As a result of varied happenings in the past several months, I found myself thinking about rescue and how most are not familiar with the basic structure and every day occurrences that take place within. This led me to the idea of sharing with you a little bit about us, in a more casual sense vs. the “professional” write ups. We’re not big, and we’re not fancy, but perhaps I can provide some insight to our daily happenings, who we are, and, of course, what we are about. 🙂
I am Miss Alli, and I founded the rescue. After picking up strays throughout my life, I finally learned about “rescue” and opted to participate in Great Pyrenees rescue. I started very slow and somehow or another ended up where I am today. Although I founded the rescue in Tennessee while living there, I relocated in June of ’08 and returned back to my hometown in Greenville, SC. I packed up all the animals and we moved…we were quite the site, I’m sure, as people drove by and caught sight of multiple mammoth Pyrenees heads looking back at them through the car windows.
The rescue has never been large, but after the move we basically had to start over. It’s been difficult to say the least. We do not have a facility (and we’ve never had one) where animals are available for viewing. All of our animals are in foster homes, living with families, and we have a general mailing address for correspondence and donations. I do most of the fostering, minus a few foster parents throughout time. Currently there are only 2 of us, so we are limited as to how many animals we can take in. Hopefully this will increase in time. We are also small enough to where we have always struggled financially ($5000 – $8000 a year), but we’ve always been blessed and made it through by the Grace of God.
We have an adoption process which includes the interested party filling out an application, interviewing and discussing the animals with the applicant, home visits, veterinary references, and meeting the family and any of their pets (although we do have some placements out of the area where others in rescue are kind enough to do the home visit and face to face meeting/interview for us). We do not deter from this regime at all. If someone is not willing to go through the process, they are not considered for adoption.
I work a full time job, as have all of my fosters. We do rescue full time, as well, because the animals live with us. We feed, medicate, train, do veterinary visits, and treat the animal as if he/she are our own. We also do home visits, “meet and greets” and screenings for the animal’s pending adoptions, and I answer emails and phone calls all day long, seven days a week, while also working on the web site, the blog, the Facebook fan page, picking up animals, fundraisers, cleaning house, etc. Add this to our regular work day, taking care of other animals, and normal, every day activities, and we stay consistently busy and often behind…but we love it.
It’s often it’s confusing to those in the outside world since we can’t always answer calls or emails immediately, can’t take in an animal, or that we don’t have a facility. We are often questioned as to why we can’t accept an animal into rescue when we only have 10 or 15 listed, or take in a cat because we have zero to two. There are so many components to bringing an animal into rescue that it’s difficult to understand unless you are involved. For instance, we aren’t taking in cats any longer because we don’t have a the proper set up for them. Cats do not do well in a house full of dogs 99% of the time. I’ve lost an entire living room set as a result of this and the cat’s behaviors. Also, while it may only seem like 10-15 dogs, it’s important to remember that they are in foster homes along with personal pets and Sanctuary dogs, and one home can only handle so many animals. Factor in a full time job, taking care of the animals, etc. … what seems like “only” is actually A LOT. This is why we cringe when someone says “I can’t keep the dog because I have 2 (or even 4) already.” Most don’t stop to think that we literally have 5-10 times as many, nor what it’s like.
The dog itself is also an important determinant. We have to consider the size (not always somewhere to put the dog, for example), breed (whether or not it will conflict with current breeds, such as two very dominant breeds, for instance), gender (not always wise to have the same gender, or it may cause problems with a dominant dog of the same gender, etc), and whether or not it likes other dogs in general. Senior animals typically stay for the duration, so we have to pass on some of them because we don’t have room for another long term dog. We also have the Sanctuary, which means the dogs will never leave our foster home…and we certainly won’t abandon them for a new animal. Of course, we have to have the proper finances to care for the animal, so while we will treat as many heartworm positive dogs as we can, if we had several health issues in a row that played havoc on our funding, we might have to hold off on taking in a heartworm positive dog at that particular time, and instead take one in later with the diagnosis (because, unfortunately, this is rampant in the South). While I don’t mind putting any amount out for a dog (have and will), if I can’t do an orthopedic surgery at the time, I may have to pass on a particular dog. It never benefits to take in dogs that you cannot properly care for or feed. So, our “no” to a shelter dog or stray is not a result of the lack of desire to help, it’s instead due to one or more of these constituents.
So these things combined are what make up rescue and what we are about. For a bit of humor to your day, I will describe how things proceed.
My days are unlike most:
I wake up to a cat on my head and screaming dogs that insist I move too slowly when letting them outside. I typically dodge China’s accidents, plead for the animals to do so, as well, and grab the clorox bottle as I open the backdoor, allowing dogs to scamper out and go potty. I then walk whoever needs walking, medicate whoever needs medicine, refill water bowls, and clean up accidents. After some dogs come back in and everyone settled down, I reach for the caffeine and moan if I have none. After an attempt to wake up, I sit down at the computer to do my two jobs…rescue and my full time “real” job with a medical practice. I typically forget to brush my hair or put on socks until I look in the mirror or have freezing toes.
Throughout the “real job” work day I squeeze in enough laundry for the animals to equal six kids and their parents, try to determine what part of the house will be cleaned that day, refill the squirt bottles and refill water bowls and outdoor buckets repeatedly. I rotate the ones that don’t get along, let dogs in and out every 30 minutes to an hour, make sure China has something to lay on, clean the litter box, and most often clean up a 2nd accident or two. I love all over them, train them and tend to any behaviors (good or bad). Oh yes – I refuel with chocolate and lemonade, sweet tea and the like over, and over, and over, and over….
I answer an absurd amount of emails, pass along or delete even more, and mourn over the thousands of animals that I cannot help. I make trips to the shelter when I pull an animal and prepare for their arrival. I sometimes remember to eat, but generally it’s dinner before I get to it. This almost always results in embarrassing myself in front of the waitstaff if I’m at a restaurant since I gorge on pre-dinner bread and order the biggest meal on the menu (and ask for more bread). At least if I’m home the dog’s are accepting of such behaviors.
I typically call the vet and beg for an appointment 2-3 times a week, and when it’s only a few hours away I begin a frantic process of cleaning myself up (because generally I’m unkempt) and getting everyone ready. Then I let dogs in and out, and in and out, and in and out, making sure they’ve all had ample time for potty breaks before I leave. I fill the crate water bowls, inevitably spilling some on myself or the floor, and begin gathering my things for the 40 minute trip (the joy of living in the boondocks). I answer my mother’s multiple phone calls in the process (or call her 10 times), stumble over dogs that follow me around and instruct them repeatedly to stop barking at the top of their lungs (well, I do this whether I head to the vet or not). I then put them all in their crates, turn on some music for them (nobody wants boring silence, after all), and fumble out the door with the dog(s), purse, drink, and often the laptop. When I arrive I beg for forgiveness for the lack of punctuality.
Insert blog, website, family, photographing the dogs, fundraising attempts or activities, research, and more. Sometimes I do these things with precision, and sometimes I do them in a fog and later wonder what on God’s green earth was I thinking when I listed Bonnibelle as a Pyrenees.
When I shop I spend more money on Clorox, detergent and paper towel than Greenville Memorial Hospital (seemingly). My water bill is outlandish, my car’s gas bill is ludicrous, and I tell myself I’m insane when I pay them. We currently have no food donations, so my paycheck covers the dog food 80-90% of the time, and I’m the one hauling 52lb bags from the car to the house while the dogs yell at me to hurry up (because I am, after all, their servant). I live in t-shirts and jeans, converting to sweatshirts and jeans in the colder seasons as a means of spicing things up. I get my kicks out of shopping for dogs at the Goodwill…or anywhere…and I’m constantly on the lookout for bargains and sales that may benefit the rescue. I get far too excited over coupons.
Of course there’s more, but this post is long enough as it is, and you’d be reading for days…most likely also expressing your fear for my sanity.
However, all of this is done because rescue is my passion. I run the rescue and the Board is my soundboard. The animals are my life, literally, and I constantly worry about them, play with them, clean up after them, and alter my day around them. I love them with all of my heart, and yes, I’m very protective of them…as are all fosters. I am proud of each of the animals and have learned something from them all.
While I’ll swear my fosters have been perfect throughout time, I feel as if I’m constantly needing to improve. My goal is to make the animals comfortable, safe, and for them to know they are loved even if I’m a grouch that day. I want them to go to the best possible home…someone better than me. I want them to live the life that they have longed for and deserved.
So, I continue on, still determined to grow and learn, while also saving more and teaching others. The ideas in my head are grand, and they consume my mind both day and night. I want to do more, and I want to be able to answer the pleas for help with a yes instead of “We have no room and no money.” It’s not easy, it’s not glamorous, and there are days when it’s like anything other stressor and feels like too much…but that’s animal rescue…and that’s what I do.