Monday, December 7, 2009

How do I choose?

Right now, there are at least 100 dogs in various shelters that I could take home. There are probably a lot more than that, but it's a conservative estimate, based on only the shelters I usually get dogs from, and only on those dogs who are able to be pulled by rescue. If I don't take them, a small portion will be taken in by other rescue volunteers. A larger portion will remain at the shelters for another day, hoping to be adopted. And the remainder will be euthanized. And next week, the exact same situation will happen. And the week after that. It's a cycle thats been going on for many years, and unfortunately will continue for several more years.

Some people are working to end the cycle. They encourage people to spay/neuter their pets, and they offer low-cost spay/neuter options to people who can't otherwise afford it. They encourage people to adopt pets from shelters instead of buying from breeders. And they teach people to view their pets as living beings to be cared for, not material possessions to be thrown away. There has been some improvement, and hopefully someday we will not have the problem of pet overpopulation.

In the meantime, I have to decide which ones to save. And it's not an easy decision. There are so many options. Save the most adoptable, because then I can save more of them (i.e. Keisha, Trey, puppies). Save the ones who need me most, because no one else will help them, and their lives are worth saving too (i.e. Noelle, Jade, Reese). Save the ones who will be great pets with just a little work, but otherwise will probably be passed over at a shelter because of behavior issues (i.e. Selena, Emma, Lizzy). As you can see, at one time or another, I've chosen each option.
In addition to the pets I see at area shelters, I also am constantly receiving e-mails from people asking for help with their pets. Sometimes the stories are sad - the owner who just passed away and has no family to take in his two senior dogs. But more often, the stories are frustrating - the family who is moving and won't take their pets with them, or the family who just had a baby and doesn't have time for their dog anymore. Occasionally I want to take a dog simply because I want to help the person who asked. More often, I want to take the dog because I feel sorry for the dog, and not because I want to help out the family who made the request. Either way, I receive these requests almost every single day, and whether I want to help the people or the dogs, I almost always have to say no.

So this is what rescue people are faced with. The faces of hundreds of pets, just hoping to be rescued. And of course there is never enough time, space, or money to save them all. But for the one pet that is saved, the world becomes a better place. And I love making the world a better place, even if its just for one pet. So when I have a space to save a dog, here's how I choose. I pick the one that I fall in love with at first sight. Or I pick the one that someone else asks me to take. Or I pick the one that I know is highly adoptable. Or I pick the one that needs me the most. Or sometimes I give in and pick two. And then I try not to feel guilty for not picking the other 98.

This leads to the question of how many to save. Again, there are options. I could save one at a time. This is ideal for most dogs. They get the most one-on-one attention that way, and I can spend more time training them and making them more adoptable. My second option is to save two dogs at a time. This is what I usually aim for. I try to save one hard-to-place dog and one easy-to-place dog, with the idea that I'll be able to save and adopt out several of the easy-to-place dogs while I continue to foster and work with the hard-to-place dog.

Sometimes that doesn't work out like I planned. If I get a litter of puppies, or a previously adopted dog is returned, the number goes up. If I receive too many requests and don't say no, the number goes up. If someone tells me about a deaf pit bull puppy (my absolute favorite dog to rescue), the number goes up. Because if you're sitting face to face with a dog, and he's wagging his tail and licking you, and you know if you don't take him he will be killed, it's very hard to say no. 

So sometimes I get more than my ideal number of two foster dogs. But it is important to me that each of my fosters is treated just like they are my own pets. That means if they're house-trained, they get to sleep on the bed if they want to. And if I'm home, they're not in a crate or a separate room - they're just there with me all the time. It gives me the best opportunity to train them and get to know them. If I have too many fosters, I end up with what is basically a kennel, with all the dogs crated most of the time. That is the way some foster homes are run, and it is a great way to save the life of more dogs, but I've found that I'm not able to handle that. So I try to keep only two dogs so that I can treat them as my own. And so that my husband doesn't kill me.

Oh, and for those of you curious about the cats... there are even more cats than dogs waiting to be saved. And they're much harder to find homes for. On the plus side, they require a lot less work, so its easier to foster multiple cats. I greatly prefer to foster dogs over cats, so I am more of a token cat foster, taking in just a few at a time. I like the cats who I know are used to dogs, so I either pick those, or pick very young kittens, to make sure they'll do okay in my house. I'm afraid of ending up with another cat like Scribbles, who hates dogs. I feel so sorry for her - she is living alone in my daughter's bedroom, and she desparately needs to go to a foster home without dogs... anyone?? In the meantime, I have to stick to just picking foster cats that I know will be good with dogs, because the dogs have taken over the rest of the house! 

1 comment:

Amanda said...

As a fellow volunteer in the big, big world of rescue, I can testify that my personal limit seems to be growing and growing too. We are now at 4 adult dogs in our house, 3 of which are fosters. There was a time when we were a one-at-a-time family, but saying no gets hard, you fall in love, and you figure out how to fit one more being in your life. Keeping faith all the while that eventually a family will be found and you'll know the love you poured in to that pet was worth it all along.

Bless your heart and soul Laurie for all the animals that have found love, learning, structure and finally a new home...all through your fostering. =)