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|Get your mind out of the gutter; this isn’t one of the sexiest Pub Pages that I have written, but maybe one of my personal favs (or favorite topics anyway).|
This is about “The Freakish Foster Fail” that led to a Surprisingly Serendipitous Solution.
I was casually chatting with a friend yesterday and man, I wished I could’ve captured the words on my iPhone because our conversation was the highlight of my day! We discovered we both have this perfectly underscored passion for furry things that breathe. Yes, they pant, poop, and need maintenance too, but they are the epitome of LOVE. Basically, my pal and I were talking about this:
As humans, we are intrinsically wired to feel superior to animals. We tenaciously teach and train them to be the way we want them to be, right? But I believe that G-d sent them to us for a purpose, (more than something to control) that is beyond what some people expect. They are not robots; they are not perfect. But they are perfect to me, and hopefully after reading this story, a growing number of others.
Maybe if we could open our minds to trust and love one another in human relationships, the way animals do for us, what a better place the world would be. Reimagine this world, with this kind of sentiment within us. We were given animals to add to our families as a gift, a perk to life, and I believe they are here to teach us love, trust and loyalty. THE RIGHT WAY. THE FOREVER WAY.
I’m on to something, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that therapists and life coaches are not able to help us flawed humans. But dammit, if everyone knew what I knew about animal love, maybe they would save a bit of time and money trying to find a human to teach him or her!
The TAIL Wags Both Ways
It is obvious. Animals such as dogs and horses get us off the couch for a walk or a ride, and are great for our physical health. In fact, if you are like me, needing to walk six (dogs), you’re getting in more steps than the average goal of ten thousand per day!
But take a serious look at the mental and emotional side of having and loving your pet:
See what I mean? If that was the worst offense that humans did to each other, there’s no doubt that our world would be happily harmonious with FAR fewer break-ups!
Oftentimes, a growl, escalating to a nip/bite, is a sign that humans are not realizing or learning a dog’s language, fears or insecurities. Yes, it takes time. There is not usually that instant gratification that humans seem to expect with animals.
When it comes to blending a dog into your home, just remember: there are these scary, little noisy things called children, as well as other pets of all sizes and species whom your newly acquired pet needs a chance to learn about. But, if done with a proper “slow intro” (as it’s called), we can set them up for success, rather than failure. Give them their spot in our life – to TEACH US! Perhaps
gained also is that we teach kids, our spouses, neighbors, friends, and ourselves the very definition of communication.
My personal practice of rescuing is not like many other typical rescue missions I have found. I volunteered at WAGS Animal Rescue and fell in love with fostering dogs for them. I hopped in and helped a few times when a “transport” arrived. About fifty dogs or so would be trucked from down South to the Bucks County area to be fostered and adopted. It pained me to watch one by one, a terrified, lost, broken, and deflated dog be unloaded from the truck, crate by crate. They each had undertaken a long journey that had left them with little more than pee and poop crusted under their paws by now. Yet, they are trusting us that what is to come will be better than what has been.
Each of these experiences was a crazy whirlwind – both emotionally and physically draining. But who could resist being around positive, loving people who stop at nothing to save dogs? Well, I knew I had to be part of that, the animal-rescue world, in some shape or form. It’s just in my DNA and always has been, always will be. And those who know me “get it” and expect it. Pull up in my driveway and you get a quick reminder if you forgot. “The crew” is a unique welcome and I dare anyone with anything but good intentions to try to approach my front door. To me, it’s a chorus, a symphony of sounds. But I understand to most, it’s likely noisy, annoying, and maybe terrifying. Six barks, some with no doubt a Southern twang, they are beautifully individual and expressing their love and protection of their new and forever home. Give them a chance: you’ll fall in love with them maybe as much as they will love you.
Back to the animal-rescue world and what I learned. Unfortunately, a hideous and ominous reality exists that looks like this: dogs are often either found roaming, perhaps neglected, abused, or abandoned, or just owner-surrendered (dumped!) at shelters for whatever reason. It’s absolutely devastating and traumatizing to witness, not to mention hell on the animals. They are often near the end of their rope: unkempt, shaken, and visibly forlorn. Many kennels are eerily loud and pretty scary, not to mention ghastly to animals who have no clue about what’s happening around them. Shelters do their best, but “overwhelmed” is a word that understates reality. Covid-19 has made the situation even worse!
Some animals are made available to the public if deemed “adoptable.” But then there are the “others,” who are viewed as too old, too aggressive, not “dog-friendly,” or not adoptable in their condition. Sigh. This is where most of my family dogs have come from. They were saved by the bell – a rescue stepped up, took my dogs, and gave them a chance to a new life.
You see, rescues scramble to “pull” dogs that they want to take on within their organization and efforts, in hopes of saving them. The lucky rescues have amazing foster families that then take the dogs in and help start the decompression phase, helping sad canines relearn concepts of trust and love. During this journey, potential adopters are introduced to the foster dogs and eventually a match is made. Great – I love and support it and it works!
Sadly, however, remember that there exists a very gray area embedded in this process – a morbid, black-hat practice in which a dog housed in a kennel gets “labeled.” There are kill shelters and no-kill shelters. This means that the dog’s fate is grim, especially if it was dropped off at a kill shelter. The dog could be euthanized due to medical or behavioral issues or worse, simply from overcrowding. No room and too many dumps that week are two things I can’t stand to hear!
It’s a circumstantial situation. Then, the mad rush to find a rescue to “pull” this particular animal commences. Often, the rescues need to locate additional prospects available for foster, as all the ones they have are already on overload with other fosters they are tending to, or a certain dog needs an appropriate owner who can “handle” this type of animal in need. Unfortunately, by the time the rescue is matched with an appropriate foster, it’s too late – the dog has already been put down, and precious, borrowed time has expired. Can you imagine if this practice was normalized for people? OMG!
I have a sensitive spot for this saved-in-the-nick-of time scenario. Astonishingly, it nearly happened to my beloved girl, Stella, my undeniable soul mate. I’ve had this gorgeous Pit Bull for a year now, and I’m still deeply rattled when I think about the idea that she was being put down the very day that I was asked to pick her up for a rescue. All I can say is that the stars lined up, and it was love at first sight – NOT bite as they had warned me it would be. All she needed was to get the heck out of the shelter and feel true security and affection. Together, we worked through the challenging early days and never looked back. I was marked as her official foster mom, but admittedly I was a complete foster FAIL. I adopted Stella and she joined my family instead. I couldn’t part with her, or she with me. Period. So we remained attached at the hip – um, do dogs have hips?
Another of my girls, Sweet Pea, lived six long years in a no-kill shelter. She was kept alive, but she sort of fell through the circumstantial cracks. No walks, no grass, no human touch, and no baths, because she wouldn’t allow them from the caring humans who rescued her. The shelter handlers loved and adored her (and all of their dogs), but the facility is constantly overwhelmed. Honestly, the difficult ones are not a priority as there are only so many hours in a day. No rescues took on Sweet Pea. Prospects came and went. All it took for me was overhearing a caregiver say, “Oh, yeah, Sweet Pea: she is one that will likely live out her entire life and final days here at the kennel; no one will take her.” In true Jami fashion, I couldn’t get my hands on that precious baby fast enough. My exact words were, “Find a way to get her into a crate and I will do the rest.” About three weeks later, BAM – I got the call. Handlers indeed managed to get her lovingly confined to a crate and into a car. They were delivering her from Georgia and she’d be here in a few hours! WOOT-WOOT! Soon I’d be in doggie-mama heaven again.
And yes, I am in love once more – deeply.
Reciprocal Adoration Day and Night
These days I wake up extra early and have my coffee with all six dogs by the fire. Oh, and did I mention that we all sleep in bed together? I swear they are all creatures of habit. Everyone has his or her exact spot – I’m talkin’ precise latitude and longitude positioning. It’s absolutely precious. And they all “take a ride” with me every day too to run my errands, if even for a brief one. They don’t care! They just want to be included. Lately, they have been delivering PhillyFIT Magazines with me: anyone drive for a living? Try bringing your buddy (or buddies in my case) with you. It takes your day to a whole new (wonderful) level!
The funny thing is, I haven’t saved them. They have saved me – each and every one, all the time. “Jami, you’re an animal angel,” I often hear. “No, they are the angels,” I reply, “I am just the smart one that recognizes an angel when I see one.”
Animals on the couch? Yes! Or maybe just pick the couch that they are allowed on if that is the case. A couch can be cleaned; who cares! (Shameless plug real quick: hire my son Darion; he does amazing couch rehabbing with his detail business, thank G-D!) Friday nights here are a sight for sore eyes. I swear the animals really do watch movies too! Blankets are not needed as the dogs provide all the warmth I need over my legs!
When any one of us is having a bad moment, albeit rare around these dogs, the entire crew is “on it” and whomever is feeling “off” is cured quickly with endless licks and kisses that no human could ever pull off with such success. These animals are natural healers, so I can totally get behind therapy dogs. Whether they have an official certificate or not, they are all therapy dogs. Conversely, the dogs should have certified therapy humans! There should be such a class! Hmmm. Another business venture idea? (grin).
One man’s trash truly is another’s treasure. To me, mangy mongrels are actually diamonds waiting to be polished. Think about the animals (okay, and maybe people) that you might have unknowingly overlooked in 2020. Do they deserve a second chance? Should you pick up the phone and check in with an old friend or relative and not just fire off an email? Does Buster deserve a new squeaky toy? What other things in your life have you rescued? What could you be doing better in the way of volunteering, providing the needy with hope? Helping food-insecure families? What can you do to safely reach out to those who might need an extra pair of hands during these unprecedented times? Animal adoption isn’t the only way that we can show real care and love. Does your elderly neighbor have some things around the home in need of handyman repair? Have other ideas?
Do you have a unique story? Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about it and I bet many readers would too.
Love and Bones,