Friday, March 30, 2012

Long Term Shelter Dogs: Part 2 How Long is Too Long?

My brain is on overload with all the things I want to be able to say in this post, including my response to questions and issues raised in the comments yesterday about Hailey, a long term shelter dog.

First of all, when I read the article about Hailey in my newsletter from Dogwood Animal Shelter, I immediately wanted to know more. I clicked to their website and read more about her.  Then I surfed to Petfinder only to discover no photos of Hailey and another reference to Black Dog Syndrome.

What stunned me about Hailey was that she's spent all but 2 months of her eight years of life in a shelter.  

She's not alone.  Over the years I've read about other dogs who have spent years in various animal shelters waiting for a forever home.  I'm aware of some shelters and rescues that even waive adoption fees after an animal has been with them for over a year.

I'm well aware that if Hailey had originally been taken to a "kill" shelter, she may have been euthanized long ago.

Could Dogwood have done (and still do) more for Hailey in terms of getting her adopted.  Sure.  Of course.  For starters, they could get that Petfinder photo uploaded.  They could do a youtube video of Hailey.  They could network with Labrador Retriever rescue groups to place her.  

They could re-word Hailey's description. "She is particular about what dogs will be her friends." is a yellow warning light blinking in my head.  What exactly does that mean?

What I know for sure is that Hailey is one of 250-300 dogs and cats living at Dogwood.  In 2011 this "no kill" animal shelter took in 664 pets and adopted out 651.  They have an army of volunteers who raised the funds to build a state-of-the-art animal shelter and offer low cost spay/neuter clinics, obedience classes, elementary school education curriculum and much more.  Dogwood is funded solely on donations and funds raised by volunteers at events and their thrift store.  They hold adoption events on site and at nearby shopping locations.

Are they perfect?  Heck, no. Every day they are faced with difficult decisions regarding keeping their facility operating, how to adopt more dogs and cats to good, loving homes and which ones to feature in their adoption marketing efforts.

They are not alone.    Every animal shelter and every pet rescue group needs more resources, more volunteers, better marketing, more networking...   It's a long list.

Thoughts of Hailey consume me.  Yes, she's never known life outside a shelter, so she doesn't know what life could be like. However, how many other dogs like Hailey are out there? Dogs that have spent months, or even years, in a shelter.

Why has Hailey not been adopted?  What more could have been done for her?  Good questions.

For me, though, the real question remains:  how long is too long?  Is there a "too long?"  Is life in a shelter better than no life at all?

My answer is yes, life in a shelter is better than no life.  However, as I watch my own dogs roust at play, patrol their yard, lounge on the sofa... I am haunted by Hailey and the other dogs like her who have been overlooked.

1 comment:

  1. It is like the euthanasia debate for peole.

    I have thought about this my self. I figured that much depends on the quality of life at the shelter. A daily walk, some time in a yard and human interaction, stuff to chew on when in pens ...this makes a difference. Also, how the particular dog handles it. Some dogs do not cope at all.

    Whatever the decision, because it is playing God, one can not ever be sure and there will certsinly be better choices that could have been made. First, I think a tolerance and acceptance for uncertainty and for the world being unfair and imperfect. ...i think this acceptance of sufferring as is helps to seeing the big picture as opposed to refusing to acknowledge harsh realities, and by running away from them, onky causing more sufferring. ...Buddhism, in other words.

    But to the best of my ability, I estimate a rough maximum time for a dog that gets basic interaction (let's say a daily walk and five to ten minutes in the yard a day, maybe a cong or chewy treat a few times a week, but otherwise jst being in their en day after day hour after hour) ...I would make past one year, it is that the dog needs extra help to get adopted or fostered. At two years, a real decision has to be made. Unless special allowances can be made for the animal -like they get extra long walks and spend a lot of the day on most days out of the kennel environment ...unless these things happen, I would take them to be euthanized within six months. They would get one trip to the beach and then go to the vet.
    Otherwise I would put the day of euthanasia at three years. (In a different mood, I have said four... But i don't know.


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