Record Breaking Dog

Gala has broken the record.

Longest foster dog we’ve ever had.

At nearly five months here, Gala easily surpassed  Whoopi, Ginger, and Carla,  our other longest fosters.

She’s also the dog with fewest applications. (Currently that would be zero applications.)

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In the past five months, she’s only had four interested potential adopters. All changed their minds. None ever met her in person. Continue reading Record Breaking Dog

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.

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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.

Fostering By the Numbers

Nelson went home on Saturday morning.

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His story illustrates how the foster dog system works when all goes well:

  1. Nelson is selected from the dogs in a shelter in Virginia as an adoptable dog that just needs more time than a shelter has room or funds to provide. OPH pulls him and after a vet determines there is no medical treatment needed for his eye (it was an old trauma), he is neutered, tested for heartworm (he was negative), vaccinated, and microchipped. Then he waits in a local foster home until he can catch a ride north with an OPH transport.
  2. I pick Nelson from a list of dogs in need of fosters, but can’t meet the transport van, so other OPH volunteers step in to pick him up and house him for two nights until I can take him. (Thanks Karie and Evan!)
  3. Nelson arrives here and we assimilate him into our home, walk him, feed him, and get to know him.
  4. I write up a bio about him saying that yes, he is housebroken and yes, he is crate-trained, and no, he isn’t a threat to cats. I write that he’s an easy-going sort of dog who is very lovable to everyone he meets but can counter-surf despite his size. Information like this is something you can’t get when you pick a dog out at a shelter. (And not to discourage ANYONE from adopting from a shelter, I’m just pointing out that there is much good about the foster system that makes an adoption match more likely to be an informed one.)
  5. Nelson is with us for just under two weeks. He is adopted by a family who discover him via the OPH website and have already applied and been approved to adopt a dog. They bring their current dog with them to meet him at my house, adore Nelson on sight, and take him home.

Many, many foster experiences happen just like that. But a few don’t. Continue reading Fostering By the Numbers

A Fixable Problem

WARNING: This is not a happy or funny post. It might bum you out, or maybe it will inspire you. I’m taking my chances sharing my grief and frustration.

IMG_3629Today is the day Ginger will leave. I feel unprepared. Every other time, when a dog was leaving that I knew would break my heart, I had a plan in place. A new foster on its way or already in our house, or I had somewhere to go or be that would distract me. Not today.

Because I’m still waiting to see a doctor who will have the answers, I can’t commit to a new dog/puppy. I’m not a good patient or a patient person, so my hurting knee is dragging me down. Lucy is still here, but we’re finding our routine and she’s ready to go to a forever home as soon as her people find her.

Today is different than other adoption days. Without my usual props in place, I already feel the tears gathering and I hate that. This is the hardest part of fostering. This heart-cratering pain that is so completely unavoidable- if I just didn’t foster dogs. It’s self-inflicted, preventable, and yet, I know it’s nothing compared to the pain of all the dogs that never make it out.

I’m currently reading Rescue Road, the story of a man named Greg Mahle, who drives a tractor-trailer full of rescue dogs from the deep south, to foster homes and adopters in the north twice a month. He’s helped rescue over 30,000 dogs and driven a million miles.

I’m trying to read it as fast as I possibly can because it is unbearable. Every time I have to close the book and move back into my world I feel sad, unmoored, frustrated. How can there be people in this world, in this time, who would dump a litter of newborn puppies in a trashcan or worse yet, set that trash can on fire?

How can there be state-run ‘shelters’ that are no more than concrete holding pens completely exposed to the elements where dogs are dumped all together (young, old, sick, neutered or not) to wait for no one (or maybe a rescue) to claim them before they die of preventable diseases or state mandated euthanasia? This book breaks my heart. Reading it this weekend, knowing it was our last with Ginger, made for a sad, sad few days.

Yes, I know, Ginger is going to a GREAT home. It’s the only happy thought available for me to hold on to. Only that great home isn’t mine. It can’t be. Technically, it could be, but reading Rescue Road this weekend underlined again for me exactly why it can’t be—there are too many dogs still down there. Too many dogs dying every day because of ignorance, cruelty, apathy, and lack of resources. This is a fixable problem. Maybe that’s what makes me most crazy. Parvo, mange, heartworms, overpopulation—these are ALL preventable or treatable.

All of my mixed feelings and sadness is complicated by the fact that my knee is not healing. It limits me. Just this morning, I fell, once again. Even though I had on my brace and my new super grippy shoes that my husband insisted I buy, my unstable let still slid out from under me on a stick that fell in last night’s storm as I made my way down the hill with Lucy. Ouch.

And then there’s Lucy.
Continue reading A Fixable Problem

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