So, this happened.
Many moons ago, when I first started doing rescue, somehow various groups in the south got my contact info. I still have no idea how, but I often tell people it must have come from the sheer will of the rescuers down south, those in the trenches. I only can imagine how hard I would work, how I would follow every lead, grab any e-mail I came across, if I worked at a shelter or animal control facility where I knew the dogs I was caring for today, loving today, getting kisses from today … would be gone tomorrow. All those amazing, amazing dogs. Not aggressive, not unhealthy, not mangey, but lovely, lovely dogs with a date hanging on their kennel card, simply because someone tired of having them in their yard or decided they were too much trouble.
In any event, I suddenly had been added to group e-mails from various shelters or organizations down south. It was heartwrenching seeing all those faces, with the accompanying stories about where the dog had come from, why they had been dumped, and that date. That awful, awful date that meant that happy pup would be killed. I come from a marketing background. I get it. Some of the group lists were from groups that had a lot of resources and were definitely working their hardest to pull heartstrings, but at the end of the day who can blame them for using any and all ploys at their disposal if it meant saving just one more?
Back then, I was just fostering, hadn’t gotten licensed by the state, and hadn’t moved my family to a new property in a new town with the ability to do things on a larger scale. So, scrolling through those photos was just an exercise in self-torture. I couldn’t help any of the dogs on those lists — I only got dogs as a foster through another rescue, so all decisions were made by them. Eventually, I said yes to taking on some dogs on my own, but it was still just me, in a small house. I couldn’t really do much on my own.
Over time, I removed myself from the various group e-mails, weekly newsletters, and daily euthanasia lists. Now, today, I am contacted by rescues and groups down south regularly, but mostly just with requests for a partnership. Groups just looking for a rescue with whom they can work in the great northeast, where the shelters aren’t overflowing with unwanted dogs and puppies and people actually line up at the transport truck, waiting for their new family member to arrive. I have had good relationships with some rescues, some relationships served their purpose in a certain way before dissipating, some taught me valuable lessons the hard way, but through it all I learned that the trust and relationship with the sending rescue is the most important thing. I am cautious about working with a new group, but have found over the past year and a half a few wonderful relationships with folks I trust very much. This is all to say that I don’t have any need to go out looking at various shelters’ euthanasia lists. The groups with whom I work send me photos of dogs and puppies they think might work in our rescue, and I figure out timing, and space, and whatnot.
Melissa and Jennifer work a bit differently than I (Ross) do; not all the time, but occasionally. They work with larger shelters in Mississippi and South Carolina along with a few smaller, rural shelters with abysmal visibility and networking that equates to abysmal adoption rates. They often look through these shelters’ “Urgent Lists” to see who might be a great fit for our rescue and adopters here in our neck of the woods. Well, I’m out of practice at looking at all those lists, with their accompanying stories and “time’s up” dates. Those damn dates. So a couple of weeks ago, Melissa sent me an e-mail that had a shelter’s urgent dogs and puppies listed. “Would you take the three puppies? I got suckered in because I asked about the scruffy.” (We all know Melissa is operating a subsidiary of CCNE called “Scruffy Dog Rescue,” right? LOL) So I scrolled through a list in a way that I haven’t in a long time. So, so hard. I was laying in bed, waiting for my kids to get ready for bed, and I just scrolled and read. And then I texted Melissa: “Heartworm test all of them. I’ll take everyone who is heartworm negative.”
So yeah. It was a much shorter list of pups who were heartworm negative. But those eight we saved. We had to pay to board them at a boarding facility because this shelter has very little foster support, and we paid outright for all their vetting prior to transport. They arrived on Saturday and I’m getting to know them. It’s powerful to look at half of our kennel and know that all eight of those dogs would now be in a dumpster somewhere, but now they are here. Playing and joyful and happy, with tails wagging and doggy voices raised in the pure gloriousness of romping outside with some friends on a stunning fall day in New Hampshire.
Coco is our shy girl, the only one who seems traumatized by the changes wrought in her life over the past few weeks. Well, looking back at the original list, she came in with a buddy who didn’t make the trip with her. She did come in with Shirley, though. Shirley wandered up to the home where Coco and her other buddy lived; when the Animal Control Officer came to pick up Shirley the stray, the homeowner said “you might as well take my two dogs too.” So Coco has lost her home, her friend, and suddenly has to find her way somewhere new, on her own. She will take some time, but each day she is a bit less shy with us. Shirley is in the roughest shape physically, with healing cuts and wounds all over her body from who knows what of who knows how long of running stray. She is gleeful and fun-loving and puts a smile on our faces with her enthusiasm for life, though! She doesn’t know she makes us grimace at her sorry condition. Give us — me and all the wonderful, wonderful volunteers here at CCNE in New Boston — a little time. Shirley is going to SHINE!
We also have George, a sweet one year old Treeing Walker Coonhound mix. The comment on his photos said “we rarely get them this young and unscarred.” I’m not sure what they are talking about, but I know a lot of hunters mark their dogs for hunting. Maybe that? I really don’t want to ask, as I’m afraid the answer will be branded into my brain and I won’t be able to get the image out of my head of whatever it is that scars hound dogs before they come to them. (And please nobody volunteer the info in the comments!) Gentleman George is an absolute LOVE. He has the most soulful eyes, and just seems to be asking someone to look at him, to see him, to notice HIM. You know, so he can shower some love on you. He reminds a lot of us around here of our Mama Genevieve. He grabs your arms in the same way, imploring you to pet him.
Andy is our oldest pup from the list, at a whopping two years old. He is a lovely … hmmm … maybe shepherd mix? When his heartworm test came back negative, the shelter worker with whom we work said she was beyond thrilled, because he is such a great dog. When he came off the transport truck, the woman handling him introduced him to me as “The Fantastic Mr. Andy.” I looked at her quizzically, not knowing if she was being sarcastic and was about to launch into a story of en-route shenanigans on Andy’s part. But no, as I’ve gotten to know Andy I’ve realized she meant exactly what she said. He IS fantastic.
We also have sweet Betsy, who is trying to find her way in the world for the first time without her mama. Mama didn’t make the trip. I promise you, mama, your baby girl is going to live an amazing life here in New England. I’ll find her a home that showers her with cooshy dog beds, more toys than she can chew in a lifetime, and snuggles all the time. And most importantly, a home that knows that for just a little bit of money each month, they can ensure that Betsy never has giant worms growing in her heart. They will keep her safe. And they will give her the life that mama should have been able to have too. Betsy is a cattle dog cross maybe? Some rottie in there? She has a little underbite, so maybe a little Boxer? She is a sweet, sweet girl hoping that a family of her own will fill the void of losing her mama and polish her up to be the very best dog she can be.
Last but not least, we have the three goofy pups that started it all, the ones Melissa asked me to take, without ever expecting I wouldn’t be able to say no to any of the pups on the list. And yes, these pups were also scheduled to be euthanized. It happens each and every day across our country. Sweet, adorable puppies — no chance to be labelled aggressive, or a bite risk, or contract heartworms — being gassed to death because there are JUST. TOO. MANY. These sweet M pups, Michael, Mary, and Marissa are just … pups. They are happy and playful and nippy and barky and snuggly. They deserve their chance at a life, too.
So we are a little extra busy around here, but it’s worth it. I’m glad this happened.
(E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information about adopting any of these pups!)