Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Just Don't Get It (The Dog Rescue Organization Edition)

There's a lot of things out there that I just don't "get". So, undoubtedly, I have or will continue to post "I Don't Get It" posts. This post is prompted by the complete and utter dismay, hurt, confusion and fury caused by our attempts to wade back into the doggy-adoption pool.

Back in 2003, when Donna and I were in the first year of our marriage, we'd decided we wanted to add a furry member to our family. We knew that we liked boxers, bulldogs and similar dog breeds. We had a shelter near our house - the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria's Viola Lawson dog shelter. Unfortunately, at the time, they didn't have any dogs that both spoke to us and didn't trigger Donna's (mild) dog allergies. So, we expanded our searches.

Initially, we tried to see if any of the breed-specific specialty rescue groups had any dogs we were interested in. Our first stab at this process was the local Boxer Rescue group. We got in contact with them and ended up selecting a pup named AnnaBelle:


As you can see, she was a lightly-brindled, Bogey-faced boxer with un-altered ears or tail. She was very sweet. Unfortunately, she was overly excited by the presence of our cats. We were willing to work with her to help her adjust. However, the woman who was fostering her decided that we were an unfit household. Apparently, our yard and our house weren't big enough and we didn't have enough time for her. Now, I might have been able to take this at face value had I not seen the house where she was being fostered (I'd gone there to do the initial paperwork). This woman lived in a townhouse not even half the size of ours and it had no yard. Factor in that this woman already had another boxer (or two - can't remember, clearly, at this point) and had a day-job of her own, and all I could think was, "are you fucking crazy?? How is her fostering situation even remotely better than what we were looking to offer that we could be considered unfit for the reasons given?" So, I kind of decided, "lesson learned: don't go to breed-specific rescues. The people that involved with them are well-meaning but a little too into their charges to see the big picture."

That lesson learned, I decided to do a more generalized search. We tried again with the Lawson shelter, but they still had no pups that we liked and didn't trigger Donna's allergies. So, I hit up Google. By way of Google, I found PetFinder.Com. I put in the search string "boxer" and our ZIPcode. Bunches of results came back. There were few fully boxer dogs in the results that weren't in breed-specific rescues. Since I'd already decided to avoid breed-specific rescues, they were straight-out for consideration.

However, I did find a sweet-looking American Bulldog/Boxer mix named Lana that was in the care of "A Forever Home" dog rescue.


Her PetFinder profile said she was sweet-natured, low-key and good with cats and young children (at the time, we were still hoping to have human children). So, we contacted A Forever Home to find out when/where we could meet her. They were having an adoption event at the PetCo in Chantilly, VA in just a few days. So, we put in an application and marked our calender to go meet her. We got there before she did, so we waited. Eventually, they brought her in and I think we fell in love almost immediately. We made arrangements for home inspection and a home visit. In just a couple weeks, Lana was ours and our family was starting to feel complete.

By the next summer, we were feeling the urge to get a playmate for Lana. Things hadn's been going well on the baby front. We'd not yet given up, but we still felt the need for another dog. So, same lessons from the past in mind, we started searching again. We tried A Forever Home, first, before hitting up PetFinder, but they didn't have any pups whose pictures spoke to us (no bullies of any sort at the time). I still don't remember what my search term was this time, but it turned up Puckett:


The above isn't really a bad picture of him.Puckett just was not a classically good looking dog. He was 100% personality. Fortunately, the Picture that his rescue organization (Friends of Homeless Animals) had placed on his profile page captured that personality (I've done a lot of perusing of PetFinder, in recent months, and I've yet to find a picture of a dog that really makes the dog speak to me in quite the same way). So, we called their phone number and made arrangements to visit and to bring Lana along for an introduction.

FoHA is out in the boonies of (barely) Northern Virginia. So, it was a little less than an hour's drive from our house to their compound. It was a beautiful, late-spring day that day. We hopped out of the Saturn and uncarted Lana and tracked down the woman we'd spoken to prior to our trip. She let us into the play/introduction yard and went to fetch-up Puckett. Lana had scurried off to explore  the play yard. Eventually, the staffer showed up with Puckett and brought him into the yard. Puckett introduced himself by rushing headlong at Lana and attempting to bowl her over. He kind of bounced off and the two of them began running around the yard, playing with each other. Things looked good, so we arranged the home inspection and visit.

Later that week, a volunteer came out to bring Puckett for a visit. We needed to ensure he wouldn't try to eat the cats and FoHA needed to make sure our home was adequate for his needs. The visit went well, and by the following Sunday, they brought him back and we signed paperwork on our new boy. So, by June 21st, we were a two-dog househould.

We went along as a two-dog household until December of this past year. Then, we were, briefly, a one-dog household, again. Fortunately, we were able to find a new pup through A Forever Home, again.


Things were right with the world: we were a two-dog household again. Then, Puckett got sick and, all-too-quickly, we were, yet again, a one-dog household. All in the space of about five months, two dogs, gone, and a hole left in our lives, again.

So, I started the search, again. I tried with both FoHA and A Forever Home. Neither seems to have as many bullies, any more, as they did when we got Lana and Puckett. I can only assume that, with things like the Michael Vick nonsense (and the resultant awareness that seemed to spawn TV shows like The Pit Boss and Pitbulls and Parolees) that there's an up-surge in interest in rescuing bullies. This is good for an unjustly-maligned group of breeds, but not so good when you're the one looking to fill a hole in your home. Worse, it seems like the ones that are available for rescue are getting snapped up by breed-specific rescues.

And, that's where we found ourselves: stuck with having to contact breed-specific rescues. I'd learned my lesson once, before, and had avoided them. Unfortunately, it seems that I no longer had the choice on dealing with them. Unfortunately, it seems that what caused my prior lesson to be learned hasn't really changed. Worse, it seems like, with the influx of new "rescuers" the "blinded by good intentions" effect is even worse.

Yesterday, we had a second home visit with this guy:


Yeah. He has a resemblence to Puckett. It was accidental. The first pictures we'd seen of him, he looked only like a white dog with mismatched eyes and batty ears. Wasn't until they sent us more pix that the resemblence became more acute (and, I overheard our neighbors comment to that effect during his first visit).

Everything had seemed to go well. The woman who ran the rescue was present and agreed that he wasn't cat-aggressive, just very curious. She offered us the option of keeping him a few weeks to see how things went. She said she'd just need to set us up with a "foster-to-adopt" contract. Unfortunately, she hadn't had the contracts with her. So, she'd need to arrange to come back the next day (today) with the requisite contracts.

In retrospect, this seemed kind of fishy. I mean, what kind of well-run rescue organization doesn't bring the paperwork with them for an adoption visit? When I offered to let her use my computer to download and print any forms she needed, she balked, claiming that she didn't have her login information to get the forms. So, she and the woman who was actually fostering the dog packed up and left indicating they'd bring him and the paperwork by at around 13:00.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I was excited by the prospect of the new dog. I didn't get to sleep until after 4AM, this morning. Thus, I ended up sleeping in later than I usually do. I came downstairs to take care of my morning medicine and finish readying the house for the new arrival (we'd gone out the night before, after they'd left, and picked up toys a second pet gate to assist with the transition process). I then logged into my computer to read the morning email.

I was really only expecting to see the usual FaceBook notification and miscellaneous spam. Instead, I found a fucking bomb in my inbox:

Good morning Tom,

[The foster] and I have intensively talked about Winston and we both feel that he is going to be "too much dog" for your household. He is still all puppy and needs intensive training and exercise, more than other puppies his age because he is so outgoing and interested in everything. You are working fulltime and Donna seems very busy with her household plus he will need to get desensitized with the cats which will take much effort and patience to do so. Sarah [sic.], your dog is absolutely adorable and we think a little more laid back older male who gets along with cats would be a much better fit for you.

I have asked [the foster] to not bring Winston over today. After all we need to make sure that everybody, dog and human, are happy at the end. Let me know how you feel about it. I would be happy to talk to you about it on the phone if you wish. Thanks, and I am looking forward to your reply.

Each time I read this email, I get more furious. I play back in my mind what could have caused this and can't really find anything. I mean, for fuck's sake: the foster for the dog has a day job. This dog sits in a cage, during the day, while she and her husband are at work. At our house, Donna is home all day and would be able to oversee the transition. We already have a trainer (we've used previously for Cira) who is a pitbull specialist (he has three of his own) to help us with training and adjustment. We have one bully and had two previously. Our pets are well fed, receive lots of attention and get regular medical care. The foster, at the prior visit, had been all too happy with the situation, as had the person that did the home inspection and the person who did our background check.

Judging by how the foster reacted to the rescue organizer's weird conduct towards the end of yesterday's meeting, it seems unlikely that the foster had any part in the decision. I can only assume that something she wasn't willing to discuss changed the rescue organizer's mind. Worse, rather than saying, "I can't place this dog here, we need to find a better fit," it seemed like she chose the ruse to disengage. So, right now, I'm feeling hurt, confused and lied to. It actually feels worse than our first foray into rescues.

Dear rescue organizers: one in 600 homeless dogs ever finds a home. It's great that you care about the dogs you've accepted into your charge, but your level of "caring" blinds you to the ability to place dogs in good homes. Worse, because you're holding onto these dogs for some kind of "perfect" home, you can't accept new dogs. It's your conduct that means that more dogs die than have to. You are the embodiement of "the road to hell being paved with good intentions."

Granted, this isn't true of all rescue organizations. Like I say, we've had good experiences with two places, now. For those two organizations, I feel eternally grateful. Now, though, I'm just really gun-shy about breed-specific organizations. So, I dunno if/when I'm likely to find a pup to fill this hole, because it seems like these groups have cornered the market on the kinds of pups we like.