>> 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:
WHY IS IT SO *BLEEPING* HARD TO ADOPT A DOG?????!!!!!
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.
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.
>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010
So now that Simon is an only dog, he's learning to cope with being alone much of the day. He's doing an admirable job of adjusting. He's very needy and even more enthusiastic than usual when we get home at the end of the day, but otherwise is pretty much back to being his old happy-go-lucky mischievous self. And because he's Simon, he has found a new companion for getting into trouble with.
Rotten, stinkin', no-good fluffy-pants Pippin the cat.
Last night when I got home from work I wasn't feeling particularly well, and wanted a few quiet moments on the couch to relax. Ha! I most certainly did not get that. As I wearily dropped my belongings and settled into the couch, the two of them began a lively game of tag, romping around the entire downstairs, across the valuable antique area rug in the living room, and quite literally ricocheting off the couches, my knees, the arm chairs in the library, and the walls. They knocked a bunch of books off a shelf, and I lost patience. After getting up and going into the library to shout at them loudly enough to get their attention (my neighbors must think I'm nuts), they stopped and looked at me as if to say, "Gee, Mom, what's up? Shouting like that isn't good for you."
I grumbled under my breath and went back to my couch.
Pippin came casually waltzing in and immediately got himself tangled in the lace living room curtains. While I was cursing under my breath and unhooking his claws from the lace, Simon took advantage of my attention being diverted to rummage in the lunch bag I'd unwisely dropped on the floor.
I confiscated it. And sat back down on the couch. Dog and side-kick cat casually wandered off.
Within about another minute, a giant howling, yowling ruckus ensued in the dining room, where Pippin was gaily thromping on poor cat Sneakers while - I swear - Simon looked on and chuckled.
I broke up the spat, soothed Sneakers, went back to the living room, and heaved a great big sigh as I sat back down on the couch. Figuring I'd finally shouted loudly enough to take the wind out of their sails, I enjoyed nearly three whole minutes of quiet.
Too much quiet.
At the faint sound of rustling in the kitchen and the conspicuous absence of animals in the room, I went to investigate. Pippin was on the counter (where he is strictly not allowed and he knows it) rustling up to his scruffy neck in a bag of dog treats. He'd torn open one bag and swatted a few treats down for Simon, who had gobbled them down, as evidenced by the large, wet, recently licked area on the floor. Simon was intently staring up waiting for more. Conniving little rascals!
Pippin was so engrossed in his task, that when I poked him in the side and cleared my throat, he jumped clean out of his skin. In the .1 second it took for him to become airborne, he managed to knock the dish rack into the sink, the open bottle of San Pelligrino onto the floor (where it merrily fizzed into a giant puddle), followed by three bags of dog and cat treats, a shot glass, and my daily pills organizer, which shattered on impact and sent dozens of pills in a lovely spray across the entire floor. Of course, he'd scared the pants off me, too, by jumping that suddenly so that I stood there, gasping and empty handed, having tried unsuccessfully to catch any of the objects he'd sent flying.
About halfway through picking up pills and picking fur off them (my floor washing skills leave something to be desired), I started to laugh. A great, weak-kneed, eye-wiping, floor-rolling laugh.
Good God. And people wonder why I don't have a TV. Who needs one when I share my house with these lunatics?
It seems Simon is, for now, fine without a canine companion. He has someone to scheme with, who's more agile and conniving than his sister hound ever thought of being. He appears to be having a rollicking good time of it.
We've had canine/feline buddies before in our household. Our old dog Clancy used to open doors to let our cat Tucker out of the house, and the pair of them once got caught by my father sharing a hamburger he'd momentarily left unattended, with Tucker on the counter pawing bits down to Clancy. And yet, still somehow it amazes me, the inter-species friendship thing. How many times have you seen an enormous empty field, with its only two occupants - a goat and horse, or cow and sheep - standing in the middle, together? I guess even human/dog friendships are inter-species, and heaven knows there are plenty of people who are inseparable from their canine friends. But when it's two animals it seems all the more impenetrable to me. How do they talk to one another? And what draws them together?
I am just grateful that Simon's the kind of dog who will make friends wherever he goes. When I saw this video today, it reminded me of my nutsy friends, although this pairing is even more impressively mismatched. Thought I'd share.