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A minor rant (Well, okay, a fairly major one)

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

I realize all my posts are about my pets lately.  There are other things happening in my life, and I promise I'll start blogging about them eventually.  But, please bear with me while my furry family is dominating my consciousness.  This is yet another pet post, which I shall sub-title:


My husband and I take in strays.  It's just kind of our thing.  We have always had dogs from shelters, and have rescued cats from shelters, from dumpsters, and from the streets of our neighborhood.  They've almost all had Issues (with a capital "I").  We've had a number who were abused, some who had serious socialization problems, and plenty with wacky and expensive medical issues.  Some we theorize were weaned too soon, and some we've never managed to completely house train despite years of effort and expert advice.  They've all been life's rejects and misfits, in one way or another.

But we wouldn't have it any other way.

Of course most pet owners probably think they're good pet owners, but I'll swear we are among the good ones.  We buy them the best food, and make sure they stay fit, active, and not overweight.  We provide the best veterinary care, and practically drown them in love and affection.  We put up with antics and behaviors a lot of people wouldn't.  My gorgeous woodwork suffers for it, yet I refuse to declaw a cat.  We won't board our dogs at traditional kennels because it's too stressful for them, so when we have to leave them we pay a fortune for a high-end doggie hotel where they can stay in rooms rather than cages.  We take our dogs with us when we can, and plan our vacations accordingly.  We worry about them, and do our best to make all decisions about their care based on what's best for them, especially the hard end-of-life decisions.

Are we perfect?  Er, no.  I currently have fleas in the house because I was late in putting Advantage or Frontline on everybody.  I've now treated them, but several are itchy, and I feel awful about it.  I have a cat overdue for a checkup and shot.  And I have most certainly been known to lose my temper and shout at a dog on occasion when it's completely beyond hyperactive and won't stop ricocheting off the furniture long enough to listen.  But in the grand scheme of things, my pets have it pretty good.  All 5 of them.  For that matter, all 10 that my husband and I have had over the years.  Make that 12, if you count the hamsters.

So, now that we are down to one dog, and he's showing some rather serious signs of separation anxiety when we have to leave him at home during the day, we're considering adopting a companion for him.  You'd think with all the shelters and rescue groups and all the dogs who need homes in this country, that we'd have no trouble finding dogs we're eligible to adopt.  For crying out loud, an estimated 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year.  And besides, we're experienced pet owners and we certainly have a vet who will vouch for us.

Not.  So.  Much.

Why are we being turned away from pretty much all the local shelters and rescue organizations?  Because our yard isn't fenced.  We (*gasp*) take our dogs for leashed walks instead.

Really really.

We had this problem when we adopted our hounds.  We had to sweet-talk the shelter volunteer into allowing us to take them even though we didn't have a fenced yard.  She lied for us, God bless her, because they had been there 6 months and there was no indication she'd ever find other people willing to adopt two special-needs adult dogs together.

Now I'm facing the prospect of that same experience again. 

When I expressed my frustration to various friends, I realized this is an epidemic problem.  One friend, who is a wonderful parent to two cats, said she was denied being able to adopt a cat from several organizations simply because she'd have been a 1st time cat owner... never mind that she was an adult, a teacher, owned her own home, and had had a bunny for 10 years and a vet for references.  A colleague (another experienced pet owner) tried to adopt a cat a number of years ago from shelters said the experience "left a total distaste". 

Yet another friend observed that where she lives, "a lot of rescues won't adopt out to people with kids under 7, which I agree with if the people are novice dog owners, but completely disagree with if the people are experienced dog owners. Yes, kids and dogs are a lot of work together, but families with children under seven are far more likely to have either a parent or nanny home most of the time with the young children, so it can be the best time for a puppy."  The same friend observed that requiring a fenced yard is a recipe for finding adopters who think they can just leave a dog outside in the yard all the time and not spend time with it.  I agree with her wholeheartedly, on both counts. 

And besides, there are plenty of happy dogs in New York City who don't have fenced yards.  What, pray tell, is wrong with walks?

Now, I do see this from the other side, too.  I volunteered at an animal shelter when I was in law school, mostly assisting with socializing and exercising dogs.  I saw the tragic stories of the animals who came to the shelter, and hated when animals got returned because their adopters had bitten off more than they could chew.  I also saw that some of the good-hearted volunteers just didn't have what it takes to be making judgment calls on whether certain people should be allowed to adopt certain animals, and recognize that shelters sometimes have to make rules for the volunteers to follow.  Some shelters really do want what's best for the animals, and I think most of the ones around here do.

But at the same time, it's such a disservice for the animals to make adoption a miserable experience for the humans.  The way we get grilled when we walk into shelters and ask about adoption you'd think we were criminals who'd been caught trying to steal one of the animals.  If I were any less dedicated to animal rescue, I'd get around the whole problem by going out and buying a healthy, well-adjusted puppy from a reputable breeder.  No more weird socialization problems or neuroses that typically come with shelter dogs - start from scratch and bring up a dog properly. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, I can't bring myself to do that.  So I check Craigslist (scary people post on there), talk to local vets, and ask around.  I'm left just hoping I'll stumble upon a dog who fits our needs.  I'll call a few more dog rescue organizations to see if they'll even talk to me without having a fenced yard, and hope no more people hang up on me when I ask (no joke).  I'll also get yet another quote for fencing our sizable yard, in the hopes that some miracle will occur and the price will have somehow halved itself.  And in the meantime, I'll just hope my current dog's separation issues don't get worse while we wait.


Bill and dogs November 18, 2010 at 4:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PenobscotPaddles November 19, 2010 at 8:06 AM  

I like the addition of cats to your cast (I apologize if I've failed to notice them before.)This won't help you get a companion any faster, but I'm pretty sure they are just looking for a fenced pen, not the entire yard. Our neighbor has a chicken wire fence, one river neighbor a neat pen off the back of their garage. I suspect the rescue society's theory is this forces you to be prepared for the day you have a broken ankle and your spouse is too sick to get out. Best wishes on your quest for a suitable companion dog, you seem like an ideal pet owner.

Anne McCormack November 19, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

No one likes being rejected, especially when there is such a need for people who will adopt a pet. Best of luck in your search!

Holly November 22, 2010 at 12:13 AM  

They would put a dog to death rather than send him or her to a home without a fence? No one asked us about our backyard when we bought our puppy. That's probably because we handed them $600...

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