The problem with rescue organizations, like Save a Dog, and Friends of Homeless Animals
Having adopted four rescue dogs in my life, and being ready for another I proceeded unprepared into the minefield that is animal rescue these days. I moseyed casually over to my local humane society, planning to walk between rows of dogs, play with some and pet them and see if one was the dog for me. In case one was, I expected to sign some papers, pay a low fee, and walk out with my new best friend.
No such luck. I didn’t know that in the last many years people in New England and other areas up north, had gotten so good about adopting mutts, rather than buying pedigrees that now the mutts were at a premium. No longer does one stroll the rows of needy dogs. Now, in many places, you must make an appointment to “meet and greet,” the dog of choice that you have already selected on the Internet. If this sounds like computer dating to you, it does to me also. Except that I am too old to have ever done any of that and don’t really know what it is like. But I have always pictured that you read a description of both the appearance and the personality of the available dates, choose on that basis and hope for the best. This is the process for picking out a dog now.
I cannot see how you can know anything about a dog (or person for that matter,) in this way, but I was game to give it a try. So, on the site of one of these places, I picked out a likely looking dog and asked to meet him. Oh, no, I was informed. First I had to be approved. I had, it appears, to audition for the part of that dog’s owner. Well, I used to be an actor, I knew about auditions… so “ok,” I said, “bring it on.” I filled out an application that included… really… the name and age of everyone in my household, the name and age of every animal in the household, the name and number of my vet so that they could make sure I had taken proper care of said animals (They didn’t ask for the name of my children or husband’s doctor to see how I had taken care of them, I don’t know why,) the names and numbers of three references, (presumably people who had never seen me beat up the turtle,) and my reason for wanting this particular dog, or any dog. At this point, it began to remind me of applying to college. I should have just sent them my standard “why I want to attend your school, essay.”
I filled it all out, like a good girl, sent it in, (they actually did call all those people, in case you are wondering.) Then I was told that they needed to do a “home visit.” When I reacted to this with “You’re kidding me?” no one laughed. In fact, a sense of humor seems to be singularly lacking in the people who guard the gateway of dog ownership these days. What they’re doing is undoubtedly good and kind, helping these animals find good home, but it is not such a serious matter as, say famine relief, or curing cancer, and even the people who work in those jobs seem more open to laughter than this bunch.
Okay, someone came to my house. It looked to them like a house should look, I guess. No beaten, starving animals were on display, so I was approved. Or I thought I was approved…I passed inspection, didn’t I? Of course, the original dog I had asked about had been long gone to another home by now. A few weeks later, I saw another sweet looking critter, and gave them a call. I was told that 4 people had already called about this pooch. “That’s okay,” I said, “I am already approved.” That was great! It gave me first dibs, I guess, ahead of those other people. “Could I meet the dog?” I asked. Oh, I was told. “She’s in Texas. She will be here next week. Then we have to get her checked out and all. But” she said, “I don’t see anywhere it says you are approved. Did you pay?” she asked. “No,” I said, “I haven’t even met a dog yet.” Oh, she said. Then you are not approved. “ You have to put down a deposit on a particular dog to be approved. You are person #5 for this dog.”
If this story was about one loony shelter, and there were plenty of others around that were normal, I would probably have just gone somewhere else and forgotten the whole thing right there. But I soon discovered that many shelters are like this now. In fact, one told me they wouldn’t even bring the dog here until I had officially adopted her sight unseen. Very like buying a pig in a poke, no? Or, they said, I could Skype with the dog. I kid you not.
I have to wonder about younger people who have full-time jobs, or parents who work, do they have the time and energy to go through all this? Is rescue dog adoption becoming something that only people with leisure time on their hands can do? An option open only to the wealthy? When one shelter asked to interview my husband, who doesn’t even like dogs, and was doing all this as a favor to me, and then said I had to bring in my 13 year old present dog who vomits every time he rides in a car, to meet the prospective dog, I gave up.
It really is enough to send me to a breeder or a puppy mill, much as that is against my values. They don’t even cost much more. I know the people who are involved in these rescue operations mean well. They want to help the animals and make sure they are treated in a humane way. But I think they run the risk of forgetting that we people are also animals, and we also have feelings. Getting to go to a shelter and pick out a dog used to be one of the most joyous experiences a dog lover could have. Now it has become a miserable trial by fire.
59 Gilbert Street
Framingham, Ma 01702