Friday, May 3, 2013

The Stuff That (Rescue) Dreams Are Made Of...

Bear with me folks...this is gonna be a long one...but it must be told, as it is a testament to the amazing hearts and selflessness of rescue people.

On April 13, I received a text from Sara Renee in Muncie, IN. She informed me that two GSPs were at the shelter. I almost croaked. That week had been SOOO busy with several GSPs in need. I honestly didn't know where I would put them. Then, I received the news that they were heartworm positive. We treat a lot of dogs for heartworm each year, but the foster must have a relatively quiet home, as the dog cannot get overly excited during treatment. Not only didn't I have an open foster, I did not have one capable of seeing a dog through treatment. So, they sat in the shelter while I worked on it. 

Then, more bad news. The female had mammary tumors down her left mammary chain, AND, a tumor/growth on her neck. Oy vey! Now I needed an even more special foster home, with the willingness and ability to see her through a somewhat complicated surgery, biopsies, and then heartworm treatment. 

I knew I had to get to work. First things first, I had to name them. For some reason, I chose "tree" names. So, Hazel and Cedar it would be. I cleared all of the other urgent matters off my plate, and posted them widely, to our entire adopter and volunteer group, covering seven states. Sara Kudile in MD offered to foster whichever one I needed her to. I was still lacking a foster for the male, but I would continue to work on that. I just needed to figure out how to get both dogs toward our normal transport departure spot, Parkersburg, WV. The shelter runs a transport van to Hagerstown, MD  most every Saturday. Of course, their shelter dogs and cats take priority, and if there's room, they squeeze our GSPs on. 

So....I called Debbie who coordinates the transports, and she told me she would let me know if they were running, but it may NOT be feasible for this weekend. I went ahead and began working on some preliminary transport and overnight arrangements for today (Friday), as the dogs need to be ready to leave Parkersburg in the early morning on Saturday. Tim Bailey and Robin Reynolds said they would overnight the dogs. Katie Chapman's sister, Maddie, said she'd drive all the way to Muncie from Columbus to get them, then drive them to WV if needed (I love her). On Wednesday, I found out the transport was only going to be a small van with a mom and pups, and we'd have to wait another week for transport. UGH. So, I cancelled everything and figured we'd be back to the drawing board next week. 

Last night, I was tagged by Liza Bond re: a Pilots N Paws flight. She was looking for an overnight in the Louisville area for two Beagle mixes, traveling from VA. I shared her need on my wall. Then, lightning struck me...I thought, maybe the pilot was heading back toward VA and our kids could hitch a ride. Turns out, the pilot doing the MD to WV leg for her Beagles would be heading back from Charleston, WV to Gaithersburg, MD with an empty plane. Our kids could hitch a ride if I could get them there in time. 

I'm thinking to myself, "if ever there was a time to pull a rabbit out of a rescue hat, this is it!"  I started a group conversation on Facebook with all the "players" along the way. Not only did we figure out (quite easily, I might add) how to get them from Muncie to Parkersburg, but also how to get them TO the airport in Charleston, and then FOUR different players on the MD end to pick up and transport to foster homes. Whew! Thanks to the quick action of our rescue founder and president, Faith Fields, she gathered the troops on the Maryland end, and by this morning, an entire plan was in place. 

A sideline to all of this is that I still didn't have a foster commitment for the Cedar. So, as of early this morning, it was just Hazel that was slated for the flight. I made boarding arrangements for Cedar, with the hope that a foster would surface during the week, and we could put him on the Parkersburg transport next Saturday. Lo and behold, Jason and Lisa Croasdale offered to foster Cedar. WOO HOO! So, I called the vet to cancel his boarding reservation. I called Tom who was meeting Hazel at the airport to make sure he could accommodate both dogs in his vehicle, then, I called Lisa to tell her she is a lifesaver and I'm forever in her debt! (believe me, this is NOT the first time I have uttered those words to her....LOL).

I sent the confirmation e-mail to our amazing Pilots N Paws volunteer flight attendant, Liza Bond. She is working on the itinerary now. Without her help, the pilot's aversion to flying back to MD with an empty plane, and ALL of the many folks on the ground on both ends of this spectrum, from Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland...WE GOT THIS THING!

Here's a glimpse of what transpired today, and what will transpire tomorrow:
1. Sara Renee works at the vet hospital where the dogs were housed. She arrived early this morning to bathe them (twice). She said they smelled like a "swine barn" (remind me to tell her I don't wish to know what THAT smells like). She got their health certificates together, made copies of their health records and vaccination history, and then readied them for their journey.
2. Brian Rievley arrived at the clinic at 1 PM to pick up Hazel and Cedar. He traveled to Dayton, OH, where he met Maddie Chapman. 

3. Maddie loaded them up and traveled to Lancaster, OH, where she met Tim Bailey and Robin Reynolds. 

4. Tim and Robin are currently en route to their home in Parkersburg, where they will host the pair overnight.

5. Tim and Robin will load the dogs up and head to Charleston, WV (Yeager Airport). They will wait for our wonderful pilot to land and unload his Beagle passengers. He will refuel, rest a bit, and get ready to load Hazel and Cedar.

6. - 11. Our volunteer pilot will travel from Charleston to Gaithersburg, MD. There, our volunteer, Tom, will be waiting (with his wife) to greet Hazel and Cedar. They will drive them to meet Shelley (another volunteer). Shelley will drive them to meet Lisa and Jason. Lisa and Jason will drive to meet Hazel's foster mom, Sara Kudile. Lisa and Jason will then return home with their new foster boy, Cedar. Sara will drive off into the sunset with Hazel in tow. 

Soon, the entire plan will come to fruition... the dogs will be ready for tomorrow's blue skies, and all will be well with the world. God, I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!!!!! 

Hazel (L) and Cedar (R) loaded in Tim and Robin's vehicle for their last travel leg for today. They will rest and relax at Tim and Robin's home tonight, and tomorrow, their FLIGHT TO FREEDOM will commence! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Good Turn Deserves a Denial?

This post was originally written in July 2012. I did not publish it at the time, as I was hopeful my membership to the GSPCA would be reconsidered, and I would be allowed to serve on the national rescue committee, as an advisor. That did not happen. Although I was promised a public apology by the President, the apology did not arrive. It was to be published in the Shorthair Journal. It was not. Therefore, I am publishing this blog post, so the truth will be known, and the members of the GSPCA that DO care about the welfare of this breed, will have the facts about the GSPCA Board's apathy toward rescue and its disregard for the volunteers who work so hard to protect "our" breed.

"As the Parent Club, the GSPCA is charged with 
doing all in its power to protect and advance 
the interests of the breed..."

I am writing today to express my sincere disappointment in the GSPCA Board. 
It is not my goal to “trash talk” the GSPCA. What I am stating here are facts. Plain and simple. I sincerely hope, that by sharing my story, there will be CHANGE in the organization, a shift in their view of rescue, and perhaps an evolution of their understanding of the seriousness of this issue that so deeply affects our breed.

A few months ago, I was asked by Missy Neal, the current GSPCA National Rescue Chairperson, to serve on a national rescue committee, along with many other well respected and accomplished rescue volunteers. Missy assigned a representative for the various "regions" of the U.S. I was chosen to represent the Mid-Atlantic/Midwest region.

My involvement with rescue began in 2002, when I was living in Massachusetts. At that time, I founded the GSP Rescue New England. For the following three years, as our volunteer base grew, we expanded to cover six New England states, assisting countless GSPs each year. In 2005, I moved from Massachusetts to my home state of West Virginia. I left the New England group in the capable hands of some of my most seasoned volunteers. They have since grown the organization to be one of the premier GSP Rescues in the country. 

Following my move to WV, I was asked by Nancy Campbell, to serve as the national volunteer coordinator for GSPCA National Rescue. I gladly took on the role, as I saw it to be an amazing opportunity to grow the GSP Rescue volunteer base on a national level. During my nearly five years of service in that role, I assisted start-up rescues in areas where there was no rescue presence, I mentored new volunteers, and I coordinated several large-scale rescue operations, such as the Missouri 75 kennel fire, and the South Dakota puppy mill rescue. I always attempted, to the best of my ability, to represent the GSPCA National Rescue in the most positive and professional manner possible. I consistently and routinely adhered to the national rescue protocols, and, made every effort to prove to the GSP enthusiast community that "national" was deeply concerned about the many displaced GSPs in need across the U.S. 

In 2010, I vacated my "national" role in order to focus my energy on the GSPs in need in my region. The high number of GSPs in shelters (and owner surrenders) in KY, IN, OH and WV required my full attention. I could no longer juggle both a national and regional leadership role (and a full-time career). I aligned myself with Mid-Atlantic GSP Rescue, forming the "Midwest Chapter" of the rescue. In 2010, our group saved 135 GSPs. In 2011, we saved 176. The number of GSPs in need continues to grow annually, not just here in my region, but nationwide. Our group does NOT go to the GSPCA National Rescue fund, asking for assistance. We stand on our own two feet, and actively fundraise to help support our crucial rescue operations.

Given my years of service at the national level, the experience with several successful "start up" rescue projects, and, my current role as a regional director for Mid-Atlantc rescue, I was pleased to accept Missy's invitation to serve on the national rescue committee. After all, I have ten years of rescue volunteerism under my belt, and I felt strongly (as did Missy), that I may have some valuable knowledge to bring to the table. Therefore, I paid my dues online, and filled out the application to renew my membership.

Our committee had already put together a proposal for a national "Seniors" program. The program, similar to programs in place by several GSP Rescues, would help provide financial support for routine vetting for Seniors in shelters and in foster care. This would help offset the financial burden for rescues, when housing and adopting out a senior GSP. After all, they too deserve a chance at a happily ever after, regardless of how short that time may be. And, contrary to popular belief, seniors DO get adopted. There are families who gladly welcome seniors into their home each year, regardless of how much time they have left.
After applying and paying my dues, it came to my attention that there was some concern on the part of the Board, that perhaps rescue volunteers were "activists" with some type of animal rights agenda. I was concerned that our budding rescue committee would be shot down before we could even get off the ground. And, we soon learned, that our senior program proposal was not even reviewed at the Board meeting. They claimed they "ran out of time" and did not even place it up for discussion. Talk about a slap in the face. And it's a SENIOR program to boot. We were all very disheartened to learn the Board did not even give the proposal the courtesy of a perusal or brief discussion.

Rescue volunteers are often classified as "crazy dog ladies" or presumed to be activists of some shape or form. I can tell you that I am not an "animal rights" activist. I don't go around campaigning against hunting, breeding, etc. I'm not a Vegan (or Vegetarian for that matter). I'm not a supporter of PETA or the HSUS. I don't go around bombing animal research labs, springing monkeys from cages, or dress up like a clown to protest the circus. Am I strong in my commitment to rescue? Absolutely! I take rescue as seriously as I do my "paying" career, and always attempt to conduct myself in a professional and ethical manner. I do have strong opinions. After all, I have been in the trenches for many years, saving the lives of discarded and unwanted GSPs. I am an ADVOCATE, not an activist. There IS a difference.

Rescue has been the most amazing and rewarding experience of my life. So yes, I am committed, to say the least. However, I have never, ever, discouraged anyone from purchasing a GSP from a breeder. I HAVE encouraged them to purchase from a reputable breeder, a responsible breeder, one who is committed to standing behind the puppies they produce, and will take them back for life. These are not the breeders that contribute to the rescue system. They have been, and continue to be, allies to rescue. They have the same care and concern for the long-term welfare of the breed as we do. Rescue GSPs are adopted on a legally binding contract. We take them back for life. No questions asked. It does not matter if they are four or fourteen. We stand behind them. Do we wish that every individual responsible for a litter of puppies shared our same level of commitment? Yes! Do I personally feel the GSPCA should put in place guidelines for responsible breeding and ENFORCE said guidelines? Yes, of course. I'm sure many of you feel the same. However, I am NOT and have NEVER been ANTI-BREEDER, an ACTIVIST, or anything of the sort.

It was reported back that the Board did not vote on our committee memberships in total. The "buzz" was they feared a few rescue committee members may be animal rights activists, and not suited for GSPCA membership. When I learned that the Board was concerned about our "activist" tendencies, I took the time to write a very respectful e-mail to the Board, outlining my personal experience in rescue, my knowledge of the other proposed rescue committee members, and, an overview of the current "structure" of rescue on a national level. A few days later, I received an "accidental" reply from one Board member. It was clear that I was not meant to be a recipient of that e-mail, but had been copied in error. In that note, my personal ethics were called into question, with the implication that I had "inflated" the number of GSPs in need each year. In addition, there was mention of rescue being a money-making venture, and I quote, "This is BIG Business. $ 150 to $ 450 per adoption." 

I replied to the Board, outlining the average costs associated with each dog. Rescue MUST charge an adoption fee. Not only is it bad practice to "give away" a dog for free, we absorb medical costs for each dog we place. We provide full vaccination, spay/neuter, fecal exam heartworm test and microchip for each dog. If they are healthy, our costs routinely exceed our adoption fee. If they are sick, obviously, there is an even higher expenditure for an individual dog. Rarely, if ever, do we even break even on a given dog. When you are assisting 175 per year, and you do the math, it should seem obvious that rescue is FAR FROM a money making venture. It is ONLY "big business" in the regard that there are so many GSPs each year that need us.  We are a non-profit organization, and therefore, are transparent with regard to our financials. I gladly shared them with the Board, as the numbers don’t lie, nor do I.

This past Friday, I received an e-mail from the GSPCA Board. I was informed that my application for membership had been denied. My dues were refunded to me the same day. There was no explanation given, no rationale behind their decision. I reviewed the Bylaws, and the Board is not required to offer an explanation.

The GSPCA mission states, "As the Parent Club, the GSPCA is charged with doing all in its power to protect and advance the interests of the breed..."  I believe, through the example of providing volunteer service to the breed for the last ten years, I have exemplified my commitment to "protect and advance the interests of the breed." My five years of service as a public representative of the GSPCA National Rescue are among the most rewarding of my rescue "career" and to be quite frank, it is a kick in the gut to be denied membership to the "parent club" of the breed I hold so dear, and have been so dedicated to protecting.


Michelle Salyers
Founder and Regional Director, Midwest Chapter, Mid-Atlantic GSP Rescue
Board Member, Mid-Atlantic GSP Rescue
Founder, GSP Rescue New England
Former National Volunteer Coordinator for GSPCA National Rescue
Former Member of the GSPCA

For more insight into the REAL world of rescue, as posted just after my membership denial (and accusations of my being an animal rights activist and "anti-breeder") please read:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Could You?

In 24 hours in the state of Indiana, three senior German Shorthaired Pointers have been dumped at high kill shelters by their owners. Two separate families. One in Muncie, the other in Indianapolis. One male, two females. The male was said to be 9 (but is obviously older), the females are 13 and 14 years of age. Three in 24 hours in ONE state.

These situations are heartbreaking for us in rescue. We are so full right now, turning away young, highly adoptable dogs due to a lack of available foster homes. Our hope is the youngsters will have a better chance of adoption through the shelter. But, can we turn our backs on these seniors? Not a chance in hell. No way.

Dear Owner #1,

How could you look into these eyes and think of abandoning him at a shelter? He's scared, confused and all alone. You dropped him off without a tear in your eye, with no reason given, just left him there, as if he didn't matter at all to you. Well, he matters to ME! He's not my dog. I didn't buy him. I don't know him. I have only seen his photos, but I already LOVE him. So do many others, who have seen his photos, heard his story.

WE rescued him from the shelter today. He will have a foster family that will love him and care for him as if he were their own. THEY will show him that his loyalty and love will be returned ten fold. THEY will tell him he's WORTH saving, that he is AMAZING and TREASURED, and that he matters. He deserves that.

Dear Owner #2,

How could you leave your two senior girls at a high kill shelter? They are 13 and 14. They have loved you, been loyal to you. How could you look into their eyes, sign the papers, then turn away as if you didn't have a care in the world, as if you were grateful to be shed of a burden? How did you lay your head on your pillow last night, knowing your faithful girls were scared and confused and sleeping on a cold shelter floor?

Not that it matters to you, but I care. I learned of them today. I reached out to other rescue friends, and WE will save them. WE will never desert them. WE will give them a soft place to sleep, a warm and cozy bed. WE will shower them with the same love and affection they so freely give us, and once gave you. WE will take care of their medical needs. WE will let them know they matter. They are worthy. They are LOVED.

We'll get them out. Don't you worry now. We're just volunteers, but we'll put forth an incredible amount of time and energy on rescuing them, arranging foster and/or adoptive homes. We'll spend our non-profit organization's donations on their vetting needs. We'll drive our vehicles and pay for our own gas to move them to safe places. We'll spend hours on end on the computer trying to network with others willing to assist. We'll lose sleep worrying about them until we have firm arrangements for them. We'll do for them what they deserve. We will do so without reservation, without hesitation, because that's what WE do. We take care of other people's pets. WE are there to pick up the pieces when YOU turn your backs on them. We support them, love them, and stand behind them for the rest of their days.

I'll ask you again. HOW COULD YOU?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Chain Gang

I have recently been accused of possessing an"anti-breeder" agenda, when nothing could be further from the truth. I started volunteering for rescue ten years ago, in New England. When I began, my only volunteers were breeders. They were my mentors, my support system, my friends. They supported my rescue efforts financially, they transported, they fostered, they CARED. THAT was the foundation for my start in rescue. And, those relationships have always been of great value to me. I have treasured them, and always felt a strong allegiance to them. I have always thought it was my responsibility as a rescue volunteer, to foster positive relationships with breeders. I have always made it a point to support those who stand behind their dogs, who sell puppies with a contract in hand, and lifelong concern for each pup in their heart.

When I moved to WV/OH in 2005, it was a complete shock. I had no idea how bad things were here. No idea. The rescue climate in New England is far different than here in the midwest and mid-south region. Completely and utterly different. Why? Because many of the so-called "breeders" here are cut from a different cloth. Their value system is different, their priorities are different, and their ethics are different. I often post about "breeder surrenders" on Facebook, because I handle a LOT of such cases in rescue. I get dogs directly from the breeder. It happens quite frequently here.

Three of Sassy's puppies at my home
Because the folks who are casting stones are not involved in my day-to-day rescue world, I'd like to try to shed some light on the reality we rescue volunteers face regularly. These are just a few of many examples I could share. It is my goal to help facilitate some sense of understanding about what we do, what we see, what we are up against.

In 2010, a litter of five GSP puppies were surrendered to a KY shelter. The shelter told me they were turned in by the "breeder" but he did not leave his name. So, I did some research and found a "for sale" listing for GSP puppies in the area. I contacted him, and he informed me he did surrender the pups because he couldn't sell them, and couldn't afford to feed them. I told him shelters were known for disease, and although I hoped he wouldn't have any more unwanted pups in the future, I encouraged him to get in touch with me in the future should he have any more GSPs in need of assistance. I didn't rant and rave and tell him he was scum of the earth (he was actually a very nice guy). If I were an activist, or had a rabid "anti-breeder" mentality, wouldn't I have used that opportunity to chastise him? I am not and I did not.

I took the puppies and fostered them here temporarily until they moved on to individual foster homes. They were delightful, suprisingly healthy (despite low body weight and parasitic infections), and they were well socialized. It was obvious they had been handled and loved.

A year later, I received a phone call from this same gentleman. He told me he had two females he "couldn't use" any longer. He asked if I could help. I told him I would be happy to. It turned out one of the females was named Sassy, she was the  mommy to the puppies from the year before. He was also surrendering Star, one of Sassy's pups from a previous litter. We made arrangements to meet, he drove an hour to meet me. When he and his wife said goodbye to Sassy and Star, it was obvious they cared about them in their own way.

Sassy on a chain by her "dog house"
Sassy and Star were in rough shape. They were painfully thin, they had scabs and scars from being tangled in chains. Star had fresh wounds on her leg from entanglement. They were full of parasites. Sassy's coat was so sunbleached and dry, I wondered if she would ever look like a GSP again. Her belly sagged from years of producing litters. But, these girls were very well socialized, and had been loved. It may not be the way you or I would "love" our dogs, but their life on a chain was all they ever knew, and these folks did socialize them.

We patched them up at the vet, they were spayed, and moved along to foster homes. Sassy spent a week with me, and she was a delightful addition to my pack. She loved my cat in particular. She was a special girl.

Now, I ask you, if I were anti-breeder, would I have taken such care with this man? The man who "bred" these dogs? The man who had supplied us with an entire litter of puppies the year before? The man who kept his "studs" so he could start back up his breeding practice in the future, when the economy improves? I wanted to foster a positive relationship with him. I wanted him to have a positive experience with rescue. I wanted to be someone whom he spoke of highly, and with whom he built a sense of trust. He knew I would take care of his "kids" and I did just that.

I have been brought under fire for using the word "breeder" to describe someone like this. Sure, he's not someone whose name appears in show or field trial results. He is a man who has multiple intact dogs chained outside. Their sources of shelter are plastic barrels turned on their side, stuffed with straw. They live there day in, day out, in the heat of the summer and the severe chill of the winter. The fact remains that he handed me the AKC paperwork for both Sassy and Star. His name was listed under "breeder" on the form. So, if I'm not allowed to call him a breeder, what DO I call him? Does "the human individual who facilitates the production of canine offspring" sound better than using the word breeder?

This man isn't a "responsible" breeder. He isn't a reputable breeder. But, according to the AKC, he IS the breeder. Do I lump him in a category with the countless caring and incredibly responsible breeders I know? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Do I subscribe to the line of thinking that "they're ALL the same"? No way! But, if my using the word "breeder" is offensive, I don't know what else to call him. It does NOT mean I am anti-breeder. How could it? Instead of pointing fingers at me, and making false assumptions about me, how about directing your displeasure at HIM and others like him? HE is the type of "breeder" I deal with routinely in rescue. As a matter of fact, he is NOT the norm, in that he was a kind and gentle man with well-socialized GSPs. Many "breeders" I  meet are anything but kind and gentle, nor are their GSPs socialized, even just a little.

Now, onto the "other" type of "breeder" we deal with on a regular basis. I happen to have a foster from a "breeder" in Ohio. His name is Watson. He has been with me since 2010, when he entered rescue at eight months of age, with his litter mate. His "breeder" admitted to me he had never been handled, had never been let out of his kennel, and had never stepped foot on the grass. He had never eaten out of a bowl, as his water was in a bucket (full of feces and mud, I might add), and his food was thrown onto the ground at feeding time. He was broken, battered, and terrified of the world. His rehabilitation continues, and although he will likely never be "adoptable" he is happy here with us, he is joyful, and we will provide a loving home for him for life.

GSP on chain behind OH breeder's home
That same "breeder" has surrendered five other GSPs to us over the last two years. He has also flooded the local English Setter rescue system, as well as the Vizsla rescue system. He continues to breed without health clearances, without providing even the most basic health care for adults or pups. The conditions at his "kennels" are far from being even remotely humane (see photos), but he meets the "minimum" standard set by Ohio law.

He is, by all accounts, a hoarder. His home was condemned after it caught fire due to the overwhelming amount of paper and garbage being hoarded inside. His property is littered with old farm equipment, cars, tools, trucks. The dogs live amongst the garbage and filth, chained to old camper tops from trucks (yes, that is considered "shelter" in the state of Ohio). The dogs have cuts on their bodies and legs from the scrap metal that litters the property. It resembles a junk yard. The others live in makeshift kennels that are in a constant state of disrepair. They are exposed to the elements day in, day out. There are no whelping boxes, puppies are born in the mud, on the dirt, surrounded by feces and urine. They are not given vaccinations, deworming  medication, or anything of the sort (he told me this himself). If they survive, they are sold to whomever will pay the asking price. There is no contract, no health guarantee, nothing that any "responsible" breeder would offer to a puppy buyer.

Urine and feces "stream" running through kennel
I have spoken to this man countless times by phone. He called me just a few months ago, wanting to get rid of a few female GSPs. He told me I'd have to purchase them. He wanted $350 for each. I explained to him that we would likely have to spend twice that much for each in vetting, and that the dogs we had taken from him over the last few years had cost us thousands more due to their extensive medical needs. I explained we can't afford to "buy" them, but would be more than happy to take them, have them vetted, and find loving homes, as we had for all the others. He told me he'd call me back. He didn't. He sold them at an auction instead.

I can't change the agendas of the animal rights groups, who seem to have set out to get ALL breeders. But, why hold ME accountable for THEIR flawed agendas? I don't share their opinions, I don't support their cause(s). Never have, and NEVER will. But, after dedicating the last ten years of my life, and making thousands of sacrifices on behalf of the "forgotten" and "unwanted" GSPs out there, I can't witness first hand this type of "breeder" practice, these types of conditions, and this lack of regard for our breed, and NOT wish it were not so. My thoughts and feelings expressed about THEM, has never been an attack on the breeders who are doing the RIGHT thing...the responsible ones. I applaud and support them. Always have.

If stating my lack of approval for irresponsible breeding practices and sub-standard living conditions places a target on my back, then there is nothing I can do to prevent that. If wanting a BETTER future for the breed I love and adore makes ME some type of activist in non-rescue folks' eyes, then there's nothing I can do to change their opinion of me. You know the saying about don't judge me without walking a mile in my shoes? Well I have been running a daily rescue marathon for the last 10 years, and not one of the people who question my motives has been running (or even walking) alongside me. So how do they KNOW what I believe? How do they KNOW what I stand for? I was never asked, never questioned, and never offered the opportunity to defend or explain myself. I was automatically considered "the enemy within" and did not receive even a shred of the benefit of the doubt.

So, in spite of the sticks and stones being cast, I know one thing...I'm out there, day in, day out, doing something to protect and serve this breed. It is my mission, it is my passion, and it is above all else, it is a labor of love. I'm proud of the lives I have saved. I'm proud of my rescue "team" and I'm proud to be a rescue volunteer. We care about one another. We support one another. We share a common love for this breed. It was, perhaps my flawed belief, that all who share this love should come together, to share our experiences for a common goal, to protect and serve OUR breed.

Friday, May 18, 2012

For The Love Of Pete...

I must confess, I have been suffering from rescue burnout for a while now. It's so exhausting to see so many lovely GSPs in need of assistance. No matter how hard we try, or how many volunteer hours we invest, it's just never enough. And, when you are the one who has to reply to the shelter e-mail with the words, "I'm sorry, we're full" knowing all too well that you are likely signing the euthanization orders for that dog, well, the weight of that is nearly unbearable. Honestly, sometimes I just want to throw in the towel for a while...the burden is just too heavy.

I took a walk, and ended up down by our pond. I was thinking about Pete, my first rescue boy. He came to me as a senior in Dec. 2002, after his owner had passed away suddenly. He was a 90lb lug of a dog, half of his ear missing, long tail that knocked everything off every table and shelf, calm by GSP standards (except at meal time). He stayed with us because of his age, and, well, because we fell madly in love with him. Everyone did. He was an amazing therapy dog for the elderly, and there were patients battered by Alzheimer's, who had lost the ability to communicate, but when they petted Pete, they would speak. Their faces would come alive, just with a mere touch to his silky ears. He was a magical force, there was something special about him that everyone could see and feel. He moved you.

Pete passed away two months before our house was completed. By the pond, I planted a weeping willow tree, and placed some of Pete's ashes at the roots. We planted three other weeping willows that day. Pete's tree is the only one still standing. And, it's thriving. It made me think about the thousands of other "seeds" that have been planted through the last 10 years in rescue. How many families' lives have been touched by their own "Pete" and how they made beautiful memories with their adopted dog. I also thought about all of the volunteers whom I have "met" and those who have joined rescue in my time. They are all such amazing, strong, dedicated people. I have never met most of them in person, but I consider them my friends. I am grateful to have them in my life.

Although it can be difficult, exhausting, and heartbreaking at times, rescue is what I know. It's why I'm here. Of that, I am certain. How boring my "spare time" would be if not for rescue. When I put my head on my pillow each night, I know I have done something right. This amazing rescue team of ours is an amazing force. WE move mountains. WE change lives. I wish for others, who have never fostered, to know the JOY that comes from saving a life. We truly have control of a living being's destiny, simply by opening our hearts and our homes. It is an amazing gift for which I will be forever grateful.

So, in a few weeks, it will be four years since I lost Pete. I decided to take a tearful look at his 'tribute' video. It was long overdue. I needed this today. I needed HIM to remind me WHY I do this. Why I must move past this feeling of throwing in the towel, and keep going.

Since Pete's death, I have also lost my "original" GSPs, Heidi and Rudy (they are pictured in Pete's video as well). My household has come full circle, and there's a new generation of rescues here with us. I suspect when they are gone, a new generation will replace them. After all, it's what I know. It's why I'm here. It's what I do. Watch: Pete's Video Tribute

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Do You Measure A Sense Of Commitment?

Last year, we took a lovely black/white female GSP from a KY shelter. This sweet, happy 5 year-old girl was nothing if not perfect. She never met a stranger, was well behaved, and enjoyed each and every moment. She was here for a short while, and I absolutely adored her. She was a joy to be around.

You all know we are VERY selective with our adoptive homes. We perform a detailed interview, we visit the home, we require fencing, we make sure all current and former pets have been and are up-to-date on all vaccines, heartworm prevention, etc. We speak to them about commitment, the fact that the dog had been displaced already, and that an adoption should be forever.

This sweet girl went to a fully approved home in the Mid-Atlantic region. They had three children, and the kids LOVED their dog. She seemed to fit in well, and there were absolutely NO reports of issues. Then, last week, an e-mail arrived. I am pasting it here, but I'm removing the dog's name, as well as the adopter's names.

Dear Faith,

My family and I adopted _______ (now a 6 yo female Black/White GSP) from the rescue in July 2010 and in accordance with our adoption contract that if for any reason during the life of our dog we are unable to keep it we are return the dog to the rescue.

This email is to initiate the process to return _______. She generally is a good dog; our issue is that she has a tendency to find crayons, pencils, and other such items that belong to our kids (ages 4, 6, 8) and eat them. At first it was a minor inconvenience but now its a problem and we don't have the time to deal with it. We have given and much time and patience to the issue as we can afford to.

We think _______ would do best in a home with no kids where she would get all the attention or a family with older kids who could be responsible for walking her, etc, and are beyond the crayons and colored pencils stage of life. (Note she does not eat kids toys).

I appreciate your understanding and hope that you are able to rehome _______ quickly.

And that, Ladies and Gentleman, just goes to prove one thing. No matter how carefully we screen adopters, there is no possible way we can truly measure their true sense of commitment, nor the depth of their compassion.

This sweet little girl is safe, as of this afternoon, and in one of our foster homes. But, this scenario plays out in different ways, time and time again. Even the most "wonderful" adopters return dogs. Trust me. One of my own is a former foster who lived with her "absolutely perfect for her family" for nearly two years. Divorce struck, and she was returned to us. We took her back immediately, without question nor reservation. She remains here with us and will be with us until the end.

This brings up an ethical question. What happens to the dogs that are placed without a safety net? There are so many"rescue groups that find long-distance adopters through cross-posting on Facebook and other means (Petfinder, etc.). They may do a phone screen, or perhaps check vet references, and maybe even some of them network to find someone in the area to perform a home visit. Maybe. Let me ask you this...what happens when the adoption doesn't work out? If there was no "connection" made with a breed rescue or all breed rescue in the adopter's area, how does the placing rescue get the dog back? Where does the dog go? And, if the adopter is outside of the rescue's coverage area, how do they know the adopter will even contact them if it doesn't work out? What happens to these dogs that are "saved" then are FAILED by their adopters?

I will tell you that _________ left rescue in great physical shape and at an ideal weight. She returned today looking, shall we say, rather chubby. Crayons must be fattening. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paxton's Untimely End

The phone rang early on July 4th. It was a number I didn't recognize. The first words were, "I found your dog on College Parkway. He has been hit by a car. He is dead." I was confused. Not "my" dog. I asked where, what state? "Maryland," he said. I have sent many dogs to VA and MD wearing one of "my" ID tags. I always ask the other fosters or adopters to send them back, but that doesn't always happen. I do get "I found your dog" calls from MD and VA on occasion. But this call was different.

I asked him about the dog, and when he told me he had "old scars" down his back, I was of the sweetest, most amazing GSPs to ever grace my home. Paxton. The special one. The amazing one. The gentlest one. No, please, it CAN'T be...please, please, NOT PAXTON!!!

Paxton's story...

It all started with an e-mail in the Fall of 2007. I heard from a volunteer with a rural KY shelter. She said they had a "brown dog" there. They thought at first he was a Chocolate Lab, but with the docked tail, they thought maybe he was a GSP. She told me he had "injuries" and that she would send pictures. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. This boy had a zig-zag pattern down his back. Pink skin, no hair. It was obvious he had been burned. The pattern looked like someone took lighter fluid, and sprayed it on his back, side-to-side. He also had some spots on his face. The hair was growing back, white (not liver), but at least the scars had healed. This sweet, innocent young boy had been intentionally set on fire. No one knew where he came from, so the perpetrators would never be found. Of course, it's Kentucky after all, so even if they were identified, they would receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist (and probably a pat on the back from their buddies). That's how things are in rural Kentucky. It's a reality.

I made arrangements to take Paxton for a few weeks, until we could arrange transport to a foster home in Maryland. I drove to Lexington, KY, and I met the shelter volunteer in the Petsmart parking lot. Poor Paxton. He was so sweet, so scared, so stinky! I took him into Petsmart and purchased a new collar, and an ID tag with my phone number on it. I contemplated having them give him a bath, but decided it was a waste of money to pay for a bath for a shorthair, so I decided to do it when I got home.

We arrived home after our 3-hour trip, and we went straight to the bathtub. Paxton was a bit hesitant, but he gave me that look like, "I trust you. I'll do whatever you think it best." You know that look. He put faith in me, and he seemed to know I would take care of him.

After his bath, he met the "pack" and even the dog-grouchy Pete wasn't bothered by him. Paxton just had that way about him, that easy-going, I'm not a threat, I'm up for anything kind of vibe. He was so low key, it was impossible for him to do anything that even remotely resembled threatening behavior. So, all of the dogs simply accepted him from the start.

We enjoyed our time together. I took him to interesting places, we visited family and friends, and he fit in well. To say I fell in love with him at first meeting would be an understatement. I love them all, temporary or otherwise, but you know, some of them just have that extra something special, that look in their eye, a gentle spirit, that just touches you a bit more deeply than the others. And, when they have been injured or mistreated, I feel an even stronger need to protect them.

Paxton only stayed two weeks. I must admit, when I dropped him off with his transporter, I cried the entire way home. He was a very difficult dog to part with. I knew I would never forget him, and I never had.

He spent only a short time in foster care. Despite his scars, he found a loving family quickly. They accepted him just the way he was.

Last Fall, I was sitting in the chair having my hair cut when my phone rang. It was a woman from MD. "I found your dog," she said. "He's been abused. He has scars all down his back." I was Paxton. I scrambled to find out his adopter's phone number. I called Faith, the rescue president. She dug up the number and called Paxton's owner. She explained he had escaped the back yard, and he was now safely home. Faith told her she needed to get a new ID tag with "her" number on it. She agreed.

That was the last I had heard of sweet Paxton until yesterday morning. Independence Day. Ironic in many ways. Paxton achieved a level of independence. He escaped the yard, through an open gate. No one knew it was open, so when he was let into the yard, he saw his chance. "I'm FREE," he thought. I'm sure he was running with reckless, there and everywhere his little heart desired. Then, he reached the Parkway.

I don't know if he was killed instantly. I pray he was. I can't bear the thought of him suffering there alone, on the side of the road. So, I will continue to tell myself it was quick. Instant. No pain. No suffering. No fear.

Paxton's death was an accident. His family loved him. This is not the way Paxton's life should have come to an end. Please, if you love your pet, install a lock on your gate. Better yet, install a lock AND a spring hinge. That way, there will NEVER be another accidental escape from the yard. No open gates. Never again.

"Pax" is the Latin word for "Peace" so rest in PEACE, sweet Paxton. You were loved.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Now I Know I Have Heard It ALL!

After nearly ten years rescue as a rescue volunteer, I am relatively unfazed by the many reasons (aka excuses) people part with (aka dump) their pets. I have heard many things through the years, such as, "I'm getting new hardwood floors and I don't want his nails to scratch them." "I'm retiring and want to travel." "My new wife isn't a dog person." "I had a baby and I can't make time for the dog too." "He doesn't hunt, so we got a new puppy instead." And the list goes on...

Just when I thought I had heard it all...along comes Izzy. Miss Izzy is a young girl, she'll turn two years old in July. Seems Izzy lived in a home of some financial means (beautiful neighborhood, well-manicured lawns, new homes, quiet street, etc.). Izzy's family had an older Weimaraner, and four children. One of the children was special needs. They purchased Izzy as a puppy, and they were told she was a Weimaraner. Well, she is solid liver (and Weim's don't come in liver), so it's obvious they were duped by the so-called breeder.

We all know that GSPs have a need to run, and run hard. They must receive training and structure in order to thrive. They need direction, they need exercise, and in a suburban setting, they need FENCING! Izzy had none of the above. She was a typical active youngster, bored without stimulation, with a need to burn off energy. So, she decided it was great fun to chase children on bikes as they passed her house. I can just hear Izzy now, "Oohh, they ride so fast, and their little feet go round and round. Looks like a toy to me! What fun!!!" Izzy would grab at the childrens' ankles as they rode past. She did this over and over again. She didn't BITE anyone. She didn't even hurt anyone. She was just a bit of a nuisance in the neighborhood. I gather the other parents were complaining.

So, Izzy's family took her to the vet. They asked if he could pull her teeth. (Yes, you read that correctly, I did say "pull her teeth".) The vet refused. The family returned home, unsure about what to do next. Izzy was great with their children, even their special needs child who lacked mobility. She was a great family pet, but they just couldn't figure out how to keep her in the yard. I guess they never heard of this thing called a fence. But maybe they don't have fences where she came from. It's possible, right?

The family obviously made little effort to manage Izzy's behavior. I do understand that with four children (one being special needs) that the mom's time would be limited. I guess I would ask them why they purchased Izzy in the first place, if they didn't have time to train her, nor the means to contain her? But, that's neither here nor there. The point is, she was their responsibility, and they were falling down on the job. When Izzy continued to chase the bicycles, they made another call to their vet. This time, it was "THE" call, if you know what I mean. They made an appointment to have her euthanized. Since the vet refused to pull her teeth, what else could they do, right?

Thankfully, one of the family's neighbor's overheard her "mom" speaking about Izzy. She said "Izzy is going to meet her maker." The neighbor approached her and asked for clarification. She told her it would be a shame to see that happen, since Izzy is so young. She called her friend who runs an all-breed rescue group in the area. She asked her if she could help Izzy. She agreed. She thought she was a Weimaraner, and thought perhaps she could find her a home quickly, or ask Weimaraner rescue for assistance. She picked Izzy up, and thought it strange that she was dark brown in color. She posted a photo on Facebook, I was tagged, and the rest is history. We knew she was a GSP, and we were determined to help.

Izzy had to remain with her rescuer for a few weeks while we worked out transportation to her foster home. Her temporary foster mom said she was an angel. She loved all of the other dogs, no issues with food, toys, etc. She even got along with the cats. They didn't have to crate her when they went to work. Izzy was the perfect house guest. She loved to snuggle and was incredibly affectionate. Her temporary foster mom was heading to NC for vacation, as was her intended GSP Rescue foster family. It turned out they were heading to NC during the same week, and were staying not too far from one another. So, they agreed to meet in NC over the weekend. Izzy left her temporary foster family to join her new foster family while on vacation! Now, that's a rescue transport for you!

Izzy is doing well, enjoying the sun on the deck. She doesn't seem too fond of the pool or ocean, but hey, not all dogs love the water. Her foster mom fell ill, and was in bed for two days as a result (and even had to go to the ER). Izzy rarely left her side. She snuggled up in the bed next to her, aware she needed her. Izzy had only known her foster mom for 24 hours when she got sick. She just KNEW she had a job to do. Now, does this sound like a dog that should have been euthanized for chasing bicycles? I don't think so.

Izzy will soon be available for adoption. You can find more information about Izzy by visiting

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Puzzle Pieces and Revelations From The Road

Today was a marathon transport day. Normally, we divide up transports in "legs" where each volunteer driver has about a 1.5 hour trip one-way. That was not possible today. There were three GSPs in need of a weekday transport. It's tough to find weekday help (after all, we all have to work), and even more challenging to find someone who can transport three large dogs at one time.

Earlier in the week, there were three GSPs in desperate need, in two different KY shelters. They had 24-48 hours before being euthanized. All three were owner surrenders, so they have even less time. The shelters have a mandatory hold on the "strays" so their owners can have the chance to claim them. That is not so with the owner surrenders, so we have to act quickly.

At first, there was a sense of panic...where were we going to put three GSPs? We had just taken several over the weekend, and there were also two waiting to come in. And, where was I going to put them on a Tuesday, with no volunteers within a reasonable distance to the shelters? So many much to little time left...

Thanks to two wonderful shelter volunteers, all three dogs (Isobel, Guinness and Rusty) were pulled on Tuesday, and transported to an AMAZING vet clinic in Richmond, KY. They don't normally do boarding, but they made an exception for us. We had used them before, for some other shelter dogs, so they knew our rescue would pay our bill on time. The prices were reasonable, and they received loving care.

I found foster homes for all three. The Bailey family in WV, the Baker family in OH, and the Celesky family in MD. But, it would take some coordination to get them where they needed to go. I would have to drive to the vet to retrieve them (2.5 hrs each way). Then, I'd have to drive another 1.5 hours to meet Jim and Nancy Kane. Jim is a volunteer driver for a transport van for the Parkersburg, WV shelter. Every weekend, they load the van with lovely animals in need of homes, and drive to Hagerstown, MD. From there, they are picked up by their respective rescue groups, and they are on their way to a new life. Jim and Nancy would collect all three GSPs from me in Charleston, WV. They would then drive to meet Carol Bailey in Ravenswood, WV. Carol would be fostering Guinness, and she would keep Isobel overnight (The Baker family would pick her up Saturday morning). Jim and Nancy would hold Rusty overnight, and Jim would load him on the transport van VERY early Saturday morning, for his trip to MD.

(I should also add that while I am typing this, Cookie, a young female GSP from KY is now en route from Bowling Green, KY to Hagerstown, MD on a different shelter transport. She will arrive in MD at 6:00 am. There will be a small team of volunteers who get her where she needs to the early morning hours on a Saturday)

So, now you have the history of how this all started. As I was driving along, on about hour six of the transport, I was starting to feel tired. My legs were aching a bit, my back was stiff and I was starving. I was dreading the next four hours of driving, until I could finally get home. Home...home to my "own" rescue dogs and fosters. I knew they were in need of attention. Hubby had let them out to potty, but they would have preferred some "me time" and some long runs in the yard.

I was feeling road weary for sure. I looked down at sweet Isobel, there on the front seat in her seatbelt harness. She was staring up at me with the most beautiful expression. She was so content. Then, I glanced in my rear view mirror, at the two large crates blocking my view. Rusty and Guinness were back there, sleeping quietly. Then, it hit me. Perhaps I was tired and hungry, but my car was full of LOVE. It was full of LIFE! It was full of HOPE! There were three little hearts beating in that car. They were beating because a small army of caring people made some small sacrifices to save their lives. The shelter volunteers, the vet clinic staff, the fosters, the transporters... We were ALL a vital piece of the puzzle. When the pieces are put together, precious lives are saved.

All of my own dogs and fosters at home are ALIVE because a small army of people once made small sacrifices to save THEM. Those sweet faces I kiss goodnight, the ones I treasure and adore, would not be with us, these amazing gifts to our home, had there not been a small army of kind people, willing to take a little time out of "their day" to perform a task or two, to save their lives.

The rest of my journey passed quickly, and I had a smile on my face the entire time. I felt at peace. There was LIFE and LOVE in that car today. And, there was an abundance of LIFE and LOVE greeting me at the door when I got home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There Is Inspiration In Heartache...Pinky's Story

I have often been asked why I do rescue. Why would I subject myself to such heartache and sadness? I tell them the joy far outweighs the sadness. You must focus on little victories, not dwell on the failures. You celebrate the WINS and mourn the LOSSES. I tell them about all of the wonderful and amazing people whom I have met through rescue...volunteers and adopters alike. Then, I tell them the story of Pinky. He is THE REASON I got involved with rescue.

Through the struggles and tears, Pinky taught me a valuable lesson. Life with a dog is about the QUALITY of the time, not the QUANTITY. I did my best to make his time with me enjoyable, full of love, comfort and warmth. I couldn't "fix" what was broken, but I could celebrate his life by saving the lives of others. Rescue is my passion, my mission, my calling. Thank you, gave me the strength to endure the heartache of rescue, and focus on the HOPE!

Here is Pinky's story...

I picked him up off of the street, after seeing him wander the neighborhood for weeks. He was getting skinnier by the day, and I was determined to help him. I brought him home, and he was literally a rack of bones. He had scars on his body, which the vet later told me were from cigarette burns. He had scars on his legs from where he had been tangled in a chain...probably left to fend for himself for days on end, and the chain began to embed itself in his skin. This dog had issues. He was afraid of everyone. He would cower when you'd stand up. He's urinate if someone raised their voice. He was terrified when the closet door was opened, he would run away, as if he were afraid I was going to lock him up in there. The same was true for the bathroom. He never stepped foot in the bathroom...EVER.

Poor Pinky had been abused. No doubt about it.

He bonded to me, my husband and our dogs immediately. We had two German Shorthaired Pointers, so we were accustomed to the needs of an active and energetic dog. He ADORED our dogs, played well with them, and loved being with them. He followed them everywhere. The problem was that Pinky felt he HAD to protect our home. The first time, we didn't really "know" there was a problem. It all started so innocently. He bit my neighbor. You couldn't find a bigger dog lover than he. He was playing with Pinky, he blamed it on himself, saying he was tugging too hard on the rope, so it wasn't Pinky's fault. We brushed it off as a playtime accident. About a month later, he attacked my mother-in-law as she entered our home. He tore into her hand as she opened the door. He knew her! He knew she was not a threat! How could this happen? I was devastated at witnessing my sweet Pinky behaving so violently. I couldn't believe he was capable of doing such damage to someone he seemed to love and trust.

I had never dealt with aggression before, so I was in unfamiliar territory.

I decided to consult a canine behaviorist. She felt he had potential to overcome the issues, so we embarked on what would become a nearly two year-long effort to "re-train" him not to bite. We started with basic obedience, then intermediate, advanced, etc. Then, we did three rounds of "charm school" which is basically a room full of dogs that are human and/or dog aggressive, their owners trying to "fix" their dogs, so they don't have to put them to sleep for being dangerous. Talk about a room full of desperate people. We were all clinging to the hope that we could somehow fix what someone else had done to our dogs. To heal what was broken. To undo what had been done. Sadly, many of us were helpless to do so.

My husband and I separated, and without an extra set of hands to manage Pinky's behavior, we just simply stopped having anyone over. I would meet my friends at their homes. I stopped entertaining. When my mother and grandmother came to visit from out-of-state, I had to put Pinky into boarding. I just couldn't take the risk that he would harm my grandmother. She was so frail, and he so strong.

It was "easy" to manage his behavior if we didn't actually GO anywhere together (except for training classes). I guess I wasn't realizing that he was a prisoner in my home, as was I. Not to mention, my two existing dogs loved nothing more than to have company. They relished in the attention our dog-loving guests paid them, more laps to choose from, more faces to kiss. They could have none of that simple pleasure, as Pinky prevented us from having company.

Well, after a combination of diet, herbal "calming" remedies, nearly two years of intensive training and consistent behavior modification, Pinky bit again. This time it was ME, on MY leg, as he charged toward the mail man (through the closed storm door). I knew that day that there was no way I could fix this dog. I loved him with all of my heart. But, I knew he could not enjoy the luxury of just being a dog...relaxing on the sofa, lying by the fire. He had a job to do, and always had to be on guard, to protect me and my home. I also knew he was a liability...he could harm someone else...a child, an innocent visitor, etc. I spoke to my behaviorist and my trainer. We all agreed. We had given it our best shot. They assured me I had gone way above and beyond what many owners would do. I had invested an incredible amount of time and money...desperate to FIX him. What more could I do? I had to make a difficult decision to euthanize him.

I scheduled "the appointment" for late Saturday, the following weekend. It was a gray and gloomy New England February day (which fit the mood). Pinky and I relaxed on the sofa together. I wanted to drink in every last ounce of him. I didn't ever want to forget how he smelled, how his fur felt beneath my fingers, how he looked up at me with such beautiful brown eyes...oh that look...I will never forget that look.

On the way to the vet, it was drizzling. It was a damp, gray and cold day that soaked right into your bones. We went into the vet office, and they allowed me to sit on the floor with him. I brought Pinky's favorite blanket, and had given him a sedative before leaving the house, so he'd be a bit more relaxed. As I held him on the floor, my vet sat beside me, we had tears streaming down both of our faces. When he took his last breath, I realized something remarkable...he was relaxed. For the first time in 2+ years, he was actually at peace. He no longer had to protect me. He could rest.

I took a few moments to compose myself (well, more than a few minutes actually), and then put on my coat. As I walked outside toward my car, I realized the damp, gray sky had been replaced by a beautiful, sunny, pink sky. Everywhere I looked, there was pink. Bright pink, INTENSE pink, with sun beams streaming down through what little was left of the clouds. It was a stunning sight. I knew it was a sign. I had made the right decision. My little Pinky had gone home...he was at rest.