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Helping homeless dogs get adopted

Most people have good intentions when it comes to caring for dogs, cats and other creatures.

As expected, there were different opinions on whether or not dog shelters make it too difficult to adopt. I listened to these opinions.

Most of us love dogs, so we help them in the ways we know how.

For some of us, loving dogs means caring for them, healing them, teaching them what we can and then letting them go to new families.

For others, loving dogs means desperately pulling them from “kill” shelters and getting them into rescue groups, foster homes – and yes, just about any homes.

Both scenarios and so many others are examples of our love for dogs.

For one person, loving a dog might mean sitting quietly with her, stroking her ears and telling her she is a good girl before she is euthanized in a pound. Or it might mean moving a dog to another pen before spraying out her cage when the shelter’s protocol is not to move the dogs during cleaning time.

It might mean offering a dog one last treat or allowing her the eye contact she seeks as she is led to the “kill room.”

We do these things for dogs because we love them, and we are all working together because we all want to help.

For me, loving a dog means doing the best I can.

I play ball when I can. I take my dog for walks when I can. We lie on the floor and spoon. We swim together and race around the couch. I invite him on my bed for snuggles. I sing to him. I press my lips to that low spot between his eyes and tell him I love him.

I foster dogs when I can, but I know when to set limits. I know I can’t foster all the time.

I accept that my foster dogs will go into homes that will not treat a dog exactly the way I would treat a dog. I accept that my foster dogs might go into homes that are not as “good” as mine, but the people there will still love the dogs just the same. They will do the best they can.

I see a purpose for pounds, shelters, rescues, no-kill animal sanctuaries, foster homes and adopters.

I also see a purpose for breeders, the people who purchase dogs and the work these dogs do. Sometimes the most important work for a dog is to love us no matter what.

I support the idea of a no-kill nation, yet I realize everyone has her own interpretation of “no kill.”

To me, the “no-kill nation” concept is a goal to get as many adoptable dogs into homes as soon as possible in order to prevent killing these dogs. To me, an adoptable dog is not suffering beyond reasonable help, and he is not aggressive to humans beyond what the average trainer can manage.

Dogs should not be kept alive if they are suffering. They should not be warehoused in shelters or foster homes. They should not be allowed the opportunity to bite or kill a human.

It is possible to reach this point where all adoptable dogs are given a second chance. If this wasn’t realistic, then there would not be this much passion from such a large range of people.

I hate to see the shelter/rescue world divide itself.

I don’t like the hostility I sometimes see from rescue volunteers or shelter workers towards each other or towards anyone who obtained or parted with a dog in any particular way.

Most people really are doing the best they can.

I don’t like to see “facts” that are not supported or statements with no attributions.

I hate to see closed mindedness or people hiding behind “policies.” Most policies could stand to be rewritten, and most of us could benefit from a broader perspective. I know I could.

We are all doing our part, working towards the same goal – helping as many dogs as possible.

Anyone who loves dogs and wants to help dogs has the potential to bring value to a pound, shelter or rescue.

What are you doing to help homeless dogs or dogs in general?

Black lab mix wearing choke collar resting in the grass

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of September 2011

About 3.5 million pets are killed in pounds and shelters each year, but there are 23 million families looking to adopt a new pet every year. That alone tells me it is possible to get these homeless pets into homes. This information is based off a study completed in 2009 when the Humane Society of the United States and Maddie's Fund hired a national firm to do research on the issue.


Thursday 29th of September 2011

Well, I guess I haven't actually done much in regard to helping homeless dogs get adopted, although I was there the day Ace came home with you. Does that count? And we did adopt a homeless cat.

I'm not sure it's possible or practical to believe one can find homes for all adoptable dogs. I fear it's a pretty lofty goal, but an admirable one none-the-less.

Dog Talk

Wednesday 28th of September 2011

I myself am a foster failure and volunteer. I love the dog I adopted, and the dog I fostered for a year. I did my best for them, and I do the best for the ones that I see on the weekends. I'm 23 years old and have been volunteering in shelters since I was a sophomore in college. I'm sure that there are other "better" things for a 23-year-old to do, but I choose to volunteer. Now that I'm in a big city, I've seen all too well the hardships that some shelters face. There are five kill shelters in Houston, Texas. Five. Rescues number beyond count, and yet there are still plenty of dogs to go around. The city's municipal shelter that I volunteer for gets over 100 animals in intake every day. They are consistently at capacity or even double capacity, trying to find space for the dogs they can save and follow state holding laws for the ones they can't. It's a tough life for those dogs. The shelter does all they can. I know many of the workers personally and they really do have hearts and do their best, but there's only so much they can do when intake is so high. It makes me sick that a friend bought a dog, amid my repeated protests. It also makes me sick to see "free" dog ads and deeply discounted adoptions just to move dogs with no consideration to where they're going. This issue will never be black and white. I share the dream where all adoptable dogs have a second chance. I did/do my best. I've provided a home and second chance to two, not perfect, but completely lovable dogs. I put my time where my mouth is and volunteer. I spend time talking and educating and standing up to those who have no voice. Thank you for writing this. It's a message that needs to be heard.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of September 2011

The shelter works are often targeted when they are just doing their jobs. Yes, part of the problem is politics. Yes, part of the problem is shelter directors. Yes, there are some cold, uncaring shelter workers but I like to believe 99 percent of them hold those jobs because they care about and love animals.


Wednesday 28th of September 2011

There's an organization that takes homeless dogs and turn them into search & rescue dogs. We've been helping them get more exposure online for fundraising:

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of September 2011

I love when that can work out. Usually, I hear that it's too much of a risk to train a shelter dog for such important work. Many of the dogs chosen for certain jobs are taken from a specific line of working dogs. Many of the shelter dogs just aren't able to complete the training. They just don't qualify. But when it does work out, how wonderful.


Wednesday 28th of September 2011

Well said. The situations you mentioned certainly are not black and white situations. Like you, I understand that there is middle ground and compromises that have to be made and gray area decisions.

I worked at an animal shelter for two years and did the best I could. But when I questioned the vet on a certain practice, in a very professional way by the way, next thing you know I am being persecuted and labeled an "animal killer". By the time I quit working there, I had six dogs and four cats. One of the dogs I took home because the vet was going to have her put to sleep because he knew I liked her. His excuse was, "She's not cute enough to go up for adoption". Anyway, that is my rant on your comment regarding people being closed minded or divided. Why can't we all just accept people for their differences of opinion the way our dogs accept us, faults and all? No one is more open minded than a dog.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of September 2011

No two people will ever agree on how to handle these situations. Thanks for your comment, Dawn.