Saturday, August 25, 2007

An Oldie But A Goodie

"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."
~ Sidney Jeanne Seward ~

We rescue volunteers have heard every reason under the sun from owners who can no longer keep their dogs. From moving, divorce, having a new baby, new job schedule, etc., the reasons are many. For the most part, we volunteers become rather immune to the excuses, and move forward a bit like robots, working with countless individuals and families who feel their reason(s) are valid. Usually, we know we can find a home for their dog, it just may take some time. We do it again and again, over and over, time and time again.

However, families who contact us wishing to "get rid of" an older dog, often hits us like a slap in the face. I truly have a love for each and every dog I place, but the senior dogs hold a special place in my heart. For those who love their pets, and couldn't imagine ever parting with them, it would be incomprehensible to think of surrendering your dog at age 9, 10, 11, 12 or beyond. It's unfathomable. But, unfortunately, it happens frequently.

My phone rang one day. The conversation started like so many others. "I have a male German Shorthaired Pointer. I just retired and want to travel. I have a place in Florida where I'll be living half of the year. They don't allow dogs. I'd leave him with my daughter, but her husband doesn't like dogs." Then, I ask the normal questions about the dog:

What's his name? "Brady," she said.

Where did you get him? "My children purchased him for me when he was eight weeks old. They wanted me to have company after my divorce," she said.
How old is he? "Twelve," she said.

Then, that all too familiar pit forms in my stomach. Brady had been waiting patiently for her to get home from work, every day for twelve years. Now, she's retired, and doesn't want to see him through his senior years. My heart is broken, and the tears start to form in my eyes. I choke out the remaining question about his temperament (he's great with people, children, other dogs, cats, no major health issues, etc.). Essentially, he's a healthy dog with a solid temperament. If he were younger, he'd find a home quickly. But, there aren't as many families willing to open their heart and home to a dog that may only have a few more years to live.

Of course, Brady needed to go quickly, as she was leaving for a trip to Italy in two weeks. We never had enough foster homes, so I knew I'd have trouble finding a place for him to go while he waited for a forever home. Not to mention it is always best (especially for seniors) for the dog to remain in their familiar surroundings until an adopter comes along. It's very stressful and disruptive for them to be shuttled around from place to place. I knew I had to act fast.

I collected photos of Brady, and posted him on our site ( I also sent an e-mail with Brady's photos, to my list of potential adopters, outlining Brady's sad story. I held my breath and hoped for the best. Most of the folks who were waiting to adopt wanted younger dogs (under the age of 5), so finding a place for Brady was a long shot indeed.

The next morning, I logged in to check my e-mail. There it was. The message I was waiting for. A family in southern Massachusetts, who hoped to adopt a dog under the age of two, wanted to meet Brady. They had young children, and Brady was known to be good with kids. They had two cats, and Brady was ok with cats (rare in a GSP). They also had another dog, and we had been told Brady was good with dogs too. They had read his story, and thought that if they were going to go through rescue to find a dog, they may as well focus on the right match for their family, vs. the age of the dog. They wanted Brady to be happy and comfortable for the rest of his days.

The meeting went well, and they brought Brady home. He loved the kids, the other dog and everyone in the household. He was with them for two years before his death.

His former owner never contacted them to see how he was doing...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rescue 101

I am a volunteer for German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue. Although I will provide some "general" information in this blog, the real life examples provided come from my personal experiences as a rescue volunteer, and experiences relayed to me by my rescue colleagues.

The word "rescue" often brings to mind dogs that have been neglected, abused, live in deplorable conditions, etc. While this is occasionally the case, very often, "rescue" dogs are family pets whom the "family" no longer wishes to keep. Perhaps the family purchased a puppy, without consideration for the amount of time it would take to train and care for the dog. Or, they have had another baby, and no longer have time to dedicate to the demands of owning a dog. Sometimes, the "parents" are divorcing, moving, and will no longer have a place in their lives for their once beloved pet. These newly unwanted dogs are either surrendered to a municipal shelter or humane society, or, the family contacts a rescue group for assistance in locating a new home. (More on the "surrender" process in a future post.)

Generally speaking, rescue organizations are manned solely by volunteers. There is no monetary compensation for the work they do. (There are exceptions to this rule, as in the case with large, multi-breed rescue groups who have shelter facilities, staff, etc. )

There are rescue groups for almost every recognized breed of dog, cat, mixed breed dogs, etc. Many of them have local (often statewide) organizations. Volunteers network with one another across their "coverage" area, and often nationwide. The goal is to rehome dogs who have been displaced, are in shelters in danger of being euthanized, etc.

Most rescue groups have volunteers who foster dogs in their home until a suitable home has been found. This can take days, weeks, or months, depending on the age of the dog, their exposure to children, level of training, health, etc. Foster homes are ALWAYS in short supply, and most rescue groups agonize over having to leave dogs in shelters when there are no available foster homes at a given time.

The number of purebred and mixed breed dogs in shelters across the country is staggering. Even more disturbing is the number of such dogs who are euthanized each day, due to shelter overcrowding and a lack of funding. So many unwanted little time...