Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pick me! - Choosing a foster dog

Yep, yep - Another bust dog has landed safely in CA.

I fear there may be yawns all over the place with more bust dog news, so I won't go into detail about this wonderful fresh arrival just yet. After all, Mikey (below) is just another one of dozens and dozens of dogs coming home from the "biggest-baddest-bust-eva." They're everywhere!

While we celebrate an unprecedented number of bust dogs saved from an unprecedented dog fighting sweep in the midwest this summer, the loyal homebodies among us are understandably right to ask:

"But what about our own LOCAL dogs-in-need?"

GOOD QUESTION! The conundrum of choosing which lucky dogs get those rare foster spots is an important topic and a common theme during our weekly lunchtime meetings after Pit Ed classes. One thing's for sure, we aim to rescue at least one or two local dogs for every out-of-state dog we take in. That unofficial policy has been in place since back when we committed to ten Vick dogs. So the arrival of out-of-state Mikey signals a shopping spree for BR reps looking to fill a special foster home with a special local dog.

In short, we're looking for a new ambassadog in the making. But with so many, how do you pick?

Here's the climate: In the SF east bay, pit bulls don't really need us like they did ten years ago. Strong adoption programs in our local shelters means the squishiest, most well-socialized dogs get snapped up quickly - without question. Even the "needs a little work" dogs find relatively fast homes. Nowadays, REAL pit bull rescue in the east bay involves taking dogs that have medical or behavior issues and then shining those rough diamonds up into little super stars. For example, in the past 12 months, we took ownership of over 30 dogs while working within Oakland Animal Services. Eight dogs had medical problems that required either surgery or focused vetcare before they could be adopted out. Twelve had challenging but workable behavior issues that stemmed (typically) from lack of socialization or a good old fashioned proper upbringing. Six dogs presented unworkable behavior issues and were given compassion holds. And another six were 'easy keepers' who helped us train new volunteer handlers before they found their way to some very lucky, usually novice homes.

So, here we go again...Scanning the shelters and comparing notes with each other on what we've seen. Who needs us the most? Should we go to the next county and save a highly adoptable dog that has near-zero options? Stick close to home and help a dog with issues? Scan our email for a desperate family in foreclosure? (tons of those) How do we balance out the personalities and sexes we already have? And - very important - how much vetting, training and socializing do we have the energy to do this time around? Easy keepers are like a happy vacation and a breath of fresh air to tired rescuers after placing one or two more difficult dogs. But then again, the difficult dogs are the ones that bring some of the biggest rewards. Sigh.

It's a strange mix of privilege and burden to save a life. In the end, it's probably safe to say that we don't choose our rescue dogs. Rather, they always seem to find a way to choose us.


Leigha said...

Your blogs always find a way to touch my heart. Just like every pittie does. There is one we are trying to save who is In a kill
shelter here in virginia her name is sugar. She would be one of the easy ones, it's just so difficult to find a place for even one dog sometimes.

Bonnie said...

Mikey is beautiful. You can post all the all the updates and cute pics of him you want and I promise I'll always grin when I read them.

Anonymous said...

Tough decisions, but I'm glad you're able to help the bust dogs get out. They will help show everyone that these dogs deserve a 2nd chance.

I'm not in a position to adopt right now (two dogs already, the older has lymphoma and is doing chemo), but I kept watching Willem's pic and hoping he'd get adopted. His pic is now gone but never said "adopted." Dare I ask what happened?

The Foster Lady said...

"In the SF east bay, pit bulls don't really need us like they did ten years ago. Strong adoption programs in our local shelters means the squishiest, most well-socialized dogs get snapped up quickly - without question. Even the "needs a little work" dogs find relatively fast homes." Oh, Philadelphia, don't you wish this were us???? I am green with envy out here in the East, simply green.

Diane said...

I NEVER tie of hearing your rescue stories and I so wish there was an organization such as what you guys have there, here in Oklahoma City. I have Pit rescues of my own but I so would love to do more to help. If I was there I would be there to help you for sure, but since I'm not I send you warm thoughts ALL THE TIME! Keep up the wonderful HARD work you guys accomplish!

Donna said...

Dina. Have faith - it took ten years to be able to say this about the east bay. If you go 15 miles in other directions, there's a rat's nest of need. We'll be working our fingers raw til the day we drop.

Oklahoma is just starting to wake up to pit bulls, Diane. Keep the faith!

Ten years!

Anonymous said...

Oh Mikey, I think I'm in LOVE!!! What a beautiful dog!

Heather Cherry said...

Yawns? Never! Keep the stories coming!

And Diane, while we may not be as awesome as Bad Rap (let's face it, who is?), I work with Forever Friends Humane Society, an all-breed rescue that saves LOTS of pit bulls.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

I wanted to pop by and thank you for commenting at my blog. I appreciate your input.

Keep fighting the good fight.


Anonymous said...

Bust Dog news never gets old and always brightens my day. Here in Southwest Riverside County there is a shelter who has an automatic put down policy for unclaimed pitbulls. I work and foster with a pitbull rescue out of San Diego and therefore my sister has become very accustomed to the breed. This particular shelter advised my sister to find a better dog when she had inquired about adopting a pitbull she fell in love with there. I guess trying to pull dogs from shelters like those would be ideal because they have absolutely NO chance when they end up there. It's maddening. I asked the rescue that I foster for for help but they are busy enough in huge San Diego County.
Just recently, this same Southwest Riverside County Animal Shelter supported a police officers decision to shoot a pitbull, on its own property, who was a non-aggressive showdog, and in front of its family! I'm moving up towards you guys!!

Anonymous said...

Now that the other anonymous has asked I would like to know about Willem. I know sometimes things happen but I am hoping he's okay.

Mike Sweeney said...

Thank God you kept the faith!! Yes it's been TEN years but look what you have accomplished!! It's a gigantic problem, but the tides are beginning to turn!! Mikey looks great and Maverick says hello :)

Donna said...

Thanks Mike!

Anons - Willem is in a compassion hold. He started fence fighting at the shelter during the crazy chaos of the morning cleaning routine and it did a number on his head. Not happy news. We're all heartbroken.

Liz said...

I have some recommendations for you if you need them! We have a couple that have been in the shelter for months. Almost unheard of here, they are usually euthanized. Most have been.

Keep up the good work.

This is off topic, but I didn't want to clutter your email any more than it already is - Is it possible for me to Sponsor one or two of your dogs once, as a Christmas gift?

Samantha Laine said...

Oh, Donna, Oh, Donna. That song is in my brain a lot these days. You're always ahead of the curve on all things - DOG / Pit Bull / Family / Miracles. All things move in a circle. Great post. Thank you. Same question sometimes asked online rescue community East Coast to West Coast and back again. Gonna rewrite parts and use for c&p answer, OK? Opened your blog today via RSS feed on way cool iGoogle! desktop. Cool as Feedjit. Please tell all your four leggeds hello. GHANDI and I are busy getting ready for FAMILY TAP roll out tomorrow @ 300 East. We haven't done a lot of official pr yet because word of mouth is strong. Want to - umm - make sure group of Pit Bulls and their guardians don't show up first time. Gotta be respectful of Cathy Coulter for being so generous. Later perhaps. With CMPD officer in attendance, natch. We'll keep you posted.

Twinkietinydog said...

Since I'm new here, I'm not going to make any specific comments yet. I just wanted to say that I love your cause and your blog. You have one more fan/supporter. Twink!

Dianne said...

I usually start my day with a click on the Bad Rap blog. Yesterday’s entry was particularly thought provoking, and a question that I’ve heard asked many times.

If you are looking for a logical process to select dogs for fostering, I would argue that it’s not a logical process. It comes from your heart (but you know that).

As for diverting resources from local dogs to high profile dogs, when you work with the high profile cases it benefits the local dogs as well. The work you and others did with the Vick dogs has turned public opinion around/upside down. The shelter where I volunteer took in 11 of the Vick dogs, and we are not the same. We were leaning towards pit-friendly, but now we are pit advocates. We still fault a dog, but we also fight for them as individuals. Vehemently.

We took in 83 small breed dogs from a puppy bill bust in Arkansas (thanks, Scotlund). I don’t believe that has in any way diminished what we do locally. And you’d be appalled at the number of folks who ask innocently enough, “What’s a puppy mill?”

So keep up the good work. The karma counts.

Anonymous said...

I keep posting comments, and they are CONSTANTLY rejected. I was giving you words of encouragement, I don't say anything controversial. In fact, I was asking about donating, but my comments are rejected. Love to know why.

Anonymous said...

Just sending out some LUVVVVV from Indiana.
Tell Mike to give Little man a big ole hug, Ps, tell him we named one of the dogs we have after him...LITTLE MAN, and he is just that Litty itty bitty!


Donna said...

Much love back to Indiana. I look forward to your column on kennel enrichment. Laurie. It's so needed during these crowded times. (will be in touch this weekend)

Liz - thank you for thinking of the dogs at Christmas. Of course you can sponsor! Do you have a favorite? Let us know.

Leigh - I'm sorely tempted to post info here about your girl Sugar but it would open the door to so many others who have favorite dogs that need a little extra advertising. You've given me an idea though - Let me think on logistics for a one-day special adoption post on this blog for Christmas orphans. Sending you both good adoption vibes in the meantime.

Donna said...

Forgot to add: We've been getting a ton of spam in our comments line-up, so are deleting anything that doesn't look like it's related to the topic at hand, especially if it's from an anonymous poster. Sorry to anyone who feels cut off. It's important to us to keep comments on track with the topic. For questions about this blog:


Anonymous said...

I have just started looking at your site and I must say what an awsome job you are doing for these dogs. I had a lab pit mix for 14 yrs great dog. Now I have 2 labs and am thinking about fostering a pit would you have any advise for me. My male lab is my baby and is very attatched to me and my female is very attatched to my wife. How would a foster fit into this mix?