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.


Anderson said...

What an incredibly moving post. This world, and these dogs, are so extremely lucky to have someone like you who cares so much. Thank you for the advocacy that you provide this amazing breed. Your work is truly valued!

David said...

What a great post-for all of us that do rescue it's like that each and every week.

For all those that own GSP's that read this post-please take a minute to think about how much good you could do by fostering even 1 dog in a year?

If something happened to you or you became unable to care for your pet, wouldn't you want someone to look after him?

If you don't have time or don't think you can handle it-please, please think about fostering a dog like the 13 year old mentioned. Rescue is always in desperate need of homes for seniors-they require little exercise and usually just a warm place to rest their tired bodies. It doesn't cost you anyting except a little extra dog food-if that's an issue Rescue will work with you to provide some.

jane said...

So how does one sign up to foster a dog? (A GSP had me for 14 years in an an urban area, where I work FT, and I would have to inquire w my bldg mgmt re terms for fostering but I may have access to a home w a fenced-in yard.) Pls advise!

Michelle Salyers said...

Jane, I'm not sure where you live. Most rescue volunteers work full-time. I just do this in my "spare" time...LOL, and there's not much of that to go around. I have been involved with rescue for nearly 10 years, all the while maintaining a full-time job.

There are various individual GSP Rescue groups across the US. You can find a list here:

Each one has different requirements and protocols for foster homes. I know in our area (Mid-Atlantic), we do have foster homes without fencing. As long as the foster is able to provide adequate, daily exercise (walks, runs, dog parks, etc.), it normally suffices for the short-term fostering commitment. However, there are some rescue groups that do not feel comfortable with non-fenced foster situations. It is up to each group to determine their rules and regulations.

mama marie said...

I am always sad that I cannot foster. My GSP was attacked at a training session when he was 3 months old, has not been dog friendly since except for my blind GSP mix which raised him I do try to send financial support to the Norcal GSP rescue where I have gotten 2 of my dogs in the past. I know this helps with medical and food, but as much as I love GSP's I wouldn't mind a houseful. I purposefully have 6 foot fences and locks on my gates. Have arranged for someone to take my 2 loves if something happens to me. Since I already had a stroke, another one can happen at any time. My big 96 pounder allows me to sleep in "his" bed, a queen size that he takes up most of, every morning he cuddles or lays his head on my pillow and kisses me goodmorning. As I said I am a sucker for GSPs. My mix is blind and chases the other one around the yard, quite a sight and funny