Monday, February 23, 2015

Animal Rescue - Finding your next best friend.

Dog breeder or rescue – What’s right for me?

This is the first in a series of posts to help you decide if you should get a rescue dog or a dog from a breeder. There are a lot of people passionate on both sides of this topic. Breeders and people who show dogs of pedigree will tell you to get a pure bred dog. People who work in rescue and see those sweet little faces will tell you that you can get a dog that’s just as good from a shelter or rescue.

Before I get too into this, I have two disclaimers. The first is that we bought Mocha and Ninja from a breeder when we lived in rural Missouri (I’ll talk more about that in a bit). The second is that I’ve been volunteering with animal rescues for a couple years now, and that we’ve had four foster dogs successfully adopted out in the past year.

Let’s talk about rescue.

Which rescue? Why are there so many?

There are a couple of different types of facilities where you can rescue a dog. The first is a dog warden, or the county pound. These dogs are often surrendered or found roaming the streets. They can also pull dogs from abandoned houses, although the laws about that vary from city to city. The pound holds strays for a time, generally 7-10 days, and then puts them up for adoption. Most county pounds euthanize when they run out of space. This means they have too many dogs and cats and not enough kennels. The dogs that are oldest and have been there the longest are the first to go because they’re the hardest to adopt out. Some pounds euthanize humanely, but there are still those out there that use a gas chamber. 

-Why is the gas chamber bad? Lots and lots of reasons. Can't believe it's still in use? Me neither. Here's a little article with more information: Bringing an End to Inhumane Euthanasia.
This is Sally. We fostered her last summer. She was 10+
years old and would have been one of the first in line
to be put down at a kill shelter.

Most other rescue organizations are non-profit. A non-profit has 501(c)(3) status, which means that
they are a charitable organization. Many of these rescues only have a handful of employees that are paid and rely heavily on volunteers. Two of the best known non-profit rescues are the SPCA and the Humane Society. They often rescue animals from hoarding situations and have large facilities where they can provide veterinary care and adopt out the animals. Both of these organizations are no-kill, meaning that animals won’t be put down due to overcrowding.

There are also many smaller rescue organizations. Some of them are grass-roots, starting with just a couple people pulling dogs off the streets or out of the pound and screening people who want to adopt. Many private rescue organizations do great work, pulling animals that are on the euth list at shelters or taking in litters of puppies. Some of them grow to be big rescues that make a huge impact in the community. I live right near One Of a Kind Pets in Akron. They have a beautiful big facility for cats and dogs and even a little store inside where you can buy your food and toys, knowing that part of that purchase goes toward helping those animals.

Other rescues are breed specific and/or only have dogs in foster homes. Our last foster dog was through the Shih Tzu Rescue in Cleveland. Their dogs are only in foster homes, which I think is wonderful for the dogs for several reasons. For one, they’re not all penned up and restless. Many dogs in a traditional shelter are so wound up from stress and fear when you go to meet them that you just can’t tell what type of dog they really are. Another benefit of the foster system is that you can train the dog a bit to make him more adoptable. For instance, with our last foster dog we taught him basic manners. He had to sit and give his paw before he ate, wait for permission to get on the furniture (usually), and we spent a LOT of time teaching him not to bark his face off at absolutely everything. (We’re still working on this one!)

See the pink on his nose?
If you do choose to adopt from the pound (and please I hope some of you do, there are so many great dogs at the pound), know that your dog will probably be a wound up ball of energy when you get him home. Think about it: He was taken from his family and doesn’t know why, put in a little cage with his daily exercise dependent on goodhearted volunteers, and he spent all day every day hearing other dogs bark and cry. This is a very stressful and confusing environment for any dog. Be sure to give him a few days to unwind.

Our last foster dog, Fozzie, was unbelievably wound up when he came to us. He had been in the Cleveland pound and then boarded while he had kennel cough. As much as he didn’t enjoy it, he spent about a week in the crate unless he was under very close supervision. Everything he did, he repeated multiple times in a row. I almost took him to the vet because I thought he had some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. You can see in the picture to the right that he rubbed his nose raw on the bars of the crate that first week. It was just nervous behavior. He didn’t even eat for the first couple days. This is really common too! But with a little time and patience, he started to calm down and trust us and now he’s a fantastic dog.

Choosing your rescue dog.

So, you want to get a rescue?! Great! Where do you start?

This could be the grateful little face you see as you take your new best friend home.

Get on Petfinder. Seriously, any reputable animal rescue is on Petfinder. You can search by location, breed, age, sex, name, anything you want.

Do a search for rescues that are breed specific. Have you always had Shih Tzu’s? Love a Maltese? These organizations usually have more breeds of small dogs than they know what to do with. Our former foster Fozzie was a Shih Tzu Poodle mix. If they have room, these rescues will take in any little dog in need. There are also rescues for labs, poodles, shelties, duck tolling retrievers…

Check out the pound. If you have experience with dogs and see a breed you like at the pound, please consider giving that dog a chance. I don’t recommend getting a dog from the pound for people who have never owned a dog before unless it’s a puppy or a senior dog. They come out of there so wound up, it can be really overwhelming. They often need a lot of training and patience. Yes, they will be fantastic dogs in the right home, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone.

Go to an adoption event and talk to everyone. Petsmart hosts adoption events often. You can almost bet there will be a rescue there one Saturday a month. Rescues also go to local fund raisers and dog park events.

Email or call the rescue, or stop on by if you can. Talk to them, tell them what you’re looking for. You never know what little wet nose you might fall in love with while you’re there.
Don’t forget, rescues have cats too! Way too many cats. Lots and lots of cats. One of the rescues I volunteered with last year had a waiting list to take in kittens because they just didn’t have anywhere to put them.

One final point:

NBSTR Adoption event.
Look at all those pretty dogs!

As someone who’s been to plenty of adoption events, I have to say this: If you meet a dog at an event or at the pound or wherever, and walking away from that dog absolutely breaks your heart, please go back and adopt that dog. On the other hand, if you met him and think he’s absolutely adorable and exactly the breed and age you want but something just didn’t click, then keep looking! There are so many dogs out there. Seriously, SO MANY DOGS. You can’t save them all, so pick the right one for you and give that dog the best life EVER.

Here are some of my favorite rescues:

The National Mill Dog Rescue - These are the folks I donate to each year.

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