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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Animal Adoption Pros and Cons

I have a long and glorious tradition with animal safety.  I have always had a dog, with the exception of the 3 years after my dog Ragnar died.  I have sometimes had cats.  I have always had a cat in the past 17 years.  With the exception of Whistler, who ran off to a better home down the street (the cat picks you) I've had most of my pets nearly their entire lives.

We adopted our first dog, a White GSD, King, shortly after our son died.  I just happened to see the ad in the paper for "free to a good home" and "based on current owner approval".  I visited the dog, so did my husband the next day and in a week we had won the lottery.  Evidently a lot of people visited King, who had unreal stranger anxiety, and never really bothered to try to communicate with the dog in terms he could understand.  King attached himself to our youngest daughter, Jasmine, and became friends with our other GSD, Sasha.  King made Lassie look fickle when it came to Jasmine.  He would howl after she left for school, and would camp out at the door ten minutes before she was due home. God forbid she stay after school or go to a friend's house.  He would be inconsolable.  We got King when he was 7 (so was Jasmine) and he died when he was 13, shortly after we moved into our new house.  Jasmine was inconsolable.

Zeus after his last runner

After our GSD Sasha died my sister-in-law found a German Shepherd running loose on her land out in the wilds of Bosque County, Texas.  She called my husband who said he couldn't take him.  I had had a dream the day before that I had called the breeders of Sasha to see if they had any more litters and that we had picked out a male this time.  The GSD in question was a male, I took it as a sign.  We drove an hour out to her place and picked up the dog who was immediately named Zeus, due to his thundering bark.  He had a lop ear and was obviously used to being outdoors. And, sadly as we came to discover, had been physically abused.  We got him to the vet immediately, got him de-wormed, and his shots, but for some reason, I think it was the worming treatment time (over several weeks if no months) we did not schedule his neutering.  He kept getting out.  The local Animal Control guy got used to our calls and would either call us if he was sighted and we'd go grab him and bring him back or, on two occasions, bring him to us.  He was scheduled for the neutering, and the day before the appointment he climbed out over the wisteria on your fence. We found him that afternoon and brought him home. First thing the next morning he was fixed. He associated these two events and has never, left the yard without permission ever since.  That was over 3 years ago and our running mutt has been the best teacher of boundaries yet.

Gimli sleeping

A few days after last Christmas my husband drove me to the office and there was an orange tabby kitten outside the door.  It was freezing (literally) out, wet and there was something wrong with its eyes.  I picked the beast up, put him in my husband's truck and told him to take it home, feed it, clean it and make a vet appointment.  I also told him the cat would be named piano, since he'd promised me a piano in lieu of a cat the year before.  Gimli, as we named him, had bronchitis, was severely malnourished and had an eye infection that the vet thought might be feline herpes.  He also had healing broken bones.  My heart absolutely broke when my husband called to tell me what the vet had told him.  We spent thousands of dollars getting him well.  He was four months old, but about as big as n 8 week old kitten.  His eyes, which almost constantly water, had been frozen open.  I still nearly burst into tears when I think of his condition when we found him.  He's now fat, neutered and the naughtiest of all cats or kittens.  He's love beyond the bounds of sanity by everyone in the house, including the dogs.  Well, Mika... Mika likes him as much as she can like another cat which means she only hates him a little bit.

Just before my birthday this year I saw some stories about a dog in a local park that the Waco Animal Control had been trying to catch for 2 years.  He was the last of a wild dog pack that had been running in the area of Cameron Park.  They had finally gotten him.  He was extremely skittish and to say he has issues with humans is grossly under-reporting his neuroses.  But when you consider the dog was probably chased a lot, you may understand his wish to just be left alone.  I went up to the shelter and brought my dog Zeus with me.  Zeus is a big, dumb, goofy dog, but he's a great ambassador for human-dog relations.  Apollo sniffed a couple of times at Zeus but there was no doggie play or interaction.  The next day I took Sam and Schaub up, as they are very calm-submissive and I wanted to see their energy in play with Apollo's.  It was a good visit and Apollo even took some treats for me.  My husband came up to see him as well and we decided to adopt him.  For my husband it was his desire to have a wolf, and Apollo looks very wolf-like, but is, in fact a Husky mix of some kind. For all I know he could ba a hybrid, but without genetic testing he's just a dog to me and the city in which I live.

Apollo with Ron Ostrom of the City of Waco Parks Department
 Apollo has been our most difficult rescue to date.  He constantly escaped or attempted to escape at first.  The last time he jumped the fence I was in the front yard and he just came and led me back inside.  To realize how amazing this is you have to know how hard he has been about integrating within the pack.

He has always treated our other dogs as if they were suffering Stockholm Syndrome or cult brainwashing.  He looked at them as I imagine POWs look at collaborators.  He didn't trust them, thinking they had sold out and was constantly looking for a way out.  After Sam died right in front of him, he became very withdrawn, to the point where I was seriously worried.  Turns out it was because he was so very sick.  He had Sarcoptic Mange and a staph infection due to all the scratching and he was severly underweight. He also has Stage 2 Heartworms.  It really hampered the vet when treating the mange, so, what normally took a few weeks, took 2 months to cure.  It also didn't help that Apollo had gained enough weight so that the antibiotics for the staph were nearly ineffective.  We got hold of the staph just by increasing the dose of antibiotics and continued with his horrible sulphur baths.  But then came the diagnoses that he was clear and we could begin to treat the heartworms.  He's healthy, gained weight back plus some now, and we're on track. Also, thousand of dollars in care so far with thousands more predicted.  This is not a cheap "hobby".

But, here's the thing, he's accepted the dogs, and is now truly a member of the pack, even though he and Zeus constantly jockey for beta position.
Zeus and Apollo fighting for superiority
  But, he refuses to accept the men in the house as being part of the pack.  He's afraid of them and become extremely anxious when they come near "his" spaces. We thought, at first he was growling because of me, but his spaces and my spaces are nearly almost always the same since he is glued to me inside the house. The men of my household are typical men and got all butt hurt and whined about a dog not liking them.  Oh Boo-freakin-hoo! The dog spent most of his life (all for all we really know) being chased around a park by young men who were either trying to catch him or throwing things at him, all the while, screaming and yelling at him.  What kind of complex would have with the male of the human species after years of that?  Now, men think they invented reason and the universe, their inability to accept my theory as to why the dog is leery of them is proof positive that they would still be living in caves eating raw lima beans if not for women.  Also, the fact that they totally abdicated all care of the animal to me once in the house is also proof that perhaps there should be a bounty on them.  I care for him, so naturally he loves me.  I give him food!

For all that being said, I will most likely continue to "find" animals that need a good home and attempt to care for them as best I can.  Only if I can afford it.  That's my line in the sand.  It's why I'm not a Crazy Cat Lady.  I can stand the two cats I have.  I love the three dogs in my home.  My youngest son is currently looking to rent a home or duplex with a fenced backyard so that he can take his Beagle Schaub into a good home environment.  He's also told me that if he finds the right place he wants to take Zeus with him.  I'm OK with that because I know that Zeus loves Schaub and Clint, in that order.  If I truly though Clint would let them out back and only remember them when a neighbor reported the smell of decomp, then I'd say, leave them here.  But, Clint loves both dogs so much.  I care for them via feeding, bathing, shots, etc., and I'm pretty sure I can nag Clint into that as well. Clint needs something to care for. Call it therapy if you will. Also, he knows he can bring the mutts over here if the weather is bad or it's too hot or cold to leave them out.  I'm a sucker.

When that time comes I will have to consider getting another dog because Apollo is very much a pack animal and too playful to stay in the backyard when bored. Again I will look to a local animal shelter.  Not because of any unearned moral superiority, but that's because that's where the dogs who need good homes are.  I will most likely get another large breed dog or mix because that is what I'm used to.  But basically, I will pay my $50 and get another dog. Because, that's basically all you have to do at the local shelter.  At least that is what I thought until I went to look at Apollo.

Apollo had a little local celebrity going on and so many people came up to the shelter just to look at him. The first day I went to meet him, no less than five people walked up to the enclosure inquiring about him.  They would just come and look at him and perhaps regale me with a story of how they once thought they saw his tail at the park.  So are you going to adopt him?  I asked.  Oh, no, I just came up here to see him.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! Same thing with a woman who came up and said she set him loose in Cameron Park to begin with.  Shelter volunteers asked if she wanted to adopt him.  No, she just wanted to see him again.

Holy Hannah on a swizzle stick, people!  REALLY?

Then on the second day of my visits I talked to the shelter staff.  They said that mine was the only application they were considering because I appeared to be the only "serious" contender.  I did and still do find that nearly impossible to believe. I changed his name from the one the local paper and the shelter gave him.  I spoke with one reporter after we got him, Stephanie Butts, at the Waco Trib was great.  She was also great in helping us get him back after his first big prison breakout.

If you seriously want to give an animal a good home, look at your local shelter.  If you're not serious but feel you need to do something, donate to your local shelter.  Buy food or blankets, dog dishes, leashes, collars... ANYTHING that helps their bottom line and may help them become that beacon on the hill, A No Kill Shelter. Sponsor an adoption for people that want an animal but that $50 may be the difference between groceries that week. (But seriously, if you can't afford that $50 adoption fee, you can't afford the animal, just sayin').  It's all tax deductible. If you can't have a pet where you are, but need your animal contact fix, volunteer at a shelter.

Now, let me say this, and this is the most sincere you will find me on just about any subject.  DO NOT ADOPT unless you really mean forever for that animal.  The park where Apollo lived is a drop off point for so many unwanted animals.  Some still have their cute little collars on them when they are picked up.  (I look at the pictures folks, I always look). It breaks my heart.  Those dogs were in a family where they loved people and people did this to them.  Trust broken in that manner is very hard to win back, which is why so many dogs are taken back to the shelter.

Pets are not vanity or status symbols.  Stop it. Stop it now.  When that puppy or kitten grows up and it no longer so cute and the messes ickier to clean up, then tossed into a garbage dumpster or left on a country road or parking lot is where they end up. Then picked up by animal control and if not found or adopted, they are put to sleep.

Get your animals neutered.  For the love of GOD!  How stupid do you have to be to not get this?  Why on earth do they do free feral neutering?  Do you honestly think the world needs more mutts or kittens no one wants?

Now, I shall touch the third rail of pet ownership.  GET THEY PET MICRO-CHIPPED!  In every municipality in my county they require proof of rabies vaccination, neutering and micro-chipping before you can get a license for your pet.  If your pet is not out there recklessly making more unwanted pets, then they can easily get them back home to you with a simple scan over the neck once they are picked up.  Many times, especially if your pet is not a frequent flier, they will bring your pet back to you.  I know, from personal experience, our local animal control used a rabies tag number to track down the owner who lived a street over from me.  One of them had learned to open her front door that morning.  But she got her animals back and they were very relieved.

The city does have the right to tell you to get your dog fixed when they are forced to increase expenditures every single year because of irresponsible pet breeding.  If you're not breeding pedigree dogs then your pet should be neutered.  It's best for them because if they're not fixed they spend in inordinate amount of time trying to breed and then they don't live as long, and aren't they already with us such a short time as it is?  Our local shelter made a rule that the cities had to mandate micro-chipping as an easy way to return pets to their owners so that the shelters did not become over-crowded and family pets euthanized as a result.  The city I live in began mandating that this year, it was the last in our county to do so.  I can see every reason for it.  There is not reason not to do it.  You can find clinics just about any weekend in any area with low fee (usually around $10) chipping, then you pay a service to keep your pet registered.  I registered Apollo for a lifetime for just $40, but it's worth it to me.  I know that if Apollo ever gets the need to try to wander again, that, if he's found, I will get him back.

If you just don't give a shit and can barely care for yourself much less another being, then perhaps you should just buy a goldfish or beta and watch it die.  Don't get a dog to just throw it in the backyard thinking it will protect your home.  What kind of fucktarded asshat would do shit like that? Surely no one in East Waco, right?  Right?

Don't breed what you can't feed goes for pets as well as spawn.  Whether through circumstances or malignant narcissism, just don't do it. When you can take care of you, then you can take care of an animal.

We have a responsibility to these animals that we have domesticated and made dependent upon us for their food and shelter.  They pay us back with so much love and loyalty it really does humble me to think about it.  Sure, it's cute as a puppy (as my neighbor's son is now discovering) and then it grows into a big animal that you still have to feed and walk and get shots for and have fixed.  They are not inexpensive.  Neither are kids.  If you can't afford another kid you can't afford a dog. Dogs require just a much attention as human children.  They need to be fed, cleaned, played with and just loved.  If you cannot afford the food, don't get the dog.  If you can't afford the shots or basic vet care, do not get the animal.  If you think irresponsible breeding of your animal is cute but never know what to do with the puppies or kittens except guilt co-workers into taking them (and then they abandon them) then perhaps a firing squad should be in your future.  If you balk at paying for the chipping and registration of your pet so that they don't get lost and then euthanized, then perhaps not even a goldfish is for you.

I have a follower on Apollo's Facebook page who does not get my approach to pet adoption.  I'm a big supporter of pet adoption, but only to people who seriously get what having a animal companion is about. Like the people who came up just to look at Apollo at the shelter, to get some backwash off the shine of his "celebrity" and the ones who just wanted to adopt the "famous dog".  It's why I was not happy with the animal shelter giving Stephanie Butts my contact information.  But I realized good PR for Apollo was good PR for the shelter. And Stephanie was great to talk to.  She'll be a great reporter in the right market.

So I want people to adopt animals, but I want them to be smart about it.  First thing we have to do is reduce the number of domesticated animals being bred outside of homes.  Feral programs are finally starting to show some good results, but it's an endless cycle because human being are irresponsible or try to attribute animals with human feeling and conditions.  So I suggest to ANYONE who wants to buy or adopt any animal that they first have to volunteer at a local shelter for one week.  No classes, just for say, 8 hours within a week, the shelter signs off and then you can legally adopt an animal.  Because if you can ignore, neglect, or abandon your animal after that short of a time spent there, then you should be shot as soon as you're identified.  Or at least euthanized like the animal you left to die.  You're inhuman and don't deserve to waste our precious oxygen.

Here endeth the lesson.  Adopt, but do it responsibly.  Just like everything else in life.

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