Not your typical shelter problem

What’s a shelter to do when too many people want the available dogs?  We’re having a bit of conflict at HSOV regarding adoption versus transport to other shelters and rescue groups and, having rambled my way through this issue in prior blogs, I’m suggesting a possible solution.

I think and rescue transport are the best ideas since sliced bread. But what happens when a terrific family-of-5 comes into the shelter looking for a pet and finds 20 kennels, housing great dogs, with big blue “not available for adoption” signs glaring at them because shelters in New England have made room in their shelters for a bunch of our dogs.

HSOV’s transport and rescue coordinator works tirelessly to find reputable rescues willing to take large quantities of dogs, opening up kennels and puppy pens for the influx of unwanted animals in our county. But how big a deal is it for “labrador retriever rescue” if they get 4 dogs instead of 6 because 2 have been adopted locally?

I’ve been told that breed rescues get ouchy about this, having gone to the trouble of finding foster homes and families for the dogs via their network. Having been a rescuer of dogs for about 22 years I’m keenly aware that — if I want a particular dog in my home — I’d better move swiftly to acquire that dog and get it out of the present situation.

So I’ve proposed to HSOV the following idea … instead of a sign that says “not available for adoption” on the pens of dogs slated for transport, how about “Available for adoption until ___(date), transport to rescue scheduled for ___(date), please let shelter staff know if you’re interested in adopting this pet. Thank you! HSOV”

This might lend a sense of urgency to the adoption process, would give transport folks time to finalize their list of animals, and would assist those of us training and matchmaking dog in determining if a dog really IS available.

Following is a success story !!   Reggie, a rotty or dobie mix female, had been at HSOV since August. She’d been adopted once and returned, so essentially had been at our shelter for 6+ months. A fellow in Pennsylvania saw her picture (even though she was misrepresented as a cattledog mix) and liked her. He and I chatted on the phone and he planned a trip to Marietta yesterday, 2/14, to adopt Reggie. He was then going to take her with him to a second shelter and see if another dog he wanted got along with her.

Well he arrived Saturday morning and met Reggie. And he also saw Reese, a like-sized male mix-breed. He decided to take both of them for a little walk to see which would work best for him and discovered that the two dogs LOVED each other. They bounced around and played, discovering a lovely doggie relationship, so he decided to take them both! Those of us who have worried about Reggie, have shifted her from the dangerous corner kennel to a quieter spot, have trained her and walked her, are delighted that she and Reese have found a home and found each other. What a great Valentine’s Day  gift.

Today we’re having our last agility workshop for the winter session. We have 7 people scheduled here for advanced training from noon-4pm, and 4 for intermediate training from 2-4pm. I’m encouraging all my intermediate students to move to advanced for next session, so we’re going to integrate them into the advanced group today.

Our spring session begins March 8, with 6 workshops in 3 months (March 8 and 22, April 5 and 26, May 3 and 17). I’m really pleased that our workshops are as well attended as they are, since I spend little or no time marketing them or selling slots. I am, however, going to do e-mails to all our spring-and-summer students (those fragile creatures we haven’t seen since the first frost) and let them know that registrations have begun and working slots are limited.

In the meantime I’ve got 3-5 folks from an hour away wanting to enroll in the beginner workshops for spring. They’re 4H enthusiasts and, true to form, are interested in starting training in March for competition in August. A serious child exhibitor certainly needs to be training year ’round, but 4H seems to not really encourage serious child exhibitors. Instead, 4H seems to encourage “dabbling” — kids can do various projects, from pigs to silk purses, without ever really delving too deeply into any one project.

I know it leads to some pretty stressful performances in late summer but perhaps the stress is MINE, not theirs. As their instructor I find myself cringing inwardly when I see lack-of-relationship errors in 4H teams. It goes counter to our training philosophy, that dog training is ALL about relationship. And I wonder to myself what message is being transmitted to the kids about their relationship with dogs, versus their relationship with pigs, chickens, rabbits, cows, corn, potatoes, or squash. I guess I’d feel differently about this if I were a chicken-trainer or a potato farmer.

Regardless, I’ve given up on the idea of influencing 4H kids to train year ’round. Even if they get enrolled their attendance is sketchy, with conflicts during the week with basketball, band, etc., and conflicts on weekends with homework, video games and family activities. My instruction has changed as well, and I ask them at each class, “how many weeks until your competition?” I make extra homework assignments and try to encourage them to be as prepared as possible. (If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it, does it really make a sound?)

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One Response to “Not your typical shelter problem”

  1. Erica Says:

    I think some of the fear and angst on the part of the rescues, at least ours, it that the dogs go to properly screened homes where the adopters know what they are getting into. We get calls all the time from folks looking for a huntin’ dawg that they plan to keep outside, which is not how we want the dogs to live. We love them to go to hunting families, since that is what so many do enjoy doing, but as a family member, kept inside and loved in between outings. We also worry about folks that remark that they don’t have a fence, but Fluffy always stayed in the yard. Chances are Fluffy didn’t have the interest in birds and critters that our dogs do, or they were just darn lucky with Fluffy.

    The other criticism in the war between the cattlemen and sheep ranchers, so to speak, is that all too often we get calls from shelters that previously refused to give us an animal but after a few weeks they call back and beg us to take it. One step further, the shelters that only give up trainwrecks – injured, sick or elderly dogs and keep the youngsters for themselves to place. We balance the high vet bills for some dogs with the fees from dogs that need relatively little vet work. I have a foster dog undergoing endoscopy today and will be a total of nearly $2500 to the negative in my checkbook for the care she’s had the past seven months, but she finally has a home waiting for her if she gets through it all. If I charged it to our rescue fund, they’d need to place eight to ten healthy dogs to cover the expense.

    As much as you are doing in educating the staff and adopters, you’ll need to educate the rescues and build trust with them that you (the shelter) are doing every bit as good a job, if not better, of screening applicants and ensuring that the right dogs end up in the right homes. Since we all have foster shortages, getting a good placement should the thing we all focus on, regardless of which organization makes it! By working together, rather than against each other, it should be easier.

    FWIW, HSOV has always played very nicely with my group, and I was really impressed with the staff’s compassion when I drove over and pulled a dog from there a few years ago. He ended up adopted by one of our volunteers and is still going at the estimated age of 14 the last I’d heard.

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