Buster Brown came to town on September 16, 2017. He is our family’s first ‘rescue’ dog. Until now we had dogs from a breeder and the pet store, and a cat from the hedgerow. We’ve had success with each source, though not without challenges. Dogs, like other animals, and humans for that matter, are intelligent, emotional beings and that means they can be rewarding and great companions, as well as mischievous and ill-behaved.
Every pet decision is one that involves a lot of consideration. We have always had pets, in childhood and as adults, usually dogs. Three of our pets died within a couple years and luckily we inherited grandma’s boxer or we might have been pet-less!
I thought I’d share some things we’ve learned. It’s been 3 weeks, but so far so good.
BREED & SOURCE
You should decide on what kind of pet makes sense for you, dog or cat or ferret, what breed, size, temperament. The traits are endless. Go online, check at the library, or better yet, talk to owners of breeds that interest you. We have been a family with large dogs and I realized I didn’t want to take on another big dog yet. My niece Theresa told me about the Boston Terrier last year and I have talked with owners when I met them about the breed. I love the tight coat, size, temperament, and the high intelligence. We were concerned about yappiness and the overdose of energy we have observed in small dogs, and we wanted the dog to socialize with our boxer Belle.
We found Buster on PetFinder.com last month, a site with 281,352 adoptable pets from 11,384 adoption groups, as of today at noon. It is essentially an online directory of animals across the country in shelters and rescue organizations. Our boxer is eight and a half years old and could use the company. Did I mention that my first child, HUMAN, left for college? Anyway.
APPLICATION & PROCESS
Here’s the not-so-fun part. You have to complete an application and these vary by organization. They can be lengthy and very specific, requiring multiple references and vet records. I’ve spoken to people who found the application and interview intrusive and demanding, so gave up on the process. It depends on the people and the organization. It may be easier to buy a dog from a pet store or breeder, because the owners are ‘sellers’ and it’s a market. Adoption agencies and organizations often involve volunteers and dedicated people whose higher purpose is to find a loving ‘forever home’ for the animals. I liken their zeal to my dad’s description of the nuns in grade school who weren’t letting him out of there until he knew, BY GOD, what he was supposed to know, and no amount of money could detract from that reality. That’s what passion is.
Note of caution: I called a rescue organization for a particular breed and had a not so pleasant chat, nay lecture, on the phone on the perils and evils of pet stores and even breeders. “To buy from the pet store is to propagate the problem, because there are so many good dogs needing homes, rescue and adoption.” And on. There is truth in this, but there is also truth in finding good pets from other good sources.
MEET & GREET
I applied twice to separate organizations. We needed four references and a release for the vet to talk with the group, names and ages of people in household, you get the idea. This little Boston Terrier, dubbed Billy for the site and on his paperwork, generated a lot of interest. He had 20 applications in a short period and his photos were taken down quickly. The founder of the rescue had four large dogs that he got along well with and suggested he might do better with a large dog. The first meet and greet with another applicant did not go well, so they contacted us. We are fortunate to have such kind smart friends who gave references on short notice.
The ride to the foster home in Massachusetts was close to three hours away, so we called the founder on the phone first. Mark detected concern about temperament with strangers and was skeptical. The photos showed me that the dog was intelligent and attentive, but nothing can tell us what a dog’s experience has been. In this case, the vets believed he was three years old. So we learned from the founder Julie, that the dog was left in Alabama in the woods. He had parasites which were treated, and he did not travel well to Massachusetts, so he was sedated several times. They asked us to bring our boxer Belle to the meet and greet to see how they would get along.
I was adamant, because I had a feeling about this animal. Mark went with me, against his own judgment. We arrived late and it was already dark. Julie brought Buster outside and we brought Belle towards him. Poor Buster growled for ten minutes. Mark grew up with many shelter dogs and is a bit of a dog whisperer. I’m good with dogs, but Mark’s on another plane. Julie thought it might be her. So she let Mark take Buster inside and the dogs met through a door divider. They calmed down, we walked them together on leash outside. And they did OK. Two hours later, after paperwork and the adoption fee, we were heading home with Buster in a crate in the back of the truck.
The adoption fee is significant, $475 for Buster. The amount covers the vet bills, the transport, and expenses. Another Boston Terrier I inquired about through a different organization had a donation listed for $950.
COMING HOME & TRIAL PERIOD
Buster barked a bit in the truck, but quieted down. When we arrived home he did not want to come out of his crate, growling at everyone. His food drive was high and we sat outside his crate and offered him treats which he nibbled up. Poor animal was stressed out. The next day I came down, opened the crate and he scampered right out, a bit of growling. I put on a collar and took him outside, he did his business, we walked the yard, and I played him some music on my harp. He took to Belle immediately, barked at visitors for a bit and began to settle into the house. After a couple days, he was jumping in our laps and on the couches. He had clearly been loved and spoiled. He lives for food! he’s obedient and attentive and he’s often comical.
I’ve never had a terrier and he can jump vertically, four or five feet with such ease, like a dog on a pogo stick. Julie’s husband called him Buster and he responded to that, so it stuck for us. His feet are pinkish beneath a thin layer of white hair. The Vet said they had DNA tests for dogs if we want to find out what he is. I figured it out. He’s Boston Terrier and rabbit. Yep, rabbit, which makes sense because of his pink feet and jumping skills, not to mention the bunny sized ears!
Welcome home Buster Brown. Rabbit.
A THANK YOU, Well Earned
The good part about this is all the people, the volunteers, the rescue groups, the tens of thousands involved with the 11,000+ shelters and organizations, dedicated to finding homes for these animals. It’s amazing and beautiful. Here’s a 23 pound dog, lost in the woods in Alabama for who knows how long, Within weeks of being found, he’s treated, posted on the group’s website with photos and information, cared for in foster homes, transported across the eastern seaboard, fostered and cared for again, applicants screened by volunteers, paperwork processed, references checked, family and other pet(s) interviewed, often for hours of the volunteers time, and placed into a ‘forever home.’ So to Julie, a biologist and dog lover, who founded her shelterless dog rescue four years ago, and all the tireless volunteers out there, thank you. You helped bring a new joy into our family.
** Learn more about Julie’s group here, Pawfect Life Rescue.
**** Here’s some helpful information on Why Dogs Are Given Up?
In a recent study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) and published in the July issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), researchers went into 12 selected animal shelters in the United States for one year to find out why.
The results of the study show that the top seven reasons for relinquishment for both dogs and cats are the same. “These commonalities suggest that there may be similar ways to address relinquishment in dogs and cats,” says Pam Burney, NCPPSP president. “For people who work in a shelter all day, there isn’t always time to look at these issues. We have impressions of what’s happening, but now we have objective data that will help us develop specific programs to address the issues that have been identified.”
Top 10 Reasons for Relinquishment*
- Moving (7%)
- Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
- Too many animals in household (4%)
- Cost of pet maintenance (5%)
- Owner having personal problems (4%)
- Inadequate facilities (4%)
- No homes available for litter mates (3%)
- Having no time for pet (4%)
- Pet illness(es) (4%)
- Biting (3%)
- Moving (8%)
- Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
- Too many animals in household (11%)
- Cost of pet maintenance (6%)
- Owner having personal problems (4%)
- Inadequate facilities (2%)
- No homes available for litter mates (6%)
- Allergies in family (8%)
- House soiling (5%)
- Incompatibility with other pets (2%)
Specially trained researchers completed confidential individual interviews with pet owners who were relinquishing their dogs or cats to animal shelters. Pet owners were allowed to give up to five reasons for relinquishment. Interviewers did not, however, prioritize the responses. They simply recorded them in the order stated.
Characteristics of Pets Being Relinquished
In addition to the reasons for relinquishment, the study collected data on the pets being relinquished. According to the study:
- The majority of the surrendered dogs (47.7%) and cats (40.3%) were between 5 months and 3 years of age.
- The majority of dogs (37.1%) and cats (30.2) had been owned from 7 months to 1 year.
- Approximately half of the pets (42.8% of dogs; 50.8% of cats) surrendered were not neutered. Many of the pets relinquished (33% of dogs; 46.9% of cats) had not been to a veterinarian.
- Animals acquired from friends were relinquished in higher numbers (31.4% of dogs; 33.2% of cats) than from any other source.
- Close to equal numbers of male and female dogs and cats were surrendered.
- Most dogs (96%) had not received any obedience training.
Characteristics of Pet Owners Surrendering Pets
During the confidential interviews, researchers also gathered data on the people surrendering the pets. “Owners represented a broad range of age, ethnicity, education, and income level, indicating continued efforts will need to reach wide and far into communities across the country,” say Dr. Mo Salman, the article’s senior author.
The NCPPSP Regional Shelter Survey was designed, implemented, and analyzed by six members of the NCPPSP Scientific Advisory Committee. Regional investigators were encouraged to select shelters that were likely to be representative of those in their locations. The selection was also based on a shelter’s ability to dedicate time and resources to the project.
The publication of this article represents the first such scientific and public release of relinquishment data from the NCPPSP’s ongoing research into pet population issues. “The council has undertaken several important studies to better understand the issue of unwanted companion animals. This problem cannot be solved unless we truly understand it,” says Burney. “Without this new data, individuals and organizations can have a clear idea of how to approach these issues most effectively.”
As with all research, there are limitations. According to the authors, “the study was designed to describe the animals submitted to shelters. Thus, this set of data has no comparison data from the general pet-owning population. Many factors undoubtedly influence relinquishment, and some critical factors may have been omitted. This study represents a beginning of systematic data collection to examine this complex problem. The study is not designed to deal with animals other than those entering shelters, and influences cannot be drawn beyond this population.”
The NCPPSP is a coalition of:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Humane Association
American Kennel Club
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
American Veterinary Medical Association
Association of Teachers of Veterinary Public Health and Preventative Medicine
Cat Fanciers Association
The Humane Society of the United States
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
National Animal Control Association
Society of Animal Welfare Administrators