Operation: Puppy Love

I have lived my entire life in the south. My childhood was spent in the Forsyth County, NC suburb of Walkertown. During my high school years I resided briefly in Ewing, KY and Maysville, KY, before making a more permanent home in Bangs, TX, on a 200 acre cattle ranch with my grandfather. I’ve had dogs my entire life, and my family was very committed to having pets spayed/neutered. As a child & teen I never connected the spay/neuter surgery with all of the stray dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens that are so prevalent everywhere – city, suburb, backwoods, or rural cattle ranch – it didn’t matter where I lived, there were always strays and they were simply a fact of life. I was always sad to see them scavenging for food, or lying dead in the road, or being loaded into the dogcatcher’s truck… but it was one of those incontrovertible facts of life, just like those poor starving kids in Africa that I couldn’t help either.

As an adult in my mid-thirties, I must say I was astounded when I learned just a few short months ago that there are parts of this country – yes, I’m talking about the USA – where the spay/neuter laws are so strict there is a SHORTAGE OF PUPPIES! To me, strays are the norm, no matter their age, and it’s always been common knowledge that if one wants a puppy one can usually find a puppy at the shelter. If you don’t see what you’re looking for at the shelter, no problem – check out the “free to good home” ads in the paper… or better yet, wait til Saturday and go to a yard sale. That’s just how things are in the south.

Puppies are euthanized every day all over the south – we’ve got an OVER-abundance of the cute, furry, wriggly, face-licking tykes, with their warm little bodies and heavenly puppy breath, and not enough homes to go around. Another fact of life – that’s just how things are.

That’s not how things have to be. There are plenty of families in parts of this country that would love to adopt a puppy, and are on waiting lists because of the shortage. These are people who don’t really care what size or breed or color the puppy is – they just want a puppy. And they’ll love whatever puppy they get, and give it a good home – they might even squeeze it and call it George, who knows?

At some point, some kind-hearted soul put two and two together – connected the line between point A and point B – and said, “Eureka! Let’s bring puppies from the south and put them in homes in the north!”

Ah, if only it were that simple. How to get the puppies from point A to point B?

This is where North Shore Animal League comes in. NSAL is the largest animal shelter in the world. They are located in Port Washington, NY, the center of the puppy-free zone, and they have torch-and-pitchfork wielding mobs crowding at their gates daily demanding puppies.

Well, the torch-and-pitchfork analogy might be overkill… but I think you get the idea.

Here’s how Stokes County Humane Society’s partnership with North Shore Animal League works:

  • SCHS volunteers rescue puppies from the Stokes County Animal Shelter.
  • SCHS provides volunteer foster families with food, crates, bedding, toys, and veterinary care.
  • Volunteer foster families quarantine (for up to 10 days), vaccinate, worm, and love puppies for three to six weeks.
  • SCHS sends puppies to the vet for a check-up and a certificate of good health.
  • SCHS arranges to transport puppies to the ASPCA shelter in Martinsville, VA.
  • NSAL sends a transport shuttle from Port Washington, NY to Martinsville, VA.
  • Puppies are loaded onto the transport shuttle and taken to the NSAL shelter (sometimes foster mommies cry at this stage, FYI).
  • Puppies are vetted again, cleaned up, and put up for adoption.
  • Happy families in NY adopt puppies and love them for their whole furry lives.
  • Everyone lives happily ever after.

Seems simple enough, yes?

SCHS needs foster families and sponsors in order to make this program work. If you are interested in fostering one to three puppies for three to six weeks, or if you are able to sponsor one to three puppies (think vet bills, care expenses), please complete the Stokes County Humane Society volunteer application at http://www.stokescountyhumanesociety.com/volunteering.html today. Our volunteers have made us the organization we are today. Join SCHS – the sky is the limit for tomorrow.

Letting go…

I always miss my kids when they are adopted – Sandie, Scooter, Georgia, Lil’ Bit, Hershey & Po have all found homes – Sandie went home with a new friend whose daughter played soccer with Vannesa in the fall; Scooter, Georgia, Lil’ Bit, Hershey & Po were all adopted as a result of SCHS networking.  They’ve all gone to wonderful families, and the people who adopted Sandie, Lil’ Bit and Hershey are now my friends on Facebook, so I’m getting to watch my babies grow up, which is nice.  Scooter’s family emails me photos now and then, and I’ve gotten a few photos of Georgia via text.  I love technology.  I really do.

I’m used to having  a little time between adoptions to get used to one of my kids being gone before I have to part with another one.  That’s not the case this time.  Po was adopted by a very excited young vet student who took him home this past Saturday.  Merry & Pippin, my private rescues, are boarding a transport tomorrow morning for North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, NY.  I’m not used to Po being gone, and now Merry and Pippin are going too.

I’ve taken stock and this leaves me with Chunkybutt and Baby in foster care, and of course my own Max, Peaches and Maggie.  Chunky’s the last of Maggie’s puppies.  He’s a big, handsome fellow, with a wonderful long black coat and a laid back personality, and I’m baffled as to why he hasn’t been adopted.  Baby’s going to be with me for awhile yet – she has to have surgery to correct her bi-lateral luxating patella (that is, dislocating kneecaps in both hind legs) before she can be put up for adoption.

So what am I going to do with just five dogs?  Back when I still had five of Maggie’s pups and all nine of Baby’s, plus Max, Peaches, Maggie and Baby, I was running day in and day out and I was pretty sure I was crazy – or getting there fast.  Now my life is about to get back to normal (whatever normal is, when applied to the life of a canine foster mom), and I’m sitting here tonight unable to comprehend the fact that I’m ONLY going to have five dogs!

Am I going to take a break from fostering?  That’s a tough question.  I don’t know.  I think I should take a few weeks off – we don’t want my husband to get burned out, after all – I rely on his assistance in every aspect of my various insanities.  He lifts heavy stuff, drives long distances, helps with feeding, bathing, walking, and playing, and gives me his version of pep talks when I’m feeling blue.  (Think, “I hate all these animals in the house, there’s hair everywhere – but you’re really good with the dogs, they really love you.  You’re doing a good thing.  I hate all the hair.”  That’s the Mr. Camp version of a pep talk.)

Will my impulsive nature assert itself again?  Probably.  I definitely won’t rule out anything.  I’m pretty sure there are puppies in my future, and more than likely adult dogs as well.  In spite of the fact that Maggie’s the first black dog I’ve had in several years, and Baby the second (not counting Maggie’s black puppies), I’m partial to black dogs.  I’m also partial to large dogs, though small ones aren’t so bad as all that.  I foresee a future with many black dogs.  Of course I won’t limit myself to the black ones – I’ll take in a dog in need regardless of shape, color or size (or religious affiliation, sexual orientation, nationality or political preference).

I’ll be saying good-bye to Merry and Pippin tomorrow morning.  I’m going to miss them.  It’s going to be harder to let them go, I think, because I’m not used to Po being gone yet.

I’m typing this and a commercial is on – one of those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials – and I’m reminded yet again why it’s ok to let my kids go, even when three of them go within such a short period of time.  It’s so I can rescue again.  There are animals in the shelter that the ASPCA and the Humane Society and all of those other rescue groups can’t help, because there are more homeless pets than there are foster homes.  The longer I hold onto my kids, the longer a homeless pet has to wait for a rescue that might not come in time.

So I’ll be saying goodbye to Merry and Pippin tomorrow morning, and it’s too soon for me, but I’ll be ok.  I’ll probably cry, but I’ll be ok, because three less foster puppies means that some other dog or puppy is going to have a chance…  And that’s why I’m doing this, after all.

My younger daughter, who is 13, and my son, who is 16, have both expressed their sorrow that they always get attached and always have to say goodbye.  I told them both tonight that when we stop getting attached it will be time to stop rescuing – because after all, it’s not fair to the dog if we don’t love it for however long we have it.

I’m becoming a pro at letting them go.  I just hope I never get used to it.