Cujo’s Chance

Technically, Lucky/Ion/Eden never made it to the adoption floor. Cassie and Melissa had adopted her immediately after her spay, so her name was listed without any picture other than “available soon” to mark her presence. Chance had a different story.

On the day they were both transported for their surgeries, Chance was found to have a cold and could not be operated on and thus not yet ready for adoption so he would remain a guest of the Allen County SPCA for a bit longer but was already creating a small buzz.

  

The Blues had arrived at the SPCA on Friday and on Saturday and Sunday I did something that could have impacted his future. Saturday morning Asia and I went to the shelter to visit the Blues and she immediately fell in love became obsessed with Chance. He was, after all pretty spectacular in so many ways.

  

 He was calm and affectionate and while Eden bounced all over him and jumped on his head and his back, he remained steadfast and happy, giving more credence to the theory that he was her father. Though he was sweet and affectionate with us, it was clear that Chance was a dog’s dog-he loved being near other dogs, especially little Eden. His tender, gentle acceptance of her was inspiring to see.

  

The following day, the hubby and I had to run an errand that took us to the shelter and I used that opportunity to introduce him to the Blues. I rarely do that but when I do, it’s to plant a seed, because there’s always that just in case case that comes up. Little did I realize that little seeds had been planted in Asia’s heart as well and on that Monday she informed me that not only did she submit an application for Chance, she had called to ensure that her faxed application had been received and already scheduled a meet and greet for him and Sugar. As much as I already loved Chance, and thought that he would make an excellent addition to the family, I wasn’t convinced that it was the right time or circumstances.

  

For as much as I pressured gently encouraged Cassie and Melissa, I wanted to be sure that Asia was separating Chance’s back story with her urge to adopt him. As far as the circumstances in Asia’s household, she had just purchased her new home, adopted Sugar and began fostering Bitsy all before even the first utility bills began rolling in. Luckily since his neuter was delayed, so would be his meet and greet which would allow me to really work on if not changing Asia’s mind, at least to get her to think the decision through more carefully.

In the meantime, I pulled out all the stops. The time commitment, the financial commitment, the loss of a crucial foster at a time when good foster homes for pit bulls were scarce were all arguments I cited while trying to get her to reevaluate her decision and ultimately I asked that she at least wait to see if another family would come along that would be in a position to give Chance all that he needed. Not that Asia wouldn’t, but instead of being the second or third in a home, he should have an opportunity to find a family who needed to love him. He deserved that chance. If after 30 days he was still available for adoption we could reevaluate.

Nearly every day I went to visit Chance and while sitting with him or walking him I fell for him again and again but knew that if the hubby and I were to add a dog to our household, it would be someone spry and active enough to play with Julius but calm enough to keep Ray feeling secure. While Chance would definitely not be threatening to Ray, he would not in any way be able to keep up with Julius so while I loved him dearly and if I needed to I would provide him a home, I knew that a better one was out there somewhere for him…

  

To be continued…

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Pets for Life and the Blues

The problem I have with my own social media is that I hesitate to inundate people with the same info over and over again on each outlet and that I forget that there are those folks who only follow along on certain outlets so there are “holes” in my info sharing. Case in point is that I wanted to reference our Pets for Life clinic in June for some posts this week only to find that I never did blog about it.

Last year, our shelter director asked me if I’d like to attend a Pets for Life seminar in Detroit with one of the shelter staff and that seminar really struck a cord. This initiative which is about serving those pets who live in underserved parts of our community and assisting the people who love them. I’ve loved volunteering at our Pet food Pantry and this initiative not only dovetailed nicely with that, it really amplified everything that we’d be able to offer folks.

This Spring, in conjunction with the staff at H.O.P.E. for Animals, our low cost spay-neuter clinic, the Allen County SPCA began making plans for a free clinic to be held in June. Having pooled our resources, we found that we’d be able to offer Rabies, distemper, microchips, ID tags, flea treatments, collars, food, leashes, some nail trims and offer information about spay and neuter. After months of planning the morning of the clinic dawned to a torrential storm that brought down mighty trees all over the city. Would we cancel? Would we reschedule? We had local Veterinarians and Vet Techs volunteering their time, regular volunteers ready, premeasured vaccinations in the fridge and finally, lines of citizens beginning to form in the miserable drizzle that continued after the storm swept through. Lines of dogs and the people who love them ready to receive that much needed dose of vaccines. With some quick thinking and arranging, the clinic proceeded as planned. Dogs of all shapes and sizes received their chips and vaccines while their owners received food and supplies if needed and rather than feeling tired or daunted by the lines, each new little paw that walked through the door gave me that much more energy and sense of purpose.

Photo credit Allen County SPCA

Naturally there were Pit Bulls through the doors, but there were so many dogs of all shapes and sizes that were truly reflective of a diversity of taste in our community. Most were well behaved and those who were slightly less socialized were brought in separately and given all respect, consideration and space. Thankfully those owners waited their turn in line and upon reaching registration were given the instructions on how and where to bring in their dog who was given the works in the comfortable space off the lobby.

Photo by Allen County SPCA

And then we met the Blues.

I wasn’t the parking lot greeter, so I didn’t hear the whole story at the beginning, but two women came to the line who had literally just come to own two pit bulls 30 minutes before arriving and arrived at nearly the end of the clinic. They had acquired these two dogs from a neighbor or something and remembered hearing of our free clinic, so loaded the dogs in the car and headed over. Not knowing the dogs or their personalities, the ladies secured their spot in line and when it was their turn, I accompanied them to get the first of the two dogs. The male, named Cujo came out first. He was a calm “little” blue hippo who was unsure about what all was occurring, but stood stoically for his shots and chip. Upon his release, we tried to guide him down the exit hallway but he dug in and wouldn’t budge. I asked the volunteer to open the door so that Cujo could see that it was a “good” hallway and out to the parking lot he trotted lumbered.

 

With Cujo taken care of I returned for Lucky. The young female had a large gash on her hind leg so I carried her to the clinic for her turn and along with her vaccines and chip, the docs set her up with some healing salve and told the owner to bring her to HOPE the following week for a check up. The two ladies told us they were first time dog owners and we all ooh’d and ah’d over how exceptionally sweet the two dogs were and that while Lucky certainly was lucky, Cujo definitely needed a new name. Many of the collars and all of the leashes were gone, so I ran to the pittie van to ransack my supply and came up with two leashes and a collar as well as a couple of bowls. From the clinic, we found a suitable collar, a full 30 pound bag of food and the offer of a crate if they’d come back for it. The little group left with all of that as well as my personal card and that of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition so that if they needed anything they could reach out and we’d be there.

Nearly exactly 30 days later, my heart sank to see Cujo’s picture on the stray site at Animal Care and Control. Come back as we explore the journey of these two blue dogs.

Pets For Life

Recently I was able to attend a seminar in Detroit given by the HSUS about their Pets for Life program. While I was pretty excited to attend I had very few expectations other than a) to be inspired and motivated and b) a bit apprehensive of the provided lunch since it would be vegan. I can eat copious amounts of vegetables but had somehow worked myself up to believing I’d probably shrivel up without a dollop of mayo (which I rarely use) or a bit of cheese. Fortunately I was correct in the first instance and utterly off base on the second. I came away inspired, motivated and satiated. Lunch was completely delicious and satisfying, including the vegan chocolate chip cookie.*

 

I swear I didn't add the gratuitous cookie picture just to show off my fancy nails.

I swear I didn’t add the gratuitous cookie picture just to show off my fancy nails. Ok, maybe I did.

When our shelter director brought information about Pets for Life back from a HSUS conference she attended earlier this year, I was intrigued and hoped that we would be able to implement this program here in Fort Wayne in an effort to make an impact and to help pet owners in underserved areas of the city keep their pets. I think we who volunteer at Allen County SPCA get to see a small slice of that community because the shelter is located in one of the zip codes which could be targeted for the program. Being a visitor/dog walker in the neighborhood around the shelter has made me feel a type of bond with the area and with some of the people I’ve met. I’ve talked to people along our walks about their dogs, neighbors helped me “rescue” Julius and in return when one of them asked about equipment, I gave her an old harness that I used on Ray when he was a puppy and on smaller dogs like Glamour. Helping others with resources is one of the major factors of this initiative and something I’m very interested in.

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Though we’ve been beginning to implement a Pets For Life program, it has mostly been centered around pet food and some other donated supplies whereas HSUS talked about things like free spay and neuters, vaccination clinics, medications like flea and tick preventative or equipment such as collars, leashes or dog houses. I think it will take some time to get this going in our area along with some false starts and baby steps but when it gets up and running will be a great resource for our underserved pet lovers in general.

Throughout the day, we learned about the Pets For Life program and how HSUS has targeted the audience and about implementation. We learned about pets in poverty and the differences between systematically poor as opposed to being conditionally poor as well as how the systematically poor often don’t utilize many resources available simply because they aren’t aware of them. We discussed respect and minimizing the “power dynamic” to ensure that when visiting people we are never “educating” them but rather “sharing information.” We learned about having a plan, setting realistic expectations and always being transparent with the clients and finally to understand that above all these are not “our” successes or “our” failures. They talked about how even a reduced fee spay or neuter might possibly be out of reach for some families who are struggling to feed and clothe themselves on a poverty level budget. That doesn’t mean they love their pets any less because they can’t provide as much and it doesn’t mean they don’t “deserve” to own pets. Each spay is a win for the animal and each utilized resource is empowerment for the pet owner and we are just the tools by which to help them along.

The audience was made up of a nice mix of staff of shelters and rescues as well as volunteers of both. There were groups who have been practicing the Pets For Life way and could attest to the success and there were those who, I felt based on questions and feedback, would not be in a position or mindset to implement the program. That’s ok. Pets For Life is focused on helping people keep their pets and not about knocking on doors and removing pets. Enforcement and rescue do have a major place in animal welfare and while extremely important, are not what Pets For Life is focused on, though HSUS representatives were very clear that if they encountered situations that they felt needed to be reported on, they had a transparent enough and respectful enough relationship with their clients to say, “this is not something I can ignore” and reported when necessary.

We also learned about data collection and were given a sample of the form HSUS uses when developing a relationship with clients. The one page, front and back form is a bit daunting but apparently most of the info can be gleaned just from conversations with clients and can also be filled out over the course of several visits. I do have a teensy issue with question 12/12 a. of the form as the “ask” is if you own a cat or dog, and if you answered dog, “type of breed.” That in itself is nearly fine, but the choices are: (in order as listed on HSUS form)
A) Pit Bull type
B) Toy dog (Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, small white fluffy dog)
C) Medium dog (Cocker Spaniel, Beagle)
D) Large dog (Rottweiler, Labradors, German Shepherd)
E) Mix, unclear what major breed is involved

I would like to see the form, if asking for size or breed give choices and make spaces for such. If we single out Pit Bull types as a separate but equal category, we are, in my opinion, perpetuating the “Pit Bull” stigma as well as possibly implying that a certain socioeconomic group might tend to have a certain type of dog. How about just small, medium, large and then a space for predominant breed?

Overall, I found the seminar interesting and motivating and am curious to see how it can and will be implemented in Fort Wayne.

*Full disclosure is that I’m not much of a chocolate chip cookie fan, so that might be partly why these were so delicious to me.