Monday, May 4, 2009

"Angel": Look Out for the Animals (very long, but important)

Today's choice for Musical Monday selection for the juke box is "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan. Most everybody knows that it's the theme song for the ASPCA, and that it rips your heart out when it's showcasing animal neglect.

Several months back, I was visiting a relative and telling them about some of my neighborhood dogs who are severely neglected by their owners, how it drives me insane, and how I have a tendency to step in and try to fix the situation before resorting to animal control (or because animal control won't do anything, which is a story I'll cover another time)(and I'll talk about my issue with what I call benign neglect another time also). She, in turn, told me a story about some dogs in her neighborhood that made me say "I'll never again apologize for interfering in the lives of my neighbors and their pets when I feel that there is neglect going on."

I may have some of the details of the story wrong, but I think the basics are true. Coming into her neighborhood and turning the corner onto her street is a house that had two dogs. Almost the entire neighborhood passed this house every day, sometimes several times a day. It was summer. It was hard keeping track of what everyone was doing, who was working, who was on vacation, etc. One day they received a call from someone down the street. Next door to the house on the corner. Could Mark come down and help. The people in the house on the corner had abandoned the two dogs in the back yard, and the dogs were dead. It was summer. Temps were probably in the 90s. They had no water. For days. And no food. For days. By the time anyone noticed, even the next door neighbors, it was too late.

I was so upset by this story. Could not get it out of my head. Especially when trying to go to sleep. Imagining how they had suffered and how they waited and waited, in vain, for their "family" to return. But it made me see how responsible (not nosey) I have been in watching my neighbors and their pets, validated my concerns over a water bucket consistently turned over or no bedding on a 20degree day or night. I vowed to remain vigilant and never again apologize for it (even though I'm probably referred to as busybody.)

Recently I was looking thru the Humane Society website, and read a story about a dog named Sunbear, who had been abandoned in a townhouse for SIX WEEKS ... and nobody noticed. When he was finally found, he was locked in a laundry room with a bag of dog food on the outside of the door. He died a few days later. A lady who heard of this story was so upset that she decided to do something about it ... she initiated a site called the Sunbear Squad. Well, let me share a section of website with you.

© The Sunbear SquadNirva created the Sunbear Squad, a website with advice, inspiration and materials to set up neighborhood pet watch groups. The idea is to walk, bike, or slowly drive through your neighborhood on a regular schedule, learning to recognize all of the pets who live there and noticing when people move in and out.When people move out, she says, pay special attention to make sure pets are not left behind.“Be a Good Samaritan,” Nirva advises. “Go stand near the home and call out repeatedly for the pet; he or she may bark or meow or come to the window. Listen closely in case the pet is trapped in a closet and look in windows for signs of life.“Do this several days in a row because some traumatized pets may be frightened, too frightened to respond at first. You may save a life!”

Foreclosures and an unstable economy have caused an increase in the abandonment of pets, and it can't be ignored even on a small scale, such as in your own neighborhood. Don't assume that a realtor will be by in a few days - it's often a month or more before that happens. Please, be aware of your surroundings! And check out this wonderful website to see how you can help.

Since I've got your attention, let me also say this - you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that the shelters and rescue groups are suffering. They are full to the brim. They are overflowing with cats and dogs. Foster homes are in short supply. Resources are low.

There's no shortage of sympathy for them, or for the animals. But sympathy doesn't pay the bills. Our inner voice says we should do something, but by the next morning we've forgotten. I've been guilty of this myself.

Please, if you are able, DONATE YOUR TIME, MONEY, OR SUPPLIES. It doesn't have to be hard or a hardship for you: (1) Write out a check for $10, look up the address of your local shelter, put on a stamp, and drop it in the mail. (2) If you have an hour here and there that you could drop by to walk a dog or pet a cat at a shelter, that counts. (3) Donations of pet beds/blankets/shampoos that you no longer need or use could be donated. (4) If there's a coupon in the Sunday fliers for a bag of dog or cat food, you could purchase that and drop it off, or even donate the coupon!

Don't forget the rescue groups. Every breed has a group looking out for it, and even though they most often get funding and donations, they still have very high expenses. I recently asked Heartland Golden Retriever Rescue Group to take a senior girl who was being neglected by a neighbor of mine. They took her within a week, spent probably upwards of $800 on her as she was heartworm positive and had to be boarded while being treated, and found her a home in about three months. But some dogs are in rescue for a year or more for one reason or another, including behavior and health problems. The dog may go into foster care, but the rescue group still covers their medical expenses. They never kill them or give up on them. If you have a favorite breed, just look it up on the internet and get an address to send whatever donation you can, no matter how small. Another need of rescue groups ... transport of an animal, either from a shelter to a rescue group, or a rescue group to a new forever home. I do this quite often as I can no longer foster, and I love it.

The message is simple, even though the situation is not. Be a good samaritan. Keep your eyes open. Give whatever you can whenever you can to whomever you can. But give. Of your time, of your money, of your heart. Look out for the animals ... and their keepers.

Oh, the dog pictured above. My sweet Charity. A rescue that was supposed to be a foster seven years ago. I was sent to pick her up from a shelter three hours from my home, and got there 30 minutes before the shelter closed at noon that Saturday. She was to be euthenized a few hours later.


cujosgonewild said...

Couldn't have said it any better myself!

Many houses on my block foreclosed and I took a walk around it a few times to make sure nobody left animals. I heard it was becoming quite a problem, I just cant believe a person could do something like that.

And please please please to anyone that may read this. Do not breed your dogs or buy from a breeder (unless you show or work your dogs). There are so many that need adopted out there! Thousands die every day due to overcrowding. All my pets have come from shelters and have been wonderful companions.

Ginger said...

Animal cruelty breaks my heart. My last two dogs were shelter rescues and they have been great. The first one we adopted was older and no one wanted him. We gave him a good life for the 3 years he had left. The dog we have now (for 4 years) is the best dog ever. I don't know how someone was able to give him up.