Saturday, May 28, 2011

ADOPTED: Karina for the Win!

In late February, a few days after we took Karina in, one of my colleagues popped into my cubicle and stated bluntly, "You need a win." (I think this was around the time that Charlie Sheen was walking around mumbling things about winning.) Nevertheless, she was totally right. I was buried in school work and work work, and I was still feeling badly about Jack and the switcheroo.

I thought that this win would come quickly—a week, a month at most. After all, Karina is a ready-made dog. Crate-trained, housebroken, basic commands. Just open the door, and let her in. Sure, she isn't great with cats or other dogs, but she is just a doll. She makes the case for walking into a shelter/adoption event and saying, "Give me a dog with a heart of gold. I don't care how much she weighs, what color her fur is, how old she is, or how many teeth she is missing. Give me the sweetest dog you have."

Well, 14 weeks later, we got our win. A very nice woman contacted us about Rina this week. She has a unique situation in that she can bring a dog to work with her. (How jealous am I?) As such, she needs a housebroken dog that is friendly with people, but can settle down when it's time to work.

Does she like car rides?, she asked. I have a bit of a drive to work every day.
Without a doubt, I answered. She stands by my car on our morning walks in hopes she can hop in.

Is Karina a good co-worker?, she asked. 
Unequivocally yes, I replied. I work from home on occasion and she's a better co-worker than some humans. 

She came to adoption day today with her boyfriend to meet Karina. She asked all of the right questions and more. She wasn't scared by Karina's medical history with heartworm; she understood it meant being vigilant about preventative for the rest of her life. She loved that Karina is a BBD (she had a 100 pound Rottweiler previously), and she loved Karina's one white toe. She loved everything we have come to love. And this is only the beginning of their love story.

After talking it over with her boyfriend, she came up to me and said, "She's the one." Her eyes filled with tears, and so did mine.

We'll do a home visit and drop Karina off at her forever home on Friday night. Our good-byes will be bittersweet (and I'm sure I'll cry.) Karina will always hold a special place in our hearts because she really could have been a dog we kept. But I'm glad we held out for her upgrade, as Jen at Inu Baka calls it. We simply couldn't imagine a better home for her.

Win for Karina's new family.
Win for us and the rescue.
Win for Karina.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I Am An Animal Rescuer

This video was posted on Facebook without the warning that you need a tissue box in close proximity. So here's fair warning: If you've ever rescued, fostered, or adopted an animal, go to invest some stock in Kleenex.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rina's Friends

We've grown accustomed to spending our Saturdays cleaning up pee and poop at a suburban pet-supply store. We have a running joke at adoption day—what is it that most people do on Saturdays anyway? We've met so many great people with the rescue on these Saturdays. But we're not alone. Karina has made some good friends of her own species too!

I realize I sound like I'm anthropomorphizing, but what I'm trying to say is that Karina has made tremendous progress in her interactions with other dogs. When we first took her in back in February, we weren't even sure if she could come to adoption day with all of the other dogs around. But, unlike some dogs who get antsy attending adoption day week after week, Karina has only improved. Don't get me wrong—she'll never be the type of dog you'd want to set loose at a dog park, but she's shown signs of growth. When we take walks, we've practicted having her sit and ignore other dogs. Overtime, we've realized that she's not only good at ignoring, but can actually interact with smaller, non-yappy (i.e. non-threatening) dogs. Larger dogs will still set her off, but who knows what would happen with careful introductions? (She used to play for hours with an 80-lb. pit bull mix at her old foster home!)

And so, here are some of Rina's adoption-day friends:

Oh, Romeo! You are going to break some hearts! This adorable, 4-year-old Cavalier mix has been the subject of much attention over the past few weeks, but has yet to find his forever home. Karina and Romeo are still in their courtship phase—they were sniffing butts last Saturday. (Typical dog behavior, I know, but a very good step for Karina!)

 Meet Bo. He was pulled from a high-kill shelter. He's only a few months old and some sort of daschund mix (maybe?). On Saturday, Karina and Bo had a kissy fest! They were swapping some serious saliva! She'll be sad to know Bo won't be at adoption day this upcoming Saturday—he was adopted!

Magnus is one cute fellow, but he's not Rina's type. The feelings are mutual. Magnus isn't a huge fan of other dogs, so he goes nuts at the sight of Karina, and she reciprocates. (Sometimes it's the other way around.) Like Karina, Magnus has been with the rescue for awhile and is still looking for his people.

Sadly, Little Bo Peep hasn't been at adoption days of late because she is quite sick. It's possible she has distemper, but the rescue is currently running tests to get more information. There is a ChipIn to help pay for her vet care. I've pasted it below if you are interested. Please keep this poor girl in your thoughts until she gets back on her paws. SAD UPDATE FROM THE RESCUE: With an aching heart, I have to share that our little Bo Peep did not win her fight. Run free at the rainbow bridge, little girl. While you were only here a short time, you touched many hearts and were loved

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life Lesson #2: Compassion

My apologies to the next person who
rents this graduation attire. I'm sure they
will wonder why it smells like cinnamon
graham crackers...
Life lesson #2 was an expensive one. I'm afraid to pin the exact cost on it, but just imagine what 34-graduate credits at a highly-priced university will run you these days.

Today I finished my master's degree in something unrelated to dog-ology—literacy education. The graduation speaker said something mildly inspirational. The rain came on and off. And I looked out upon the carefully manicured grass at the stadium thinking, "Damn, Karina would love to run circles in this yard." (Are the Steinbrenner's looking to adopt a dog?)

My daydreams brought me to the realization that these two passions of mine—at their very core—are strikingly similar. I recalled one of my professors who created a literacy program to address the needs of the hardest-to-reach readers. They're the kids with behavioral issues who get pushed to the side. They're the kids with special needs who are overlooked. They're the diamonds in the rough that need a little extra attention in order to shine.

Sound familiar? These kids are the shelter dogs of the school world. My professor offered a quote that inspired her to create the program. For that costly diploma, I can't even recall the exact words, but to paraphrase—a society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.

And if that's not a life lesson to live by, then I don't know what is.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: A Dog Named Slugger

All dog memoirs make me cry. It probably has something to do with the relatively short life span of the animals that nestle a deep place in our hearts.

This book is no different. Author Leigh Brill tells the story of how her service dog, Slugger, helps her overcome obstacles that Cerebral Palsy has put in her way. These amazing animals—although originally bred for specific tasks—are so versatile that they have evolved to serve other human needs. Slugger's Lab instincts may be telling him to retrieve game, but he is just as happy to retrieve Leigh's keys or to steady her balance as she walks.

Woven within the story of their lives together is valuable information about the placement and training of service dogs. Leigh's story reminds me of the wonderful people in the dog world who help both people and animals in need. Sadly, it also serves as a wake-up call about the prejudices that people with disabilities and their service animals face on a daily basis.

As inspiring as Leigh's story is, I did not find it to be extraordinarily well written. It reads a bit slow and much of the dialogue is really canned. I might recommend watching/reading Through a Dog's Eyes first if you're looking to learn about service dogs. I have only seen the documentary (and it is FABULOUS—more tears), but I hope to read (and review) the book soon.

So yes, A Dog Named Slugger is inspiring and a tear-jerker. It's got a cute lab on the cover AND all proceeds go to the St. Francis Service Dogs organization. In short, I can't tell you not to read it, but the English major in me needs to tell you it's not one of the best dogs books ever written.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Check Out These Blogs

It's end-of-the-semester crunch time, plus I'll be out of town for business for a few days. Check out these blogs by other dog fosters in the mean time:

Inu Baka - Jen blogs about her three personal dogs, plus her foster dogs. She knows so much about the canine world—from food to health to behavior and more! I learn something new with every post.

Dog Foster Mom - Laurie features her foster dogs (and sometimes cats!) on this blog. She has one foster dog named Ziggy, a deaf pit bull, who is as cute as a button. She also has lots of rescue experience to share.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dogs In the Line of Duty

Did you see the article in the Times today—A Bin Laden Hunter on Four Legs—about the four-legged member of the now-famous Navy Seal team? It highlights several of the ways that canines, typically German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labrador Retrievers, are being used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs' jobs entail parachuting from airplanes, sniffing out bombs, tracking scents, chasing down people on foot, and being an aversion because of cultural beliefs about dogs. It's just fascinating. Of course, I have to wonder just how many are injured or killed alongside the brave men and women who serve our country. For more information, visit the Department of Defense's website, Military Working Dogs.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blog Hop

I'm joining in on this blog hop in hopes of meeting more kindred spirits in the pet blogsphere. Welcome to those of you visiting for the first time! My name is Kim, and I've been blogging about being a dog foster since autumn of last year. On this blog, I share my insights about opening up my home (and heart) to foster dogs. I value this blog as a place where other fosters and pet owners can share advice and stories about their experience helping animals. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?

"How much does she cost?," a woman asked me at adoption day yesterday.

It's a question that gets me every time, but I'm sure I'm overanalyzing the semantics. Surely most people mean to ask, "What is the adoption fee?" or "What donation should we make if we adopt the dog?"  I answer with the usual: "The adoption fee for dogs is $300. It's a tax-deductible donation that includes vetting costs, such as spay/neuter, all age-appropriate shots, heartworm and flea/tick preventative, etc."

But the idea that this dog could "cost" something really irks me. How could you pin a price tag on an animal's life? How could I ever tell someone what Karina is worth?

Well, this soon turned into an research project....

First I went to a local pet store—not a reputable chain that has made the wise decision to partner with rescues instead of selling dogs and cats. I'm talking one of those seedy mall pet stores. These places buy their dogs from puppy mills where female dogs are bred over and over and over again—without regards to the heredity, health or safety of the mom or pups. The puppies are kept in absolutely deplorable living conditions before being sold to brokers for a few hundred bucks before being passed on to your local seedy pet store.

I laid eyes on a lab puppy and asked a young woman working there, "How much does he cost?" The woman looked down at her clipboard, then said, "That lab? He's a sweetie. He's discounted to $1800." $1800!!!!!!!!! I almost fell over. My undercover-research poker face probably needs some work, because she followed quickly with, "But ma'am, we offer financing programs. If you can put half down now, our interest rates are very low...". The seconds of my life that would have been wasted by continuing that conversation were not worth it—not even for this research project.

Then I started to think about how much dogs "cost" from breeders. I'm sure there are many reputable breeders who care deeply about the health and safety of their animals and the breeds they represent. However, I still can not imagine doing this as long as there are homeless animals crowding shelters. But I digress...

I sat down at my computer and found this site of a breeder in California selling labs. (I know nothing of her reputability. I'm simply using her site for reference of costs.) The costs of her dogs averages around $2,000. (Others are $6,000!) But here's where I almost fell over for the second time in one day: If you leave a puppy with the woman past its 8th week of life, you can pay to have it crate trained—FOR $350 PER WEEK! (I was very shaken by this. I can't tell you the amount of time I've spent [and number of trains I've missed in the morning] trying to crate train my fosters.) She also says to email her regarding the cost of other training, such as sit, high five, leash, and house breaking.

Finally, I did a little more research into general veterinary fees (as I don't know actual amounts) in order to determine what Karina actually "costs."

   $1,900 = "Purchase price" (I realize she's not a purebred, but even the British monarchy is embracing mutts these days, so just go with it.)
   $10,850 = Training for the 31 weeks she has been with the rescue (She can do everything mentioned above, except the super important "high five" trick.)
   $150 = Spay (based on estimates)
   $1,000 Heartworm treatment (based on estimates)
   $300 = Food (based on estimates)
+ $150 = Veterinary preventative care (based on estimates)
Bringing the grand total to $14,350.

$14K would be a steal. This dog is worth so much more than any dollar amount could ever begin to signify.