I think I've figured out my retirement: I'm going to be one of those people who rescues abandoned dogs and then makes you feel guilty if you aren't one of us.
Today I woke up to this on Facebook and I have to admit, I'm struggling trying to shake it off. By the time you read it, it's likely that all 28 of these pretty kitties will have been put to sleep.
In a brilliant move that shows a keen understanding of the core principles of both Catholic and Jewish guilt, a New York City shelter posted photos of every cat it intended to euthanize that day. It worked on me (see my FB share and comment) and I am hoping it worked on others -- specifically 28 others in the greater Manhattan area.
I have two rescue dogs at home, and both the two before them and the two before those were also from shelters or rescue groups. I have never bought a dog from a breeder or pet shop. My husband says he knows when I'm scratching the rescue itch because I start checking Petfinder.com on my iPad every night. I call him over to look at the sweet faces and tell him the stories behind why they all look so sad now.
Frankly, people who abandon their pets sicken me. In some ways, they are worse than people who abandon kids because if you abandon your kid, we arrest you and if you abandon your 12 year old dog, we bite our tongues and let you believe you are still a nice person. You are not. Sometimes, dog rescuers tell me, people turning in their pets think it's an act of generosity when they donate the unused open bag of dog food too. Let me just say, I don't think you are a nice person -- not even when you throw in the dog food as part of the deal to ease your conscience.
Rescuers tell me that the people who they really can't stand are the ones who move away and just leave the dog tied up in the yard with no food or water, or trapped in the abandoned house. Despite words of Facebook wisdom, I'm just not prepared to forgive them because of the struggles they have that I don't know about. I hate them, am totally comfortable hating them, and think they should be charged with attempted murder because that's what they are doing to animals who were loyal and loved them.
I know the recession forced many people from their homes. I know they moved to many places that wouldn't let them bring their pets. To those landlords who won't rent to people with pets, I say: May karma catch up with you one day and rip out your heart and feed it to hungry jungle animals. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I've got photos of 28 cats stuck in my head.
And while I'm on a tirade here, let me address those of you who can only bring home puppies from breeders. On the way home, please keep this thought in your head: You just killed a shelter dog, possibly one of the same breed you just spent $1,500 on. And if you think shelter dogs all have "issues," let's talk after the little puppy chews up your shoes, pees on the rug and keeps pulling on the leash even though you do everything exactly the way the trainer says. Shelters are filled with dogs that people like you couldn't train.
Shelters are filled with dogs, period. The Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. I live in Los Angeles and I actually thought those were the numbers for my city's shelters alone; it sure seems that way.
When it comes to adopting dogs from shelters, my favorite problem dog is the one people turn in (or refuse to bail out) who keeps getting out of their yard. We adopted two such dogs who were categorized as "escape artists" and everyone up and down the shelter/rescue food chain wanted to know how high our fence was. We don't have a fence. What we have is a life that involves our dogs so fully that they don't want to go anywhere; show me an escape artist and I'll show you a bored dog left alone for hours. What we also have is a trainer who trains us as well as the dog. And we are vigilant -- our kids are vigilant too -- about not letting an untrained dog off leash, even in our backyard, until we know he won't go anywhere. It takes a few months before we create Velcro dogs, but even the two escape artists went Velcro on us.
Every one of our rescues came with a few issues. We have had counter-surfers, barkers, fear-nippers, loud noise phobics, one dog with separation anxieties, and another who was food aggressive. We worked on all of them. Are my dogs perfect? They are perfect for us.
And now if I could just know the 28 kitties were saved...
Readers, please tell us about your rescue dog in the comments below.
Sandy Zalagens with Big Louie.
Big Louie with his co-tenant cat.
Tenant Jessie McElwee with Big Louie.
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