Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Bucket

There are many aspects of rescue. Not every person can make turn their home into a dog shelter. Some are more able and willing to transport. Others donate much-needed funds to keep rescues afloat. Still others are able to foster one or two dogs. Each of these things is important. But no dog can be rescued without a place to go. So the small rescues who truck the filthy, smelly, frightened puppymill survivors back and forth to the vet, clean up their messes, live with them 24/7 until they are deemed adoptable, if ever - we are the line. We are the people who cannot look into those eyes filled with pain and say, "Sorry, you'll have to be euthanized because I have no room and no one else will take a blind, heartworm positive pug that has never lived in a home". Instead, we say "Yes, I'll make room for you." Why do we do that? We do it because:
  1. Some human somewhere is responsible for the mess you're in. It's not your fault.
  2. We've weighed your death against the inconvenience having you in our home would cause us. You won.
  3. If we refused you, we would have to face ourselves tomorrow knowing we were selfish and you paid the price for it.
So, once again, we take someone elses mess into our home.

Messes like this  - the blind, heartworm positive pug we'll call Jimmy - one do not get adopted quickly. And while he is here, another mess comes in. And another. Then two more. Soon you have 12 messes in your home. There is no line at your door waiting to adopt any of them. Few people are willing to foster puppymill survivors - they crap everywhere and walk through it. They stiffen up like boards when you pick them up - IF you can catch them. So they stay right there with the compassionate person who could not turn them away. A year later, Jimmy and the others are still there - posted for adoption, yes, but there has been no one willing to commit to them.

This brings me to a tale of two rescue people we'll call Linda and Ellen. Both are basically good, caring people with good intentions. Linda has been doing hardcore rescue for many years. She is one of those caring people who takes in the rejects no one else will touch. She has, like most of us, dumped tons of her own money into rescue dogs. She has been to dog auctions with me where I've seen her cry openly over the awful state of the animals there. I've seen her scrape the bottom of her wallet to buy beagles with embedded collars because they did not sell there and she could not leave them.

Ellen has been on the outskirts of rescue, doing some transport, a little fostering. She has started her own brand new rescue, and I wish her the best in this endeavor. When I did a petfinder search, they had no animals for adoption yet. But she is taking a huge step toward serious commitment to rescue.

Ellen and Linda have been friends for years. But a problem arose when Ellen picked up a pug named Frank from Linda to foster in her home. The pug's nails were too long. He had ear mites, and had not had a heartworm test. Frank was also still very frightened of people. He had been in rescue for a year - why was he still so afraid?

Ellen was angry over what she viewed as "neglect". She decided that Linda had too many dogs to properly care for them. Ellen gave the dog to her veterinarian for placement and refused to share any information with Linda about where Frank was or what had happened to him. Frank was gone, and no longer Linda's concern.

Linda did not see this incident in the same light. She posted stolen dog posters everywhere with Ellen's name on them. She contacted an attorney and threatened to sue Ellen. The two friends were friends no more.

My involvement came about when Ellen applied to adopt a pug puppy from me.  Ellen's references were excellent. Even Linda said that, despite the alleged theft of Frank, Ellen took very good care of her pugs. So I placed a puppy with Ellen, and waived the fee on another pug who had an ongoing health concern (I did inform her of this). The placement seems to be going well and I have no regrets so far. My pugs were fully vetted. Might she find some flaw with them? She might. I process a lot of dogs. Doing rescue in the midwest is like trying to turn back the ocean with a bucket. Yes, the pup had been wormed twice. Does this mean she has no parasites? Not hardly. Some parasites are rather stubborn. Even vets don't catch everything.

Which brings me back to Frank the pug - he of the long nails, ear mites and no heartworm test.

Long nails are a nuisance. Unless they had grown into the pad, they don't represent a health threat, at least nothing that five minutes and a set of nail clippers cannot remedy.  Likewise, ear mites are everywhere and, unless they have a severe case with noticeable discharge, they're easy to overlook when you are running a rescue alone. A squirt of ivomec in each ear - Ouila! No more ear mites.

The absent heartworm test - now that is a real concern. Heartworms can and eventually will kill a dog if not diagnosed and treated. Every dog over six months of age should have a heartworm test prior to placement.

But now comes the real question: Do we throw out the baby with the murky water?

Linda is a rescuer who has saved hundreds of pugs. Ellen seems to think that that absent heartworm test gave her the right to abscond with Frank the pug, and that Linda should not be doing rescue at all.  But is Ellen ready to step up and open her home to the 54 puppymill survivors Linda would have taken this year? Has she thought ahead to the point of wondering where those pugs will go if Linda is not around to take them?

I do not always agree with every other rescue person's way of doing things. But before I disagree in a major way, I ask myself this question:

Would the dogs be better off without her?

I can think of only three instances in 17 years where the answer was "yes".  In Linda's case, there is no doubt in my mind that every one of those dogs who has ever crossed her path is the better for it. It' a pity they cannot speak. I'm quite sure they would agree.

As for me, I once fostered a pug for Linda in an emergency. On reviewing his paperwork, I could find no documentation of a heartworm test. I knew my friend was, like me, the family caregiver. Her father was in the hospital, her grandmother was ill, I knew she had a plate chock-full of responsibility. I know she has the "rescue heart".

I took the pug to my vet, got him tested (negative), placed him, and sent Linda the check and contract. I never mentioned the missing heartworm test because it was an anomaly and I considered it incidental to the enormity of the task at hand. Besides, she would have done exactly the same for me.

You see, I do NOT want to lose a terrific rescuer because she missed a drop with her little bucket. The fact that she is out there bailing matters far more.

And for those out there who have yet to lift a bucket, please view those of us standing against the tide with a kind heart and a generous spirit. We all make mistakes. I have made a great many, done many things I wish I could take back. It's a long difficult process we call "learning".

But we're trying.

In a world where so many care nothing at all, please give us some credit for that.

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