ADOPT, DON’T SHOP

Here’s an amazing fact I learned recently from Kim Kavin, author of The Dog Merchants:

If just half of the people who decide to get a dog this year were to adopt one from a shelter or rescue instead of purchasing one from a breeder or pet store, we would empty out the shelters and rescues.

Problem solved. As Kim explained in an e-mail, what we have in the US is not a dog overpopulation problem, but a marketing problem.

marketing problem.jpg

Kim’s a journalist and an engaging author who has now written two well-researched and yet from-the-heart books. The first (Little Boy Blue) tells the story of the rescue puppy she adopted and all that she learned when she decided to investigate the story behind how he landed in her home. The Dog Merchants is about the big business of dogs – not just breeders and pet stores, but rescues, shelters and consumers. As is always the case, where there is big money involved, there are generally people taking advantage and people being taken advantage of, and sadly, many times the dogs pay the real price. Both books are fascinating, entertaining, and will likely make you cry. Kim has been gracious and generous to me, reading the manuscript for a book I’m working on (aptly titled, Another Good Dog) and sharing her experiences and knowledge of the world of dog rescue.

One of the topics we’ve discussed is the wide range of rescues. She’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, but probably a lot more of the bad and ugly than I have. Her experience fostering dogs has been a bit different than mine. I’m very proud to say that the rescue I work with, Operation Paws for Homes (OPH) does rescue right, in a world where many well-meaning rescues get it terribly wrong.

I’ve tried to remember how I discovered OPH, but think it came down to dumb luck and Facebook. I just happened to see a post at just the right time and found my way into this amazing organization. Hearing Kim’s stories only makes me more committed to doing all I can to promote this fabulous organization that is not only passionate about dog rescue, but professional in how they treat volunteers, adopters, fosters, and shelters, but most importantly, dogs.

One of OPH’s mottos is “Together we rescue.” And there’s not a truer sentiment. Together we can rescue, but we need more people so that we can rescue more dogs.

Right now shelters all over the south are overwhelmed with a deluge of dogs. It’s also puppy season -the time when many dogs are giving birth and they and their offspring are being dumped at shelters daily. The brave people at OPH and other rescues who have the job of fielding the requests from shelters and then deciding which dogs we will pull, are receiving near daily emails asking for help. The more dogs we can pull, the fewer these shelters have to euthanize.

It weighs on a heart. I see the posts and the pleas and the pictures of these deserving dogs and I feel anxious. I want to do more, but right now my house is at capacity with Gala and Darlin’ and my own dog, Gracie.

I want so badly to take one of these mamas and/or their puppies, but I have nowhere to put them. I consider asking another foster to take one of my pups, but then I look at their sweet faces. Darlin’ has been here over three months and Gala nearly a month and a half. They have finally settled and feel like they are home, even though they aren’t. Both of these girls are sensitive souls- their next move must be to their forever homes. I feel my soul tap, tap, tapping impatiently. Time for them to move. There are too many dogs to rescue.

I used to hesitate to use the hashtag #adoptdontshop, but I’m ready to tattoo it on my forehead. Yes, I understand that sometimes allergies dictate the kind of dog you get, and yes, I know there are responsible breeders out there, and yes, I realize that sometimes a rescue dog needs more time to develop trust or requires an extra effort with training. But here’s the bottomline – until we no longer have to decide which dogs must die each week because no one wants them and no rescue has room for them and no shelter has the funds to continue to house them, we need to keep shouting it from the rooftops:

ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

Please, please, please, adopt your next best friend from a rescue or shelter. Let’s fix this fixable problem. Let’s make the next problem be – we don’t know what to do about all these empty shelters.

If you’d like to part of the solution, get involved. If you’re looking for a dog, adopt. If you have room, foster. If you have time, volunteer. If you have money to give, give.

If you’ve ever considered fostering dogs for a rescue, I would encourage you to give it a try. The need for foster homes this time of year is huge. If you are in Maryland, Virginia, DC, or south-central PA, click here to find out how you can foster for OPH. If you live elsewhere check out a rescue or shelter near you – they all need foster homes.

OPH (and all rescues and shelters) always need more volunteers to check references, transport dogs, organize events, and a hundred other jobs, so if your home can’t hold another dog, but you’d like to help, jump right in. To volunteer for OPH, click here.

If you’d like to help OPH, consider making a donation. Adoption fees don’t begin to cover the cost of medical treatment and transport. In addition, OPH rescues pregnant dogs, litters, and heartworm positive dogs, but also pays to keep dogs in boarding when there are not enough foster homes available. Without fundraising, they could not do these things. Click here to donate to OPH, or look up a rescue near you.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Go for a hike with your dog!

Blessings,

Cara

P.s. If you’d like to know more about my writing (or my next novel coming out JUNE 6!!), visit CaraWrites.com.

Of Puppies and Pumpkins

I just forced myself to stop playing with the puppy-doll and get back to my desk. Obie is VERY hard to resist. He loves to be held. I wish I’d kept my baby-sling because I’m positive he would be super happy snuggled in it accompanying me about my day. Being the lone puppy is not easy, even despite the bags of toys he received this weekend!

IMG_3769
It was just like Christmas for Obie this weekend when he finally got some new toys to play with! (thanks Mindy and OPH!)

This morning I lunged him in the side yard with my longest leash. If you’re a horse person, you might be familiar with that term. It’s when the person stands still and a horse on a lungeline works in a circle around the person. Obie lunges very well, also. He zooms around and around and around. When he really gets going, he almost looks like a rabbit because his hind legs are reaching in front of his front legs at times.

Kind of like a wind-up toy, this burst of energy expels itself fairly quickly. When he’s finished, he’d like you to pick him up and carry him around, thank you. All day, would be his preference. Obie is pretty much THE best snuggler I’ve encountered. I think that’s remarkable considering he’s a puppy (and most puppies prefer to keep moving). But if you’ll just hold him against your heart with his head tucked under your chin, he’ll be content forever. Yup, definitely a puppy-doll. He’s great therapy for this mom who is missing her oldest kiddo who just left for his second year in college.

Rooney has found her forever family, but is hanging out with us an extra week to complete a course of antibiotics to hopefully clear up the secondary infection she developed after her UTI. No one minds because Rooney is a most gracious guest. Ever since the end of the pee wars, she has been a model foster dog. Continue reading Of Puppies and Pumpkins

Second Chances

Now that I’m back to walking (YES! MRI revealed lots of damage, but nothing to stop me from moving forward and continuing to heal on my own!) I’ve had a chance to catch up on my thinking. So much was backlogged in my brain – ideas, worries, dreams, questions, stories. Lucy and I have increased our walk time each day this week and this morning we wandered the back roads for nearly an hour.

I’m still mulling over the book Rescue Road and pondering the enormous challenges to dog rescue in the US (and in the world). I had begun to feel the same way I did when my elementary school science teacher explained how far away Pluto was – it seemed like an insurmountable distance.

My teeny, tiny part in rescuing dogs couldn’t possibly put even the idea of a dent in the problem. Probably my thoughts were colored by my inability to move without pain. But now, the world looks different. I’m ready to get back in the game. I’m ready to save some more dogs.

I’ve had my moments of frustration with Lucy these past few weeks. She has come so far – she’s no longer scratching and her beautiful tri-colored coat is coming back in, her energy levels are rising (and rising!), and her happiness quotient somehow went even higher.

DSC_4390
Here she is playing with the filling for the Frank bed.

My frustration springs from the fact that she is not accustomed to living indoors. It hasn’t been an easy transition. Part of me wants to put her on a line outside. She’d probably be more comfortable. That’s what she’s known. Instead, we keep her in the kitchen and walk her frequently. We reward her when she pees outside and admonish her when she pees inside.

I think she finally understands she shouldn’t pee on our floor, but this morning when she evidently couldn’t hold it a moment longer, she peed on the Frank bed. I was so angry! Why would she do this? Why? Why? Why? I took her outside and then I closed her in her crate. Continue reading Second Chances

Our Present Pack of Pups

My trusty co-pilot and helper (read: the only kid without a driver’s license or a job this summer) and I met the Lucy train in Hagerstown last Wednesday and picked up our latest charge. She’d been riding shot-gun for the last leg with a very nice person named Terri. When I opened the hatch of my SUV, she hopped right in, settled in the crate we’d brought and went to sleep. Obviously, she wouldn’t be a high-maintenance guest.

This poor pup has been through it—I can’t say exactly what, but she is riddled with scars, the worst one being a permanent necklace from where a collar was embedded and/or she was left chained up for a long period. Despite all that, she is a happy, friendly, easy-going girl. The resilience of dogs is something to behold.

Thankfully, she doesn’t appear to be pregnant. As exciting as that would have been, the last thing this sweet girl needs is puppies. Her skin is inflamed and hot and covered in some form of eczema that requires us to keep a cone on her 24/7 so she won’t chew herself bloody. It’s a testimony to her good nature that she handles her misery so well. She scratches at the cone trying to get to her neck and chest, where the rash is worst. She chews at her side, biting the plastic cone that prevents her from a reaching her itchy skin. It may not help, but maybe the effort brings a mental relief. I remember scratching at my riding helmet covering my itchy head when I was in the middle of a competition or lesson. It’s psychological; you feel like you’re doing something. I would shake my head, too, which I’ve seen Lucy doing.

DSC_4280

If you’ve ever had poison ivy or hives covering your entire body, you might have some sense of what this pup is going through. The urge to itch is all-consuming and yet—she can’t reach it. She’s headed to the vet on Wednesday to confirm that she isn’t pregnant and hopefully get a prescription for some serious drugs to help her out. The vets that examined her before she came north diagnosed a flea allergy. While there are no fleas on this girl now (I’ve given her enough oatmeal baths to verify that), I would assume at some point she was infested with them. Continue reading Our Present Pack of Pups

Getting Serious About Dog Rescue

Are you as afraid as I am to turn on the news? I feel obligated, but at the same time a heart can only take so much. This past weekend I finally heard some GREAT news. I was privileged to attend OPH’s seminar for volunteers. I learned even more about this fabulous organization I’m a part of and left feeling motivated to do more.

The highlight for me was a presentation from two women from one of the shelters that OPH partners with in south western Virginia. I went to school in southside Virginia a million years ago, so I remember that part of the country as rural, blue-collar (when there are jobs) with field after field of tobacco. I worked at a pub in Danville where I served mill workers who called me “Yankee Girl” and never missed an opportunity to remind me that Danville was the last confederate capital of the south!

Rachel and Ashley traveled north this past weekend to share with OPH the impact our organization has had on their shelter in Scott County, VA. I couldn’t hold back tears as I listened to the statistics they shared. I think it was the best news I’ve heard all summer, actually all year, and it renewed my desire to help more dogs and my admiration for the people who work so hard to save them.

OPH began partnering with the Scott County Human Society shelter in mid 2015. Take a look at the impact we are having on this one shelter- Continue reading Getting Serious About Dog Rescue

Foster Dog Party

Once again the snow is piling up outside, but this time around Lily has a playmate to keep her busy and it isn’t me and my tennis balls.

DSC_2460

Itz Luv joined our party on Saturday arriving on transport from South Carolina. She is one easy-going sweetie-pie taking everything in stride. She sat nicely for her bath, was appropriately grovelly in her introductions to Gracie, and then eagerly took on Lily with some full-on all-body contact hard-core play. She’s half Lily’s size and weight, but rarely backs down, until Lily sits on her (literally). Both dogs are grinning ear to ear as they slam around my kitchen, wrestle over toys, and have never-ending tug-of-war matches.

DSC_2487

That sigh you heard? That’s me relaxing because now I’ll get some uninterrupted work done.

Luvie, as we call her, went to her first OPH event on Sunday and was a super star – playing with all the other dogs and smooching with anybody available. She was most especially enamored with the kids. Continue reading Foster Dog Party

Hadley Goes Home

IMG_2317Just like that, Hadley is gone.

I’m missing her. Nick is missing her. Ian is still not happy with me for letting her go. She is a quiet dog, and I never heard her make a sound in all the time she was here, but somehow the house is quieter now.

Everyone else went to see the new Star Wars on Sunday, but I stayed home to dig out my desk. My mind kept finding its way back to Hadley.

I forgot to ask the adopters what they will call her now. I couldn’t stop picturing her sweet, terrified eyes the night we brought her home only five weeks ago. I kept trying to replace that image with the playful gleam she had when she was wrestling a puppy or the way she glanced up at me so often when we walked at the park – just checking that I was still there. Maybe it’s because she was the most broken dog we had the privilege of fostering, maybe that’s why it hurt so much this time. I can’t help but worry about her.

So I’m busying myself by organizing. I’m even making a new journal because crafting homemade journals always soothes my soul. This one is dog-themed and I’ll use it to document the dogs of 2016. We fostered 25 in 2015. If we’d had one more, Pennsylvania would have required us to have a kennel license. So in 2016 we’re already signing up for a license. This journal will help me keep the details straight on the dogs for the inspector. Continue reading Hadley Goes Home