When I look back on this year, there is much I am grateful for: my family, my wonderful collage of pets, our home where we gather friends like wildflowers—it all colors my life. I have finished the 3rd edition of Puppies for Dummies and continue to work with clients of the two- and four-footed variety.
One of the best things about being a professional dog trainer is that my work brings me in contact with so many dog-loving people. This year I had the fortune of connecting with one of the many dog groups rescuing dogs and puppies from high kill shelters in the south. Ruff Start Rescue is a group devoted to the rescue, transport and adoption of dogs from high-kill shelters in the southern US. They house their dogs at in Bedford, where they get adopted out almost as quickly as they arrived.
Many people ask why, however…don’t we have enough unwanted, homeless dogs here in New York that need adoption? Well yes and no. In this part of the country, animal shelters and veterinary associations successfully promote the benefits of neutering so there a shortage of “adorable” adoptables. Local shelters are bursting with older, mixed-breed pit bull types, but pure-bred dogs and abandoned retriever mixes? They’re harder to come by. But not in the south.
In some parts of the southern US, neutering is uncommon and dog registration laws are rarely enforced. The result? Most people don’t bother neutering their dogs so a colossal over-population crisis exists.
So what happens to these unwanted dogs? It is an ugly truth. The shelters cannot house or financially support the cost of these dogs, so euthansia has become a way of life. Perhaps you’ve made the painful decision to euthanize a beloved pet. Maybe you’ve cradled your dog’s head as a compassionate veterinarian gently injected the drug and watched as your dog relaxed and peacefully passed.
That’s not how it goes for these dogs.
Because of the staggering number of unwanted dogs, lethal injections would be too costly and time consuming. Instead, groups of frightened dogs are lead into gas chambers and killed en masse.
Enter Southern Transport. Call them foot soldiers or call them angels—they are, I suppose, a little of both. They are a network of people who spend time combing websites and euthanasia lists, networking with other like-minded folks from the south who “pull” the dogs before their time has expired.
These southern volunteers deserve such gratitude—as do the many people involved as these dogs make their journey northward. For some of these dogs, it is the first small measure of kindness and compassion that they have had in their short lives.
My role? I help the people at Ruff Start understand and rehabilitate these emotionally traumatized dogs, to improve their chances for a positive adoption. My kids help socialize the puppy and we choose one “Pick of the Litter” who comes home with us to foster and train for a weekend before adopting out. And I am fortunate to follow many of these dogs into their new homes and my group classes where I watch them bloom like a bud into happy, secure and well-adjusted members of the family.
I leave you with a photo college of images today that—for better or worse, have stayed with me over the holiday. It’s a good image, and a difficult one all the same. It is of the recent transport, fresh up from the south—in a lockdown at Northwind Kennels, where they all await their adoption. While they’re treated with love and respect they—like all of us—simply want a home for the holiday.
Spread the word.
If the thought of adopting from a rescue group is overwhelming, always remember you can hire a professional such as myself to walk you through it, helping you to and judge which dog or puppy will fit in best with your family. So much of a life-long experience with a dog can be mapped out in the selection process. Getting a breed that’s predisposed to a trait or look you admire, or figuring out what breeds are in your mixed-breed puppy, takes much of the guesswork out of the puppy’s developing look, behaviors, and needs.