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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Journey

Our shelter has recently gotten some much needed publicity recently

This just reinforces that we who work in the animal care field are still struggling. We still aren't seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The pet population still continues to rise, the shelter population continues to grown. Shelters are full, Rescues are full, Foster homes are full. Yet more animals continue to come in.

We field officers struggle daily with trucks loaded with yet more animals to transport to the shelter, knowing when we get to the shelter we are going to be scrambling for any of the empty kennels and cages. And also knowing why that cage or kennel is empty. It's a fleeting thought as we have too much to do to let it stay on our minds for very long. But it's there. It's something that is tucked away. We lay down blankets and make sure there is water and food before moving on to the next intake.

It's a heart-tug when your out in field and picking up an animal. You don't want to have to take it to the shelter. But with no ID where else can it go? About 50% of the dogs picked up have collars on. But no tags, no id whatsoever. Why even have a collar on? What's the point? It's very frustrating. So now we know we have an owned dog. But owned by who? Where? Even the dogs who don't have collars are owned at some point. Honestly? We don't have too many feral dogs.

I picked up a beautiful female husky the other week. No collar, no id, no microchip. Gorgeous dog. She's still at the shelter, now available for adoption.

Yesterday I picked up a white female pitbull. Sweetest dog. She has been through some kind of recent trauma and I took her to the ER vet for evaluation before taking her to the shelter. She has short home cropped ears, very thin, may have had puppies at some point, skinny, flea allergy, head or neck trauma, lots of scabs and scars all over her. Yet all she wants is love. She leaned on me even though she was hurting, just wanting me to hold her, placing her battered face on my shoulder. She crawled and curled up in the vet techs lap after her exam, getting as close as she could for love and reassurance. As I drive her to the shelter, it hangs in my mind. What will her fate be?

The other day I brought in two female French Bulldogs. Most likely mother and daughter, or sisters. Very silly girls. Scared the bajesus outta the guy who called them in. They just wanted in his house to get warm! Again no collars, no microchips, no ID. Frenchies are NOT a common dog. and they are not a cheap dog. So you would think an owner would take extra steps to making sure they are id'd right? Nope. You would think that the owners would be scrambling to look for them right? Nope. They've been at the shelter 3 days now. I've been through the area where they were found several times. No lost dog flyer's, no ads on various websites that I peruse trying to reunite pets with owners. They are on the shelter website, the shelter has been open every day they have been impounded.

Now, I did get a call for a found dog with an ID. Little white male Maltese/poodle/terrier something. The finder had him tied up to a tree in his front yard. This dog had his license on. And just as I was getting ready to call the tag number in, the frantic owner pulled up. The owner is a elderly disabled man, yet he had been out searching for his little dog that got out when the front gate was left open by someone leaving a flyer on his doorknob for pizza delivery. He opened to door to let his little dog out to potty and wasn't able to get to the gate and close it before "Buddy" got out. I put his little dog in his car for him and wished him a happy holiday. He asked if that was it? Was he going to get a ticket or anything? Nope. Your dog has a license. He smiled and thanked me several times before he drove off.

I'm still assigned to our contracted city and I bring in a daily average of 0-4 live animals. The county officers bring in an average of 1- 6 dogs and 1-5 cats daily, per officer. the number of officers can vary day to day from 1 officer covering the entire county to 3 officers covering the entire county. Our trucks have 6 "dog boxes" and at least 2 cat cages. This number does not include the DOAs we pick up daily. Which I won't go into the totals there, but it's more than 2 per any officer DAILY. You do the math on all of that.

Officers are scheduled to work 8 or 10 hour shifts. Many work more than their shift. I know I do. I go in early, do my paperwork from the previous day, get my new pending calls and head out to the field. In my city I have neglect calls, barking calls, license checks, followups, loose animals, wildlife, confined strays, injured animals, aggressive dogs, neighbor disputes, and a myriad of other complaints. Then there are the calls that come in DURING my shift. And this is daily. Can I get to all of them in one day? Not usually.

The county officers have the same types of calls, but in a much larger area, and much larger population. We used to have the county divided into beats, 1,2,3,4,5,6,and 7. We would have one to two officers in beats 1 and 2, one officer (me) in 3 and 4, one officer in 5 and 6 and one officer in 6 and 7. Then when they laid-off field officers it changed to North and South. We are lucky if we get 2 officers in north and 1 officer in south. Most of the time it is ONE officer in North and ONE officer in the south. And a few times a week it is ONE officer for the ENTIRE County.

The number of calls has not changed. If anything, they have increased. There are some calls that will not get worked by a county field officer. They will be handled administratively. Our AC dispatcher does an amazing job of triaging calls, making sure calls that need to be worked immediately get done and ones that can wait get placed properly, helping people over the phone and watching over all of us officers. She does so much more that I would have to dedicate an entire blog to her. Humm, maybe she would like to do a guest blog?

And one final story for this posting. More on a personal level.

For the past 2-3 nights my kids have heard the pitiful cries of a kitten outside our house. Every time we go out to look for the source we cannot find it. Well, last night, my husband and I heard it too. We kept going out and looking, but couldn't find it. Finally my husband stood outside motionless for about 10 minutes, waiting. He finally found the source. He called me in to help get a tiny 5-6 week old kitten that had climbed up into the wheel well of the vehicle parked in our driveway. I brought it in and set it up in one of our spare carriers. It ate and drank and cried just about all night long. It has green eye boogers, so I know it's sick. I will have to take it to the shelter. I have 2 cats, one of which is very old and stresses very easily. So I cannot keep the kitten. Nor can I risk the health of either of my cats. I feel bad having to do it, but I also am realistic. I have to be. We live out in the country and know our neighbors. We know our neighbors animals. So we know this little baby was dumped out here to fend for itself. Had it stayed out much longer it would have died, hit by a car, killed by dogs (my neighbors or even mine), frozen or starved, or killed by one of the many wild animals in our area. But for now it is clean, can see again (cleaned eye boogers so it can open it's eyes completely), warm, and fed. Soon we will take the journey to the shelter.


  1. well written thank you .. passing it along. I too wonder if we in rescue will ever get ahead of the flow of pets. I am sure like me its hard to open the computer and see the urgent posts ... slated for PTS, foster homes needed, mom had litter of pups in the shelter, on and on. I can understand how ppl dont treat their dogs like kids .. mine are .. they sleep (and keep me warm at night) they lick away my tears and are most excited to see me come home from a rough day at the office (& hours on the computer savings dogs) ... keep it up, we appreciate your hard work.

  2. You have one of the hardest jobs pet-lovers can imagine. But day after day, hour after hour, animal after animal, you do it with compassion. The pit bull you wrote about today is a perfect example of that. She knew she could lean on you for the love and security she so desperately needed.

  3. Yes my job is hard. But honestly, I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing. There are some days I wonder what I would do and I draw a complete blank.