Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A to Z of #Dog Rescue: FAQ No. 2 — #atozchallenge

Why are there so many more women than men involved in rescuing?
Like most preconceived notions about rescue, this one's part myth and part truth. As you've seen from the videos I've posted, plenty of men are involved in rescue—and they're darn good at it. But—and this is a fact—many dogs respond better to women strangers than men strangers. Maybe it's the voice (higher pitch vs. lower). Maybe it's the perceived dominance of a male scent. Maybe it's hormones. I don't know.

Why are stray dogs so often in such bad health? Are they predisposed to some illnesses? 
No. Ferals, especially, tend to be stronger and better equipped to fight off disease. (It’s natural selection at work; only the stronger genes survive.) 

Why, then, are so many homeless dogs rescued in such terrible states? Three reasons:
  1. They’re exposed to more
  2. They don’t get any preventive care
  3. Their diet is anything but balanced, which causes deficiencies in their immune system

How do you get a dog to take pills?
Easy: irresistible chunky food. Liverwurst, a slice of sausage, canned dog food (the chunky kind), squares of cheese... You get the idea. The chunk needs to be small enough to be gulped down—but large enough to fit the pill. (Chewing will increase the chance of the pill being "discovered", and spit out.)

Also, dogs will wise up after a while. Some will eat the pill anyway, just to make you happy (dogs they're loyal like that), but most won't. Especially if the medication makes them feel weird—like tranquilizers. We fostered a dog who was so afraid of humans we had to give her sleeping pills for trips to the vet (which were, due to her many illnesses, all too frequent). I used liverwurst to hide the pills. After the third time, she wouldn't touch liverwurst at all, pills or no. Lesson: vary the goodies. And don't offer goodies only for pills.

I tried to adopt from a rescue organization but the whole process took weeks, and was totally bureaucratic. Why all the questions? Why all the hassle? 
Remember when we said this was About The Dog? That means it's Not About You. Rescue organizations—and, increasingly, shelters as well—focus on the dog's needs and do their best to find them not just a home but a family. People who will care for and love him/her for as long as the dog lives.

Some of the concerns when matching a dog to a home:

  • Does the home have space enough to accommodate the dog's needs?
  • Is the home and/or yard fenced in properly? (Remember, most long-time strays and ferals have a Houdini gene.)
  • Does the dog's primary caregiver have enough time to meet the dog's exercise needs?
  • If there are other pets in the home, will they accept the newcomer? Does the family have enough experience—or is willing to get help—to deal with the introduction and adjustment period?
  • If there are children in the home, or children frequently visit the home, is the dog a suitable match for them? What ages are they? Are their parents experienced dog owners who will provide guidance and supervise interaction?
  • If the dog hasn't been spayed/neutered yet (the case of puppies, for instance), can the family guarantee s/he will be sterilized as soon as the surgery is viable?
  • Can the family afford proper medical care for the dog?
  • What is the likelihood that the family will make a major move (say, overseas) in the near future? And, in the event of such a move, are they prepared to bring the dog along?

None of these things can be determined through an application form or a fifteen-minute chat. It takes time (and at least one home visit) to get a picture of the life a dog will have with them. Not every family, or every environment, is suited to every dog. And a dog that's already been through so much deserves every advantage we can give them.

This article has a great breakdown of the whole screening process. And this video, from the Humane Society of Greater Dayton, gives a summary of theirs.

Why do shelters charge an adoption fee? I mean, if it's a homeless dog and I'm taking it off their hands, shouldn't it be (at least) free?
Seriously? If this is the way you think, you shouldn't own a dog. Any dog.

(Fine. I'll play nice.)

Shelters aren't running a business. They're not turning a profit, or distributing dividends to their shareholders. In fact, adoption fees are so low they barely cover the basic medical expenses (vaccines, monthly anti-tick and -flea prevention tablets, sterilization)—and they certainly don't even make a dent in the enormous amount of resources—money, time, effort—the shelter/rescue has put into this particular dog. No, the main reason for an adoption fee is to make sure you're serious about adopting. In this currency-oriented world we live in, there's a neuron somewhere that fires a message whenever we have to pay for something, saying, This here is worth it. Because you paid for it. (And, also, if you can't afford the $75-$150 average adoption fee, you certainly can't afford the much steeper, and long-term, medical care the dog will need. So there. Go home. Without a dog.)

Which brings me, rather pointedly, to the next question...

Why are rescuers so unfriendly? Intolerant? RUDE?
We're not, actually. Not to animals, anyway :) I wouldn't appreciate someone else putting words in my mouth, so I'll speak for myself and myself only here. Have you ever noticed how a shelter's or rescue's PR person is rarely, if ever, involved in the actual rescuing? Nothing strange about it; you wouldn't ask a hospital's accountant to go fill in at the ER—and I'd love the spectacle of a surgeon trying to balance the accounts. Everyone has their job, everyone has their passion... And, for a rescuer, it's—you guessed it—ABOUT THE DOG. So, when I witness human cruelty and neglect (as in actually see it happening) every day, it's probably not difficult to understand that humanity doesn't score high in my book. And, when I see people around me, people whom I've had serious conversations with about the evils of breeding, go and buy a Rottweiler puppy (OMGthe parents won a competition in Wherevershire last year), it shouldn't be hard to understand why I'd rather choke them than say hello to them.

In short: I'm not a people person. I'm a dog person. And an animal person. (And yes, I realize I'm rude and obnoxious to non-animal persons. And I'm sorry for it. Sort of.)

Why do dogs reject other dogs? (from Jeffrey Scott)
You'd think a dog would be glad to have a same-species companion, wouldn't you? And well-socialized dogs (i.e., dogs who've interacted with different dogs from early in their lives) often will be welcoming. But dogs are, after all, pack animals. The instinct is to defend the existing pack—so the challenge is to make the new dog a member of the pack as quickly as possible.

This article, both on the whys of rejection and with advice for introducing a new dog, explains it better than I ever could.

Carrie-Ann (of Welcome to My Magick Theater and Onomastics Outside the Box) asked for my opinion on 
"hobby breeders, people who only breed a small number of litters a year and carefully screen adoptive families, as opposed to the mass-breeders at animal mills."
For me, this is a case of choosing the lesser evil. Small, caring breeders are certainly better than puppy mills that keep dogs in unspeakable conditions—but they're still evil. Well, not evil, but... you know. Not good.

Why? Let me explain.

First, the whole breed thing smacks of racism to me. Would you choose your friends based on their skin color, their place of birth, who their parents are? (If you would, then you're at the wrong blog.) Are these things relevant to this person's character? Maybe. But having a Mexican best friend in fifth grade doesn't mean you'll even like other Mexicans. And if your "Mexican" friend turns out to be 50% Peruvian, does that automatically make her more—or less—likeable?

Second, breeding is a hard, hard thing to do responsibly. The mother's health needs careful monitoring; she can only give birth limited times (not once a year), and only after she's 2 years old. She can't be force-bred in any way. And any breeding with which humans interfere becomes an anti-natural-selection process, which perpetuates faulty genes (witness, for one example, the German Shepherd propensity for hip dysplasia).

Third, the reason we have homeless dogs to begin with is because there are too many dogs. And not enough homes. So, until a good, healthy chunk of the world's homeless animals get a home, I can't condone any breeding at all.

I realize the large majority of the world doesn't feel this way. All I can say is, if you absolutely cannot live without a pedigreed whatever-breed in your home, please—please—look at shelters and rescue organizations before going to a breeder. Any breeder. A full quarter of the dogs in shelters are purebreds. There are even rescue organizations devoted to specific breeds (the American Kennel Club publishes a list every November).

Please consider giving a home to a dog who's already here, instead of encouraging yet another litter of puppies to come into the world.


Thank you all for your visits, for your wonderful comments, and for the questions you've asked. I hope I gave you the answer you were looking for, but if I missed anything please let me know; I'll be sure to add it to a post soon :) Sorry this is so late, and so lengthy... Yes, the two are related :) But tomorrow's is a short one (phew!). Off to catch up with your P and Q posts before the day is out!

P.S. — Some of you have shared bits of dog and rescue stories, all of which I've loved. If you'd like to write a guest post about any of them, I'd be honored to host you. Email me at guilie (dot) quietlaughter (at) gmail (dot) com if you're interested. (Yes, it can be after April ;) )


  1. Thanks for answering the question. Interesting to see the different ways to give a dog the pills. I had no idea dogs could be that smart, as to start figuring out they are being tricked into eating the pills. I'll have to keep these bits of information to mind.

    1. Thank you for asking it, Jeffrey :) I'm glad you found these tidbits interesting.

  2. Lots of interesting things to ponder. Great post.

    Liz A. from
    Laws of Gravity

  3. Never apologize for liking animals more, my husband applauds you and so do I. Humans are the messiest, they ruin nature, abuse animals and people, so much. I have a friend who talks about loving animals and I know she does but when it comes to adopting a dog, she goes to a breeder for a pug. Now I love all animals but she spends the money to buy this pug and this pug has.....I can hear you scream, a bigger wardrobe than me. It has toys, dresses, blankets, at least 6 or 7 name this dog has it. Her last dog, a pug, had many medical issues that I know is due to the breeding of this poor dog. She had a pink dog carriage that she placed the dog in and walked it around because the dog would get so anxiety ridden it would pass out. I think this is, so wrong. I know her last dog couldn't breathe properly because of its snout and how it looks. If people can't pay or gripe that they have to pay to a rescue shelter, their hand s should be slapped. The rescue places are always struggling and the person should be wanting to pay this.

    1. Ugh... Birgit, I hear you. I know people like your friend, too, and it's hard to keep from wrapping my hands around their necks and just... squeeze :D Yes, breeding is Not Good. Seriously Not Good. And, who knows, maybe someday we'll get to the point where we understand that. Or we'll just become extinct. That would be a great solution, too... Though maybe not so much for dogs, eh? :(

  4. That last video was precious. Part of me wants to rescue them all, but that isn't responsible or reasonable either. We have one dog now (and she's older)... a rescue dog... but due to her advanced age she seems to require so much more in keeping her healthy. It's no longer just annual shots. She has to have special dog food for her urinary tract, she gets frequent UTIs, bu doesn't have stones, so it's a mystery. She gets cranberry pills and dosaquin for her joints. It's a lot. I'd love to get another dog, but just can't afford one right now. You must take care of the one you've got!!!

    1. Robin, YES—your first responsibility is to the one you've got. If bringing another dog into your family would upset the balance, whether financially or emotionally or whatever, then Do Not Do It. Older dogs do require so much more care, and you're an angel for making her your priority. She deserves it. And it makes me so, so happy to know she's in such great hands :)

  5. I would have liked to say I could have answered so many of these questions but I learned much.
    I'm a salesman at heart. However, I have that understanding about the shadow side of people. Vetting potential homes is important. This is my biggest experience with people. People will sign up for anything until they have to put a deposit down. It certainly says more about intent.
    I had an expensive lab that was dumped. She was probably used as a breeder and no longer was profitable. I never gave her away. She was so neurotic when I got her from her neglect. I did not want her ever betrayed by anyone again.
    I've given up visiting a lot of blogs. I'm mostly looking at new ones to follow during the year.

    1. Oh, Ann, I hear you... Three of the dogs we have we ended up keeping because we weren't convinced they'd get the care and respect they need in the homes they were supposed to go to. Not that they were bad or cruel or neglectful (they wouldn't have made it past the first application if they'd been any of those things), but these dogs had... special needs. One was (is, still) so afraid of humans it took us a full year before we could touch her. Even today—it'll be 4 years in Sept that we got her off the street—she approaches only under the most dire of circumstances (fireworks, thunder), and then only at just this side of arm's length. Make one move she doesn't expect and BAM, she's gone. The family that wanted her has children. They wanted a dog to play with... Which is fine, and the parents were good dog people; they would've made a romping 6-month pup the happiest dog on Earth. But not this one. This one needed time, and respect, and space to renew her trust and feel safe again. I couldn't find anyone willing to give her that. No, let me rephrase: I couldn't find anyone whom I trusted would be willing to give her that. And so... Here we are :)

  6. Our dogs accept pills in pâté de campagne. It seldom touches the sides, but when it does, the pate is of a sufficiently course consistency to (partly) hide the pills.
    PS It's very nice on toast, too, for those occasions when the dogs don't need it for pills.

    Keith Channing A-Zing from

    1. Keith, you made me laugh out loud :D Yes, pâté de campagne will do nicely—better than liverwurst since, as you so timely point out, it's lovely on toast. Assuming the dogs leave enough.

  7. I'm not a people-person either - but that is mainly due to people being people. Cruelty, conditional love, selfishness, etc all bring the race down. Animals are definitely the superior being. Still loving your A to Z!

    1. Animals... Their honesty, their absolute lack of ulterior motives, their unconditional loyalty, their living always in the moment... Without a doubt, much superior to us. Glad to find a fellow non-people-person :)

  8. I live in a remote area, and people think that if they dump their dogs (or their cats) the animals will survive on their own. Not true! I can't count how many strays have found their way to my door over the years. So sad and so in need of food and care. They usually stay unless I can find a good pet person to take them.

    1. Oh, Lee, how awful—and how lucky they've been to find you. Finding homes for them is another story... Ha, the story of our lives, eh? ;) I can't imagine the desperation of a dog or cat as they watch their humans driving away. The confusion, the despair... Ok. Let's talk about something else. Something nice. Like, for instance, how WONDERFUL it is to find your name in the comments :) Thanks for coming by!

  9. I remember a long time ago, I was thinking about adopting a dog and I visited a shelter without having any idea about the adoption process. When I found out all what I would have to do to get a dog there, I felt like they were judging me on whether or not they thought I was "good enough" to get one of their dogs which put me off adopting. After reading this, it makes total sense and it is obviously about matching people with the right dog so they get their happy ever after. I wish I had asked them at the time why they were asking so many questions and wanting to do home visits.

    1. Your comment made my day, Debbie. I've seen this reaction in many prospective adopters, and I've always felt guilty for not being able to explain it properly. I'm glad this post gave you some insight as to the hows and whys :) Thank you so, so much for sharing your experience with me.

  10. Giving pills to dogs can be challenging, that's for sure! Some still spit them out from chunks of food, so I found another solution: Philadelphia soft cream cheese. They usually lick it right off my finger and swallow it, pill included. ☺

    I understand your objections to breeding. The rigid standards they subscribe to are ridiculous and often detrimental to the dogs' health. Many people here do go to a breeder to get a dog, but we also have many rescue organizations who bring dogs to Canada from as far away as South America. I met one today in fact, a cute little Terri-Poo who came from Kentucky. These organizations are all thorough when it comes to screening potential owners and that's a huge plus. Unscrupulous breeders will sell to anyone, no questions asked

    Love the happy dog video! ♥

    1. I've heard about the cream cheese solution, Debbie, but I've never tried it... One of our dogs has completely wised up to the whole pill thing; she'll even turn up her nose at the crushed bits rolled in softened liverwurst — so maybe the time has come :D Thank you for that!

  11. Great questions, wonderful answers. Sorry, I got behind, a busy week. I know you understand. I'm amazed that you've kept up, but these posts are wonderful! Hey, it's the weekend. :)

    1. Aw, Yolanda, no worries... I'm glad you came by, and I totally understand about the busyness... I'm so, so far behind I'll be spending all of May catching up on all the posts I've missed from awesome bloggers. Ah, well. Something to look forward to, right? ;)


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