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An Addition to the Crew: Meet Mela!

An Addition to the Crew: Meet Mela!

I can’t pinpoint why the picture of a beautiful cream colored dog looking worried in someone’s car caught my attention, but I am very grateful that it did. I have been searching for an addition to my crew since a few months after losing Siri. We miss her every day but the sadness in my house was palpable. No playing, little in the way of smiles and just a lot of going through the motions without much enjoyment. I had talked to a couple of people about dogs fitting the general outline of what I was looking for and even arranged to meet a couple. The meetings never came to fruition for various reasons. There had not been a spark of recognition like I felt when I saw that picture. I like to think that fate intervened. The right dog was out there waiting for me. I needed her and she needed me.

Thankfully, my search onto the local lost and found dogs Facebook groups resulted in seeing the picture of the dog that would become Mela. I read through the thread and discovered that this beautiful Chow girl had been captured in a rough part of town by a good Samaritan. A call to Animal Control resulted in undesirable answers. She had been evidently running the streets for a couple of months so AC did not think that an owner was looking and that gave her very limited time in an ACO facility. This good Samaritan put out a plea for assistance on social media and one of my good friends came to the rescue. She came to take her until she could be transported to a local shelter that would care for her properly. I saw on the thread that my friend had her at the moment. I immediately texted her and asked with baited breath, whether she was friendly with other dogs.

My new addition, Mela,  feels safe at last.

My new addition, Mela, feels safe at last.

The ride to the shelter the next morning revealed her practicing avoidance with my friend’s dogs, along for the ride in the car. This was a good sign! The next step for me was sending messages to the three people I knew who worked at that shelter. I was invited to come down and evaluate her myself. She was not showing any concerning signs at the shelter other than being very scared. We spent some time in the shelter’s play yard. She appeared to be very housetrained as well as knowing how to offer some behaviors such as sit and paw. An interesting development since she had been on her own in the world. I excitedly stopped by soon afterwards and met her. I found her far more welcoming than I expected.

I soon brought Kenzo down to meet her. That meeting went well, although not as smoothly as I had hoped. Kenzo is extremely dog friendly, but his sheer size is imposing to so many dogs. Mela was in a precarious situation, not knowing what would come next in her life. Having spent a couple of months on the streets of a not so friendly town, she had learned to be very wary. Some very appropriate mutual sniffing was exchanged. Kenzo tried to show her he was interested in playing but she was ready to correct him if he should act inappropriately. I saw her get ready to correct once and then stem that urge when she realized that she had no reason to. She was obviously very savvy at making assessments, a skill that had served her well in her time on the streets.

After the meeting with Kenzo, I made the decision to get her a few days before Thanksgiving, as a foster to adopt. I wanted to make sure that everyone could be comfortable enough together before I made a full commitment. I could not even imagine that this could go wrong but my first loyalty had to be to Kenzo and Trent.

Kenzo wasn’t very polite over the baby gate when I arrived home and let him and Trent out. Trent was his usual self which is initially rude to other dogs. Eventually that day, I had them in the yard all together as comfortably as expected. Kenzo and Mela shared some sniffing and even the water bowl. But Trent had no interest in camaraderie.

A couple of days later led to a joint walk that was very successful. I was also now able to walk out of the room without worrying what might happen if I left them all together. However, Mela followed me anyway so that was a moot point!

Kenzo spent some time wavering back and forth between jealousy at sharing me and “his” things versus delight that he had a playmate. Never mind that the playmate was still not comfortable with his size and although very interested in playing, conflicted with his Jekyll and Hyde persona. He growled at her periodically when she approached the water bowl or some toys. He soon realized that behavior was not going to be supported by me or even by himself if he ever wanted her to trust him.

Fast forward about two weeks. While I would not call them best buds yet, they are definitely more comfortable with one another now. Mela has taken to prodding Kenzo to play from a frontal position as opposed to from behind. And he gets credit for exercising a huge amount to bite inhibition while being very tolerant of her very assertive play style that includes coming away with the occasional mouthful of Kenzo fur. She is learning what constitutes a too enthusiastic playbite, thankfully.

Mela’s addition to my crew feels like fate. I look for that feeling when it’s time to add to the family. I am glad that I did not rush things and waited for the right dog to find me. Tell me in the spaces below, how you make the decision to add to your crew?

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The Heat is On: Pressure to Add a Family Member

The Heat is On: Pressure to Add a Family Member

Dog lovers who can’t turn their backs on a dog in need, are faced with this pressure regularly. I am not talking about saying yes to every dog in need. I am talking about people who foster dogs for rescues or shelters and/or people who take in dogs they find wandering the streets.

Post a dog on Facebook that you have found, while you are trying to locate the owners and you will get the inevitable suggestion to keep the dog when efforts to find the owner are not immediately rewarding. The culprits mean well and they use smiley faces to soften their pressure. But pressure it is. Phrases such as “it’s meant to be” and “you found him for a reason” are intrusive and assuming. Assuming because the person applying the pressure presumes to know better than the person who is not ready to add to their household.

The same phrases can be found on threads with photos of foster dogs. Fostering saves lives. If foster homes keep every dog they foster, they typically can’t foster any longer. Foster failures are not a bad thing. Most people who have fostered have experienced a foster failure. Sometimes it is meant to be. But most times, it isn’t. The foster home is just a step along the path. It’s a very important and often life sustaining step, but a step nevertheless. It’s a wonderful thing.

Giving the resident dogs a break.

Giving the resident dogs a break.

Equally wonderful is taking the time to capture a lost dog or a stray in need. Some people will find a new addition to their household by doing this, when the dog in question is a stray. That becomes a joyous occasion for all involved. But it’s just as joyous when the lost dog gets reunited with his or her family of the stray finds a forever home once in safety.

There is no shame in not being ready to be the last step on their journey. Only the humans and the other canines in the home can make that decision. Others can’t make it for them. It’s very stressful to be pressured like that. Pressure can make some people make decisions that are not right for them. That helps no one.

It’s okay to be selfish in these cases. You have to be comfortable with your decisions. Don’t allow pressure from others to make up your mind about whether you add another canine member or not. Be true to yourself and what you can handle. Don’t let outsiders sour you on helping in your own way. Every little bit helps. It’s a wonderful thing to help an animal in need with nothing being returned but happiness in your soul. Don’t allow pie in the sky outsiders who have no concept of your situation to cause turmoil inside of you or sway you from playing your part in an animal’s journey. Play the part you want to play and be proud of what you have done. You deserve it.

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How Many Is Too Many Dogs? Part 2: When Rescuers Need Rescuing

This subject has been my most popular blog subject ever. Google searches on this phrase find the original blog more frequently than the website itself. The question itself crosses the mind of all who have more dogs than is considered the norm by the general public. The general public’s opinion, however, is not who anyone should base their perfect canine number on. Not by a long shot.

The renewed interest in this subject was prompted by a recent story locally of a breed rescuer who is being forced by local law enforcement, to reduce her numbers from more than eighty dogs, to twenty five dogs. Neighbors complained and ordinances are now being enforced. She has very little time to perform such a feat, meaning if seized, more than fifty dogs are facing a death sentence. This disturbs me greatly, for a number of reasons. Hopefully, by the time you read this, these dogs will no longer be in danger. Follow up to be noted when available, never fear.

Photo from a recent hoarding case.

Photo from a recent hoarding case.

But back to the reasons this disturbs me: there are so many, let me count the ways. Having been a rescuer (currently resting emotionally from that task), I can say with passion that it is really hard to say no to dogs in need. But I can also say with passion that I learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself and your own dogs, first, everyone suffers and no one is truly helped. It is important to know your limit: emotionally, physically, financially, etc. regardless of whether you are a rescuer or just a plain dog owner who wants more dogs in your life. Know your limits!

If you are sentencing dogs to hours upon endless hours in crates or kennels, with little to no exercise and human interaction; that is not rescuing. That is hell on earth. Don’t pull dogs from shelters if you are not bettering their situation. Don’t call yourself a rescuer or even just a normal multiple dog household when you are clearly in over your head. No one human can take proper care of eighty-something dogs. It’s just not possible. Even with a couple of volunteer hands, it’s not enough.

There is another new hoarding situation almost every day in the media. This person was found to have fifty cats. That person was found to have a hundred dogs. This is a sickness. It’s not well intentioned rescuing or a loving multiple dog household. It may have started that way but it did not end up that way. At heart, it’s about selfishness, not selflessness. Rescuers make themselves feel good about rescuing. There is nothing wrong with that if you are not also using that as the ends to justify the means. Rescuing a dog is more than simply keeping them alive. Being alive is not the same thing as living well.

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Dogs are sentient beings. They have thoughts and feelings and emotional needs, in addition to the physical needs of food, water, physical care and warm housing. No one would think it appropriate to expect people to live in a small space with no interaction or exercise day after endless day. It is equally unreasonable to expect the same of a dog, if the expectation is that the dog in question should remain mentally stable, that is! Placing unstable dogs is not appropriate without behavior modification and then we come back to lack of resources again.

The moral of this story is that as a multiple dog owner and/or rescuer, you dear reader, need to be fully aware of your limitations; physically, emotionally, financially, etc. Take into account your own basic needs, the needs of the dogs you currently have and calculate it all together in a PRACTICAL way. Then make a decision on whether to add another dog, foster or permadog, to your life. There are plenty of people on this earth who can care for a dog just as well as you can, I promise you this. If your urge to help a particular dog is strong but your limitations are stronger, sponsor the dog, promote the dog, do things other than adding the dog to your household to get him or her a good home. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And above all, be there for your current crew as a responsible multiple dog owner and/or rescuer.

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