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.