I imagine that everyone who works or volunteers in animal rescue, or human social services, gets overwhelmed at times with what seems to be a relentless tide of innocents in need of help. Intellectually, I know that there are FAR fewer unwanted pets being brought to animal shelters and fewer animals being in euthanized in shelters than when I was a young person, and yet at times the sheer volume of dogs I’m aware of who are in need of rescue, fostering, transportation, and medical help is just crushing.
I’m fostering a mama dog and her nine puppies. They were surrendered to my local shelter when the pups were about a week old. I’m glad someone brought them all to the shelter; they could have as easily drowned the puppies or dumped the whole bunch in the woods. The shelter was able to improve their chances immeasurably: They were all treated for the hideous flea infestation they had, as well as the intestinal worms AND a lovely case of coccidiosis. The very-thin mama started to put a little weight on immediately. And, in a couple of months, they will be well-started in housetraining and basic manners, well-started on life-saving vaccinations, get spayed/neutered and microchipped, and will be adopted to screened, qualified homes. Things are looking up – even though they were set back a tad by the kennel cough they picked up in the week they were at the shelter being treated for coccidia, before they came to my house for fostering. With good home care and treatment, we will pull them all through this, no problem.
But I can’t help but think: Who failed to spay the mama dog in the first place – or at the very least, failed to contain her so she couldn’t get pregnant? Who failed to seek out treatment for what had to have been several months of diarrhea caused by a coccidia infection? Or even as little as a flea preventative? Why do people who don’t care for their pets HAVE pets?
And I’m far from the only one. Friends from all over are dealing with similarly depressing situations. One friend who runs a doggie daycare has DOZENS of hounds in foster care in her facility. Another friend who fosters for her local shelter is in despair over the city government’s recent decision to award the shelter-management contract to a new organization, one without a track record of any kind, despite the current management’s accomplishment of achieving the best adoption rate in that shelter’s history. Another friend has been fostering a special-needs dog for over a year, and has been steadily improving this dog’s health and behavior while seeking an appropriate home for the dog – an admittedly difficult task, as the dog shouldn’t be kept with any other dogs or cats – but without a single lead.
On some days, like today, I am just a little overwhelmed by it all.
The best cure for this? Little bits of good news. Facebook photos of a former hard-to-place foster dog, depicted sleeping sprawled out on a beautiful sofa (indicating a loving owner and comfortable living situation) and romping in a grassy field with new toys in his mouth. Positive emailed reports from owners of the last puppies I fostered, who are now thriving in homes all over the state. And, just now, a few minutes spent sitting in a pen full of puppies, kissing their little heads and smelling puppy breath as they lick my nose and cheeks, and feeling those little tails wagging furiously. That will have to do for now.