Thursday, January 03, 2008

Rescue Me

A few weeks ago, I woke up and realized that I needed another dog. We have a dog--Shelly the World's Most Annoying Dog, a miniature dachshund who's bark has been metered at 129 decibels. Oh and it's a very shrill 129 decibels. Despite this, I felt strongly I needed another dog. A big dog. A thumpable dog. I thought a lot about what kind of dog I wanted. I didn't want to replace my late Golden Retriever because frankly some things are not replaceable. So maybe a different dog. I wanted a smart dog so I thought maybe a standard poodle. I looked at websites for standard poodles and tried to convince myself that if the dog's coat wasn't trimmed to look like topiary it would be okay. I looked at Labradoodles. I looked at lots and lots of dogs.

I finally admitted that I really like Golden Retrievers.

Lawrence Persons had recommended a local rescue group called Gold Ribbon Rescue. I went and filled out an application. I'm a pretty respectable kind of person. I figured it would be no big deal.

Now I have just the smallest sense of what people who adopt children go through.

The application was rather long. It asked what my work hours were. How long I was out of the house each day. If I owned my dwelling and if not, for information to contact my landlord. It asked if I had a vet and could they contact him. Did I have a fenced in yard. Does anyone in the house have asthma. How would I exercise the dog? Did I realize that Goldens are pretty big dogs? What pets did I already have?

Dog Breed rescues are all volunteer operations. They exist to place unwanted dogs with people who want them. They specialize. There are dachshund rescues, doberman rescues, poodle rescues, dalmatian rescues. They often have arrangements with the local animal shelters so that if a dog that looks like it's their breed--a labrador, a collie, or a shih tzu--shows up at a shelter, the shelter calls them and they come and get it. They evaluate the dog for health and temperament. They often have an arrangement with a vet to get services at a discount rate. They check for heartworm (and often find it and then treat for it, an expensive proposition). They foster it with a volunteer. And then they place it.

On December 30, 2007, Gold Ribbon Rescue had 33 dogs in foster care.

This, I figured, would be a slam dunk. I mean, they've got a lot of dogs. I'm a good pet owner. I'll have this dog in a couple of days. I actually applied several weeks ago. After a week, I got a phone call. It was my phone interview. I liked the woman who called me. She had a long list of questions--many of them the same ones that I had answered. But it was a little nerve wracking. Did we have a dog door? No, I said, but we were planning to have one put in. A dog door isn't a good thing. It won't disqualify you, but it does suggest that you don't pay close attention to when your dog goes in and out. She told me she would just put 'no' that I didn't have a dog door.

It turns out I have two things in my favor. 1. I work at home, at least most of the time. 2. We don't have small children. Most people don't work at home. And although small children will not disqualify you from getting a dog, it is assumed that you will pay more attention to your children than to the dog. Which as Adam can tell you, is not true of me.

I did pass my phone interview with flying colors. But next is the in house interview.

A volunteer comes to the house. They bring their Golden Retriever to see how we (and they stress all people and pets should be home) respond. I've heard people who are adopting children talk about when the social worker comes and now I think I understand. I'm worried that my dog food won't be good enough. I'm even more worried about Shelly. Shelly doesn't like other dogs. She liked Smith, the old dog, but that was because she was 4 months old when we brought her home and considered Smith to be her dog. In my mind I see the volunteer come with their perfectly socialized happy Golden. I see Shelly hunker under a chair, hair standing on end.

I imagine the volunteer eying Shelly while we make chipper small talk. I imagine Shelly eying the Golden with loathing. I imagine Bob and I desperately attempting to pretend everything is normal, rather like when your Uncle Oscar gets falling down drunk at a wedding and starts talking about his bitch of an ex-wife, while everyone smiles and hopes the groom doesn't punch him.

And then I imagine Shelly launching herself at the friendly, startled Golden.

Sunday. The house visit is on Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes.


Blogger Unknown said...

I love Shelly! She ain't annoying!

January 03, 2008 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bullshit! I agree that there should of course be some sort of monitoring of would-be pet-owners but really, that's ridiculous.

It sounds as if they don't want to have their dogs adopted. I suggest that if for some crazy reason you don't pass, just go to a shelter and find a good dog that needs a home.

January 03, 2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, not bullshit. The shelters are full of animals that someone thought they wanted and then didn't.

We fostered three kittens for a shelter and two of the three came back because the new owners changed their minds. In one case the kitten was dumped at the pound to be destroyed despite the fact that we have a policy: bring the cat back to us, we will give you your $100 back with no questions asked.

Fortunately we saw her listed online and were able to rescue her.


I'm sure you will pass inspection. Shelly will adjust. Your new pooch will be fortunate to be with you.


January 03, 2008 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I promise to be good! No really! Oh wait, you meant the dog, not me. Well, if you're really concerned you could always slip Shelly a doggie downer before the interview. Or peanut butter?
Good luck!

January 04, 2008 8:38 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Shelly Rae, you're always good!

January 04, 2008 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is bullshit (as I already said) is the _degree_ to which the shelter is investigating prospective pet adopters.
Maureen, good luck--you'll certainly get a lovely pooch somewhere if not from that particular shelter.

January 05, 2008 1:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Fingers crossed. I don't suppose you could use the dog equivalent of catnip on Shelly?

January 05, 2008 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think the that potential adopters should be checked out, but this is a bit Kafkaesque. Keeping my fingers crossed for the visit, and sending zen thoughts puppy-Shelly's way!

January 05, 2008 3:20 PM  
Blogger Jackie M. said...

Hi Maureen,

I'd start by saying "you don't know me," but in fact we talked for a little while at the Small Beer stand this last Wiscon. And I'm sure that your house visit will go just swimmingly...

...but if you do end up deciding these rescue people are too much trouble, I do happen to know a really swell retriever mix puppy who needs a home. My friend Kerry rescued Barney from Tucson Animal Control an hour before he was scheduled for euthanization... which was a really awesome thing for her to have done, but she did it without consulting her husband. And her husband has made it clear that Kerry can have either Barney or a happy marriage, but not both. So he's up for adoption!

(Actually, Hannah Bowen wondered if Barney might be a full-bred Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. He has no pedigree, of course, but he does seem to match the both the appearance and temperament.)

The one problem with Barney is that he has a mild case of Valley Fever, and a limp which may be causally related. He's currently on a pretty aggressive regiment of anti-fungals; I'm not sure how long he will need to stay on them, and Kerry has offered to pay for several months worth if he is adopted. But it is definitely a concern.

Anyway! I'm sure you (and Shelly) will do just fine with the house visit, and that your life will soon be one thumpable golden retriever richer. BUT! If you happen to still be looking a month from now--and if you're willing to take in a dog with a mixed health record--I would be happy to take a weekend trip out to Austin to introduce you.

January 05, 2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very very interesting. Is there really such a scarcity of homeless dogs that they are in the position of not allowing people to adopt because they have (human) young children?

The cat adoption situation in Cambridge was similar. We were told that we would not be allowed to choose a particular cat, but must accept whatever homeless kitty the Cat Lady thought was a good match for us. (Never mind what we, or the cat, thought.)

We wanted a kitten, not a grown cat --- sorry, we're selfish, but that's what we wanted -- and so went to an adoption presentation at a pet store run by this Cat Lady and she and a Russian guy got into a screaming fit over whether she would allow him to surrender his cat for adoption because he was leaving the country. Seems he couldn't (or wouldn't) pay the surrender fee.

We decided to look at Craig's list and ultimately adopted a very charming and healthy tom kitten from the Salem Animal Shelter. The shelter personel were careful; they did ask questions about whether we had time for a kitten, what vet we were planning to use, etc., but they didn't put up the rather amazing barriers suggested by your potential agent.

I suppose we could have been nasty, thoughtless people who would put our kitten out in the cold the first time he destroyed the screens, the toilet, various bric-a-brac (actually, he eventually did all these things), but they also charged a whopping fee for adoption. Maybe that was their way of saying, "Take this pet-owner business seriously, you guys."

When we had him checked out by our vet, he was amazingly well tended: no fleas, worms, or ear-mites. So the $130 adoption fee was useful both as a screening method and as a way to pay for really good pre-adoption care. They even offered free neutering (which we didn't use because we wanted to take him to our own vet for the surgery).

I'm not saying the screening is bullshit, but it does rather amaze me that they don't have a superfluity dogs in need of homes.

January 07, 2008 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adopted Bella at kittykind, an organization that works out of Petco. There's a $100 fee that covers shots (at the store) and free neutering, which I didn't take advantage of. The reason I didn't is when I made the appointment and they told to take my kitten to such and such corner at such and such time. You'll leave her there in a waiting van for three hours and return for her--ugh--I had to look up the location as I'd never heard of either street. It sounded too much like a weird drug deal. So I cancelled the appt (they thanked me cause they schedule about 20 or so for that one day a month and could give someone else our slot)and I took her to my own vet.

January 09, 2008 11:12 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Work at home, no kids is key. I applied to adopt a dachshund as an income-less, yardless renter, college student. You can not imagine the paperwork when you already have those 3 strikes against you.

April 17, 2009 6:27 PM  

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