Was I Not Good Enough? … What Did I Do Wrong?

In the last few months at the animal rescue organisation we volunteer at Aniwell, there have been a number of dogs returned. The first one being Charlie, but more recently there have been 2 others who are now in back foster care. With this in mind I thought I’d share this with you..

Charlie – Nov 2011

 

My family brought me home one day,

All cradled in their arms.

They cuddled me and smiled at me

And praised me for my puppy charms.

 

They played with me and pampered me

And showered me with toys.

With all that fun and laughter

There was so much to enjoy.

 

The children used to feed me,

They gave me special treats

I even got to sleep with them,

All cuddled in their sheets.

 

I used to get their laughs and praise

When playing with that old shoe

But did not know the difference

Between that and a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.

 

The kids and I would grab old socks

And for hours we would tug,

Didn’t I do the right thing

When I chewed the Persian rug?

Charlie – January 2012 (back with us in foster care)

 

They said that I was boisterous

And I had grown far too big

Suddenly I was banished outside

And the boredom made me dig

 

The walks grew less and less

They said they hadn’t the time

I wish I could have changed things

But didn’t know my crime.

 

They returned me to the shelter

My spirit broken and my eyes asking why

They mumbled a bunch of excuses

And then suddenly kissed me goodbye.

 

~ by PetPickings.com ~

Dedicated to all the animals who find themselves being returned to shelters around the country and around the world. Charlie has found his “fur-ever” home with us at PetPickings.com, however Digit his brother and friend Muppet (pictured above) are still looking for their second chance. Email adoptions@aniwell.org.za for more information if you think you can offer Digit and / or Muppet a happily-ever-after ending to their story.

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Boomie Boy Charlie – Learning The Ropes

Charlie’s first night with us has gone surprisingly well, considering he is only 5 months old, in a new environment with 2 new foster siblings who still aren’t too sure who this stranger is in their midst.

Having a puppy again in the house after so many years is a bit of an adjustment – lots of toilet breaks. Luckily my job is being made easier by Kira and Bruno who are eager to teach their underling a  thing or two, like sitting quietly before their supper is put down and peeing quickly when asked to ‘pee-pee’ so that play-time can ensue. Charlie, being a bright boy, is a quick study and is catching on quickly.

Learning to wait quietly and patiently for supper with foster brother Bruno.

Putting their plates down for supper was a bit of challenge last night, as I had to make it clear to Boomerang Boy Charlie that diving into foster sister Kira’s plate and then foster brother Bruno’s would be potentially life threatening and just plain rude!

What has become clear through the day is that Charlie hasn’t been taught anything during his time with the other family. In fact he doesn’t even know his name. The saddest part is that his reactions tell us that he has been beaten, rather severely and most often by the man of the house. To see a puppy cower and collapse in a quivering heap with a simple verbal reprimand is just gut wrenching. When my husband first witnessed it last night, he scooped Charlie up in his arms and just held him close whilst soothing him. Charlie’s reaction was to nip and mock bite at his hands in initial panic, until he realised that no one was going to hurt him and that he was safe.

We made it through the night with no toilet “accidents” and absolutely no interruptions. Boomerang Boy Charlie slept soundly through the night. The breakfast round this morning went a little easier than the supper round last night. Before I let the cats out, I had Charlie burn off some energy in the garden.

Well rested and full of energy!Kira having fun with her new buddy, but not sharing her tennis ball! Notice our Boomerang Boy Charlie sporting a new collar.Kira still not sharing her tennis ball despite Boomerang Boy Charlie’s cute little dance.Giving up? … or tired?

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Our Foster Pet Blog

My husband and I have been fostering rescued pets on an ongoing basis for over a year now. I had fostered some years ago, but wasn’t able to continue due to my work travel commitments as I worked for a global IT company at the time. Having left the IT industry it made sense to get back into foster mode.

Fostering is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience, that allows us to provide a safe home to abandoned, abused and unloved animals, some of whom have never felt the loving touch of a hand. We offer them a place where their rehabilitation can begin and trust re-established before they move onto their adoptive homes.

Whilst fostering is rewarding it can also be fraught with it’s challenges at times, but there’s always those special moments that makes it all worth while. We thought we’d start sharing our foster stories to shed some light on what it takes to be a foster parent and what exactly happens behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the sometimes challenging!

To read stories / updates on our foster fur-kids, hover your cursor / pointer over on the “Our Foster Pet Blog” tab on the menu bar at the top of the page and select the story you want to read. Enjoy!

 

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Boomerang Boy Charlie’s Arrival Home & Introductions

There is a reason we choose to foster kittens and not dogs. For one, kittens are easy. They can be litter trained in less than a week and as long as they have enough toys and things to amuse themselves with, they can be happily contained in the kitten nursery (one of our spare bedrooms). Another reason is that we have a house full of our own fur-kids:

  1. Kira our dominant female Jack Russell (aka Duracell Bunny)
  2. Bruno our dominant male rescue “Pet Bull” (aka Brunocerous)
  3. Smokey, Elliot, Chewbacca, Sylvester and Sweetpea our five rescue kitties
  4. Fiona, Yoda, Liewe Heksie and Momento our four rescue tortoises
  5. A myriad of Koi fish

Adding a dog to this mix, albeit temporarily, is tricky and requires some vigilance. Despite this, when Charlie’s plight was brought to our attention this week during a time when all of the registered Aniwell foster homes are full, I didn’t hesitate. My thoughts are that we can manage or make a plan, even if it is just for a few nights, until we can find a suitable foster family to take him in.

I first introduced Charlie to Kira and Bruno through the security gate. I knew Kira, being a well socialised Jack Russel, wouldn’t be a problem. Charlie is merely be a new novel toy for her. Bruno on the other hand, as a rescued Pet Bull, doesn’t have the same outlook on life having missed out on those precious puppy socialisation classes. If this isn’t a challenge enough, at 5 months Charlie isn’t yet neutered which I knew Bruno would not take kindly to. What happened next however surprised me. There was no barking, no growling, not even hackling. They all sniffed eachother through the security gate bars and in no time I had them together in the back garden with Bruno in his harness in case I needed to pull him off! Sure enough, Bruno was doing his usual dominant male posturing which Charlie thought was a bit of a game and was submitting to each and every time – a good thing!

This was my update to the rescue organisation today:

“Charlie is gorgeous and settled in at home with us. Even our Pit Bull doesn’t seem too disturbed by him. Charlie’s not used to cats … or anything that moves for that matter, so he’s being introduced slowly to the cats and the tortoises on a lead. Poor thing hasn’t been socialised at all and is frightened of any sound, movement, foreign object and strange people. He has his heart in the right place so I think he’s going to be easy to rehabilitate. He just needs some structure and discipline … and he’s a quick learner.”

After an exhausting day, we are all settled for the night with Charlie loving his new bed kindly supplied by his foster Granny who had it lying around unused. One has to wonder how anyone could return a special little guy like this!

Our exhausted Boomerang Boy Charlie.

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Charlie The Sweetest Dog

After receiving the very disturbing email regarding Charlie’s list of ‘sins’ yesterday, I headed out this morning to rescue him for the second time in his short life. As I was not sure what to expect I took our housekeeper with me – just in case Charlie proved to be totally uncontrollable in the car on the way home. On arrival my heart shattered into what felt like a thousand pieces. What I found was a confused and very frightened puppy who lacks confidence, has been physically abused in the two months he has been with his adoptive family and whose wish list of just 2 items is to understand what is expected of him and to be loved. On the drive home, I felt a wave of relief wash over me knowing that Charlie was not going to be subjected to that man nor his appalling family any longer and my maternal instincts have kicked in to heal his emotional scars.

The drive home

As you probably guessed, the drive home was uneventful although I had a million questions running through my head. How could this happen? How could this be avoided with future adoptions. The rescue organisation has a strict screening process which includes a home check when homing the rescues. I was the one who did Charlie’s home check, which has been weighing heavily on my mind. In rescue work, our biggest fear is having to rescue an animal twice. What did I miss? I missed meeting the husband and the children during the home check. Needless to say the policy has now changed to include meeting the ENTIRE family that will be living with the adopted dog or cat, which will hopefully shed more light and narrow the margin for error.

In the meantime, the introductions into our rather large family are happening!

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Boomerang Boy Charlie Intro

A lengthy email was received by the rescue organisation we volunteer for Aniwell South Africa. The mail was from an irate adopter claiming that the puppy named Charlie he had adopted 2 months previously hasn’t turned out anything like he’d imagined and that he wanted to return him – pronto. Other than not appearing ‘pedigreed’ enough, the list of wrong doings and ‘crimes’ committed by the now 5 month old puppy painted a picture of an uncontrollable and aggressive dog that was putting the man’s children in imminent danger. The mail landed in my inbox in the late afternoon of 26th January and as Charlie had been homed in our neck of the woods, I volunteered to fetch him.

This is his story!

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The PetPickings.com “No Kill Revolution” Starts With YOU!

Animal overpopulation is everyone’s problem. Nothing happens without leadership. Achieving no kill success in your community depends on individuals like yourself willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something”.

That “someone” is you!

 

Stop thinking that there’s nothing you can do to assist the thousands of homeless animals. We all live busy lives, but we can all do something. Here are some things you can do:

  • Set the example first. Spay and neuter your all of your pets!
  • Chose to adopt a pet from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder, back yard breeder, pet shop, puppy farm.
  • Strongly discourage friends and family from allowing their pets to breed. Where are all those puppies and kittens going to find homes? If they are all homed, that’s fewer homes available for the shelter pets that face euthanasia.
  • On your birthday, instead of gifts, ask for bags of dog or cat food and donate these to the local shelter.
  • Donate some bedding or money to purchase much needed items for a rescue organisation near you.
  • Share the pictures you see on the internet and Facebook of homeless animals that so desperately need a home. You’d be amazed how many rescued pets have found loving homes this way.
  • Spend just one morning a month volunteering at your local shelter. They are always in need of help to spend one-on-one time with the animals. Take the dogs for a walk around the grounds, play with them, bath them, play with the kitties etc …
  • See what repairs or maintenance needs to be done at your local registered rescue organisation and share your handyman talents.
  • Some animals don’t fare well in kennels, which does not bode well for them. Ask about becoming a foster parent. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Some organisations that don’t have kennelling facilities rely solely on their network of fosters to be able to rescue animals from dire circumstances.
  • If you see an act of cruelty report it to the authorities – don’t turn a blind eye. Follow up with them to make sure it has been dealt with.
  • We can all say we love animals, but how often do we contribute to the wellbeing of animals? Stand up for what you believe in. Be their voice.
  • Educate people about what it means to be a responsible pet owner.

If we each individually take responsibility, we can win the “No Kill Revolution”.  Your effort could mean the difference between life or death for an unwanted pet, whose only “crime” was to be born.

 

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PetPickings.com “No Kill” Revolution Starts Today!

Nothing happens without leadership. Current media reports indicate that over 10,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters across South Africa each week due to the lack of homes available for them. This equates to 40,000 per month and close on half a million every year. Simply because there aren’t enough homes to adopt them.

The difference between them being dead ... or sleeping ... is YOU!

So what can be done about it? We all need to quit sitting on the fence and thinking that there is nothing we can do to assist homeless dogs and cats, as there is ALWAYS something you can do. Achieving “No Kill” success in our communities depends on individuals willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something.” That “someone” is you. You need to make the decision to take the lead and recruit your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Through this blog and our PetPickings.com Facebook Page, we’ll show you how to become a warrior and most importantly a hero in our revolution.

“Individually we are one drop, but collectively we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro ~

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” ~ Mother Teresa ~

Due to the lack of available accurate and up to date collated statistics in South Africa, PetPickings.com is currently undertaking a study / research project to consolidate up to date information on the animals across shelters in South Africa. Once the study is complete, this information will be published in this blog.

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I Have A Dream …

In the prophetic words of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech:

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream …”

Like Martin Luther King I too have a dream. My dream is that one day animal shelters will no longer have to euthanize thousands of unclaimed and unwanted pets every year due to numbers and lack of capacity. I have a dream that one day animal shelters will be empty and that every animal will have a place on this earth, in someone’s heart … in someone’s home.

Animal overpopulation is EVERYONES’ problem. Most people haven’t witnessed the euthanasia of a frightened and confused dog who was once someone’s pet only to be discarded like garbage in a strange, noisy and harsh environment. It’s heart breaking. His only crime … he was unwanted and one too many. In Greensboro, North Caronlina (USA) Sheriff BJ Barnes, frustrated and upset at learning that more than 75% of the animals entering the local shelter were being killed, decided to televise the euthanasia of a dog on his weekly show.  Viewers were shocked, but they also got the message and as a result there was an increase in sterilisations and adoptions from the local shelter skyrocketed. We too published a non graphic video clip this week (Buy 1 … Kill 1) which may have upset some people, but successfully drives this point home on our PetPickings.com Facebook Page.

Statistics both locally and abroad show that of the millions that enter shelters, only about half make it out alive. Figures coming out of the USA where statistics are more readily available, show that more than 12 million cats and dogs enter their shelters annually, an endless tide of incoming animals. Of these, nearly a quarter million animals are euthanised each and every month. That’s 405 every hour. One every nine seconds.

The Wikipedia definition of “Euthanasia” is “Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.” It literally means “good death” which is usually interpreted to mean a quick, painless and humane method of dying.  It is self-evident that death should also be in the best interests of the animal.  The decision to euthanize a chronically ill or overly aggressive (ie: unadoptable animal) is relatively uncomplicated to make. The sad reality however is that millions of healthy, friendly, adorable, loving and very adoptable animals also end up in shelters … but there just aren’t enough homes available for all of them. It is the heartbreaking task of shelters to select those who will be placed in the adoption kennels.  Animals who have been in the adoption kennel too long … and all the rest who never had the chance, are taken to the euthanasia room.

The local shelter is too often the last stop for a dog or cat.  Shelters around the country have been put into this unenviable position by the irresponsible breeding of far too many animals.  Puppy mills, pet shops, backyard breeders and “responsible” hobby breeders, people who simply won’t, don’t bother or “forget” to have their animals spayed or neutered, pet food companies who subsidize unregistered breeders with free samples and discount coupons, and the cat and dog breed “clubs” that encourage breeding – all contribute to this massive problem. These shocking statistics don’t include the countless thousands of animals who never make it to the shelter, but are abandoned to live and die on the streets or in a back yard.

It is a sad fact that when a human being chooses to create a relationship with another living being, then fails to live up to the responsibilities that go with that relationship, we allow the human to simply walk away guilt-free – it is always the animal who pays 100%  of the price for the human’s errors. The animal pays with his life.

THE SOLUTION:

We all have to work together. With continued hard work, dedication and public education, I believe that the problem can be minimised, if not solved. If those who are creating the problem would take full responsibility, we could reach the ultimate goal, which is to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals much faster. This can realistically only be done through legislation and although it is being pushed by the local rescue centres, it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

The solution is very simple, but requires the participation of everyone, including you. It all boils down to the most fundamental laws of economics – supply and demand. If there is no demand, the supply will dwindle as there is no financial gain.

So, what can you do to help?

DON’T:

  1. Buy animals from vendors on the street – there is an overbred, malnourished, abused mother where they came from.
  2. Buy animals in pet stores, as there is a puppy / kitten mill where they came from.
  3. Buy animals from backyard breeders. If you do, you’ll only be  encouraging them to breed more to make further profits.

 

DO:

  1. Adopt from a registered non profit rescue organisation / local shelter. You’re saving two lives in the process – the life of the animal you have just adopted and the life of the animal who has filled the freed up place.
  2. Sterilise your pets BEFORE they reach sexual maturity.
  3. Foster a pet on behalf of a non profit rescue organisation. If more individuals stepped up to foster pets until they found their permanent homes, there would be more space made available at the shelters, resulting in fewer euthanasias.
  4. Become a hero and sponsor a sterilisation with your local rescue organisation. In Cape Town there is a rescue organisation for whom we foster kittens called Aniwell that have a ‘sterilisation club’ called Steriwell through which you can sponsor a sterilisation for just R250 and actually get to meet the animal whose life you changed on their Facebook page and receive credit for it.
  5. Educate your neighbours, your colleagues, your family, your friends. Advise them to adopt from a local shelter. Discourage them from breeding their pets and encourage them to sterilise them instead.

Together, we can make a difference. Please … help me make my dream and that of thousands of suffering / abandoned animals come true.

All of the photographs in this article were taken by Photographer Andreas Holm who made a small collaboration called Shelter Dogs with The Toby Project in New York. www.tobyproject.org

The cartoons in this article are by NHR Cartoons.

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The Magic Of Fostering A Pet

Curly & Moe

Early Friday evening I bid fond farewell and loving goodbye to our 3 porky little foster kittens, who now at 9 weeks of age were eligible to ‘fly the nest’ to their new adoptive homes. I had collected this particular brood from a ‘house of horrors’ late on a Saturday night just over 6 weeks ago following an emergency phone call from a rescue organisation I foster for. At the time they were cold, stressed, exhausted, filthy, starved and possibly sick. Many people may ask why … why foster?

Fostering a needy pet is a richly rewarding experience. I won’t deny that it can be an emotional and often difficult experience that isn’t for everyone, but for those that can and do … it’s an experience that lives on in your heart time after time. In our case, we take in orphaned, underage kittens as we have a household full of pets who enjoy their quiet, over indulged lifestyle and aren’t terribly keen on having a whirlwind young dog pounce its way into their lives. Some of the orphaned kittens are so young and malnourished that they initially need bottle feeding every 2 to 3 hours. What warm hearted person wouldn’t want a continuous stream of the cutest babies to care for and nurture whilst they grow into adorable and adoptable little munchkins?

Larry

There are thousands of ‘invisible’ pets at shelters around the country. The majority of these shelters are filled to capacity as a result of backyard breeders and irresponsible / uncaring pet owners. Often surrendered or rescued pets that require any attention beyond the basics are euthanised, most often due to time constraints and capacity challenges. Rescued pets that are sick, too young, stressed out or unsocialized aren’t the best candidates for adoption. Pets rescued with behavioural issues resulting from abuse and neglect, are injured, temporary ill or simply orphaned face a bleak outcome without the availability of foster homes that can provide the attention and care required to rehabilitate, treat or wean them, thus transforming them into beautiful adoptable pets in the process.

Fostering makes an immeasurable difference for the pets you provide love, rehabilitation and a temporary home to and also for other lost souls at the shelters that may not have had that space available to take take them in. My fosters come in as sad, confused, malnourished, frightened little waifs and leave with their proud adoptive parents as happy, well adjusted, healthy, chubby kittens. Almost without exception I get feedback and photos from the adoptive families to let me know how their new family members have settled in and are doing in general.

If that isn’t a big enough reward, I don’t know what is.

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