Teacher’s Pet is a program designed to provide training to hard to adopt shelter dogs and we have done so, with the help of our youth trainers, for eight years. But one of the downsides of working with the hard to adopt dogs is the fact that they are hard to adopt dogs. Sometimes, in spite of their excellent training, great in-home skills, eagerness to be loved and scratched behind the ears, longing to have a cozy bed of their own, they still struggle to find someone willing to give them a chance. The reputation of their breeds have been tarnished (by humans), they are not deemed “attractive” enough (by humans) or they are not ‘young enough’ (by human standards).
What this means is that sometimes, our basic obedience trained, face licking, butt wagging friends sit in the shelter for months after graduation. We do what we can and we will keep bringing the dogs to our facilities to ensure their training is maintained and provide them the mental and emotional stimulation that they need, we pull dogs and board them with our doggie day care friends, but that is not always enough. Shelter life is hard on dogs.
The constant buzz of the fluorescent lights echoes in their ears all day and night, laying on the cement floor causes callouses on their limbs and the incessant barking overstimulates them. I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who would want this for any dog. We see every day in our inboxes, our message boards, facebook posts, texts and phone calls for help for these dogs. Compassionate people beg for others to help these dogs. The problem, however, comes in that the few people who are able to step up and take these dogs in have already taken in multiple dogs, difficult dogs. What we need is for NEW people to open their homes for dogs in need.
What? Oh I could never foster? It’s too painful? I would never be able to give them up? My life is too crazy to foster dogs? Yes…all of these are or may be true. But this doesn’t help our dogs. It is painful to give them up. But it is also highly rewarding to see the excitement of the new family about to take in a beautiful addition to their home. It is difficult to manage a family, a job, school, life when you have dogs…foster dogs. But it is not impossible. Some people only take in small dogs, or puppies, or dogs that get along with their dogs or convert their basement to a comfortable, temporary home. Or maybe fostering is absolutely not an option, but donating money, food, treats, crates, etc. is helpful. It is not cheap for rescues with fosters to care for dogs and most use their own money to provide the necessary care.
The sheer number of requests to take in pit bulls, pit mixes, dogs who can only be with female dogs, dogs who dislike men, dogs who need homes without children, dogs who have not been properly socialized, dogs who’ve been abandoned and come with baggage is overwhelming. There was a dog in an abandoned home in Detroit who had lived in social isolation for eight long, boring, scary, lonely months. Facebook literally had thousands of messages and cries of outrage for this dog, pleas to rescue groups who are already bulging at the seams, tones of frustration that no one would help this poor, disheveled, flea-infested dog. But that’s the irony.
Thousands of people screaming, begging for OTHER people to help. I know, I know. Right about now, many of those reading who are not able to foster are cursing at me, are making statements resembling ‘what do I know?’ ‘I don’t know how busy their lives are,” “how dare I make judgments like these…” and I get it. Having 5 dogs, a family, 2 jobs, and a non profit is taxing and at times I want to give it up all and move to Montana. I can assure you that I am not judging anyone. At all. I needed to vent a little and I guess, I am hoping that this might encourage readers to ask themselves what CAN they do?
Can you provide a bag of dog food to the rescues…particularly the smaller, struggling rescues? Can you give away your dogs’ crates that they’ve outgrown? Can you take in a dog once a year? Can you suggest to friends and family that they adopt rather than go to a breeder or pet store? Can you volunteer at the shelter to get the dogs out of their kennels for a while? Rather than being angry at others for not taking a stance…can we work together toward finding solutions? Thank you for the chance to vent and thank you for your compassion and desire to make life for dogs a little better.