Need to Rehome Your Dog? Here’s How. (Not Judging).

This boy could have been re-homed from the comfort of his own home rather than spending stressful weeks at a shelter, but the owner didn’t know how. Photo by Cheryl Smith Dispenza.

 

Ideally our pets are a life long commitment, but I believe there’s no shame in rehoming a pet if life throws more at you than you can handle.

People get evicted, lose jobs, develop allergies, get called for active duty, go into nursing homes and even die unexpectedly (and sometimes their grieving kids are in no position to keep those pets). The sad thing is, most people have no idea how to find a new home for their pet. This is one of many reasons why so many companion animals end up in overcrowded municipal shelters.

Several times each year people call and ask me how to re-home their dog. I used to tell them to post cute pictures and a great ad on Craigslist, screen prospective adopters carefully, meet in a public place, spay or neuter the dog first and be sure to charge a rehoming fee (because free dogs can meet gory ends as bait dogs in dog fighting rings). But not everyone knows how to write a good pet bio, is comfortable collecting a rehoming fee, or is comfortable posting on Craigslist.

Last week I attended the Humane Society of the United StatesAnimal Care Expo in New Orleans and learned about an amazing online service from Adopt-a-pet.com and the Petco Foundation. This service allows individual pet owners to re-home their pets in a safe and relatively easy way (it’s the same service to which only animal shelters and rescues previously had access). Not only that, the service collects a rehoming fee and donates it to the rehomer’s local animal shelter.

Companion Animal Alliance, the municipal shelter where I volunteer in Baton Rouge, took in 56 dogs in three weeks recently, so the need for this is enormous. Here’s the link: https://rehome.adoptapet.com/how-it-works. I hope you’ll share it on social media.

People in animal rescue have been known to get compassion fatigue, burned out by the sheer number of crappy, heartless people out there dumping pets for what seems like no good reason at shelters and by the side of the road. Sure, there are crappy, heartless people. But I have also fostered a rat terrier brought to the shelter because his family, sobbing as they let him go, had lost their home and was on their way to a shelter themselves. I fostered a shepherd mix whose owner got a job working on an offshore oil rig and would have to be gone for days at a time with nobody home . And I fostered a Pomeranian whose owner died. Her husband couldn’t care for the dog, so he dropped him off at the shelter where the dog had a total meltdown. Freaked out in his kennel and and snapping at virtually everyone, the foster coordinator was going to have to euthanize him but first called and asked if I would take him home to see if he would be different outside of the shelter. Fortunately, the dog took a shine to me in her office. A few hours into his stay at our house, he took a shine to everyone. Wouldn’t it have been great if the husband hadn’t had to put him through the stress of being at a shelter at all? Maybe if he’d known about this, he would have made a better choice.  Here’s the link again: https://rehome.adoptapet.com/how-it-works

Thanks for loving all the critters out there, like I do.

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Teddy V

The first week Teddy was at our house, he didn't know how to negotiate the big dog bed with other dogs in it. So he just made himself comfortable in a clean basket of laundry. How cute is that?

The first week Teddy was at our house, he didn’t know how to negotiate the big dog bed with other dogs in it. So he just made himself comfortable in a clean basket of laundry. How cute is that?

The sad news is, the night before our arranged meeting, Teddy’s awesome prospective adopters decided it wasn’t a good idea for them to adopt him. At ages 68 and 71, their adult kids were concerned Teddy might have health issues down the road that they wouldn’t be equipped to handle.

Although Teddy’s prognosis is excellent and as we all know there are no guarantees about any dog’s future health, these really nice people had already been through their fair share of health issues with their elderly Labradoodle, so I understand their reservations. And I don’t hold anything against them, though I was really disappointed for Teddy. (For the record, I would highly recommend a dog like Teddy to my own parents, who are 76 — though my dad does not go for the fluffy type, nor the mixed breed type, nor the shelter type, nor anything that doesn’t start out in his house as a puppy from a breeder, despite the fact that he overtly cheers my shelter dog fostering efforts).

Before we hung up the phone, the man asked me if I was going to adopt Teddy myself. It’s difficult to explain to people who don’t foster that this innocent question is upsetting. I have no intention of ever adopting any dog that we foster (though it did happen once, with foster #12. Oops). My family has two dogs. We don’t want or need more than two dogs, even as I often fall in love with every shelter dog that comes through our door.

We foster for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is that our shelter has to kill highly adoptable animals every single day because they are overflowing and people will not stop dumping their animals there. Many people here in south Louisiana also won’t (or can’t afford to) spay and neuter their pets or take proper care of them. People across the nation create a market for puppy mills by purchasing dogs from them, and tons of puppy mill dogs end up at municipal shelters like ours too. If my husband and I were to have adopted every dog we fostered, we’d have more than 30 dogs right now, which would make us hoarders.

So no, we have no plans to adopt Teddy. My plan is to find him a loving, devoted home where he can snooze peacefully on a dog bed beside his person making them as happy as he is making me right now. It’s only a matter of time before that will happen. I have faith because I’ve seen it at close range 30+ times. And when it does, I will get that same great high that I always do, and then head up to the shelter and get another.

If you’d like to donate to help dogs at the shelter that stepped up for Teddy, please click http://www.caabr.org/#!donate/ctzx And thank you! 

Teddy (III)

Some nice person brought a cheese cake to the vet clinic at the shelter. Teddy was hoping he could have a piece before surgery. But no...

Some nice person brought a cheese cake to the vet clinic at the shelter. Teddy was hoping he could have a piece before surgery. But no, Teddy, we did not fast 10 hours before surgery so you could blow it on cheese cake, man.

Was I concerned about bringing in a foster dog for major surgery that would require me to do post-op rehabilitation (and on the day before Christmas)? Yes.

Did I want to be absolutely sure this surgery was necessary before putting Teddy through it? Yes.

And was I afraid that if Teddy was in pain, which he surely would be after his operation, that he would bite me as I tried to help him in and out of cars and whatnot? Oh hell yes. (Remember, I’m a chicken about being bitten. And I’m not even slightly kidding about that).

Dr. Michaelson’s observations about Teddy were interesting. When he looked at his films, he said, “Dogs don’t walk on X-rays.” All three vets laughed. Clearly, a veterinary inside joke.

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Looking at the films. To operate? Or not to operate? That is the question.

“I don’t get it,” I said.

Dr. Michaelson said, “It doesn’t so much matter what the x-ray says if the dog is walking around like nothing is wrong.”

The truth is, after a week of anti-inflammatory medicine, Teddy seemed to be in pretty good shape. He jumped in and out of the car on his own with no problem. He could jump on and off my sofa and my bed. And he had stood on his hind legs and pawed at me in the vet clinic several times during his exam.

“So what would you do if I were a private patient who brought him into your clinic?” I said.

“I would probably tell you to wait a couple of weeks and see if his symptoms returned.”

But the fact is, I still didn’t want to adopt out a dog to someone who might require an expensive surgery down the road, even if he seemed fine in two weeks. What would happen if his symptoms returned in 6 months? What about in a year? Very often, dogs are brought to the shelter because the people who own them can’t afford the expensive medical treatments they require. And this might be Teddy’s one opportunity to have this surgery and go on to live a hip-pain free life based on the generosity of a supervising veterinarian donating his time and services and a shelter that had purchased the equipment to do it.

As we were deliberating, Dr. Salmon picked up Teddy to weigh him and he snapped at her (again, no biting).

“Ah ha,” Dr. Michaelson said, “Now that couldn’t have hurt him. He just didn’t want to be picked up.” I could tell he was now concerned that Teddy might just be unpredictable.

“My hand was on his groin,” Dr. Salmon said. “That may have hurt.”

I also felt sure, after having Teddy in my house for six weeks, that he was predictable and that the way Dr. Salmon had lifted him had, indeed, hurt. “No, watch,” I said, and reached down to pick up Teddy under his chest.” He dangled in my arms like a happy little sack of flour.

Then Dr. Michaelson, Dr. Salmon, and another shelter vet, Dr. Moore, came up with a plan to definitively decide whether Teddy was in pain or just being an ass. They would sedate him for his exam.

So, a shot in the tushy, as we say in my birthplace of New York:

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I figured this would simply make him woozy and not really mind being touched in places he ordinarily did not like. I thought it would simply take away any mojo he had for snapping if something they did hurt him.

But no. He was out cold. He looked like a dead dog on the vet clinic floor. See?

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Dr. Michaelson was able to manipulate his back legs and hips every which way. And when he really dug in and started working that left hip, Teddy let out a howl from the deepest sleep that just broke my heart.

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“We have our answer,” Dr. Michaelson said.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

Dr. Salmon and Dr. Moore nodded and smiled.

And Teddy, a neglected little fella from a rough part of town who had probably spent most of his six years living outdoors with infected ears, a cracked vertebrate and a bum hip, was going to be treated like a dog that was loved (and by people with the financial resources to help him, like other lucky dogs).

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Shave that dog’s rump, please, Dr. Moore.

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Me: Okay with you if I take pictures, Dr. Michaelson? Dr. M: If it helps other animals, of course!

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More shaving for Dr. Moore while Dr. Salmon gets ready to support Teddy’s airway during surgery.

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I don’t know how people do this. I’m so grateful that the world is not made up of people just like me (who would faint if she had to do this).

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Teddy:  I.  Have become. Comfortably numb.

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Did I want to observe Teddy’s FHO surgery? Part of me did. The other part said, “I’m getting out of here!” and dragged the first part home.

Post-op wakey wakey:

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Thanks, Dr. Salmon!

The next day (doing great!)

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Thanks, Dr. Moore! Thanks, Dr. Salmon! Thanks Dr. Michaelson! Thanks Companion Animal Alliance!

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If you have charitable donations you still need to make for 2014, please consider Companion Animal Alliance, the shelter that helped Teddy in Baton Rouge, LA. Here’s the super easy link to click and donate: http://www.caabr.org/#!donate/ctzx And thank you for caring!

Teddy

Meet Teddy, our very special holiday foster. I picked up Teddy from the shelter a week before Thanksgiving. On his intake report it said someone had called and reported an injured dog in their neighbor’s yard. Animal Control came and picked up Teddy. His owners never came to get him back.

Here’s the matted, scraggly mess he looked like the day I picked him up at the shelter (he had been there for several weeks):

That’s my friend, Author Laurie Lynn Drummond, who also fosters for Companion Animal Alliance and Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge. We went up to the shelter that day to each pick out a new foster dog . I picked Teddy and Laurie picked Olive, a pretty Border Collie, who was recently adopted. You should read Laurie’s novel, Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You. You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Anything-You-Will-Used-Against/dp/B000C9WXUY#

That’s my friend, Author Laurie Lynn Drummond, who also fosters for Companion Animal Alliance and Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge. We went up to the shelter that day to each pick out a new foster dog. I picked Teddy and Laurie picked Olive, a pretty Border Collie, who was recently adopted. You should read Laurie’s novel, Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You. You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Anything-You-Will-Used-Against/dp/B000C9WXUY#

At the shelter they had named him Howie. He looked more like a Teddy (bear) to me.

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When he was first brought into the shelter, the vets there noticed Teddy’s ears were badly infected and put him on a course of antibiotics. One of them said they were possibly the worst ear infections she had ever seen. Aside from what the good samaritan had told Animal Control, there was no note of injury on Teddy’s record.

A fluffy, non-shedding, cocker/poodle mix (cockapoo) with maybe a splash of shih tzu thrown in, Teddy had languished at the shelter for weeks after being neutered. Despite his matted hair and bad breath, I knew once he was cleaned up he’d be beautiful. And he sure seemed sweet. He let me bathe him in my front yard without complaint.

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He let me clean his ears without complaint. When I tried to cut some mats off his belly, he let me, but then I accidentally, um, slipped with the scissors (No blood though!) and he snapped at me. I deserved that. He didn’t bite me, just let out a scream and gave a couple of warning snaps in the air. I think I clearly heard him say, “Yo, I’ve already been neutered. Watch. Those. Scissors!”

I brought him to a wonderful groomer (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pretty-Paws-Grooming-by-Teresa/189305501171383) who said he was an excellent boy and she didn’t even need a muzzle to carry out any of his beauty treatments.

Here’s what he looked like when she was finished:

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On Thanksgiving, my 17-year-old son was petting his back when Teddy yelped and snapped at the air. Then he ran back at my son to kiss him and make up. Another time my 85-pound Mastiff mix bumped into Teddy’s rump and again, he yelped and snapped at the air, then ran back at my dog to lick his face. I also noticed that when I reached out to pet Teddy sometimes, he would blink as if I was going to hit him. That made me sad. Clearly, he was used to being hit. But he always sought me out for affection and he seemed very relieved and delighted when he knew I was only ever going to caress him and tell him he was a good boy (when I didn’t have a scissor in my hands, that is. Okay, bad joke).

There were a couple of additional snapping incidents when Teddy felt hurt or threatened, but nobody was ever bitten. I don’t foster aggressive dogs; my life is just too complicated and frankly, I’m a chicken! But I didn’t think Teddy was aggressive. I thought something was really hurting him and he was trying to protect himself, so I brought him back to the shelter vet to see what it might be. The answer was something I wasn’t quite prepared to handle. But I would handle it. I’m handling now, in fact, and it’s all good so far. (To be continued…)

Short term fostering

I promised my hubby, Ed, I’d take a little break from fostering because we had a pretty big parade of dogs through the house after Yogi was adopted for the second time last spring. (Yogi: Long story. An upcoming post. In short, he’s got it so good right now, and hopefully forevermore.) So we hosted Yaya then Jaci then Louie then Chip then Godiva, and I promised Ed we’d take a month off and let our own two dogs luxuriate in being the only dogs in the house.

About three weeks into that month though, our shelter put out a plea for short term fosters. They were doing a transport of 22 dogs to the Virginia Beach SPCA , a facility that is also open-intake like ours, but has a 90% save rate; the only dogs there that are euthanized are those that are too sick or behaviorally unstable to be adopted.

Short term fostering is a great option for people who want to provide a warm bed and lots of love to shelter dogs but can’t make the commitment to do it until the dogs are adopted. And in this case, it would only be three nights.

So I headed up to the shelter with the goal of walking 10 dogs and giving them some love, and then pulling a couple of small ones who were scheduled for the transport to take home for three days. What I saw first were these blue, blue eyes gazing up at me from her kennel:

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She told me Jensi wasn’t her name. She told me her name was Noodle.

My friend Jacinta said she was very shy but absolutely precious once she warmed up. I figured I’d grab her and something else that was small. That turned out to be this one (who was in a kennel just across the corridor from her):

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Yeah, my name is Mattie. It even says it on my tag right there. The tag I was wearing when my owners surrendered me :{

While I walked the other dogs, I put Noodle and Mattie together in a kennel and let them get to know each other for about an hour. Because the last thing you need is a Little-Doggy-Bloodbath in your house, especially if you wind up with a couple of alpha females.

But as you can see, these were no alpha-females when I got them home. And both “noodled” their way into my heart, and Ed’s too.

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I’ll be honest, usually I am very happy to see my fosters go. I don’t want more than 2 dogs. And I just want to help homeless dogs; that’s why we do this. But on the day that Noodle and Mattie were scheduled for transport, I was very grateful my friend, Morgan, who works at the shelter and lives next door to me, took them to the departure point for me.

My friend, Jacinta, texted me this picture as they were loaded up on the van and ready for the 15 hour drive from Baton Rouge to Virginia Beach: : Noodle&Mattie

Broke. My. Heart.

In the morning, I woke up and I missed those little goons tremendously. Mattie would literally smile at me when I went to get them out of the bathroom (where we kept them all cozy with a dog bed and toys, which were safe there from our own dogs and their thieving ways).  Both Mattie and Noodle were perfectly behaved while they were with us and house trained too. Also, I never heard either of them bark. Not once. That is really unusual for little dogs.

All of which is to say, these perfect little angels are available for adoption at the Virginia Beach SPCA and you can see more pictures on their Facebook page. Please share and send the very best people you know to go and adopt them, either separately or together. If the adopters contact me through my blog, I’d love to do an updated entry on them. We do so love happy tails!

Here’s one more peek at these beautiful girls: Noodle1

Mattie1