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.

The Power of Petfinder - Milton's Paradise FOUND

In honor of's "Adopt The Internet Day", I felt compelled to post an updated version of one of my posts from 2010. Milton's story is a testament to the power of, social networking sites, and the dedication of rescue volunteers, shelter staff, veterinarians, transport coordinators, volunteer pilots and foster parents.

I recently stumbled upon a quote by an unknown author which I found to ring true:

"It takes one person to abandon an animal. It takes a small army to find him a new home."

I think the quote captures the team effort that is often involved with just "one save" and Milton's story is surely an example of that small ARMY in action!

At the beginning of September 2010, I saw a link on a rescue friend's facebook page. There was a nameless male, labeled by the shelter as a Coonhound, but his face looked A LOT like a German Shorthaired Pointer to me. So, I clicked on the link. Sure enough, he WAS a GSP! He appeared to be blind, and was extremely emaciated. I realized he was at an OH shelter that I know all too well. That particular shelter does not have the budget to perform humane euthanasia (through injection), so they still use the antiquated (and horribly inhumane) system of the gas chamber, death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Any dog that shows up at that shelter had better get pulled quickly by rescue, as they are forced to euthanize for space WAY TOO OFTEN!

I phoned the shelter immediately. I spoke to the Dog Warden's assistant. He told me of the desperate situation at the shelter. They had taken in over 50 unwanted dogs the day before. They had run out of space and were housing dogs in crates in the lobby. He told me they would have to euthanize that day. The GSP was not only blind, but a senior.He would most likely be at the front of the line. Needless to say, I knew that poor boy needed to get out of the shelter ASAP, preferably within the hour!

The main challenge was there were no volunteers in the area. I could find no one available (or even close) who could pull him from the shelter and get him to a vet. Thankfully, the dog warden agreed to transport him to a nearby veterinary clinic. He required treatment for a severe parasite infestation, and needed to gain weight before he could be transported. The vet staff fell instantly in love with his sweet senior boy. Despite his blindness and his weakened state, he always found the strength to wag his tail, and nuzzle his caregivers.

I decided to name him Milton, after the "Paradise Lost" author, John Milton. He lost his sight later in life, so it seemed appropriate given Milton's age. Plus, I figured Milton may have never known paradise, or, if he had, it was most certainly lost. I was determined that Milton's story would be one of, "Paradise Found!"

Mid-Atlantic GSP Rescue graciously accepted financial responsibility for Milton. We found a foster home in VA, with a lovely foster mom named Mary Deppa, who already had a few blind dogs of her own. She was well suited to meet Milton's special needs. So, the process began in searching for transport options for Milton. We explored ground transport, but would be traveling through an area where we had no volunteer coverage. We feared the transport would fall through and the long journey by car may been too much for blind Milton. So, I enlisted the help of Liz Bondarek, our wonderful volunteer "flight attendant" who acts as a liaison between rescue and the Pilots N Paws organization. Pilots N Paws is a nationwide network of volunteer pilots, giving freely of their time (and fuel) to help fly "death row" and needy pets to the safe arms of rescue groups and adopters. Thankfully, Liz was willing to get to work to try to find a pilot (or two) to fly Milton from northern Ohio to Virginia.

Liz went to work immediately. She found an amazing volunteer pilot, Mahesh, and his co-pilot, John. They graciously offered to fly from Columbus, Ohio to northern Ohio pick-up Milton, then fly him to Virginia to his waiting foster mom, Mary. The veterinarian who had been caring for Milton offered to take him to the airfield to meet the plane. Aside from some early morning fog delays, Milton's flight was smooth sailing all the way to VA. Mary tearfully greeted her new special boy, and the Mahesh and John admitted they felt a special connection to their most gracious passenger.

Milton felt at home in Mary's house right away. He got along great with his canine siblings, and even accepted his new sister of the feline persuasion. He quickly learned the ropes at Mary's, learned the layout of the house, and mastered the doggy door. It didn't take him long to find the softest dog bed in the house. It was as if he had always been there. He was HOME!

I think Mary knew almost immediately that Milton was extra special. There was just "something" about him, a quality that could not be described in words. Given she had experience with blind dogs, and Milton was getting along so famously with all of the household members, Mary decided to make it official and adopt Milton into her family. Milton truly found his PARADISE!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Adopt-the-Internet March 15

As many of you know, has been a pioneer in the world of pet adoption.

I can attest that revolutionized our rescue efforts. We have been able to reach a wider audience. We have recruited new volunteers through Petfinder as well. Prior to Petfinder, many rescue groups had websites. But, we had to hope that interested parties would "find" us online. By listing our adoptable pets through, doors were opened to a whole new world of networking and publicizing our adoptable dogs.

In celebration of their 15th anniversary, is planning to Adopt the Internet. They are asking people everywhere to pledge to spread the word online about adoptable pets on March 15.

What You Can Do

  • Add a badge to your Web site to show your support. You can find badge information here.
  • Take Petfinder's pledge that you will tell one person about pet adoption on March 15. By pledging, you'll enter for a chance to win one of 10 Pet Hair Eraser® Vacuums from BISSELL.
  • Caption a Petfinder adoptable-pet photo on! The photos with the best captions will be featured on the homepage on March 15.
  • On March 15, if you are a Twitter user, please share an adoptable Petfinder pet on Twitter with the hashtag #adopttheinternet.
  • Add a link to your blog, Facebook or Twitter post to this page! (Visit on March 15 to find out how.)
  • On March 15, donate your Facebook status and photo to an adoptable Petfinder pet. Simply replace your photo with one from the Adopt-the-Internet All-Stars gallery and post one of these messages:
More than 320,000 pets are waiting for homes on Help Petfinder Adopt the Internet today and find forever homes for as many as possible!

I adopted my pet from Petfinder and now I want to help get this pet adopted! If you want to help pets in need of forever homes, please repost this!

Please do your part to help spread the word about pet adoption. The internet and social media outlets give us the amazing power to reach a wide audience. It will only take a few moments for you to do your part, and, your message could indeed save a life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Day, One Volunteer, One Inbox

Most any breed-specific rescue volunteer will tell you, they normally hold their breath each time they open their e-mail. Hoping today will be a day without a plea for help, a dog in dire need in a shelter, an owner surrender. On those days, we can focus on counseling new volunteers and fosters, dedicate some "free" time with our own dogs and families, and focus on preparing for what challenges may lie ahead the following day. GSP Rescue groups are scattered about the US. We have some amazing people, forging ahead each day despite startling numbers of GSPs in need.

There are countless others like me, answering e-mails, scrambling to find foster homes, arrange transports, etc. We are an army of people with a common purpose, kindred spirits, trying to do our best to help the dogs that need us. What disturbs me the most is that the scenario below is repeated over and over again, each day, across the US. This is the story of one day, one volunteer, and one inbox.

March 7 - 10:30 PM: Make final arrangements for a young female GSP in a high kill KY shelter. She is going to the last open foster home. I hold my breath, knowing it will only be a matter of time before another plea for help will arrive. We will be out of foster space. Little did I know what the next day would bring...

March 8 - 8:00 AM: Good morning, inbox. Note forwarded to me from a rescue volunteer in IN. There is a local family in dire straits financially. They have two GSPs, a mother and daughter pair. One has food allergies, so she must be on special prescription food. Both husband and wife lost their jobs. Wife two years ago, husband a year ago. They can no longer afford to care for the dogs. They live outside (have never been in the house). The "mother" was used for hunting, but the daughter has had no hunt training. They have not been vetted in a long while, and have not been on heartworm medication. They have not been spayed.

I realize quickly this could be a challenge, to say the least. Find two fosters (yeah, right), full vetting for each dog (all vaccines, spay, fecal exam and PRAY for negative heartworm tests). Foster care for basic obedience, housebreaking, crate training, etc. Could be a long haul. I take a deep breath and decide to take it one step at a time.

12:15 PM: Receive e-mail from an OH shelter we have worked with in the past. They have a young male GSP in their care, unclaimed stray. He's about 3-4 years old, VERY stressed in the shelter. He needs to get out ASAP and into a foster home. Oh yeah, I forgot, we don't have any open foster homes. Now what? I write back to shelter contact, asking how much time he has left, can we buy a few days to try to work something out? Can we get a jump on the vetting and perhaps pay for boarding for a few days until I can find somewhere to put him? If he's stressed in the shelter, a boarding facility will NOT be ideal for him. But with no open fosters, what else can I do? I start feeling guilty about not being able to foster him here. But, I already have three fosters and four dogs of my own. I ask myself again, "Why won't more people foster?"

6:40 PM: E-mail arrives from a GSP owner in KY. She has a 5 year-old male. He's wonderful with children and other dogs. He is up-to-date on vaccinations and neutered. He lives indoors, with the family. She says they love him to pieces. But, he needs more exercise. She just can't provide it. She hates to give him up, but he really needs more room to run. Can I help?

9:45 PM: Open an e-mail from my friend who works at a shelter in Indiana. They already have one GSP in residence. We have been in regular contact about him. He needs to get out of the shelter, but we don't have any open foster homes. We have been trying to work together to find a temporary solution for him. She writes to tell me they have received an owner surrender, another GSP. She says she's 13. Her owner lost her job. While unemployed, she had a serious car accident which resulted in a broken shoulder. She cannot care for her dog any longer. She contacted another rescue group, and they told her they could not help her, due to the dog's age. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? Age should never be a factor in rescue. EVER!!! We will gladly take her, IF we can find a foster...

11:45 PM - I'm awake in bed, trying to formulate a plan. If we can purchase some food for family #1, and get some vetting started for the two girls while remaining with her family, perhaps that will buy us some time until we can find a foster home.

For dog #3 in the shelter, I'm hoping the shelter can help transport him to a veterinary office for some initial care and boarding, with the HOPES AND PRAYERS that a foster home will surface. Even if I could just find someone willing to keep him for a few weeks, that may be enough time to get a current foster adopted, which will open a spot for this boy.

Re: Dog #4 - I will talk with the KY family, hoping they will understand we don't have open foster homes at this time. If they love their dog as much as they say they do, perhaps they can hold onto him for now. I can send a volunteer to meet with them, meet and evaluate the dog, and perhaps list him on our website. Maybe someone will fall in love with him and we can adopt him out of his owners' home. That would eliminate the need for a foster spot for him.

And for our sweet senior girl, well, I will fight tooth and nail for her. So, the wheels start turning. How can I help this older girl? She is currently being treated for a UTI, so she must finish her medication before being released. Once that day gets closer, I can post her info and photos in the hope of finding a wonderful person who realizes that adoption is not about quantity of time, but QUALITY of time. I know she can find someone who will love her, for whatever time she has left on this earth. I just know it! She deserves the chance, and I will do all I can to give her that chance. I won't look the other way, simply because she is a senior. SHE NEEDS US. After all, isn't that why we do this? To help this breed, not just the youngest, healthiest and most 'adoptable' ones?

One day. One volunteer. One inbox.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shame On The Shelter! Devin's Story...

On Christmas day, I learned of Devin, a young male GSP in an Indiana shelter. He was heartworm positive, and needed a rescue to take him in. I replied to the e-mail, and told them I would begin searching for a foster home. On the day the shelter re-opened (Tuesday the 28th), I left a voice mail at the shelter, expressing my interest in Devin. I had located a foster home and was ready to commit to him. I followed that up with an e-mail to the shelter director.

I heard back from the director later that day. She told me she was thrilled that we were going to take Devin, and asked for the necessary paperwork from the rescue (vet reference, copy of adoption contract, 501c3 papework). I provided all of the material, and told her I would begin working on a transport. She replied to say one of the shelter workers or volunteers would take the first leg of the transport. I told her to make arrangements for his vaccinations, etc., and that I would call the vet with our rescue credit card number.

On Jan. 30, I sent her the "run sheet" for the transport, which was to take place the following Saturday (since that weekend was New Year's weekend). She replied back to tell me that things had changed, and that Devin may be going to a "teaching program" at a vet tech school in Ft. Wayne. I almost couldn't believe what I was reading. He had a commitment. He had a rescue. He had a foster home. When adopted through us, he would have a safety net for life through our adoption contract. He could never again be surrendered to a shelter or pound, as we would take responsibility for him for the rest of his days.

My mind was racing. What was this program all about? I have heard horror stories about dogs being poked and prodded with needles, etc. Sometimes, they take "unadoptable" dogs so they can practice on them, then euthanize them when they are "finished" with them. I was OUTRAGED! I could not believe she would let this happen to Devin. There were countless other dogs at the shelter that did not have another option. I don't want to see ANY dog go to a research situation, but if a dog HAD to go, why Devin???

She promised she would "get back to me ASAP" at the beginning of the week to tell me what was going to happen, and whether the school would be taking him. I wrote to her, offering to pay whatever fee the school was paying for Devin. Anything, just to make sure he could come to rescue. I didn't wait for her call, and decided to call her myself. Devin was already gone! I asked her where he would live (kennel, metal crate, etc.). She assured me he would be "fostered" by one of the students while he undergoes heartworm treatment. She also assured me that he would be placed for adoption at the end of his time in the program. I asked her if she could please connect me with the director of the program, so I could inquire about adopting Devin. She said she would call ASAP and get back to me.

Days passed...I heard nothing. I called. She didn't call me back. I e-mailed. She didn't respond. Finally, I got her on the phone. She insisted she left a message for the program director, and would follow-up with me. She didn't. So, I called the school myself yesterday. I spoke to the director. She said she had not heard from the shelter director, and did not know that we had secured a spot for Devin. She told me she would have been happy to have us adopt Devin, but one of the students has expressed interest in adopting him. She said a vet tech is "an animal person" and that he would obviously have a loving home for life. I inquired if they have a contract, so Devin would never again find himself changing homes or in a shelter. She said they do not.

I told her that I have taken owner surrenders from vet techs several times through my years in rescue. As a matter of fact, I have one right now. A nine year-old male. Mom is a single parent and can no longer afford to care for him. Just because you choose a profession centered around animals does not mean you will be a committed owner for the life of the dog. This student is young, she has her whole life ahead of her. I informed the director that the MAIN reason for owner surrenders of GSPs is the arrival of human children. Second to that is moving to a place that won't accommodate the dog. Life changes spark surrender. Period. And this young girl has countless life changes ahead of her. I can only pray she will make a commitment to Devin for the rest of his years.

Devin is not being fostered in a home. The shelter director lied about that. He could have endured his 30 days of heartworm treatment on a soft sofa, next to his foster parents, in a warm, comfy environment. Instead, he will be alone 20+ hours per day. They have had him for two weeks, and still haven't started his treatment. What gives???

The director of the vet tech program told me that it was her understanding that a rescue did inquire about Devin, but they didn't want to pay for his heartworm treatment or neuter. The shelter director knew better than that! We would have paid for everything! I also understand that the shelter receives vaccinations and care through the program, and in exchange, they release to the program the dogs of their choice. I understand the financial constraints of a small, county shelter, but again, Devin had OPTIONS. He had a chance. He had a future ahead of him, in the hands of people who know the breed, and understand the type of home he will require.

All I can do is say a prayer that Devin's future is a bright one. I pray he endures his heartworm treatment without incident, and perhaps someone will take some time each day to sit with him in his kennel, pet him, and let him know he is loved.

Shame on the Shelter!