Thursday, August 07, 2003

I Want To Quit!

From my window off the upper patio this morning, I can see half a dozen dogs below in our yard in various states of repose. That’s exactly half of the number of dogs at our home today.

Five are easily explained. They are our dogs, each rescued from a different shelter or from the streets. I can see “Comogente,” our Spanish Mastiff. At 120 pounds, he’s hard not to see! Como is blind, probably from having been fought when he was young and before he was neutered, but he has memorized every step of this place and plays with the other dogs if only because his hearing has taken over where his sight left off, and he can hear their footfalls on the soft grass. There is “Gidget,” our Type A, if only because she came first and still believes all others are party crashers. We have “Chica” and “Dahli Ween,” our Chihuahua mixes, who seem to spend most days lying in the sun. I assume they’re working on their tans. And, there is “Suerte,” the white poodle we found laying in the street shortly after arriving in San Miguel de Allende. She had been run over by a car. We never thought she would make it, but she simply wouldn’t quit, and now runs with the best of them. “Suerte” means “lucky” in Spanish and she is that.

The other seven are our “foster” children, dogs and puppies we have taken to raise until we can find “forever homes” for them. Four are puppies, 8 weeks old, Doberman-Lab mix, my guess, and we’ve had them since they were three days. You get close to all of them, but especially those you have bottle-fed ‘round-the-clock until they have learned to eat from a bowl, or at least "try" to eat from a bowl. We spent a lot time bathing “Hulk-A-Mania,” “Cry-Baby,” “Nappy,” and “Runt-Puppy,” after every feeding, since their idea of eating from a bowl meant hopping into the food with all-fours and “getting with it!” They’ve learned how to eat now and line up with the rest when it’s dinner-time.

That leaves "Paolo," a black male Poodle, and very laid back as far as Poodles go. He’s been fighting an upper respiratory infection of late, but we take him for his shot each day and he’s doing much better. I know he’s doing better because he’s chasing “Nina La Propina” right now. Nina has his tennis ball and that simply won’t do. Nina is 4 months old and I still have to look at pictures of her as a puppy to believe it’s the same dog that fit in my hand four months ago when she was rescued wandering in a hospital parking lot. She’s got to be 60 pounds now, with long legs, and a mischievous nature. That’s the Border Collie in her. If you don’t give Nina a “job” to do, she’ll find one and it usually involves rearranging a flower bed. I often think she’ll be a gardener when she grows up. And, there’s “Goldie,” who’ll be joining us today or tomorrow, a full-bred Golden Retriever that someone just “got tired of” and discarded like yesterday’s coffee grounds. She’s living in a shelter in Queretaro about an hour from here and her time is running out. Finally, there’s “Dusty,” a Black Labrador, who is just “on loan” to us at the moment from her owner who had to go to Houston for a week. She’s having a ball mixing it up with the “big dogs,” and long as her ball doesn’t involve Paolo’s ball, she’ll be fine.

That’s an even dozen by my count, and yesterday morning, things looked pretty grim. We had no takers for any of the six fosters and not because we haven’t tried. The shelters Kelly works with in the U.S. have “no room at the Inn” at the moment. But, as seems to always be the case when the sky is darkest, there escapes a ray of light, and yesterday it was more than just a peek through the clouds. Indeed, the clouds opened wide and by the end of the day, three of the puppies were spoken for, Nina was adopted by a family in Texas who had been searching web sites for months looking for the “perfect” dog to replace the 13-year old Boxer they recently lost, and Paolo, too, was claimed by a couple who wrote us this e-mail:

“Hello! I have been waiting for a long time to get a dog. I am an animal lover
but have been waiting until the right time to give a dog all the love I could
give!!! I am getting married in October and we just bought our first home! We
were sure to pick one with a big yard for our new dog! We cannot wait to get
Paolo and start our little family. As often as I look at Petfinder on the web, I
don’t think I have ever seen one from Mexico. That is amazing! You all are doing
a great job and will surely go to heaven for all the work you devote to help the
helpless animals!!!”
I won’t tell her that sometimes “heaven” is not what it feels like around here, but more like living in a kennel. But, she’s mostly right. Heaven is here most days.

“Cry Baby” was claimed this morning by a lawyer I once practiced with, a very fine and gentle woman who wants her four-year old daughter to have a puppy for her birthday. She e-mailed me and told me she was “going shopping” so as to “be ready.” Actually, a bag of puppy food, a tennis ball, and big helping of affection is all most puppies need, but I won’t spoil the fun for her.
A woman with two children showed up unexpected on our doorstep yesterday afternoon, another ex-pat family who just so happened to hear we had puppies. “Nappy” is going to them, and their two children who are growing up bi-lingual and bi-cultural are excited! Nappy will live just up the road and no-doubt will be speaking fluent Spanish soon. It will be fun to visit her as she grows up.

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get better, a friend from California whom I have worked with for many years spoke up for “Hulk-A-Mania,” the little big-boy of the pups, the only problem being how to get Hulk from San Miguel to San Diego. It’s not safe to fly dogs as “cargo” which meant finding someone driving to California who would make the sacrifices of stopping every hour or so to let her “pee-pee.” Then, late in the day, out of the same bright blue sky we received a telephone call from a woman who had seen a posting I had put on a web site frequented by Americans who live in Mexico. She said simply, “I’m going to San Francisco in two weeks, via LAX. She can fly with me.”

“It doesn’t get any better than this!” I smiled. And, sure enough I was wrong again. I am wrong a lot.

We received an e-mail this morning from a woman in Richardson, Texas:

“We heard about Goldie! Jill and I are both looking forward to bring Goldie into
our home. We have room for a foster. What do we need to do to get ready? Do
y'all prefer for her to sleep in a crate or in the bedroom? What do we need to
get for her? Basically since this is our first time to foster we would need some
guidance on what we need to do and have ready.”

Still another family who needs to learn the old tennis ball trick! I’ll give them long list of junk to buy so as not to spoil the experience of "getting ready."

That leaves only Runt Puppy from the six, a real little sweetheart. She’s black as night, shiny as a new car, and loves to held and kissed. Warning: She kisses back.)

So, my friends, that is the good news, and yes, before you say it, I know this web page is not supposed to be about animals. It is, after all, about creating relationships in the workplace. Well, its close enough. Connecting is connecting and, in the end, it’s not so much who we connect with, but that we connect with someone, that we understand that no one makes it alone. That said, we are going to work on a new web page exclusively for the dogs, so I can keep this one for the workplace. The new site will be called, “The Puppy Underground,” and I will let you know where and when.

Between serving as Kelly’s “Puppy-Helper” with our canine family, I continue to struggle to finish my book, “Why Work Isn’t Working Anymore . . .” I’d call it a “labor of love,” but that would overstate the case by a factor of magnitude. Sometimes, as with the dogs, it’s tough, and I just want to quit. But, just as Kelly never gives up when it comes to the pups, Suerte didn’t give up after her shoulder was removed from its socket by a passing car, and Comogente never gives up chasing his sighted-friends even though he could just lie down and whine, “I’m blind. I can’t do it anymore,” I’m not stopping, either, until the final “i” is dotted and “t” crossed.

So, that’s it. We can’t quit, and wouldn’t you know it, when I got up this morning the sun peeked through the clouds again, and when I checked my e-mail, I had received this from a friend. It was written by a woman who, until the day she died, never quit pursuing her passion. I commend it to your review, but mostly to your consideration of how it applies to your life.

I Want To Quit!
"My health is bad. There are days I feel so terrible that I can barely move. My phone bills are outrageous, and I could have replaced my van with the funds I have spent these last 3 years---on animals that were not my own.

I want to quit!
I spend hours and hours emailing about dogs. There may be 500 messages when I start---and at 4 AM, when I finally shut down the computer, there are still 500 emails to be read.

I want to quit!
Gosh, I haven't the time left to email my friends. I can't remember the last book I read, and I gave up my subscription to my local newspaper---I used to enjoy reading it, cover to cover, but now it often ends up in the bottom of the squirrel's cage---unread.

I want to quit!
I've spent days emailing what seems like everyone---trying to find a foster home, help for a dog languishing in a shelter---but his time has run out, and the shelter has had to euthanize to make room for the next sad soul.

I want to quit!
I swear, I walk away from my computer to stretch my legs---let the dogs out---and come back to find another dog in desperate need. There are times I really dread checking my email. How will I find the funds, the help, to save yet another dog?

I want to quit!
I save one dog, and two more take its place. Now an owner who doesn't want his dog---it won't stay in his unfenced yard. An intact male wanders . . . this bitch got pregnant by a stray . . . This 3-month-old pup killed baby chicks . . . The dog got too big . . . This person's moving and needs to give up his pet. I ask you, friends---what town, what city, what state doesn't allow you to own a pet?

I want to quit!
I just received another picture, another set of tormented eyes that peer out of a malnourished body. I hear whimpering in my sleep, have nightmares for days...
I want to quit!Many of the "Breed People" don't seem to want to hear about these dogs. Breeders either don't realize, or just don't care, how many dogs of their breed are dying in shelters.

I want to quit!
I just got off the phone. "Are you Great Dane Rescue? We want to adopt a male to breed to our female." How many times do I have to explain it to them? I have tried to explain about genetics, about health and pedigrees. I explain that rescue NEUTERS! I usually end up sobbing, as I explain about the vast numbers of animals dying in shelters across the country, as I describe the condition many of these animals are found in. I wonder if they really heard me . . .

I want to quit!
It is not like I don't have enough rescues of my own to worry about --- but others have placed dogs improperly and aren't there to advise the new owners.

I want to quit!
There ARE some unscrupulous rescues out there---hoarders, collectors, and folks who will short change the care of the animals to make a dollar. They save them all, regardless of temperament, putting fellow rescuers and adopters at risk but not being truthful.

I want to quit!
I have trusted the wrong people--- had faith and heart broken...

I want to quit!
AND THEN... My dog, Magnus, lays his head in my lap, he comforts me with his gentle presence---and the thought of his cousins suffering stirs my heart.

I want to quit!
AND THEN . . . One of those 500 emails is from an adopter. They are thanking me for the most wonderful dog on earth --- they cannot imagine life with out their friend --- their life is changed, and they are so grateful.

I want to quit!
AND THEN... One of my adopted Rescues has visited a nursing home. A patient that has spent the last few years unable to communicate, not connecting, lifts his hand to pat the huge head in his lap, softly speaks his first words in ages --- to this gentle furchild.

I want to quit!
AND THEN... A Good Samaritan has found and vetted a lost baby, "I can't keep him, but I'll take care of him until you find his forever home."

I want to quit!
AND THEN... "Jamie took his first steps holding on to our Great Dane." "Joan, you should see this dog nursing this hurt kitten!" "I was so sick, Joan, and he never left my side . . ."

I want to quit!
AND THEN . . . I get an email from a fellow rescuer, "Haven't heard from you in a while---you OK? You know I think of you..."

I want to quit!
AND THEN... A dozen rescuers step up to help, to transport, to pull, and to offer encouragement. I have friends I have never seen, but we share tears, joys, and everything in between. I am not alone. I am blessed with family of the heart, my fellow Rescuers. Just days ago it was a friend who shared her wit and wisdom, whose late night e-mail lifted my heart. Sometimes it is friends who only have time to forward you a smile. Often, it is my friends who forward me the notices of dogs in need.

There are Rescuers who see a failing transport and do everything they can to find folks to pull it together for you -- Rescuers who'll overnight or foster your dog while you seek transport.
There are Rescuers not used to or comfortable with your breed, but who put aside their discomfort to help.

There are Rescuers whose words play the music of our hearts. Foster homes that love your Rescue, and help to make them whole again---body and spirit. Foster homes that fit your baby in, though it may not be their breed. Rescuers whose talents and determination give us tools to help us. Rescuers we call on for help in a thousand ways, who answer us, who hear our pleas.
Rescuers who are our family, our strength, our comrades in battle.

I know I cannot save every dog in need. I know my efforts are a mere drop in a sea. I know that if I take on just one more --- those I have will suffer.

I want to quit!
But I won't. When I feel overwhelmed, I'll stroke my Magnus's head while reading my fellow Rescuers emails. I'll cry with them, I'll laugh with them --- and they will help me find the strength to go on.

I want to quit!
But not today. There's another email, another dog needing rescue.

Author: Joan C. Fremo
This piece is dedicated, with love and gratitude, to all my fellow Rescuers."
First published on: May 16, 2001

Author Joan Fremo was the founder of Pyrangel Rescue Network. This article is adapted from one she wrote in reference to her rescue efforts of her dog breed, the Great Pyrenees. On January 25th, 2003, Joan crossed the Rainbow Bridge and joined her beloved Pry, Magnus, and the many other animals she helped over the years. She will be remembered as a legend in the Rescue World. I am honored to share her writings with you.

I didn't know Joan, but when I read this piece I think of Kelly who, too, has a passion and will be an inspiration to all of us who sometimes want to quit.


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