They Are Killing Dogs Today

I need to talk to you about something.

I know, I know, you came here for puppy pictures and puppy stories and happy endings; I promise there will be plenty of that.

But first, I need to address something that’s been on my mind and my heart, and then, I’ll share lots of puppy pictures. You’ll get so many, you’ll be like – Quit with the puppy pictures, I’m sick of looking at those puppies!

Most days I don’t have a lot of spare time to think about the larger issue of dog rescue because I’m busy rescuing dogs.

Now and again, I have a moment to consider what can be done about the situation beyond the band-aid that is my puppy room, and so many like it.

OPH, and rescues like it, do amazing work, and yet there remains an endless stream of unwanted dogs whose lives are in danger of being extinguished because of any number of situations that have nothing to do with that individual dog’s breed, behaviors, or health.

Last month, I heard the term ‘economic euthanasia’ for the first time at a gathering of our rescue volunteers and it has haunted me ever since.

I’ve wondered, is it possible dogs are dying because of simple lack of funds?

In part, yes. Shelters in many of our southern states and around the world do not have budgets or facilities that can care for the number of dogs entrusted to their care. They need money for food, staff, equipment, buildings, medical care. When there is not enough money to feed, house, and treat the dogs, the dogs are euthanized, regardless of how ‘adoptable’ or ‘healthy’ they are. I think we all want to believe that doesn’t happen, especially in a country as rich as ours, but it does.

Here is a recent message sent to an OPH shelter coordinator from one of our shelters in South Carolina after they learned that we would be unable to pull dogs from their shelter because our foster homes were full:

Over the holiday weekend, the shelter took in 44 dogs – and the inflow continues every day as always.
There was minimal space available for intake last Friday and it was quickly filled. On Monday the euthanizations began. The first to go were dogs surrendered on Friday because their people were going away for the weekend and didn’t want to be bothered with finding someone to care for their pet. Court cases and strays take precious space because they must be held for specific periods of time.
The sight of beautiful dogs lying dead on the floor, to never having another chance at life, is beyond heartbreaking.
We were counting on next week’s transport to save precious lives, so this news is devastating. We are so very grateful for the many dogs saved thus far by OPH.
Today, I’m praying for a miracle.

I read that as Willow sat beside me, her head on my thigh. OPH pulled Willow and the Chocolate Factory pups from that very shelter.

Money could make a difference at that shelter, not just in terms of much-needed food, medical supplies, and space, but to help them increase staff so that more could be done to advertise their dogs, educate their community, and provide resources to the families that adopt from their shelter so there are fewer owner surrenders. Money is what made it possible for Willow and her pups to be flown out of there before their time was up.

So, yeah, money is good. (There are several ways you can help us raise money listed at the end of this post – one only involves the strategic use of your computer, the other does involve your pocketbook.)

But money alone will not solve the problem of economic euthanasia- dogs dying because there isn’t enough money/space/time to save them.

The one thing that can have the biggest impact on the lives of dogs endangered by economic euthanasia doesn’t involve money, it involves YOU. (Yes, YOU, this is not the collective/generic you I’m talking about.)

The bottom line is this: If we have more foster homes, we save more dogs.

If we have enough foster homes, we save all the dogs that are dying from economic euthanasia.

End of story.

No more need for this blog.

If shelters are not overwhelmed stretching strained budgets and trying to decide which dogs they can afford to save and which will have to die, they would have time to do the work they were built to do—serve their community. Not only could they care properly for the dogs in their shelter, they could educate, support, and be a resource for their community and in doing that, perhaps stem the tide of dogs arriving at their shelter.

Because I know that you have many good reasons why you cannot foster a dog, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty (much), but I am trying to make you consider the possibility. I’d like to plant in your heart the kernel of the idea of YOU as a foster. For just a moment, consider what that might look like. You don’t have to foster a hundred dogs or entire litters of puppies, but you could foster one or two or ten a year.

My book coming out in August is not just the story of my family and our first fifty foster dogs, it is also a plea. My greatest hope is that by sharing the good, bad, ugly, and magical reality of fostering dogs, other people will say, You know, I could do that.

Because you could.

And it will change the world.

My daughter gave me a little sign that hangs outside my puppy room. It says,

“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog the world will change forever.

If you’d like to know more about fostering through OPH, click here. If you don’t live in Virginia, Maryland, DC, or South Central PA, look up a rescue or shelter near you. I’m happy to answer any of your questions or point you in the correct direction. Email me at cara.achterberg@rocketmail.com.

I’ll get to the puppy pictures momentarily, but first, here’s how you can help OPH win grant money to save more dogs like Willow and her pups.

All you have to do is vote for our story. Follow this link and then click to vote for Major and OPH. It’s super simple (and they don’t even ask for your email). You can vote from multiple devices, multiple times. Please vote and then please SHARE.

This month I’m taking part in the Spring2Action campaign to raise money for my favorite cause – OPH. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, please consider making a tax-deductible donation (of any size). I’m raising money to fund emergency transports, like the one that saved Willow and the pups. I’m almost halfway to my goal and I could sure you use your help! Thanks! Here’s my fundraising page.

And, as promised, here are your puppy pictures! The Chocolate Factory pups are adorable and messy and most importantly, safe. All the pups have approved adopters and Willow has several applications, so for them at least, there is a happy ending.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit CaraWrites.com or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter.

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more regular updates of foster dogs past and present and extra puppy pictures, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email carasueachterberg@gmail.com or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.

 Best,

Cara

COMING AUGUST 2018 from Pegasus Books:

PREVIEW

Preorder available NOW on Amazon!

 

 

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Homeless or Humanless?

I’ve been reading a lot of dog books lately. Partly, it’s because my upcoming book will be my first in this genre, and I want to get to know what’s already out there and the writers who publish these books. But mostly, I’ve become a bit addicted. I love reading about people’s experiences with dogs. It’s not just educational and entertaining, it’s also inspiring.

Rescuing Penny JaneIn Amy Sutherland’s book, RESCUING PENNY JANE, she writes about her experiences volunteering at a shelter, sharing a perspective I’ve never heard since I meet my dogs after they’ve left the shelter. I like to think that there are volunteers like Amy at the shelters where our dogs come from. Sutherland is a shelter volunteer, walking dogs every Friday for a local Animal Rescue League. She’s also a journalist and author, so of course, she overanalyzes and writes about her experience.

While it can be momentarily dense with information on shelter dogs, Rescuing Penny Jane is an exploration of the rescue dog world, but also Sutherland’s story of adopting a difficult rescue dog and sticking it out. She writes that she won’t be one of ‘them’, confiding that in becoming a regular at the shelter she is privy to the staff’s feelings about people who return dogs. And so, even though it strains her marriage, she sticks it out with Penny Jane, a fearful and more or less, feral dog.

Sutherland’s words remind me of my own experience with more than a few of my foster dogs. I write in this blog about the funny, the touching, the messy, and occasionally the heartbreak, but each story eventually culminates in one happy ending after another. What I rarely write about is how sometimes I reach my limit and more often sometimes my husband reaches his limit. There have been teary late-night walks waiting for a foster dog to just pee, already. There have been mornings spent on my knees scrubbing carpets and grumbling mangled curse words and masked threats (who am I going to offend? The dogs?). There have been plenty of words typed and then deleted, planned posts that never materialized, and frustrations outlined in detail for my husband even as I stroke the furry head of the offender. For a few hours, sometimes a day or two, I’m done. “Once this one is gone- no more fosters!”

So when Sutherland’s husband says, “It would be easier to return Penny Jane than to get a divorce.” I don’t laugh. I know he’s not joking.  Sutherland’s frustration and tears are familiar, and I read her story with a lump in my throat. I’ve thought so many of the same things.

There is one comment she makes relatively early in the book that struck me so much that I got up to find a pen so I could underline it. She wrote – Continue reading Homeless or Humanless?

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