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.

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.

Howie1 Howie2

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.

Howie3

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:

photo

Teddy2Teddy4 Teddy3

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…)

Huckleberry (the artist formerly known as “Syrus”)

Huckleberry

Look who made it onto transport in Slidell, LA this afternoon! Yes, that’s our boy Huckleberry (formerly Syrus), about to make his way north to his forever home on Long Island, New York.  It took several weeks and three different antibiotics for poor Huck’s upper respiratory infection to go away, but he is finally healthy enough to ride on Rescue Road Trips. www.rescueroadtrips.com

Wow, was this whole thing a complicated ballet: An acquaintance from my former hometown saw him on this blog and fell in love with his picture. I couldn’t keep him in my backyard for longer than 10 days, so a volunteer pal arranged a second foster home for him. The adopter’s  big-hearted 69 year old mom lives in New Orleans and drove here to do all the adoption paperwork, pay the fees and bring the second foster home food for him and other supplies. Then when he flunked his first health check and could not ride on transport, the second foster home kept him another two weeks, lavishing him with love and letting him loll on their sofa and enjoy the company of four roommates and their Great Dane. And then this morning,Huck’s new grandma drove up again from New Orleans and brought him to the pick-up spot in Slidell. And if that’s not complicated enough, his adopters had to travel out of the country and so when he arrives in New England this weekend, a sister-in-law will be picking him up and holding onto him until they are home.

And THEN, they’ll get to meet their sweet, new boy. It seems like a lot to put a dog through, but as my rescue friend, Jill, said when she brought him to my house, “He was supposed to go Jesus yesterday.” Fortunately, Jesus was cool with waiting.

Happy Tails, Huck! No more living alone underneath a camp carport for you!

Meet Rocco

Rocco, the night he got to June's house. Very happy to be out of the shelter, but still a little confused. Thought he'd stick by the front door, just in case those five cats and two chickens didn't like him.

Rocco, the night he got to June’s house. Very happy to be out of the shelter, but still a little confused. Thought he’d stick by the front door, just in case those five cats and two chickens didn’t much like him.

Say hi to Rocco, one of the most laid back easy-going fellas around.

Last month Rocco’s owner dropped him off at the shelter saying he had to work 24-hour shifts and Rocco was tearing up the house while his human was gone.  (Personally, I have yet to meet a dog that can go 24 hours without taking care of business, and I can’t say I could even pull that off myself).

“Don’t make this harder than it has to be,” Rocco’s owner said to the intake person at the shelter. I think that meant he didn’t want to hear the chances of Rocco making it out of the place alive, which frankly, were slim.  The shelter is overcrowded and Rocco’s owner said he was 13, not exactly the puppy that most people want to adopt when they go to a shelter (though each of the three vets who have examined him since says he appears to be between 8-10, so maybe the owner lost track of time).  I’m not sure whether the intake person told him or spared him, but either way, Rocco’s human left him there and went home alone.

It would be easy to judge a person harshly for dropping off a senior dog at a kill shelter, and especially one as sweet as Rocco. But not everyone has resources like a back yard and a doggy door if they find themselves needing to work a 24 hour shift, nor the wherewithal to find a new home for his or her pet. And there are people who do far worse to pets they can no longer keep. So I’m grateful that Rocco landed at the shelter, and then on my Facebook page. And then in the home of my friend, June, who agreed to foster him when I shared his picture and said I wasn’t able to foster him myself.

The good news is, Rocco has been sweet and angelic at June’s house, tearing up nothing at all and even ignoring her five cats and two chickens with whom he shares the backyard for hours at a time.

Further good news is that I brought Rocco on WAFB, a local tv news station that gives our shelter dogs exposure and helps them get adopted, and someone who works there  expressed interest in adopting Rocco himself.

But in the interim, two things cropped up:

The first was that Rocco developed kennel cough from the two nights he spent at the shelter. (Fortunately, that is nearly gone now).

The second was that upon further examination, one of the vets discovered two lumps on Rocco’s groin and one inside his cheek. These have to be removed and biopsied because nobody is going to want to adopt him without knowing what is going on.

The good news is, the vet gave us a very reasonable price to do the surgery ($260) and if I can raise the money with your help, we can move forward and assist Rocco in losing these tumors and finding his forever home. Even a donation of $5, $10, or $20 will help enormously, as I know there are many of you big hearted people out there willing to give up a Starbucks coffee or two on Rocco’s behalf. If you are willing to help, please visit www.fotabr.org

Please designate your donation “In honor of Rocco.” Once the funds are collected, we’ll be able to schedule his surgery. Any funds collected in excess of Rocco’s surgical expenses will go towards helping other dogs and cats that this rescue pulls from the shelter.

Friends of the Animals is a terrific organization that holds off site adoption events for shelter animals (where they are more likely to be adopted than at the shelter, which is far from the center of town), pays for heartworm treatment, collects supplies needed at the shelter, and has purchased a double wide trailer to accommodate approximately 50 nursing cats and kittens during their quarantine period as well as 20 other domesticated cats. And SO much more. They have also assisted me in placing many of the foster dogs I have had over the course of the past 18 months.

Please leave a comment below if you’re willing to help Rocco and please share any stories of your own senior dog(s). I love senior dogs! I have an 11 year old Lab and I think senior dogs are so special. They are past all that puppy silliness and they’re just happy to lie around and give you loving looks and tail thumps all day long.

I’ll keep you posted on the fundraising effort for Rocco and keep you updated on his health and (hopefully) good fortune. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Big thanks to June, for taking Rocco in, and to Paula Schoen, for forming Friends of the Animals http://friendsoftheanimalsbr.org which has helped so many cats and dogs who have drawn the short straw in life to move onward and upward to the lives they so richly deserve.

Thanks for caring.

Rocco, about to make his television debut. Not at all nervous. In fact, a total natural.

Rocco, all smiles as he is about to make his television debut. He is a total TV natural.

Syrus: Day 5

It looks as if there’s just a small possible glitch with my perfect adopter for Syrus in New York, but I think we’ll be able to work through it. So far, all of our communication has been via Facebook message, and I’m hoping to talk with her tomorrow, so it will feel more real. The glitch is that she’s going to Europe on business for a week shortly after he would arrive, and is reluctant to board him so soon. But I don’t think that would be a big deal. Syrus was living under a house for ages, has been living in an animal shelter for a month and is now in a shed with doggy door to a kennel in my backyard without any protest. He doesn’t whine, bark or complain in any way. He doesn’t want out. As long as he has his blankie, and lots of food so he can continue to regain weight, he will be absolutely fine until his “real” new life begins. I hope this won’t be a deal breaker. Not that we can’t find him a great home here in Louisiana. I’m sure we can. But this just seems like kismet; someone you know from far away falls in love so hard with a dog on your blog that she knows he’s the one for her. And when you receive her adoption application, you know this dog will live a life like your own cherished dogs do. It just seems meant to be. Maybe I’m a romantic, but we shall see…

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Syrus chowing down on a pot roast appetizer before his kibble fest. It’s really fun fattening up an emaciated dog. You fill their bowl, watch them eat, then top it off when they’re done and keep at it until they back away from the bowl like they’re going to explode. (My dogs, all pushing the envelope on their respective BMI’s, just read this over my shoulder and they hate me now. I’m not going to post the pot roast photos until they leave the room)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, they left.

Going...

Going…

...going...

…going…

Gone.

gone! Attaboy, Syrus.

Syrus: Day 4 (Post-Catitude Test)

Were you agonizing over the outcome all day? Because agonize no longer, the verdict is in: Syrus has good Catitude!

Yes, he was interested in Allie’s cat, Moo. He was sniffy and nudgy and just plain excited for visitors period. But there was no growling, no barking, no licking of chops. No giant fangs near any fuzzy little kitty neck. Nothing like that. Just a little nuzzling. At one point, I thought I saw Syrus give Moo the signal for “You run and I’ll chase!” But Syrus was on a leash, so that ended quickly with a win for Moo. We even put them on the floor in a small, closed off area together (while I still held Syrus’s leash firmly) and they were absolutely fine.

I envision Sweet Syrus curled up by a fireplace in the near future with one kitty curled up under each arm pit. Moo, by the way, is so mellow, I’m nicknaming him Cat-atonic.

Thanks for the Dog/Cat Introduction advice, Joseph Tullier at Acadiana Canine Training! (www.acadianak9training.com) and Shelter Adoption Counselor, Lily! And most of all, thanks to Allie, Ken and Catatonic Moo.

Stay tuned for “As the Adoption Progresses…”

Meanwhile, here are some bad pictures of us laying Moo’s life on the line ;}

Syrus: Day 3

Another great day with Syrus. Still a total sweetheart. Still quiet in my kennel. Still delighted to see me and mellow when I go. If I could make a template of every future dog I want to foster, I’d make it out of Syrus.

Don't look so pathetic, Syrus.

Don’t look so pathetic, Syrus.

Don't look so pathetic, Syrus.

That’s a little better, Sweetheart.

So I said I was going to include a recipe today for fattening up an emaciated dog, and I really was going to do that, until I read the ingredients. The problem with the ingredients, as I see it, is that the main ingredient is “raw, cheap hamburger meat (for the high fat content).” Many of my friends in the rescue community swear by this recipe to pack on the pounds and nobody has reported a problem with it. But when I asked a vet friend about feeding dogs a raw food diet once (as some friends of mine do), she simply responded: Ca-Ching.
Translation: Raw meat can lead to expensive problems for your dog’s digestive health. Hopefully, we’ll get a lively debate here in the comments section on that, but to play it safe, I decided not to make the famous recipe, nor to print it here. However, if you google “Satin Balls” and it pops up, what can I do?

Slightly bummed about deciding not to pack the pork onto Syrus’s ribs and watch him expand exponentially (ha,ha), I thought I’d run by a large pet chain where I have been known to score high quality, high protein dog food at 75% off a couple of months before it’s “Best Before” date. The last time I was there, I’d found several giant bags of $60 dog food that had already passed that date and asked if I could simply have it for my rescue dog efforts, but the manager said no, she wasn’t allowed to do that. Something to do with SKU #s. It had to be slashed and put in the dumpster.

Aw, I know.

Aw, I know.

Slashed? Seriously? Can’t they just leave it beside the dumpster? Apparently not. Not unless they “forget” to slash it. I asked if they could “forget.” She said she couldn’t, but she couldn’t speak for the other managers. Long story long, I asked her if I could buy the food for $1 a bag. She checked and said she could only sell it to me for 75% off. You know what? There was A LOT of really good dog food whose primary ingredients were salmon and herring, so I bought it. Several trusted sources of mine say that dry dog food is good for a year past the “Best Buy” date, or unless it smells funny. And as my 85 lb Mastiff mix, Crespo, has skin allergies, this is his stash. There’s no way I can afford to drop $60 a bag on my sweetheart, so I’m grateful when I’m able to find this and I kind of hoard it for him. And I have been known to share it with fosters that have Demodex mange, a bad skin condition that requires a really good diet to heal quickly.

Everything's gonna be alright. (Bob Marley said so.)

Everything’s gonna be alright (says Bob Marley).

Anyway, got to the store and it wasn’t open yet, so I decided to check the dumpster. Let me just say that this is so not my style. I can’t even believe I’m telling you I did this, but yes, I went dumpster diving for dog food. I’m sorry, dear upper middle class friends and relatives who just threw up in their mouths and then worried I got swarmed by roaches and rats. I’m sorry, but I have no regrets and I’ll do it again. The worst that happened was I experienced the heartbreak of seeing an unconscionable amount of high quality Nutro Max dog food in slashed bags. This is the kind of dog food that would really have helped the thinnest and sickliest of our shelter dogs. It just killed me. I picked up the end of one bag and watched all the food slide out. Sigh. I’d been hoping the expired dog food bag slasher was sleeping on the job, but no such luck. All I came up with was a moldy rawhide, which I passed up, and a sealed bag of rabbit litter. (Hey Julie Sheffield: That rabbit litter on your porch? Your welcome.)

So I came home empty handed for Syrus. While the shelter does give its foster homes dog food for foster dogs, its first ingredient is corn. Not ideal. In my mind, a high protein, high quality dog food past its Best Buy date is better than a “younger” food that’s made of mostly corn. I decided to dig into Crespo’s stash and mix it with Syrus’s shelter food. (Did I mention that Crespo LOVES this food, it makes his coat gleam and he never scratches?)  I also gave Syrus leftovers like the chicken and scraps of brisket I keep stashed in the freezer for training treats. Syrus polished off the remainder of the brisket training treats before noon. He sits like nobody’s business now.

Yo, Syrus. Yes, I do want a kiss, but not this very second, okay?

Yo, Syrus. Yes, I do want a kiss, but not this very second, okay?

Wow, I’m really rambling here and I’m sorry but I haven’t even gotten to the absolute best part of Syrus’s day. Here it is: I got an application in this morning from the woman who expressed an interest in adopting him and she and her family are 99.9% perfect. (If you didn’t see my previous blog about Syrus, I was acquainted with this woman and her husband when I lived on Long Island, and she saw my blog in her friend’s Facebook newsfeed and just fell flat out in love with Syrus’s pictures).

So here’s the .9% possible problem. They have cats. Syrus seems interested in cats, but I’m not sure if he’s interested in them as friends or as snacks. So the task at hand is to test him out with my friend, Allie’s cat, Moo and see how strong his prey drive is. Moo lives with two dogs who are her best friends, so we’re hoping he’ll forget the prey drive and pick up the cats-and-dogs-can-be-friends vibe.

I leave you with that hope for Syrus. Can you please just put it out there? Just hope that Syrus wants to be friends and only friends with Moo. Because if so, he’s going to live the most beautiful life in a seaside town in New York with a teenager, two cats, two elderly Ridgebacks, a fenced yard and a really awesome antique store to boot. And getting him there will be another fun blog. And then I can help another Syrus.

How could you not want to help another Syrus?

How could you not want to help another Syrus?

Syrus: Day 2

In today’s Syrus News:

Syrus is still a very good boy. He kept his kennel clean and dry and was very happy to greet me this morning with tail wags and wiggles. It’s kind of funny to see a dog with a head like an anvil and a gigantic skeletal body greet you with wiggles as if he’s a fat little puppy, but he does. He’s happy. Syrus is a lesson to us all in how to be happy.

The good news today about Syrus is that (a) he doesn’t climb chain link fences, as some of my foster’s have and (b) he doesn’t bark when left alone and (c) his bronchitis appears to be getting much better, so his antibiotic is working.

The other good news about Syrus is that someone I know from New York read this blog yesterday and has had the good taste to fall in love with him. Well, maybe that describes more than one of you. But this person wants to adopt him!  I’ve sent her my adoption application, which includes practical questions to help a person decide if she is REALLY ready for the 10+ years of responsibility that come with having a new dog, and I’m hoping she is reading this right now and getting it back to me.  Because Syrus has some other (somewhat vague) interest in him too, but I think this person would be ideal. And I’ve already checked up on her behind her back. So cross your fingers for Syrus, because this would just be great if it all works out. I can just see him now, all filled out, coat glistening and secretly cheering for the Saints on tv in his new home.

I know you want a picture of him today and I promise I’ll go get that later after I get some of my paid work done. And I’ll also be posting a recipe I’ll be making later today that one of my rescue buddies shared for fattening up an emaciated dog. I know most of your dogs are probably as fat as pigs (like mine), but if you ever pick up a stray that needs fattening, it will come in handy. And meanwhile, you can just show it to your own dogs and tell them it’s the dog version of that “food porn” web site. I’m sure you’ve seen the people version, right? If not, here it is: http://foodporndaily.com (Don’t look at this if you’re on a diet or you’ll have to kill yourself.)

Okay, gotta run, but before I do, please brighten our day by sharing your dog’s best quality in the comments below.

About Dog by Dog

Dog by Dog chronicles the lives of shelter animals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as they make their way from the shelter into foster homes, and then loving, forever homes. In 2007, this open-intake animal shelter had to euthanize nearly 11,000 of the dogs and cats that came through its doors. Today, through a variety of initiatives that include a foster care program, off site adoption events and low cost spay/neuter programs, that number has been nearly halved. Still, thousands of friendly, healthy, housetrained, and highly adoptable animals are put down annually simply for lack of space. We are hoping to change that. The name of this blog is a reference to Bird by Bird, an Anne Lamott book on writing. In it, Lamott advises beginning writers to start small, as her father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was agonizing over a book report on birds: “Just take it bird by bird.” Working in animal rescue can feel so overwhelming at times that I decided the only way I could reasonably help without burning out was to apply Lamott’s advice and take it dog by dog. This blog shares the heartwarming stories of a few good dogs overcoming the worst. With your help, the blog will network these dogs across America and into loving homes.