  • ADOPT OR FOSTER AN OLDER PET! Why have you never thought of this? Oldies are wonderful--past the chewy stage, calmer, and often very grateful just for a peaceful place to lie in the sun. If you've never known an old horse, you have never known real wisdom.
So, to that end, I am sharing a couple photos of my favorite senior. 25-year-old Arduns Falcon was indeed a little girl's wildest dream and winner of dozens of blue ribbons. He is now a wise, gentle friend. He is out to pasture--in the very best sense--on the organic pastures of Harvet Hills Farm in Hanover, IL. His "little girl" visits him monthly.  (PS: Harvest hills does not board horses. Sorry.)

Falcon takes my mom for safe ride (right.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teeny Pit Bull, Big Miracle

Clover about 3 weeks after rescue--with
his "Dumpty"

Hello, readers. It's Tuesday, and you need to hear something good. Pictured here is Clover, a 6ish-month-old Pit Bull who has made a rather amazing recovery in the last month. When CBBR volunteers visited Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago to check out a litter of 9 orphaned puppies, the wonderful volunteers made sure we also met Clover. He weighed in at just 25 lbs, and was covered with scratches and what appeared to be bite wounds. He was almost catatonic. The volunteers were taking turns holding him like a baby and carrying with them as they worked. He was so frightened of the loud dog aisle that they moved him into the cat and bunny room. Clover had been brought to ACS with his friend or sister--who was already dead. The people who dumped them literally dragged her lifeless body into the shelter. We couldn't leave Clover behind.

Clover before.

Enter Ruth, a dedicated animal rescuer who usually rehabilitates kitties with Hyde Park Cats. She happened to have an empty house for the month and agreed to take this broken hearted little guy and see what she could do. Clover has bloomed in Ruth's patient care. Rather than force Clover into a scary routine, Ruth dedicated herself to watching Clover's behavior in order to learn what he needed. He was timid and quiet at first, retreating to his kennel often.

Clover had clearly been mistreated by humans. Though he has never been aggressive, he was very fearful, and it took some time before he realized that he was somehow now in the presence of only kind people. He has proven himself calm and trusting when he meets new people, and he even likes kids. He also LOVES the big friendly cat in his foster home. He wags at him and tries to get him to play. This got us to thinking that maybe he'd like to have a dog friend, but we wondered if his bad experiences might make this too stressful for him. This was a job for Beatrice--our resident dog with a major gift for helping depressed dogs find joy again. Long story short, it's pretty clear that Clover loves dogs, too. (See the video for the hilarious proof.)

We're happy to report that this little micro pittie is ready for a foster or adoptive home. He's quiet, polite, friendly, intelligent, and adorable. His perfect home has responsible, loving humans and at least one cat and one friendly dog. Cheers to the ACS Volunteers who kept Clover's body and soul alive long enough to find safety, and HUGE cheers to Ruth who made this miracle happen. If you'd like to open your home to Clover click here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Monday

You know what's not a good way to start the week? Hearing that a local pound--which shall remain nameless--euthanized HUNDREDS of animals over the weekend due to overcrowding. That's dozens upon dozens of people's pets. Animals who, if they were lucky, were once loved and cared for. Animals who trusted people and looked to them for protection. Animals whose only crime was having an irresponsible human as their guardian. As usual, the majority of the dogs killed were pit bulls and pittie-looking mixes. Tell me again who the monsters are? The dogs or the people who treat them like trash or worse?

So here is my question to you, readers. What are you going to do this week in honor of the creatures who died over the weekend? Here is a list of ideas:
    CBBR's Lola is very much alive and well, but she was once
    moments from being killed at an area pound. BTW, she is
    adoptable and pretty much perfect.
  • Next time you see a person with an unaltered (not "fixed") pet, explain to them why they should have that animal altered and where to have it done inexpensively. Both PAWS and Anti-Cruelty Society have low cost spay/neuter clinics. Be nice, but insist. Offer to make the appointment and drive them there.
  • Educate a friend who is about to buy a dog from a breeder. Some people really don't know that there is literally a rescue group for every possible purebred out there. Urge them to check out animal control and other high-kill shelters first. They will be shocked at the gorgeous, well tempered dogs sitting on death row.
  • FOSTER! (See my last 10 blogs for all the reasons why you should.)
  • Donate to a local rescue group who pulls animals from high-kill pounds. They all desperately want to do more, but their work relies on donations to fund vet bills and other basic costs.
  • Maybe it goes without saying to my readers, but don't give up your pet. If you have a problem pet--a cat who pees inside when she's mad, a dog who barks too much, etc.--get some help! Contact a trainer, and if that trainer can't help you, keep trying until you find someone who can! Almost every pet problem is correctable or manageable with the right knowledge. You are all your pet has in this world. Be worthy of his or her admiration.
  • Consider adding a rescued pet to your life. Do some reading. Talk to knowledgable friends. Is pet ownership a possibility for you? Do you have room for one more? (A quick note on this. "I have cats" is not a reason why you can't have a dog! Ask me.)
  • Do you know a landlord? Talk to them about their pet policy. Urge them to allow cats and dogs and not to discriminate against any breeds. Tell them to screen pet owners by checking vet references and requiring up to date vaccination records and a city dog license instead of banning pets.
  • Write your state congresspeople and tell them that you want tighter regulations on animal breeders and/or mandatory spay/neuter laws for pets. Tell them that we need greater access to and education about spaying and neutering--particularly in lower income areas of the state where the rates of animal impoundment are especially high.
  • Share this blog with friends.
  • Look at your pet(s). Remind yourself that the only difference between them and the animals who were killed in Chicago this weekend is that they have you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal: #1

And the #1 reason to foster an animal is...

 Because fostering changes the world. I know. You're thinking that I'm confusing this bold assertion with another rescue slogan: "Rescuing a dog may not change the world but it changes the world for that one dog." Friends, I'd like to argue that both are true. When I am not blogging about or otherwise occupied with animals, I am doing my day job as a social scientist. If you'll forgive me a moment of nerdiness, I'll explain.

Most people tend to think about the world like it's two separate places: Our own individual lives that are populated by our friends and family, and the big world with all its wonders and injustices that's somehow "out there" and not under our control. But here's the thing. "The world" is more or less just the sum total of all of our little, local human activities. That's it. Cruelty, injustice, misery, discrimination, opportunity, hope, and change--those things that feel like they are "out there"--those are all really just patterns of little, local, personal actions that we're doing every day. Do you pull the car over and help the dog on the side of the road? Do you take the extra moment to educate a friend about rescue? Do you sacrifice your carpet for a litter of unwanted puppies? These are small choices that we can each make. But in the aggregate, we absolutely change the world, not only for the dog or cat we rescue but for all domestic animals in our society. Over time and by sharing our work with others we reduce euthanasia rates. We lessen suffering. We educate and enable communities to be better guardians of animals.

When you change the world for a needy animal you also change the world. And that, my friends, is a great reason to foster. If you want to know more about fostering, contact a rescue group in your area. Believe me, they'll be happy to take that call. If you can't foster you can still help, and they can tell you how.

Pictured: (Above) 3 month old Irene, whose world changed from solitary confinement inside of a sweltering garage to a family of her own in one short week. And (at left) Falina. A gorgeous 10 month old pittie who was abandoned and hit by a car before being taken in by a local veterinarian. Falina, incidentally, is very urgently in need of a foster home. Contact CBBR for more information.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal: #2


Reason #2: This one's pure and simple. Fostering brings joy into your life. Joy, joy, joy. Here's a taste.
Pictured Clockwise: Dorothy smiling and delightful just two weeks after leaving death row. Yours truly with alley momma Kitty Feathers and three week old Pirate, Pigeon, and Frances. Bonnie, whose crooked legs shaped right up once she had some good eats and exercise. And finally, a litle video of Linus in the amazingly adorable running-sideways stage.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal: #3

Reason #3: Whenever a new foster home comes on board with a rescue, it does much more than simply make space for another desperate critter. It instantly puts that animal and that rescue in touch with a whole new social network. Let me explain.

When I began fostering and volunteering with CBBR and Hyde Park Cats--as you well know--I started blabbing about it to my friends and family. In person and on social media I was sharing stories about what I was up to. When people visited my house (and especially if they stayed in the "guest" room) they inevitably met our foster dogs or cats. Countless people have been sensitized to the plight of alley cats and confronted with that wonderful moment of cognitive dissonance as I tell them that the mushy snuggle machine on my sofa is in fact a "scary" pit bull. Some of our friends have gone on to foster themselves, and a few have even adoped a dog or cat through the groups we work with. (Shout outs to the families of Answer, Sophie, Orson, Pirate, Tish Face, Pixie, and Feathers who each met their future friend through us, and to all of our friends and family who got radicalized for the cause and now foster, volunteer, or educate others.)

In short, rescues are their volunteer base. And when you get involved, you can increase that reach exponentially. More people who care = better lives for cats and dogs.

Pictured: My awesome mom, Niki, who volunteers to transport rescued dogs in Ohio. She's holding "Wheelo," a wheelchair-using dog on his way to a sanctuary. Good work, mom!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal--Reason #4

Reason #4: Fostering allows you to to try out dog or cat ownership without the financial commitment. For some of us, our hearts are bigger than our wallets, and it makes all the difference in the world that most animal rescue groups pay for the costs associated with fostering. While every group is different, I'll use CBBR as an example. When we foster a dog through CBBR we are provided with almost everything we need to keep our foster kid happy and healthy. That includes vet care--even for very serious conditions--dog food, and basic supplies like a crate, beds, toys, and treats. CBBR also covers the cost of training for dogs who need extra help getting used to civilization. In the end, I probably spend a little money on gas hauling my foster dogs around and a few bucks on chicken livers and other extra-gross treats, but almost every other cost is absorbed by the organization.

This means that even a pair of broke graduate students like me and my partner can care for a bunch of critters without worrying about how we'll pay their bills. Of course, this is only possible because of the amazing generosity of CBBR's donors who keep the vet bills paid and keep our doggies in kibble. Shameless plea for donations here. :)

Pictured: Yours truly on a much cooler Chicago day surrounded by Betsy, Bea, and Lady Coco.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Foster an Animal: Reason # 5

Reason # 5: When you foster a dog or cat through an animal rescue organization you instantly become a part of a large network of other people who share your comittment to helping animals. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer, but I can't descibe how good it has felt to know I am not alone. Let me put that another way: It feels a lot better to be a crazy pit bull lady rather than the crazy pit bull lady. When you're a part of this community you've got back up.

No one can do animal rescue on their own for long. It's too emotionally taxing, unpredictable, and sometimes downright hard. I have been so lucky to find myself volunteerig with two organizations made up of dynamic, devoted, hard-working people. Is there sometimes drama, crisis, and dischord? Yep. But I know that I always have a network of competent people there to help in a pinch.

Whenever I bring home a new foster dog I find myself saying to them "Don't worry. You've got people now." The same goes for me. Thank you to CBBR and Hyde Park Cats for letting me be a part of such a badass community of good people.

Pictured: CBBR volunteers Carole (with Tiwi), Bree (with Teddie, who is still adoptable), and Director Carolyn.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal: #6

 Reason #6: Fostering an animal can be a wonderful experience for your resident creature(s). Our resident canine princess, Beatrice, is an outstanding dog in many ways. But she has had struggles getting along with some other dogs. God bless her. She’s a gamey pit bull who lives to play, so she can be a bit much for dogs who, for instance, don’t love to be tackled 29 times a day and/or have their ears and feet pulled during a wrestling match. She’s not a dog park dog, and she’s an only child, so her opportunities to play with dogs could have been very limited.

But when she was a year and a half old, we began fostering dogs through CBBR.  It was the second best thing we ever did for our dog. (The first was taking her to really excellent training classes.) As we slowly introduced one new dog after the next into our home, we watched Bea’s overwhelming, spazzy joy at meeting new dogs turn into something altogether different. Our crazy dog became a mentor. We didn’t teach her. She just had it in her to slowly assess what each new foster dog needed from her and then provide it. With happy-go-lucky pups she too was happy-go-lucky and let them crawl all over her. With dominant Scarlett she was attentive, slow, and respectful. With terrified, shut down Rosemary (now Betsy Biscuit) she was a reassuring best friend.  Without fail, she has taught our foster dogs how to enjoy life again.
Because we shared our home with so many needy dogs, Beatrice has not only gotten the socialization she craved, but has become a rescuer in her own right.  I will never forget the day I first let her meet Rosemary. After we found her dumped on an 8 lane highway, she had been curled up in her crate 24 hours. She trusted me, but she was terrified of the world. She commando crawled wherever she went. After some careful planning, I allowed Beatrice to approach Rosemary’s crate. I stood back to watch their body language. Bea moved slowly into a play bow. Rosemary stretched forward to sniff her. They almost appeared to be whispering to each other. And then Rosemary stood all the way up for the first time and wagged her whole body. I started to cry like the mush ball that I am because it couldn’t have been clearer that Bea had simply told her that everything was going to be okay.
Pictured from top to bottom: Delilah and Bea, babyLinus chewing on Bea's face, and Betsy Biscuit and Bea having a post-adoption playdate.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal in Need: #7

Dear readers, today I treat you to Reason #7, brought to you by cat rescuer and mom extraordinaire, expert blogger, and Hyde Park Cats Founding member, Terren.  Enjoy.

Reason #7: I have two little girls, currently five and a half  and three and a half. We are a foster family for Hyde Park Cats.  My girls have fostered Talullah, Rainbow, Poe, Lemon, Afikomen, Honey, Apples, Oatmeal, Eemo and Gomo, and some other kittens I think I am blocking out. We’ve named those kittens too!

Fostering an animal teaches children many lessons. Some are obvious – the responsibility of feeding one’s cat – and others less so. Our current foster cat is teaching us about patience. It has taken months to get her to this stage, but now she will let my older daughter pick her up and snuggle her. The satisfaction of the long-anticipated goal! The sense of accomplishment! The pride of a job well done!

Sometimes people suggest it must be so difficult for my girls to say good-bye to their foster animals, but in truth, it is not. The key is preparation from me: the girls understand the cats are going to their “ever homes,” and they are proud of themselves for helping rescue cats. We have pictures of all our fostered cats, and we reminisce about them. We know where they went, and sometimes we even get updates. We have a funny picture of grown-up Rainbow sprawled all over a Legoland city, where once she fit into our dollhouse’s living room.

In fact, my girls know they’re part of a community effort. Mama rescues cats. Mama has cat-rescue friends. And we rescue cats!  We marched in the Fourth of the July parade with our friends and the Hyde Park Cats banner, and we felt pride.

Once I took my girls to the Animal Welfare League’s intake facility. When we came to the front door, a metal grate through which one must be buzzed, my little one asked, “Is this jail?”

Children are perceptive. They can see a building with no windows and with bars is jail, even if it’s for animals. They see the desperation, fury, and despair of an animal in a cage. They see the fear and the desire in a stray dog’s eyes. They see it and they want desperately to help. So I let my children help.

On that same trip my older one found one little kitten by itself in a cage, quiet and depressed. She insisted we take it home. At 5:30 pm that kitten was in a corner of a cage in a back room of a kill facility. At 8:30 pm that kitten was asleep in my daughter’s arms. And my daughter was asleep too, clutching the life she had saved. She went to bed that night after she had helped bathe and feed that kitten, and towel it dry, and set up its food and water and litterbox. She felt proud of herself for doing something to right the world, for performing a small act of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”).

And that’s the 7th reason to foster: to give your children the opportunity to do something real to make the world a better place. My girls make me proud every day with their efforts. It’s the world they will live in, and they’re shaping it for the better of all of us animals.

Pictured Above: Devoted and adorable young cat rescuers Lilah and Solja with some very lucky and well-loved kitties. If you can handle the cuteness, click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Foster an Animal: Reason #8

Reason #8: When you foster one animal in need you are really saving two. Sort of. Let me explain. Animal shelters and local pounds are always filled to capacity. This overpopulation of abused, neglected, and unwanted pets means that shelters have only two options: Find new homes for these pets or kill them. (I say “kill” here and not “euthanize” because I do not agree that the killing of an animal who is not acutely suffering is—as the etymology of the word euthanasia suggests—a “good” death.) The majority of pounds and shelters are underfunded, understaffed, and doing the best they can to be kind under often horrific circumstances. Chicago Animal Care and Control, for example, killed 12,544 of the 36,777 animals arriving there in 2008. (See Companion Animals and Chicago Communities: A Strategic Assessment for the City of Chicago, 2010 for a very detailed and sobering report on the problem. ).  Of the lucky dogs and cats who make it out alive, the majority are “pulled” by a private rescue group or another shelter, many of whom rely primarily on foster homes. 

So, why does fostering one animal save two? Well, when you volunteer to foster a dog or cat through an animal rescue organization you obviously save the life of the critter who will be staying with your family.  But you also open up a precious cage or kennel space at the pound where another unwanted animal can stay alive a little bit longer. Though my experiences with various front-line urban shelters have been mixed, I have never met an animal control officer who wanted to have to kill a dog or cat. It has to be among the hardest jobs in the world, and most ACOs are thrilled when a rescue contacts them—sometimes at the very last moment—to say they have found a foster home for a “death row” dog or cat. I have seen shelter workers cry tears of joy and relief when I arrived to pick up a favorite death row dog. I can only imagine the joy and relief the animals must feel. 

Pictured here: Before and after pics of Scarlett, a "death row" pit bull from Gary, Indiana who lived with us for four happy months before succumbing to immune mediated hemolytic anemia. Thanks to CBBR, she left this world having known love, care, and comfort. Indeed, Miss Scarlett never went hungry again.