Saturday, April 30, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Zealot — #AtoZChallenge

As defined by the wise folk of Merriam-Webster
Animal rescue, like anything that involves intense emotional involvement—religion, politics, vaccines—has its share of zealots. I am the sole possessor of Truth. Righteousness is mine. (You know the drill.)

Look, I have nothing against deep convictions, or the passion to defend them. But there’s a fine, and murky, line between that and bigotry.

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Youth vs Age — #AtoZChallenge

What are the pros and cons of rescuing older vs. younger dogs? Is it really easier to rescue a puppy than a senior? 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The X-Factor — #AtoZChallenge

So what is it, once all is said and done, that makes the difference between a successful rescue and a failed one? All month we’ve been talking about what to do and how to do it, but—really, does this all add up to a fail-safe recipe for success in dog rescuing?

Short answer: No.

(Wow. Shortest post I’ve written. Ever.)

No, of course it’s not that simple. There are too many variables in dog rescue. Too many unknowns. Too many X factors.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Who Rescues Who? — #AtoZChallenge


There is something known as the “potato chip syndrome” to those of us in the greyhound communities. The famous Lay’s Potato Chips line, You can’t have just one, applies also to greyhounds: you simply can’t have just one! Many of us end up adopting a second greyhound, and then a third… and, for me, a fourth and a fifth.
Bella was my second. She joined me and Maggie. 

Bella’s story is heartbreaking, from her unfortunate beginnings and then her tragic end.* I first met her back when she was known as “Carol” (because that is the name of the woman who found her wandering around in the fields of her property), when she came into the foster program with the greyhound adoption group. And she was a mess! She had been out in the wild so long that she had developed a horrific case of mange. She literally had no fur! Her whole body was bald. Only her face had some sketchy patches of hair left. No one even knew what color she was going to be when her fur came back in. Yet, when I looked at her face, I saw an incredible beauty.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Vets, Unsung Heroes — #AtoZChallenge

So you think rescuers have it bad? Putting their lives on the line with strange, scared dogs capable of anything? Yeah, it’s a rough life. But you know who else does that? Every day? 


Monday, April 25, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Universality (The Price of Compassion) — #AtoZChallenge

Dog rescuing comes with lots of consequences. A houseful of dogs, for instance. An ever-growing dent in the balance of your bank account. A fast-track education in veterinary medicine—and the basics of Zen philosophy. Some of these consequences you might expect; many you probably don't. Like how you'll start judging others by their attitude toward dogs. Or how your priorities will shift... All of a sudden those when I win the lottery dreams become less about yachts and round-the-world trips and more about buying a piece of land and turning it into a dog sanctuary.

Most of all, though, you’ll begin to notice a broadening of your perception. A certain universality

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Trust Quadre — #AtoZChallenge

Throughout this series, we’ve been throwing around the word trust like a pinball. Getting the dog to trust you is, after all, the cornerstone of rescue. So maybe it’s time to talk about what trust means to a dog—and how you go about getting into their good, trusting, graces.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Sterilization — #AtoZChallenge

We dog people often say sterilization when we mean spaying and/or neutering. But, actually, sterilization encompasses an entire gamut of procedures—and a pretty broad gamut it is, from surgical to non-surgical, and from permanent to temporary.

A quick overview:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Right (or Wrong?) — #AtoZChallenge

In rescue, there’s no right or wrong—as long as it’s About The Dog. Every situation is different, every dog is different. What worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow; what’s never worked before just might work today. And every rescuer is different; what works for you might end in a bloody arm for me. I’m not trying to scare you off; my point is that rescue requires keeping an open mind. And lots of outside-the-box thinking.

So how do you know what’s right—or wrong? With thousands of rescue videos out there—zillions of websites on dog behavior—hundreds of books on animal health—how do you tell the wheat from the chaff? You’ll find different, even opposing, views from people with impeccable credentials. 

Do your own research. 

Nothing beats finding out stuff for yourself. Check every fact. Even when you agree with someone’s point of view, make a point of reading up on the opposite side. This isn’t about being right (or wrong). It’s About The Dog.

Consensus breeds confidence. 

Remember that pack we talked about, the group of people you’re supposed to collect to help in your rescuing endeavors? Consult them. Get their ideas, mine their experience, pick their brains. If you can get agreement from those trustworthy few, you know you’ve got a winner plan.

Go with your gut. 

There’s no overestimating the power of your own instinct. What feels right to you? What are your other, not-so-obvious senses telling you? These will be the things that are hardest to communicate to a non-observer—but they’ll often be the ones that make the biggest difference.

Keeping it short today, folks. Pffff… just another week of A2Z-ing to go. We can do it. Yes, we can!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A to Z of #Dog Rescue: FAQ No. 2 — #atozchallenge

Why are there so many more women than men involved in rescuing?
Like most preconceived notions about rescue, this one's part myth and part truth. As you've seen from the videos I've posted, plenty of men are involved in rescue—and they're darn good at it. But—and this is a fact—many dogs respond better to women strangers than men strangers. Maybe it's the voice (higher pitch vs. lower). Maybe it's the perceived dominance of a male scent. Maybe it's hormones. I don't know.

Why are stray dogs so often in such bad health? Are they predisposed to some illnesses? 
No. Ferals, especially, tend to be stronger and better equipped to fight off disease. (It’s natural selection at work; only the stronger genes survive.) 

Why, then, are so many homeless dogs rescued in such terrible states? Three reasons:
  1. They’re exposed to more
  2. They don’t get any preventive care
  3. Their diet is anything but balanced, which causes deficiencies in their immune system

Monday, April 18, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Pack (No Rescuer is an Island) — #AtoZChallenge

No rescuer is an island. If you’re going to make this rescue gig a success, you’re going to need help. And I don’t mean just the occasional goodwill of a random passerby. No, you’re going to need support you can count on, from people who care—about you, sure, but also (mostly) about the dog—and who know what they’re doing.

In other words, you’re going to need a pack.

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Other Options — #AtoZChallenge

So… After fourteen posts (fourteen! we made it past the halfway mark, people!) you’ve decided that rescuing isn’t for you—but you still want to help. Here’s a list of ways—spanning from the creative to the simplest to the budget-friendly (and even the no-budget)—to help you help them.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: New Kid In The Pack — #AtoZChallenge

Because of that space challenge we were talking about yesterday (over-capacity shelters, too few foster homes), rescuers all too often end up bringing a dog home. If you have no dogs, great; but what if, like most of us, you already have a houseful? Will they be okay with this new (temporary, or pseudo-temporary) member of the family?

Friday, April 15, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Medicating The Homeless — #AtoZChallenge

Late one morning, about a year ago, a (non-rescuer) friend called to say he and his girlfriend had found a dog in bad shape and they didn’t know what to do. “I think he’s dying,” he said. “He won’t move. He won’t eat.”


Thursday, April 14, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Link Between Love & Letting Go — #AtoZChallenge

When I talk about rescue with non-rescuers, one of the things I hear most often is, “I couldn’t do it. I’d want to keep all the dogs.” 

Guess what? All rescuers feel the same way. I’ve never rescued or fostered a dog that I didn’t want to keep. I cry every time I deliver a dog to his/her new family. (Heck, I even get attached to the dogs that come in for surgery at the clinic where I volunteer.) 

If you’re going to be a rescuer, you need to understand this: It’s About The Dog. And in a homeless dog’s process of regaining quality of life, your role as rescuer (or foster) is limited. You’re Mary Poppins, blown in by the East Wind to save the day—and blown out when things are set aright. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Dog Rescuer's Kit — #AtoZChallenge

No, nothing so dramatic. (I know. I was excited about the helicopter ride, too.) The truth is you don't require much to rescue a dog. In an emergency, all you'll need are your hands and a halfway working brain. (And none of the items below will be much use if you don't have those.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Jinxed! The Weirdest Dog-Related Superstitions

Whenever I hear an ambulance, I touch a button. (You know, on something I’m wearing.) That’s so the ambulance-related incident won’t involve anyone you know. And I still turn the first cigarette of a new pack upside down, and make a wish. I have to smoke that cigarette last (hence the turning upside-down, so I can tell which little cancer tube that was), and the wish comes true.

But, weirdly (given how much of my life is taken up by canines), I don't have any superstitions about dogs. For your enjoyment today: a selection of weird dog superstitions. [Sources: The Your Dog Blog,, and Animal Fair]

  • In India, it’s believed that a dog bite can impregnate a human with puppies—who will then give rabies to the human.
  • If you step in dog poop, good luck is coming your way. But it has to be with your left foot. (And, apparently, it’s only valid in France.)
  • Seeing three white dogs together also brings you luck.
  • A baby licked by a dog will be a fast healer.
  • A dog eating grass, rolling on the ground, or scratching obsessively means rain. (Man, I wish.)
  • In the USA, a dog sleeping with its tail straight out and paws upturned is supposed to foretell the arrival of bad news: the direction the tail is pointing in indicates the direction the bad news will come from.
  • In Ireland it’s unlucky to meet a barking dog first thing in the morning.
  • Dogs are able to see ghosts.
  • In Scotland, it’s good luck for a stray to follow you home. Double brownie luck points if it’s a black dog. But if it's raining, it's very bad luck. (Go figure...)

Speaking of color, did you know there's a Big Black Dog — aka BBD — Syndrome? Yep... turns out we humans are racist with animals, too. Superstition, like any kind of magical thinking, is anathema to rational behavior—and, for homeless animals, it can be deadly. (Read more about that here and here.)

Were you familiar with any of these superstitions? Got any of your own you want to share? How superstitious are you?

Thanks for coming by, y'all. I'm volunteering at the vet in the morning, but in the afternoon I'll be coming round to you... We've got some catching up to do ;)

Monday, April 11, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Immensity of It All — #AtoZChallenge

Dog rescue is an emotionally draining activity. (Oh, come on. The least you can do is act surprised). Not just because of the cruelty (rescuers see more of it, and on a much more regular basis, than the average person sees in their entire lifetime), or because of the tough decisions, the cases so far gone that your only hope for restoring quality of life is to offer a dignified end surrounded by a few humans who care.

No. What gets you—all of us, sooner or later—is the immensity of the problem. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Health Issues — #AtoZChallenge

You don’t need a degree in veterinary medicine to rescue a dog. But, whether by choice or necessity, you’ll end up learning at least the basics of canine health. 

This is what you’ll most likely come across:

Friday, April 8, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Gratitude Myth — #AtoZChallenge

People often think a rescued dog will be more “grateful”, and therefore more loyal, than other dogs. While that may sometimes appear to be true, in my (totally biased and uneducated) opinion it has more to do with the dog’s character than with the fact s/he was rescued. If a dog's gratitude is your reason for getting involved in rescue, consider this your fair warning.

Most rescued dogs adapt back into sharing their lives with humans pretty fast. The bond between us and dogs goes back a long, long way; it’s in their genes to love us, and to put up with our cluelessness. Even dogs who have been abused will respond favorably when re-homed. 

Most of the time.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: FOOD! — #AtoZChallenge

Breaking bread is a ritual of friendship and respect even for us uncouth and clueless humans. Granted, we sit together at a table with cutlery and wine and candles instead of going around throwing pieces of sausage to the people we’d like to be friends with—but at its core the statement of sharing (and providing) food is just as powerful: I mean you no harm. I’m on your side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Easy Street — #AtoZChallenge

Not every rescue is a Via Crucis—and I apologize if I’ve given you that impression so far. It’s the alphabet’s fault. If E came before C, I could've let you wade slow into the world of rescuing, instead of throwing you into the deep end of the impossible catches.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Do's and Don'ts of Drugs — #AtoZChallenge

I know what you’re thinking. Why not skip all this rescuing brouhaha—the chases and the panic and the risk of bites—and just, you know, drug the dog? (Just sayin’.)

Here’s why rescuers leave drugs and tranquilizers for a last resort. (And no, it’s not because they’re penance-loving masochists.)

Monday, April 4, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Catch Me (If You Can) — #AtoZChallenge

A fellow A2Z-er made the perfect comment on Saturday's post to introduce this one:
Mark Twain wrote: "No good deed goes unpunished." We must prepare for the bruises and wounds that come with helping the helpless. :-(
Thank you, Roland. (Hop on over when you get a chance and show him some love!) He's 100% right, you know. Sometimes rescue gets rough. Sometimes a dog that needs immediate help refuses to cooperate. For whatever reason—and variations are endless. But it comes down to this:

 How do you catch a dog that doesn’t want to be caught? 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Botched! — #atozchallenge

You know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Well, the person who said it first was a dog rescuer. 

Okay, I don’t actually know that. But it must’ve been. And I’m also pretty sure it was a dog rescuer who came up with carpe diem—although, honestly, in rescue it’s more about the moment than the day.

Good intentions are what bring you to the threshold of dog rescuing. But, once you cross over (into the dark side, mwahahahaha...), they'll be about as useful as—I don't know. A title of royalty.

The bad news is it's incredibly easy to botch a dog rescue. Nine times out of ten, though, it's your fault. And that's the good news. It means it's up to you not to botch it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Assessment — #atozchallenge

Every situation—every dog—is different. No two rescues are the same. That’s why assessment is so very, very important before you jump in.

But assess what, exactly? And how?