Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giving up a pet (dog, cat or gerbil)

It happened again, a previously adopted dog has been returned. Their reason? Pistachio is just "too shy". Thank goodness rescues gladly take these dogs back before the "owners" think of other ways to get rid of them, as in passing it off to another family member or dumping it at the nearby shelter. So, this adorable, unbelievably loving, but "just too shy" dog is now back.

Did you know that most dogs are returned/given up within the first few months of their adoption. And, when it comes to the calendar, the month of March is the worst of all. Yes, three short months after all those heart-melting Christmas decisions, the teenage versions of same dogs and cats are brought back in numbers. The reasons are typically the same, ranging from "we are just too busy" to "our kid wouldn't walk/feed/clean up.” All in all, what was the peak of novelty has become a burden, a chore. Luckily, with time, rescues do find all these returnees new homes,  but at a heavy price to regular dogs who happen to find themselves in shelters at the same time. And by regular I mean, a Chihuahua picked up after getting lost and not claimed by its family or a Labrador Retriever, whose heartbroken owner had to suddenly give it up because of deployment. Overfull rescues can't take them in that week/month, so with the adoptions at their lowest, these dogs...perish. If your heart is set on getting a pet this holiday season, please ask yourself what reasons would make you return it. This short pondering will save a life.

When it comes to reasons for give up, being a dog with medical condition is not too favorable either. HART often sees emotionally overwhelmed families asking it to take their animals after vet bills have become so astronomical surrendering dog/cat to the rescue (with its own vet arrangements) is the last resort. Death in the family is another reason the dogs are let go. Earlier, I wrote about Tobe, the Spaniel mix, who found himself passed from one family member to the other until he found me. His owner wouldn't have dreamed of giving him up, but after she passed away of a terminal illness, Tobe was left in the care of her son, who after months of trying to find him a home finally brought it to HART.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crowd-healing or how to introduce your foster to family pets

Having now fostered over 70 dogs, with animals of my own, I sometimes wonder why they usually get along and if they really do?


To a pack animal like a dog, fitting into the new environment or group must be just a stressful as the first day of school is to the average human. Only, unlike us, dogs have centuries of built in “shortcuts” to rely on in order to ease them along the process. I see them use them first hand, so I’ll share my findings with you below.

First, find out their history. Let’s take my most recent foster, Tippie. Her story is a simple one, but it will help explain her state of mind. Only 3 years old, she came to be rescued from a high kill shelter on the border of Virginia with Tennessee. A gorgeous miniature dachshund, with soulful eyes and a string of bad luck that almost got her killed, she must have gotten her start as a well-loved puppy. You can usually tell if a dog has “good” manners underneath their gruff and scared exterior. After she got handed from one friend or family member to another, a couple in their 80s finally dumped her up for the last time. Discarded and covered in fleas, Tippie arrived in Northern Virginia shaking and not knowing who to trust. On one hand, people constantly petted, touched and handled her, on the other - none of them wanted her for their families. And since any dog’s underlying drive in life is to belong – her insecurities flared up, driving her to forgot how to even relax.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A tax man cometh or what to deduct on your return

April 15th is just around the corner, which if you're a foster means it’s time to get your tax paperwork together. That’s right, over the course of the year, as you feed, clothe and buy bedding for your foster pooches and felines - you accumulate a small mountain of receipts in the process. If the rescue organization you foster for is officially recognized by the IRS as a Charitable Organization (you can easily find out by searching for it on the IRS' website) you get to add up all your numerous expenditures and deduct them as cash contributions on your tax return. See? Your government wants you to foster. Here’s what you can deduct:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What to do when your dog growls, eats shoes and flies on private planes

Meet my newest foster. Brownie is a one year old beagle and dachshund mix. Saved from a certain death, Brownie arrived to me on a small Cessna plane only hours after receiving his death sentence. This kid was lucky. A private organization called Pilots and Paws arranged for about 300 scared, shivering and completely unsure of who to trust dogs, to be flown in small groups from several high-kill shelters in North Carolina to rescues organizations in Northern Virginia. Brownie was one of fourteen taken in by HART, but unlike others on this life saving trip, he arrived without any written history as to how he ended up at the shelter. Not knowing what to expect, I took the little guy home to find out.

First thing I discovered: he is a growler. His upper lip would

Friday, December 7, 2012

Adopting an older dog or how Ms. Precious learned new tricks

The "Before"
What is age, be it in human or dog terms? A collection of remembered experiences? A slow accumulation of knowledge accompanied by a similarly slow dissipation of good looks? Why do we, humans, hold to a stubborn belief that older means less fun, beautiful, clever or worthy of chances we so easily afford the young? A couple of years ago, I happened to take in an 8 year old white Shitzu dog named Precious. She had already lived with several fosters and arrived with a myriad of instructions for her severe skin allergies that put her in a shelter in the first place, literally half naked. The foster girl before me took such excellent care of her skin that Precious was once again fully furry, but despite her improved appearance all she wanted to do is hide from people. Needless to say, this did not make her an adoption day magnet, until one Saturday a lady called Maria came in saying she wanted her and nobody else. After successfully adopting Precious she kept in touch, sending regular updates. My reasons for preferring older dogs are numerous, but I thought Maria’s own words would speak better to the mystery and special joy of adopting one. Here's Maria’s gorgeous letter:

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