Sunday, June 10, 2012

Animal Rescue

Most of the time, people are very supportive of you when they find out that you do animal rescue of any sort.  Sometimes, people can be negative, which always catches me by surprise.  Why would you oppose animal rescue? 

Probably the worst one was someone taking me to task for doing rescue work because it interfered with the profits of breeders.  Something about if everyone was out there getting free dogs, then they weren't buying dogs.  I'm not even going to pick apart that argument here and now; it's just too easy for anyone over the age of 5 to see the flaws.

Here's some of the more "normal" things that I've heard that portray rescue work in a negative way.

1.  You can never save them all.  I've talked about this one on the blog before.  This is a piss-poor reason to never try to do anything to rescue any animal.  Are dogs and cats still going to die?  Yeah.  But maybe one won't have to die.  And after that one is saved and adopted out, then another one can be saved.  No, I can't save them all.  The shelter and rescue group that I work with can't save them all. And maybe some will die despite our best efforts.  But goddammit, it's better than sitting on your butt and doing NOTHING, because then they will die for sure.

I think that this argument gets brought up a lot by well-meaning people.  They see the huge scope of the problem (millions still euthanized in this country despite all of the rescue efforts) and get overwhelmed by the numbers.  I think the numbers shut people down and they're just not willing to "go there" and think about it, which means that they don't get involved. 

One animal at a time.  That's all that we can do.  

2.  I could never...  I'm not judging anyone for making this argument at all.  I'm in fact "guilty" of doing it.  I don't think that I could ever be a "cat cuddler" at the shelter because it would break my heart.  But I'm sure glad that there are some people that can get past that, because the cats really NEED someone to come in and pay attention to them, to keep them grounded and connected to humans.  To show them love, maybe just enough to get them through their days at the shelter until they can get adopted.

I've heard this argument made about fostering as well, and used to make it myself.  "I could never foster, I'd never want to give any of them up."  I was brought up short last year...  someone who has been involved with fostering for a long time made the argument, "Of course you never want to give them up.  You fall in love with them because you love cats.  But that's the kind of people that we NEED to foster cats (or dogs, but at the time she was talking about cats.)  It would be ridiculous to foster them with someone who didn't love them.  Who wouldn't get their heart broken.  You do it because it's the right thing to do, and give them up so that you can take another equally needy animal in."  I was stunned, and had to admit that I'd never thought of it that way before.  A month after hearing this argument, I started fostering when we took in Patches and Mitchell.  

That said, we all need to know our limits.  We all have busy lives, stressful lives.  We've all got our own problems and heart-breaks and emotional difficulties.  If fostering or working in a shelter or walking dogs is going to cause too much heart-break, then a person needs to take care of themselves.  But those who can, should.  

3.  Someone else will do it...  Actually, this one bothers me quite a bit.  I think it's the apathy that gets to me.  Maybe someone else will do it, but maybe they won't.  I've volunteered to foster a couple of times when there have been zero other takers.  So thinking that someone else will do it is wrong, because they might not.  And a life hangs in the balance.  

Again, we have to know our limits.  There are all kinds of reasons that a person might not be able to rescue or shelter or foster an animal, that they shouldn't feel guilty about it if they genuinely cannot.  I can't take in cats with URIs for fear that Charlotte might get infected.  Even though I know that the need is great. Some people have animals that won't accept fosters, some people are allergic, some people simply don't have the time.  Or space.  Or maybe they've got an apartment and a strict animal limit.  And that's OK.  But if it's apathy that drives that statement, then it's wrong-headed, infuriating, and an altogether inappropriate argument to make to someone wanting to do something good for rescue animals.  I have very little patience for apathy, particularly when I feel like an apathetic person is using the "someone else will do it" argument on me to dissuade me from doing something that I've already decided that I'm willing and able to do.

Those are the three reasons that I have heard most often.  I try to be gracious about it when it comes up.  The person is speaking from their own life and experiences, and may not have a very clear understanding of what rescue work is about and what drives people that do it.  Still, sometimes it's really difficult to not feel very angry at someone who looks at the work that you're doing and either judges that it's not enough, implies that you must not have a heart, or tells you to not try because someone else will do it instead.  Feh.  It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, period.

But on a better note, we had a kitten party at our house yesterday!  Our current foster litter is growing up so fast, and I'm pretty sure that they'll be going back to the shelter really soon to be adopted out.  We rearranged the living room and stuffed blankets and towels under the furniture to block kittens from crawling under,  then turned them loose in the living room.  We had friends come over to hang out with us and hold and snuggle and play with kittens.  

It was a HUGE success, and I can already see an enormous different in the kittens...  they're much more confident around people, seem to like being held and handled more, and magically started eating more.

The above picture is of Rogue, playing with this fantastic feather toy that a guest brought.  It was a fishing pole that you could cast across the room, and reel back to you.  Usually the reeling process was difficult because there would be at least two kittens attached to the "lure."  It was a big hit with the kittens.

This one was admittedly taken prior to the party, but it is absolutely one of my favorites.  Do you think that this should be Storm's "adopt me" picture for the shelter's website?

The same guest that brought the "kitten pole" also brought a bundle of fresh garden-grown catnip with spearmint mixed in, tied with a pretty ribbon.  The kittens were intrigued.  ANNIE came in, however, jumped up onto the table where it was, and started rubbing her head on it and then drooled everywhere.  I do not lie when I say that there was an actual puddle of drool on the table that had to be cleaned off afterward.

And everyone went home, and we finally went to bed...

The next morning, I came back downstairs and saw that the catnip bundle was gone.  I was puzzled, until I looked all the way across the room in the recliner.  Her Majesty gazed back at me, coolly.

Majestic ruler?  Stoned kitty?  You be the judge.
I fell in love with this picture.   I would give a lot to have been down here when she was carrying that bundle across the room and leaping up into the chair with it.  It was hardly disturbed, so she must have been graceful about it.  


  1. This is my absolutely favorite entry of all your blogs. Especially the part about the kitten party and all that followed.

  2. The kitten party sounds a lot like the puppy party that we went to a month or so ago. We had a lot of fun and I think it was very important in their development. There were adults and kids of various ages there, and it was great fun for everyone!

  3. A kitten party - what fun.....

    I loved reading your post. As a rescuer, volunteer, foster, etc it drives me nuts to hear people sometimes (though the one about free dogs and breeders may have sent me around the bend had I heard it in person). Every person can do something!! Volunteer, foster, donate, adopt...whatever you can do. Is it daunting? Sure - but like the starfish story - you can save that one animal in that one moment. :) Keep up the good work!

    And yes, we think that should be Storm's adoption picture.

  4. Oh those pictures! That should without a doubt be Storm's adopt me picture!

    A family member said to me not too long ago "You must make a lot of money fostering dogs" HUH?!!??

  5. What a wonderful and much needed post. My wife and I volunteer at the shelter every week and have been doing so for 23 years combined. Yes, we can't save them all, but we can make a huge difference for so many.

  6. I can't even begin to comment on the bone-headed bit. Let me just say: THE PICTURES!!! THE PICTURES!! Sorry. Feeling a bit simple. But I mean really. People are the pits sometimes.