shelter make-over

This week I attended the shelter’s BOD meeting, to give my volunteer coordinator report and observe the proceedings. The new Executive Director and new Shelter Manager both gave presentations. The shelter manager reported on the number of adoptions, transfers, and euthanasias — our stats are horrible, frankly, with many adoptions and transfers, and many more euthanasias.

Each week we get 10-50 puppies. If only people would spay or neuter their dogs! Most of the puppies get transferred, but the euthanasias are in the 500 range for dogs, a few more for cats, and it’s only March!  I was appalled. And I was discouraged by the fact that my few successful adoptions, though they saved that ONE dog, did nothing to hold back the tide of puppies created by irresponsible people, and the resulting flood of adult dogs being turned in to the shelter or turned out to survive on their own.

Equally discouraging was the comment by one board member that she’d received a complaining phone call from a local vet and that’s why the shelter’s spay/neuter policy had been cancelled. “Vets don’t want dogs coming straight from the shelter for surgery. They want the new owners to do a wellness appointment and then, 2 weeks later, bring the dog back for surgery.”  Sorry for disagreeing, but these dogs have been wormed and have had their vaccinations and bordatella. They’ve survived 2-3 weeks (or more) at the shelter. Their adopters struggle to come up with $100 for the dog and shots, plus $100 for surgery. Why should they need an additional $100 for the wellness appointment?

And now we’re back to the (largely) useless certificates. Someone suggested that, if the certificates were larger value, that folks would be more interested in cashing them in. So, instead of paying $70-80 for the dog and getting a $25 certificate for a discount on your neutering surgery, the dog should cost $90-100 and adopters would get a $45 certificate for the surgery discount.

It occurred to me, after the meeting, that if they called these REBATES instead of discount certificates, more people would keep track of them and use them.

The new Executive Director talked about his eagerness to get moving with the shelter make-over. He seems to be a real go-getter, so I’m looking forward to his changes. Also, after the meeting I got a chance to talk to him, and I shared my opinion that the shelter should be spear-heading the spay/neuter movement in this county and city, not allowing  local veterinarians to derail our policies because of their clinic policies for other customers. The shelter should be considered a good customer, and we should seek out veterinarians who are willing to care for shelter dogs the way we ask. Any vet unwilling to set aside a surgery appointment and insert a last-minute shelter dog — or unwilling to do surgery on a vaccinated/healthy dog — should be bypassed for another vet who IS willing and interested in working with us.

An interesting sidebar — last November I offered myself as a nominee for the shelter BOD but was told by the one-man nominating committee, “I don’t know you so I’ll not nominate you.”  I explained I’d be volunteering at the shelter and added, “you WILL know me, sometime soon.” Well, after the meeting he made a point of telling me he’d be calling me regarding the 3 board positions needing filled later this year. Also, the board member who reversed the neutering policy because a vet called to complain is due to be replaced this year. Things just get more and more interesting, don’t they?

Bud and I have spent the last 2 days working outdoors, raking leaves away from cottage foundations, making a compost pile, and hauling horse manure. I’ve been so exhausted at the end of the day I’ve been unable to blog and, for that, I apologize. But it has been a bit of therapy, getting out into the sunshine, working on physical labor instead of mental labor.

Between chores I heard from campers and students and was reminded that my next packet of 2-Minute Dog Trainer brochures should include some advanced behavior modification protocols — 1) speeding up a non-confident dog,  2) dealing with fearfulness or nervousness,  3) my “tambourine” handout,  4) my handout for “my dog bites me” and  5) any other solutions we’ve developed over the years. These problem-solving brochures should be especially helpful for instructors. If you have a suggestion for one of these brochures, please be sure to sent it to me (marshahouston@hughes.net).

Today at the shelter I worked mostly with 4 really nice dogs, including 2 great little terrier mixes, and —

1) Farley, the small rottweiler, walked with me and surprised me with his talent. He had, for the last 2 weeks, stood nervously next to me. He could be lured into a sit but not into a down. He was uninterested in my hotdogs. But today I took HAM, and Farley looked at me, looked at the ham, and slammed into a down. He did it so repeatedly and consistently I’ve decided that someone taught him this trick.

2) Susie, the sweetest little purebred black lab, very submissive, wouldn’t walk with me at first. She preferred to lie down and roll on her back. I showed her my ham treats and she said, “well, maybe I can walk a little bit!” By the end of my time with her she was greeting men and schmoozing with potential adopters.

I return tomorrow to take some lucky dog to the pet food store. And I’ll haul a couple of cats as well, probably. Whether or not it’s a drop in the bucket, I’ll keep working to help the few. And I’ll continue to educate folks as to the benefits of neutering.

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