The Value of a Dog

Gala. The million dollar dog.

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Okay, not a million, but certain the several thousand dollar dog. Between her rescue, heartworm treatment, four months of foster care, and now the broken jaw, this dog is costing some serious money.

I’ve been thinking about this fact. Why do we pour all this money into a stray dog from South Carolina? She’s just one dog, and a difficult one at that.

And then I think—it’s just money.

That’s the same thing I tell myself when my children cost a fortune or we lose money on something stupid or we need an expensive repair on the car or the house.

Because it is just money. And doing right by this dog is far more important than money.

A noble thought, but it won’t pay her bill. She’s not the most expensive dog OPH has rescued, not by far. I’ve watched much more expensive efforts be made by this organization to save a life. Not that they throw money around willy-nilly; they certainly consider each penny before it’s spent and they’ve made more than a few hard decisions. But it’s rare that money is the only consideration.

Dogs are expensive. That’s a fact that seems to slip the minds of plenty of people. And for whatever reason – ignorance or arrogance—there are plenty of people out there who don’t think a rescue dog should cost a lot. After all, a purebred dog could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. There’s a mindset that since you’re saving a dog no one wanted or possibly a dog someone threw away, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

OPH’s adoption fee is $335 ($375 for puppies, but you get a $60 rebate after you spay/neuter). This includes spay/neuter, vaccines, wormings (with puppies this can be 6-8 times or more), and microchip, not to mention the expenses most adopters don’t consider like the original health screening and treatment, transportation, and food. And with many dogs there are other expenses.

Dug had to visit the vet and be treated for demadex mange this week.

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(And before you freak out at the word, mange, Continue reading The Value of a 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.

Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

Every now and again, the dog-thing gets a bit overwhelming. This weekend was one of those times. It makes me pause and wonder if I’m doing too much, asking too much of my family, my own pets, my own heart.

It’s so easy to anthropomorphize dogs. (I toss that big word out there as if I didn’t have to look up the spelling and be sure I was using it correctly. It means to attribute human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects, plants, and animals.)

We imagine we know a dog’s motives, emotions. We think we can read its expressions, sense its moods, understand why it responds the way it does, even interpret its feelings. (I’ve been anthropomorphizing Gracie for years — but who knows what really goes through that little head of hers.)

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This week confirmed for me once again that dogs, like people, are mysteries. It is nearly impossible to know another person’s heart, let alone a dog’s, and twice as easy to imagine that we do. We assume based on our own experiences and bias, but in reality we’re wrong as much as we’re blessed with a lucky guess or two.

Yesterday morning, for the first time in weeks, Gala and Darlin’ had a nasty fight. Continue reading Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

Irritation or Grace? You Decide

(Here’s the post originally intended for Tuesday before my world got sideswiped by Crash’s diagnosis.)

One of my favorite mom-writers, Katrina Kennison, writes at length about living intentionally. Saturday morning I read an essay of hers that made the point that we can meet disruptions and disappointments with irritation or grace. She’s right, I thought before embarking on a weekend ironically full of disruptions and disappointments.

I will be the first to confess that my default reaction for years has been irritation, but a funny thing has been happening as I get older, I’m beginning to see that irritation gets me nowhere. And once more, it only makes a situation worse. I feel no better when I’ve handled an inconvenience or annoyance with irritation whether it was caused by strangers, family, dogs, myself, or the universe. I always regret my harsh words or grumpy attitude.

On a much needed date with my husband this weekend, we were enjoying a beer flight at a wonderful restaurant, when our waitress arrived with my salad and promptly dumped a bowl of Caesar dressing down my side. Continue reading Irritation or Grace? You Decide

The Roller Coaster Quest to Save These Pups

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Up and down. Up and down. Every day in that puppy pen, it is up and down. I’m getting better at riding the roller coaster. Not sure if that’s a good thing. Maybe I’m just becoming numb.

In the beginning, when my pups began to fail, I was frantic, teary, desperate. Now, I’m resigned and accepting and grateful. We are doing everything we can. They will survive or they won’t, but it won’t be because we didn’t try.

My husband reminds me again and again not to think past today. I don’t want to ponder difficult decisions down the road if these pups don’t begin to thrive. Spending so much intense time with them has given me opportunity to know them well and the thought of any of them dying feels unbearable. And yet, I’ve witnessed the death of five puppies now, so I know that if I have to, I will bear it.

Following that thought too far, is painful so I’m trying very hard not to think ahead. Focus on now. What’s in front of me. Three adorable, precious puppies. Continue reading The Roller Coaster Quest to Save These Pups

The Tale of Three Mama Dogs

Estelle went home on Friday. We all miss that happy little girl with the funny ears, quirky ways, and incredibly sweet nature. Now she gets to be the puppy she was meant to be instead of spending a lifetime having more puppies.

I looked over her paperwork, finally, in preparation for her leaving and saw that she was only ten months old when she arrived here, a puppy with a belly full of puppies.

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While she came from dreadful circumstances, oh what a happy ending. Continue reading The Tale of Three Mama Dogs

Our Tragic Weekend

If it’s painful, you become willing not just to endure it but also to let it awaken your heart and soften you. You learn to embrace it.
– Pema Chodron

The heavy sadness that followed me everywhere this weekend despite the sunshine, seems to have let up a bit. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve had my first real sleep in three nights or that the tide has truly turned in my puppy pen.

If you’ve been following on the Facebook Another Good Dog group, you know that it has been a tragic few days here.

After three nights of nearly no sleep, it’s hard to remember the order of events, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I mix up a detail or two.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Darlin’s temperature dropped soon after she arrived here Thursday afternoon which meant that labor was imminent. Continue reading Our Tragic Weekend