Sunday, August 3, 2014
A while back, the director of animal control in my hometown decided to start these meetings in the community in an effort to fight animal cruelty. There were some complicated politics involved, but regardless, the point was to come together, discuss the community issues and present workable solutions. For my part, I contributed to a new draft of the current laws regarding animal control, proposing stricter laws and a better fine/punishment system. The goal was to dissuade animal abuse and to reward responsible owners. Others worked towards fundraising, local education, and volunteering.
Of course, being that the Humane Society was also present and involved, the conversation revolved less around the anti-animal cruelty projects and more around the shelter itself. Oh, what big plans they had! How many animals could be saved if they just did this and this, and so-an-so could totally foster, and, well, what about sending more animals to rescue? Why isn't the shelter no-kill already? What if we made colorful posters or hosted a huge party adoptathon?
So many big ideas, but no one really had a game plan.
See, the Humane Society isn't out to kill all the animals. Seriously. That is so not their goal. They want to see them all healthy and happy in forever homes, just like you and me. They work hard to screen potential adopters, to hopefully weed out potentially abusive, neglectful, or otherwise irresponsible homes. They're not so much jaded as they are experienced. While fresh ideas are great, we must remember -- if it were a current, viable solution, the Humane Society would have already done it.
I could go on and on explaining things, but I think I'll leave you with a fable from good ol' Aesop, paraphrased, of course.
There once was a bunch of mice that lived in constant fear of a cat. Many of their comrades had fallen to the whiskered foe, and they were pondering what to do. One young mouse spoke up boldly, "The cat is a sneak, on that we can agree! Let us tie a bell around his neck so that we can hear him before he sneaks up on us!"
Everyone cheered. What a wonderful idea! Everyone that heard the bell would know to run to safety!
As the crowd applauded the young mouse on his brilliance, an old mouse that had been leaning quietly in a corner spoke up, "What an ingenious idea, but who, pray tell me, is going to tie the bell around the cat's neck?"
Everyone looked to the bold young mouse, who just hung his head and stared at the floor.
Friday, August 1, 2014
What I wanted to expound upon was....
Ok, ok, bear with me here. Back when I was more involved in the animal welfare community, particularly volunteering for a local shelter and encouraging rescue/adoption in the public, I got wind of a fake rescue. I investigated it and pushed local authorities until it was investigated, shut down, and the owner (somewhat) appropriately punished. In this journey, I met a lot of people passionate about saving animals AND ensuring responsible practices in rescue and individual ownership. We used a private Facebook group to contact each other and post updated information on various rescues.
Along came Raja Renata Ranch and Nicole/Niki/whathaveyou. The whole situation sounded shifty. We had evidence that she was running a breeding program along with her service/rescue dog program, and things weren't adding up. She had no credentials, didn't follow proper quarantine, and was evasive about questions regarding her facility, etc. Overall rating on the Meghan scale? Fishy as heck.
When I heard my local shelter was sending dogs there, I quickly voiced my concerns. I also contacted RRR Service Dogs to see what they would respond.
On Jan 7, 2013 5:37 PM, "Meghan Lodge" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Hi,I was interested in more information on your service dog program. Who does your training? Are they certified? Also, is it possible to self-train to train dogs? Do you do training outside of rescue dogs?Thanks.
To: Meghan Lodge <email@example.com>
Sent: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 16:44:35 GMT+00:00
Subject: Re: Service Dogs
Apparently, I came with a warning. HAHA.
On Jan 10, 2013 11:02 AM, "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> wrote:
Yes, I saw where you had answered my Facebook post. I still have more questions, however.
Do you have your 501c3 status yet?
How does a soldier go about getting one of your dogs? Is it a private cost for them or something covered by their VA benefits? How long is their training?
Locally, we had a training course for therapy dog teams that would be visiting nursing facilities. The course lasted about 6-7 weeks and the CGC was administered by a licensed CGC representative afterwards. The dog were then tested by Therapy Dogs International. These dogs were still limited in their service abilities to welcoming facilities only.
I know each soldier's need is different, but can you give me examples of what your dogs have been trained to do beyond CGC requirements?
To: Meghan Lodge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 17:25:44 GMT+00:00
Subject: Re: Service Dogs
To: Meghan Lodge <email@example.com>
Sent: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 18:08:53 GMT+00:00
Subject: Re: Service Dogs
I understand your concern. There are many people who unfortunately don't like or appreciate our stance on some issues and they have bashed us plenty for it. I, however, am a person of my word who holds true to my beliefs and doesn't back away from what i believe in just because someone distorts it or doesn't agree. I obviously don't get much appreciation for that lol but any time you feel like you have a question are welcome to come to me and you will get an honest answer. I can't always guarantee it will be what you WANT to hear but it will be honest. You are welcome to keep watching updates of Simmer, now Layla, and Church, now Mika, on our page or ask me personally.
If you've read Nicole's blog at all, you'll see that Nicole wasn't a total idiot. I have little sympathy for someone that steals from soldiers, children, the community, and starves animals; however, one might hypothesize that Nicole was (seriously) mentally ill. She wrote as though she fully believed in what she was doing and that it was right. I have no clue how she validated the dead/dying/starving dogs in her mind, or the fact that she wasn't delivering on any of her promises, but I reckon that's something she'd have to answer.
Anyhooo, I've wandered off topic.
When I warned the shelter about this rescue, I almost ended up banned as a volunteer. The then-president of the board and her henchwoman had seized control over the rescue operations as self-proclaimed rescue coordinators. Said president called me a "rogue volunteer," and said it was not my place to contact rescues to screen them. Well, as a US citizen, it's my right to question anyone I darn well please. (Of note, we citizens are also entitled to this wonderful thing called the Freedom of Information Act. Look it up.) I wasn't a paid worker of the shelter, and I didn't say I was doing it on their behalf. I would usually note that I volunteered there, simply so the rescue would know I had a reason to be concerned, but also so they would know that I was not in a position of any type of power.
Ah, power. I think that's what this whole situation boiled down to. See, I have no interest in the politics of the little empires these people and others likes them have built. My only concern then was (and continues to be) the well-being of the animals. If I knew a rescue wasn't good, even if I had nothing more than scant evidence and a serious gut feeling, why not at least take a little more time investigating it before shipping dogs off to whatever?
It would have been better if I had been wrong. That would mean there would not be 37+ bags of animal remains where Raja Renata Ranch operated. There wouldn't be dead puppies in the house, or disabled children lacking a service dog that their families had raised money for.
I'm such a troublemaker. *eyeroll*
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Monday, December 9, 2013
I think it's time I share my story about the dog I should not have "saved."
I had over 10 years experience working with dogs. I knew better, but I took on a dog I should not have taken on. One of our volunteers who did so much for us and has such a big heart sent me an email about a dog that was confiscated in a cruelty case. The email included the police photos from the case. He was so pathetic, skin and bones, literally some of the most depressing photos I've ever seen. His condition was absolutely deplorable and at the time, he was just a small puppy. The dog had to stay at the shelter during the investigation which took some time, but after the case was over, he was adopted by a very nice couple. They were the ones reaching out to rescue people. The email said their neighborhood had decided the dog was a threat and needed to go. I wish I could find the email to copy and paste, but I knew right away that they were leaving out something. There were holes in the story and it was obvious.
Our volunteer said she felt compelled to drive down and rescue this dog 100+ miles away and wanted to know if we could take him into our rescue. I told her no, that I did not think it was a good idea and that I only take in dogs I can evaluate in person first. Against my advice, she decided to go and get the dog and keep him at her home until she could find a home for him. On her way home she called me and I could tell she knew she made a mistake. She said he was terrified and her gut told her his previous family wasn't telling her everything about him. She had never seen a dog so fearful, but he did seem to love and be comfortable with the people surrendering him. She decided she couldn't just leave him there and that she could fix him with love and training. Over the next few days, I started getting frantic emails about his red flag behavior and her husband wanted the dog out of their house. She was desperate and didn't know what to do. I tried offering advice and tips, but then he attacked her dog and that was the final straw for the husband. She called me devastated saying she had no idea what to do. Against my gut and best judgment, I caved and told her to bring him to my house.
She arrived and the dog was the most pitiful, terrified being I'd ever laid my eyes on. He was shaking so intensely out of fear. His tail was as tucked as far as it could possibly be, with his body arched. He immediately ran into a crate that was open and refused to come out. Again, my gut was saying don't take in this dog, but I felt bad for the volunteer and I thought my experience would allow me to "fix" this poor dog. She left and now started the process of gaining this dog's trust. I sat outside of his crate and talked to him for hours. He wanted nothing to do with me, but then one of my dogs came and laid beside his crate and then started licking him the crate bars. Finally, he perked up a little. Then my dog came and sat in my lap as if to show him "It's okay, you can trust her." I was finally able to get a leash on him but he was still absolutely terrified, jumping at every movement and sound. I knew this was going to be a long road.
With lots of positive reinforcement, he slowly, slowly started to come around, I mean it took weeks. The volunteer who had brought him to us would come over and visit him and bring him treats. She was so impressed with his progress. I admit, it felt good to be the person that could "fix" an un-fixable dog. As soon as I started to think he could be a normal dog, he became obsessed with me. I left him for 5 minutes to get a glass of water and he literally dug through a solid wood door. His face and paws were bloody with splinters. At that moment, I knew he would never be a stable dog, but instead of doing what was right I decided to still try and play the hero and continue to try and "fix" this dog. He decided he didn't want to leave my side, putting him in his crate at night was becoming more and more difficult, but I chalked it up as separation anxiety.
One night I went to put him in his crate. My husband had already gone to bed for the night and he is the heaviest sleeper ever. I led the dog to the crate and he got in, but then turned around and for a split second he looked at me and I knew something horrible was about to happen. I could see the desperation in his eyes. He went for me full on, I had just enough time to put my hands in front of my face. He grabbed one of my hands and thrashed it around. I was knocked to the ground and now was trying to fight him off with my hands and feet. Blood was flying everywhere, my blood. I tried to scream, but my voice wouldn't work. It was absolutely terrifying.
I'm sure it was minutes, but it felt like an eternity and then all of a sudden our senior dog jumped on him. He immediately redirected on to her. She was no match for him and now her blood was everywhere. I finally found my voice and started screaming. I tried desperately to pull him off, but by that time my hands were swollen and useless. My husband didn't hear my screams, I decided I had to leave the fight and run to the bedroom to wake him up. At that point, I think I went into shock because it's all a blur.
My husband tried to get me to go to the hospital, but I refused. Our dog had retreated to her crate and we could not get her to come out so we could assess her injuries. The room where everything had gone down in was covered in blood. It was on the ceiling, on the walls, all over the floors. There were trails of drips of blood throughout the house from where I had gone to get my husband and where our dog had walked to the other room to her crate after my husband finally got the foster dog into his crate. It looked like a crime scene. I had to throw away the clothes I was wearing, the sheets on the bed where I laid afterwards. The pain was surreal. I needed stitches, antibiotics, a prescription strength anti-inflammatory, and I'm sure a lot more, but I was too terrified to go the hospital. I didn't want to deal with the emotional pain that I had failed this dog and my dog. I bandaged my wounds myself. My hand is permanently scarred.
My husband finally had to get wire cutters and cut open our dog's crate so we could get her to the emergency vet. I called our volunteer and broke down in tears describing what had happened. She and her husband met us at the vet. Thousands of dollars later and they still weren't sure if our dog would survive. We even said our goodbyes just in case she didn't make it through the night. The volunteer graciously paid part of her bill. After a week of 24 hour vet care she was able to come home but still needed constant care. They weren't sure if she'd be able to use her back legs again, but with lots of care and time, she made a full recovery and lived another 2 years.
After the fight, besides going to the vet, I laid in bed crying and depressed. I was trying to take everything in and figure out what the next step was and how this experience had changed my life. I decided to call my closest rescue friends. The first was our vet and she said the foster dog needed to be euthanized immediately. The next was my friend that's been in rescue for over a decade. She agreed the dog needed to be euthanized. I agreed and realized not only did he need to be euthanized, but it should have been done a long time ago, even before he arrived at my home which was the 5th place he had been rehomed to. I am to blame for taking on a dog I knew was unstable, but I think blame also needs to go on to those that wanted to pass on the burden.
I was confident in my decision to have him euthanized and made the appointment. My rescue friend agreed to go with me. I called the volunteer and I could tell she was hesitant about him being euthanized, but left the decision up to me. Later that night, I found out she had contacted another rescue to see what they would do in this situation. They told her once they rescue a dog, that dog was with them forever, that they did not euthanize for behavior reasons or give up on a dog. Hearing this stung. I started questioning my decision and called the rescue she had contacted. They were sympathetic about the situation, but offered another option and suggested the dog be sent to a "sanctuary" particularly Sanctuary Animal Refuge run by Palena Dorsey. I decided to look into that place and didn't like what I saw, I also didn't like the idea of this dog living his life out in a cage. (Thank God I didn't send him there because a short time later that place was shut down.) Despite everything, I still loved the dog, even if I was terrified of him. I knew that I loved him enough to finally give him peace through humane euthanasia. Even though everyone was not happy with my decision, I decided I owed it to this dog. He had lived in a loving home for several months and those would be his last memories. He got to leave this world in the arms of someone who loved him, my arms.
I learned so many lessons from this experience; it really was life changing. I had worked in an open intake shelter before and knew you couldn't save them all, but I think up until this incident, I thought you could "fix" them all. The truth is not every dog can become a loving, trusted companion. Some dogs have a past they just cannot get over, some are just born unstable. I think those of us in rescue that have learned this incredibly hard lesson need to be open about it. It's one of those topics we don't like to discuss and feel ashamed if we've been through it. I also believe some people in rescue just won't get it until they've experienced it and I hope they never do. It's also important to realize as a rescue, you are responsible for the dogs you put out into the community. People expect to get a dog from a rescue that's been evaluated and observed, more so than a dog they would get from a shelter. As a rescue, you have a responsibility to not put an unstable dog into a home, even a foster home.
On the flip side, people who no longer want their dog because it's aggressive or unstable really need to ask themselves "what kind of person is going to be willing to take in a dog with those kind of issues?" Especially considering how many stable dogs that don't have temperament issues are euthanized every day. Also, not only are you putting other people in danger by rehoming a dog like this, but I think it's also selfish to pass the burden on.
I knew when I first read the email about this dog that his former owners were holding back information. I honestly think they knew how serious his issues were, but they wanted to pass him on so they could pat themselves on the back for sending him to someone that could "fix" him.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Today I decided to jump on the bandwagon of cross-posting and virtual rescue. I started a page and featured dogs that needed homes. I didn't know much about them, so I postulated their pasts..."dumped by their family," "unwanted by their family," "used as a bait dog," and so on. I claimed they were from a high kill shelter, because people don't want to know that animals die in shelters. I called them "urgent" and "deathrow dogs." I tagged as many people as I could in the photos and encouraged others to do the same. No one wants to see a dog die, right? Anywhere is better than the shelter, right? Of course! I can't wait to see how everything turns out...
I ask for donations to pay for the "pull fee," because rescues can't pay for that kind of stuff. I mean, I know a lot of rescues that don't even get dogs fixed until they get an adoption fee paid. They just don't have that kind of money laying around, you know? Some people think that rescues should have a money base before getting started, but that doesn't make sense. The sooner you jump in, the more dogs you can save!
Sometimes, the dogs get adopted before I can get them pulled. I can't pull them myself, but I can use another rescue's license to get them out. We try to find a foster home, but half the time they end up at my house. I have some that are dog selective, so they all have to stay in crates a lot. We started Chip In accounts to pay for their vetting, but really we're just trying to make ends meet and pay for the dogs' food right now.
Sometimes, dogs will already be in rescue, but we leave the "urgent" tags to get more sponsorship money in. Once people think dogs are safe, they quit being so quick to give money. We have some friends that have a boarding facility, but we still owe them a lot of money. Some of our dogs have been there for months...maybe longer. It's so good that they're out of the shelter, though! They could be dead!
We did have one dog that got to the point that he did nothing but pace his cage. If you tried to go near him, he'd try to bite you. We tried to adopt him out, but the family said he snapped at their little kid. We had to finally take him to animal control to be put down because he bit one of our volunteers. The shelter he was in before we got him obviously warped his mind pretty bad.
We have some people that are posting bad stuff about us. They say we don't take care of our dogs right and that we are accepting donations under false pretenses. They say that we're mean to shelter staff, but we all know shelter staff suck. They're the reason dogs die. Those people are saying that we're part of the problem, that we're causing people to make impulse decisions on dogs. Yeah, we don't really know where a lot of our dogs end up, but we know they're safe. They're out of the shelter, so they're not going to die. Sure, I heard about that rescue that had all of those dogs starving on chains, but it's not like any of ours went there.
We get a lot of dogs of all kinds...well, we pick what we pull, but puppies go so fast! I swear we can pull them Friday and adopt them out before Monday, sometimes all over the place!
We have some awesome rescues and foster that take the dogs we pull when we already have too many. Some of them have 50+ dogs in their care! They rock! Yeah, they can't feed them the best of food and they're asking for donations a lot, but who can blame them? They're keeping those dogs out of the shelter!
Did you see anything wrong with the snippet above? You should have seen a lot wrong with it. People all over the place are doing exactly what was chronicled here - assisting in the negative marketing world of death row dogs, urgent pleas, and begging for funds. That's not real rescue.
- Have their own financial backing secure BEFORE embarking on the rescue journey.
- Perform home/reference checks.
- Make it their priority to match animals to adopters.
- Have the best interest of the animal in mind at all times.
- Always have a solid plan before taking on an animal.
- Provide thorough medical care and obey the law about quarantines.
- Keep thorough and accurate records on all animals, including their details and that of their adopters/fosters.
- Don't play the hero. When faced with trouble (unforeseen medical emergencies, etc), responsible rescues network with one another and with the public to get the help they need.
Don't fall prey to the animal hoarders, abusers, or plain irresponsible people claiming the title "rescue." Donate your time and money to the rescues you can vouch for and to the shelters. There are so many fake rescues popping up over the country, as well as licensed ones that no dog should ever go to. Just because a rescue holds a license from the Dept. of Agriculture doesn't make it okay. In the state of Georgia, you submit a fee (pocket change) and go through a scanty inspection and you're a rescue. Mail in your renewal each year and you're golden to continue. That's horrible rescue oversight!!
We owe it to the animals to be more vigilant about where we send them and who we support.!
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
When we got Otto (and subsequently Axle), I was thrown into a whole new world - the world of the "pit bull." I felt the need to prove a point, prove my dogs were these wonderful, friendly, totally harmless dogs that anyone could play with or pet. I felt the need to make therapy dogs out of them, to train them and teach them great tricks to impress the public. I thought the public hated my dogs, that I needed to prove "them" wrong. You can imagine how disappointed I was in myself as an owner and even in my dogs for quite some time.
|Axle said he never lost faith in me.|
|Ok, so Remi isn't perfect.|
I don't have therapy dogs. I definitely don't have perfect dogs, but I have dogs that are perfect for me and perfect for each other. What more could I want?
In my adventures with my dogs, the cats, and in advocacy in general, I've learned the most important thing is to be a responsible owner...and enjoy your dogs. Don't try to prove anyone right or wrong about your dogs. You know them best, and after all, you're the one that has to live with them!
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
You've heard the phrase, "It's all in how you raise them." While there may be some truth buried beneath the connotations of that overused phrase, the real truth is that all dogs are the result of a combination of nature and nurture.
A dog with poor genetics (reference: Otto), a "bad" dog, raised in a good home with good food and a good owner is STILL a "bad" dog.
A dog raised in a bad home with a bad owner (reference: Johnny Justice of the Vick dogs) given a good home and a good owner is a good dog. Had he stayed with Vick, he would have been a "bad" dog.
A dog raised in an environment where she was fed and given shelter, but the owners didn't want to put the effort into training a puppy. Give the right home (one with patience, at least!!), she became a "good dog." (reference: Remi)
Our dogs' behavior is based on a complex combination of genetics and environment. Watch this video shared by PBAM: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LDNZZ5nCNGg&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DLDNZZ5nCNGg
See how the dog lived? He had an uninvolved owner who was neglectful, at best. Given the right environment, the dog blossomed.
Using the phrase, "It's all in how you raise them" is misleading and lowers the chances for dogs with poor or unknown pasts to get a second chance on life and love. Unless a dog is mentally screwed up (back to those genetics), giving them a chance will prove to be the best thing that ever happened to you...AND the dog!!
Something to think about....