Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 20 February 2006 Issue
Adopt A Shelter Pet
Millions of sweet animals are euthanized every year, relinquished by people who promised to provide for them throughout their lives. When you adopt an animal at a shelter, you sign a contract to that effect. The vow is understood when paperwork isn't involved and you plunk down your money.
You shouldn't be tossing your pet at every bump in the road. You fawn over your family, service your car, take your clothes to the cleaners -- why would anyone think that pets don't require investment? Every pet provides challenges -- tackling them hones your problem-solving skills and strengthens the bond between you.
Giving of yourself to save an animal is spiritually uplifting and brings you closer to the Divine.
Most shelter returns come with an accusation of misbehavior, said Alyssa. Daisy was accused of chewing. Dogs do chew. Another pooch was brought back after two years -- for pottying in the house. Guilty or not, I hear the same songs every day from people who want to lighten their load.
Not the animal's fault
``The No. 1 reason people get rid of animals, the truth is usually this animal is a pain and they can't deal with it anymore,'' said animal behavior consultant Ken McCort of Doylestown. ``It's not the animal's fault.
``A lot of times when people want to re-home a pet, it's a behavior problem,'' he said. ``If the dog is well-behaved, a friend or neighbor will want it. Owners need to be honest with whoever gets the animal about what the problems are. If they don't know what they're dealing with, it becomes a vicious cycle until somebody is willing to fix the problem.''
In that case, you have three options, said McCort: Fix the problem, find someone else who will fix it, or if the animal is dangerous, put it down.
``People who are really good at re-homing animals work through the problems with positive means,'' said McCort. ``When the dog is relocated, the behavior change must go with him.''
That means training and practice, after a thorough going-over by the vet to make sure there are no physical issues. Affordable training is available at PetsMart (330-922-4114) and local breed clubs, such as All-Breed Training Club of Akron (330-630-0418). Pet owners can read up on the topic at their local library or even ask the neighborhood shelter for support.
Rescue workers will usually warn prospective families when an animal has a dark history. I adopted my sheltie-border collie mutt Emily from the Humane Society of Greater Akron in 2000. The adoption counselor warned me she had been returned for biting her previous benefactor. I pooh-poohed the incident, but Emily did have issues. A trainer helped us through the adjustment period, a couple of months, worth every inch of effort. Forgive the cliche, but my dog is my best friend.
``A really good shelter usually finds out what the problems are and deals with them'' before they go home with anyone, said McCort. Most hills are climbable.
The Internet should not be overlooked as a troubleshooting resource. If you don't have a computer, hit the library. The Humane Society of the U.S. (www.hsus.org) gives good advice on common pet behavior problems and issues, including renting and allergies.
How to find a new home
If you have absolutely no choice, here's how to find a new home for your animal.
• Know that finding a good home for your pet will be a project that could take many months. Take your time and don't settle for second best. This decision will be part of your personal legacy, your karma.
• Call the shelters to see if room is available, but keep in mind you probably won't get a yes. If you do, your pet may be warehoused indefinitely because of overpopulation. It might be better to shoulder the burden yourself.
• Think about what type of environment your animal would do best in and place him in that type of a home, said Darcy Fiocca, also of Paws and Prayers. She adopted her baby boy, Eddie, from Guatemala, and her dog Fonzie from a shelter. Dogs and babies are doable, she said. If your pet is nervous around children, don't send it to a home with kids.
• Talk to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, relatives and church associates. Explain the animal's foibles as well as endearments. Flash photos.
• Place notices on bulletin boards in veterinarian offices and in shelters. Place an ad in the newspaper. Do NOT give the animal free. People value what they pay for, and organizers of dog fights have been known to pick up animals this way.
• Anticipate hurdles. Your goal is to make the new home stick.
• Consider seniors who might not be able to afford a pet, but are up to the task. A subsidy could work like a charm.
• Reconsider this decision. Pets bestow a sense of well-being and belonging to adults and kids alike.
When Daisy feasted her eyes on Alyssa once again, she looked like the happiest dog in the world, she said.
Readers will find a description of Daisy on the Internet at www.petfinder.org ; click on rescues, then Paws and Prayers,
``She has a lot of love and trust. She'll transfer that love to her new family,'' said Alyssa.
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