Thursday, March 23, 2006

Them's bitin' words

Today's New York Times ran an article on dog rescue (you can read it online for free for the next week), entitled "So You Think You Can Just Adopt a Dog?"

The article starts off with the tale of a woman and her two daughters who were turned down by the Humane Society in their efforts to adopt a dog. (Cue crying children.) They later adopted a dog from the county animal shelter, which apparently had less stringent adoption requirements.

Then the article proceeds to list the "hoops" prospective adopters must jump through to adopt a rescue dog: a multipage application (Gasp!), personal and veterinary references (oh my God!), interviews (No!), and a home visit (You want to what?!!). They compare it to the process of adopting a child.

I know people who have adopted children or are trying to, and the process doesn't take days--it takes months or years. The comparison, which I hear all the time, is an insult to those who have gone through this arduous process.

I spent two hours working on our application to adopt Meadow. One of the questions Greyhound Welfare asked was, "What would be the schedule for a typical day in the life of your dog?" Though time-consuming to answer, it forced me to think, "How will I fit this animal into my routine?" Especially for first-time dog owners, these are important questions to consider.

A dog is not a new piece of furniture. He or she is a living creature with physical and emotional needs. It's our job as temporary caretakers to ensure that the new home will be a permanent one. Rescue dogs have already had a difficult past; we want to know that their future will be better.

That being said, I believe rescue volunteers should remember that in any adoption, there are two parts to the equation: the animal and the adopter. Though the animal's welfare is our responsibility, we shouldn't forget the feelings of the people involved.

Most prospective adopters are well-meaning individuals who just want a nice pet, a companion to love and be loved by. They do not share our obsession with all aspects of animal care. They want their dog to be a member of the family, not a part-time job.

As Stuart Smalley would say, "And that's O-K."

With the families who adopt our fosters, I try to show compassion and understanding, and not make harsh judgments. I try to educate without lecturing. Perhaps my attitude is too laid-back, but I remember what it was like to be on the other end of the adoption process, wondering if every word I said was being dissected and analyzed.

That's all I have time for right now before going to work. Those of you who have adopted rescue dogs and/or cats, what are your feelings and experiences?

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My two cats are the center of my universe and my mom's too. They are our babies. We got the older one from a pet store when she was just 6 weeks old. The youngest we got from a shelter when she was 7 weeks old. Both had been abandoned. The youngest was part of a litter of kittens that had been found by a couple who said someone just left them to behind their tire in the hopes they'd run em over. That's cruelty to the extreme. Thank heavens they found the kittens. They couldn't keep themselves because the husband was allergic to cats, but they did the right thing. All the kittens were adopted.

My eldest cat was just left on the doorstep of a local pet shop. She had a cold at the time too. We brought her home and took care of her, helped her get better. She's now my bedmate. She sleeps between my legs at night. And her name is Pudge because she loves to eat.:-) She's not fat but she is a delightful little pudgeball. I love my cats. They are not pets, they are family. Pure and simple.

Posted by: Blogger Unknown at 3/23/2006 10:43 AM

Both of our greyhounds were adopted through the National Greyhound Adoption Program, one of many well-meaning and effective programs transitioning racers onto couches. I had to fill out lots of paperwork, sign lists of things I promised to do and not to do, provide three personal references- and they called them, asking questions like had I ever actually mentioned wanting to fence my yard- as pay a substantial adoption fee. The whole process took a few weeks.

These dogs come from very poor treatment, and the rescuers want to make sure they're not headed into more poor treatment, resold to research, or worse. They also don't want the dogs returned after two weeks because the people turned out to be unsutible owners or unable to handle the peculiarities of greyhounds.

In the end, I found the process a little invasive and annoying, but I wouldn't change a thing. The agency matched the right dogs to me, and they were worth it.

We also have friends going through the baby adoption process, and my "little invasive and annoying" process positively PALES in comparison to what they have to do and the time it takes to do it. So does the dog version of a "substatial adoption fee." The two processes are in no way on the same level.

Posted by: Blogger Sharon GR at 3/23/2006 3:51 PM

We got our ferrets from Sharon's neighbors. Easy as pie, logistics-wise. The toughest part was fitting all the ferret gear they were giving us into Kathy's Saturn!

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/23/2006 5:48 PM

Knowing a few people who run animal shelters (ferrets and reptiles), I know that their hearts are in the right place when it comes to screening adopters. And, yes, in some cases they do make it harder than it needs to be just to see if you're serious about really wanting this animal and being committed enough to it to follow up.

And though I've never adopted a pet through a shelter or service, these ferrets were definately rescues. Well, stocked and supplied rescues, but rescues nonetheless. Just proves that being willing to throw money at something doesn't mean you really care about it.

Kathy S.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 3/26/2006 7:29 PM

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