Monday, October 12, 2009

My Next Dog

No, I am not ready for it. I am still fairly hysterical over Cosmos, even though I understand now that there was little-to-nothing to do for him. But I recognize that Sunny is not doing all that well. I hope that it is just "Senior Dog Syndrome" and bringing somebody in younger than him into our home will inspire him out of his doldrums. He's been through hell with Cosmos's illness too, and additionally, his own medical needs were neglected to a certain degree as I just ran out of energy with the Cosmos 24/7 Care Factor. It was a 24/7 job for the past many months.

Anyway, as you know from yesterday's post, I was looking at pound puppies, and was agonizing over who to meet. I know that most of these dogs will be put down if I didn't take them. But as Risa (my good friend and animal care specialist... her company is "Furballs" and I'll happily give you contact info if you need the best sitter in the world) said, "you will look for the dog, but in the end the dog will find you." It did. Now it's a race to save it's life.

In the past, I've always taken unplaceable rescues. They come with a variety of histories, and I was agonizing that my criteria had changed this time round and I was looking for something a little more specific. I wanted a dog who would be kid friendly. I wanted somebody who Sunny could love and, if there was a tussle, was big enough that he couldn't seriously hurt. I had decided, with only slight urging by Risa, to pick up a pound puppy. My preferred location would be South Central Los Angeles Shelter because they have the highest kill rate in the city. Also, their animal living conditions are reputed to be horrific beyond all belief. According to the internet, they've built a new facility so I don't know if it's true or not, but while you can change buildings, it's much harder to change employee attitudes and I'm sure those people are hardened and the dogs suffer for it.

I preferred a black dog because I know that black dogs are almost universally destroyed at shelters. It's hard to get a good picture of blacks, and also people are stupid and superstitious. I wanted a younger dog than I've adopted in the past. Not only will there be kids directly involved in it's life and I don't want them upset by a quick death, but Cosmos is gone, Sunny is not well, and frankly I need a break too. I'd counseled Eric that if he was considering a dog for his kids, a Labrador was a good choice. And labs were not what I was exclusively looking for, but there seemed to be a number of black labs at a number of different shelter locations. Including this one at South Central:

The terror and despair in this dogs eye's spoke to me. It met all the other preferred criteria. All the while I was agonizing over the multitude of dogs that were within the group I had singled out, and agonized even more over the dogs that I had excluded, this one was seriously on my mind.

Eric had asked that I try to involve his children in the selection process if at all possible. I was planning to show them the different pictures yesterday at Swap-O-Rama, but when Gabby opted out, I told him that she had lost the opportunity to have a voice. I would make the sole selection, with his input of course. But today when he showed up with both of his younger children for a completely different and unplanned occasion, I pulled out the pics and asked what they thought.

I had decided this to exclude terriers and terrier mixes from my choice. I love terriers, but they are bred to hunt small animals, and to have one is to court disaster if they were to visit or live in a home where there were hamsters and such. I explained this to the kids and also explained that if the Terrier ate their hamster, we couldn't even be mad at the dog because this was what they were bred to do. They understood and all the terrier pics were put in a pile. Then they started going through the rest. And in the end, they chose the exact same top four that I chose, and right on top as #1 was the "Black Lab Bitch" at South Central. The universe had spoken. This was the dog that I was going to try and adopt if it was still available.

My plan was to take Sunny for his well dog check on Thursday, then see about adopting the dog Friday or over the weekend. I know that shelter policy won't allow them to release it to me until it is spay, but I figured I could do all the paperwork, leave it, and pick it up early next week. That would give me a little more time to recover from Cosmos and prepare for the new girl's arrival. But something was nagging at my mind. Even though the shelters are closed on Mondays, I decided to make a call down to South Central to get more information, hoping I could get a real person and not just a computer. I did.

I spoke to a dispatcher who was nice enough, even as I felt that I was interrupting his day with my inquiry. He looked the dog up by Identification Number. She was a stray picked up off of the street. No wonder she was so frightened. Given the area she came from, chances are she was dumped, but even if she wasn't, no collar, no tag, and nobody cared enough to track her down. And then to be captured and drug into the hell hole of a pound? I'd be terrified too.

He looked at the other specks. "Normal." "Normal." "Normal." Then "Wait A Minute! She's a Red Alert!"

"What does that mean?" I inquired quickly, dreading the worst. And almost the worst I got. She apparently has a runny nose, and the pounds waste no time in destroying all dogs with any symptom of contagious disease no matter what it is or how easy it is to treat. She was on the list to be destroyed immediately only because they dumped her into a pound with a bazillion other dogs where she was exposed to something and her nose was running. That's it. End of story. He either didn't know or couldn't be bothered finding out what was causing the runny nose, but I'd put my bottom dollar on it being Kennel Cough. Uncomfortable, but extremely treatable.

I barely could ask if she was still alive, but apparently she was. Only because the shelter was closed today and they were operating on minimum staff. No care, no treatment for her illness, just a promise of an extra day suffering from whatever it is she has, and then death.

I told her I wanted her, she had been on my radar for a few days, and please hold her for me. He responded that the longest they ever hold dogs is 24 hours, and he didn't know what they would do with this one since it's execution had already been scheduled. But he flagged it's file with "Customer Interest" and warned me to call very early tomorrow morning to speak with the Daytime Supervisor. By 7:30 am, he warned. Things happen early at the shelter. I begged him for a direct line to the supervisor's desk; at this point he knew that I really meant business (not that I was mean; I think he appreciated my attitude) and he gave it to me without argument. Then he warned me again. Call early.

After hanging up the phone with him, I immediately called my own vet. I know that they treat shelter dogs. I've seen the officers go in and out with them many times while waiting for our own appointments. I explained to them what I was about to do... rescue a sick, un spayed dog who was scheduled for immediate termination, and would they be able to treat since they are an animal shelter vet? Sadly, the answer was not under the current circumstances. Their contract was with West Valley Shelter, and all of the shelters had agreements with local vets. Theirs did not extend to South Central.

But Bianca and I had an idea. What if the dog was "transferred" to West Valley? Then they would be a treating veterinary clinic, and I could potentially use them right away. It would obviously only be a paper transfer. West Valley wasn't going to allow a known sick dog into their group. Bianca gave me a direct phone number to West Valley that would put me in touch with somebody in charge there today, and who knew? Maybe something could be arranged.

I did speak to the officer there who was abrupt and uninterested in my situation. In a way I understand it; I'm sure she would much rather me adopt a dog from my own local shelter. But on the other hand, all I could think of is "dog pound personnel."
She simply advised me to call South Central again in the morning and see what can be arranged. She too warned me to call early, and to be prepared to go down for the dog on the spot.

I hung up and fretted. Now what? Then it occurred to me. I have a direct line to the South Central Supervisor's phone. Why don't I call down and leave a message on his machine. That way there would be something for him before he even showed up for work! So I did so, but got a live woman on the phone. The Officer at South Central for today.

She was not completely unsympathetic, but not totally sympathetic either. She checked the system and confirmed that I was registered as interested in this bitch. I asked her if she would put a note on the dogs actual cage to be sure that nobody missed that I wanted it. She flat-out refused. "Everybody uses the computer here" she said. "They'll check it and see that you want this dog." But then she offered an ominous warning. "Call Early. Call at 7 am. Talk to the Daytime Officer. Sometimes there are mistakes made." And so that's how we left it.

I have expressed interest in this dog, and they're supposed to put a 24 hour hold on it. They never do more than 24 hours because most of the time, people who express interest never show up. But this is a sick dog, and by the way, they never even bothered to give it the dignity of a name. All they want to do is terminate it's life. Mistakes are made. "Mistakes" are made.

This is what I have always done. This is what I do. I rescue things. I fix them. If the shelter will only respect my phone calls and my concern and hold on to that girl, I will be down there as early tomorrow morning as I possibly can, and I will save her. The girl, the stray, the sick, the dog that nobody has enough respect for to even give a name before they kill it. She is nothing to anyone. I desperately want the chance to fix that in her life. If she is alive long enough for me to save her.

My only regret is that Sunny will not be part of the selection process. I had wanted his voice too. I trust that the universe is guiding me to this dog and that she will make Sunny happy. Risa has promised to come over later tomorrow when we know what time we are going to arrive home, to help us make introductions. Hopefully little will be required.

I don't know what's going to happen to all those other dogs. I will probably have nightmares about them for weeks. But I know for absolute certain what is going to happen to this particular dog if I don't intervene immediately. I have a life to save tomorrow. If I am successful, I have a life to change. I will make her life matter. Please, my universe, give me the opportunity to make a difference. Again. It might mitigate some of the pain and void that the Cosmos left last week.

PS - Thank you all for your suggestions for other dog options. I love you from the bottom of my heart for your concern for both me and these other dogs. I hope that the dogs in your lives, and the dogs that you know are well cared for and find "forever homes." But it appears that, if I can intervene in time, this particular dog has chosen me. I have a path and direction. I have to follow it.

1 comment:

garen_t said...

Gripping!!!! I will keep checking for the next installment. So sorry about sonny not feeling well. I hope you will get 'ginger' and that she will cheer him up.

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