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Friday, January 20, 2012

Be the Change You Want to See...

(Siberian Husky Jackson, about to be sprung from the pound to enter Nor Sled Rescue)

It happened again. I was checking Facebook early this morning and confronted by a graphic, horrific photograph of a tortured dog. The intent of those who post this sort of image is admirable, but ultimately misguided. That particular photograph was probably taken as evidence in a criminal case; the parties involved (and their parents) are facing trial. The animal was quickly and humanely euthanized. I’m not sure why the photo ended up on the net, and I’m sure it was never intended to be released to the public.
We post those images out of outrage, not considering the effectiveness or consequences of sharing. The first time I saw that picture I had nightmares. Now imagine if my 12-year-old niece saw it. When I see photos like this, I always ask the poster not to share such images. This is obscene and X-rated, and not in a good way. Sometimes they unfriend me, and that’s ok. You see, I save animals...for real. I’ve taken in many fosters and rescues and have been involved in the re-homing of literally hundreds of dogs. My friends do the same, one runs a cutting edge Siberian rescue that runs out of the Bay Area. Women like her are today's true saints.
We always have a rescue in our house; at the moment it’s Fancy, an older border collie cross that was on death row. Before that was Hannah, an abandoned pit bull cross left tied to a pole outside a grocery store in blazing heat. When a large-scale breeder began neglecting her animals due to her age and health, a small group of us intervened; over a three-year period, we re-homed well over one hundred puppies and retired show dogs. Several dogs were unadoptable; my friend Barb kept most of those, giving them a stable, safe home. She also rescues horses and cats. We’ve dealt with abuse, abandonment, neglect and just plain stupidity. My life isn’t completely dedicated to rescue, but many people have devoted their existence to helping animals.

I want you to consider these two quotes when you are outraged and want to do something...really do something:

• Be the change you want to see in the world. (Ghandi)
• Think globally, act locally.

Both are quotes we see on the bumper stickers of battered vans and upscale hybrids. In this case, there are ways that you can effectively assist our pet population. Posting your outrage on Facebook is a good way of sharing your sentiments, but a poor way of actually being effective. Do you want to make matters better for animals? Then visit your local animal shelter and check on volunteer opportunities. Some animals need grooming and socialization; our shelter has people come in specifically to walk and pet animals. But be aware, unless you’re in a no-kill shelter, many of the animals are destined for euthanasia. It takes a certain type of strength and compassion to give animals love in what might be their last days. Those people are truly amazing.

Other ways you can help:

• Foster an animal. Many rescue organizations will put a ‘hold’ on an animal, sparing its life until a volunteer can remove the animal to a temporary foster home.
• If you can’t foster, network. Attend adoption fairs, volunteer your computer skills, help with fundraisers, or post lists of adoptable animals to your regional social networks.
• Can you take a quick, unplanned trip? Many rescue organizations need volunteers to pull animals from shelters and transport them to rescue or veterinary care.
• Donate money and goods. Some shelters are associated with local governments and donations are absorbed into general funds, which may not benefit the shelter at all. In that case, look into the shelter’s wish list. They often need collars, bandanas, pet beds, food and so forth.
• Think Locally: Beware of where you send your money. For example, PETA’s primary focus is on eliminating the use of animals for food and clothing. Their basic philosophy rejects animals as pets. Thus, their official animal shelter has an absurdly high kill rate, over 90% annually. The Humane Society of the United States has no shelters at all; they primarily deal in money and political lobbying, and very little actually goes to animals. Most money goes to salaries and advertising. Neither cause is a good use of your funds.
• Shop for a cause: many rescues have Amazon affiliation or host annual auctions.
• Write for a cause: Delilah Devlin and the Diamond State Romance Writers are accepting submissions for an anthology that benefits the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
• Are you outraged by Michael Vick and his dog-fighting ring? Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a no kill shelter that gave sanctuary to some of Vick’s dogs. Dubbed the Vicktory Dogs, they can still use your sponsorship:
• Adopt an older or ‘special’ animal. Some special needs animals need a high amount of dedication. For example, Skky is a Siberian Husky who lost both her eyes to disease. Her foster mom trained this sweet girl to negotiate her new world, and ended up keeping her permanently. Can you overlook a missing ear, leg or tail? Are you willing to forego a puppy for a grateful adult? If so, you will be saving a life. Your local shelter has many adoptable animals. If you want a purebred dog, there are literally thousands of breed rescue organizations. You can also contact a reputable breeder (contact local kennel clubs for referrals) who might be looking for homes for show dogs that didn’t make the cut, or for retired champions. These dogs who know there’s more to life than living in kennels. They’re also usually well trained. :)

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