Rescuing dogs, and running a rescue facility is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s dirty work, it’s tiring work, it’s emotionally draining, it’s financially draining, it’s wake you up at 2am to facilitate a rescue for a dog in imminent danger, and it’s often thankless. To be a member of a volunteer rescue organization also creates stress as there never seems to be enough hands or money to do what’s needed, but we juggle professional and personal lives to make sure that we are there to ensure all that needs to happen, happens. Creating dog bios for posting, reviewing adoption applications, doing reference and background checks for potential adopters, arranging vet clinic visits for check-ups and immunizations, and arranging transportation for those visits, fundraising to pay for the vet bills (over $200,000.00 in 2017), not to mention feeding, grooming, kennel cleaning, laundry, ensuring yard time and walks and behavioural training sessions for those so challenged by their past that we wonder if they’ll ever learn to trust again is like conducting an orchestra with a volunteer cast. And then there are those individuals who call into question our character and our motives because we’ve made a decision that they think is wrong. The verbal abuse, the social media negative comments, the threats to personal safety all have come into play over the past few years. Some days we wonder if it is all worth it. Then we look at the dogs and say yes, it is. We are making a difference, one dog at a time. We couldn’t do this without our dedicated volunteers who also believe that each and every dog is unique.
I write this after a couple of bad weeks and bad experiences that make me shake my head and wonder why we continue to be so very involved in rescuing dogs that have been hurt, that have been used for nefarious reasons, that come to us physically and emotionally damaged requiring not only veterinary care but love and patience and kindness. And those who are surrendered from families that they love for reasons sometimes not understandable to us, and certainly not understandable to the dog who’s whole world has been turned upside down. And I wonder about the humans who are behind these sad stories and I question humanity as a whole. But then I’m reminded of what a very intelligent man once said: “Rescue: It’s not just a verb, it’s a promise”, and I reflect on all those loving dogs, despite their previous circumstances, who just needed a second (or sometimes third) chance to be all they could be once they were introduced to their new forever family and I feel the joy and soul satisfaction for doing one small thing to change the life of not only the dog, but the new family who now experience such unconditional love and trust when the dog realizes they are safe and home. And my belief in humanity is restored when humans want to provide these dogs with a second (or third) chance, and see the joy on their faces when they meet ‘the one’.
Our adoption process is rigorous. We screen each and every adoption application that arrives. We ensure that we find the perfect match. Do we miss the mark sometimes? Yes. We are human, our adopters are human. Sometimes the picture of the dog that caught someone’s heart is not the dog that they imagined when they decided to welcome a dog into their home. Thankfully these situations are few and far between, but they do happen. And we work with that family to make things work.
Our intake process for those dogs who are being surrendered is also rigorous. We ask that the surrendering human provide truthful information, including behavioural issues, prior to agreeing to the surrender. We support these humans through difficult decisions, and when possible, update them. The dog is assessed at admission and allowed a few days of ‘decompression’ prior to putting the dog out there for adoption. There are times, however, and thankfully few, where the dog has had no previous veterinary or dental care, no training, or has been aggressive with children or other dogs, where we try our best to rehabilitate either through veterinary care or behavioural interventions. Sadly, despite all these interventions there are times, in consultation with our vet that behavioural euthanasia is the only option. In the case of the aggressive dog we consider the safety of both the dog and the humans. We have, in the past, reached out to other rescue partners for assistance who may have resources we do not and may be able to make a change for the best. But we always consider the dog, and our duty to keep that dog safe. Perhaps a dog is triggered by children and poses a risk to little ones. Could the dog be re-homed into a family with no children? Possibly. But we then have to consider that just because the new home doesn’t have young children, this does not mean that the dog won’t be exposed to them. These behaviours could limit the neighborhood walks and limit the ability to safely have children visit. This decision is based on the risk assessment that the vet and the rescue volunteers discuss, and is never an easy one. The same holds true for those dogs who come to us with medical conditions for which there is no cure. Our mandate is to keep them with us, in sanctuary, until such time that it is the kindest thing for the dog to be let go. All of these dogs live in our hearts and are remembered with love. There are often tears at rescue.
So, for today, I will continue on this rescue journey. I will snuggle my own rescue guy and I will snuggle those still waiting for their home, as will all the other volunteers at Carter’s. I will advocate for and educate about rescues. I will love them with all my heart and be sad when the ‘perfect’ adoption falls through, or we are told that they have a medical or behavioural condition for which there is no treatment or cure. I will reflect on the joys of finding the perfect home for a dog, and the delight we see on the humans faces when we make the introductions. I will remember the happy tears as one of the dogs goes off to their new home, with their new family. I will try not to stress about the ongoing financial concerns, but will work diligently to raise awareness, and perhaps some funds, to keep doing what we do. We rescue dogs. We find our rescued dogs the best homes and we take comfort when we see all the sweet pictures of them in their new homes, being loved by their new humans, and in return being the best dogs they can be!
The same intelligent individual whom I quoted above also said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”. I pledge to look wide eyed and open minded and to continue on this journey, despite the stresses and challenges, because each dog deserves that.