Archive for September, 2010
I could tell you about the benefits of our humane education program as I see them. But really, it’s better if the children tell you themselves.
Fourth grader Kytel was pretty frank in relating that among his classmates animals—even dogs— didn’t always rate very highly.
“Not all students liked dogs before we started learning about them,” he wrote. “Some kids were really afraid of dogs. First, the humane education program came to teach us about caring for animals. When they came, they brought dogs for us to visit with.”
That, in essence, is how our program works: we introduce people and dogs who love each other to children who may have never seen a well cared for animal before. Some of the participating dogs know lots of tricks. Some are working search and rescue dogs. But some are, well, just dogs.
Either way, when children see how marvelous and rewarding a relationship with a dog can be, a whole new world opens for them. And from then on, they will, we hope, be advocates for animals, speaking up for those who can’t.
Tonght we are having a reception at our shelter to introduce a challenge grant that Friendship Hospital for Animals is issuing. It will match dollar-for-dollar every gift made in support of the League’s humane education program before the end of the year, up to $25,000.
The hospital’s director, Dr. Peter Glassman, points out that “many children in our area have not had the chance to develop a compassion for animals. On the contrary, many have witnessed only the abuse and neglect of animals. Without helping them develop an understanding of animals and their own compassion, these patterns of abuse can be expected to continue. By supporting humane education, the staff of Friendship Hospital for Animals and I are not just making a charitable contribution; we’re investing in the community, helping it become a better place for both animals and people.”
All of us at the League would like to thank Dr. Glassman and Friendship Hospital for Animals for their generous support of our humane education program, which holds so much promise for bettering the lives of animals and people. If you would like to make your own contribution to the program, you can do so online through this link.
And thank you.
Sunday, November 7, from 8 a.m. – noon, in Rock Creek Park (16th & Kennedy Streets, NW). Join us for the 1-mile jog/walk with dogs and/or the 5K race that follows. Also, adoptable dogs from the League and vendors of pet supplies. Proceeds benefit the homeless animals at the League. For more information and a link to registration, click this link.
The League is offering free rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs on Wednesday, September 29, from 4:30 until 8 pm at the League. No appointments are necessary, but cats must be in carriers and dogs must be leashed. Participants should bring records of their pets’ previous vaccinations. For information and directions to the shelter, call 202-726-2273.
“The staff was amazed at how far the dogs had come in just one week. The new charges had shaken off some of their kennel stress and already seemed much happier….Limited as it may have been, this was the first time these dogs were allowed to simply be dogs.”
That’s a quote from The Lost Dogs, Jim Gorant’s new book about the rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s pit bulls. He’s describing the turnabout that eleven of Vick’s dogs made after they arrived at the League, which he describes as being “on the cutting edge of animal housing.”
The League took care of these dogs for three months in 2007. Though it may seem odd, our basic assignment was to teach dogs to be dogs, as Gorant rightly notes. In the process, we learned a lot about rehabilitating fighting dogs, and the dogs thrived.
We’ve been putting that knowledge to good use ever since.
On Saturday, the Humane Society of the United States brought us 10 of 200 pit bulls they got from a suspected fighting ring in Ohio. Like Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel dogs, these dogs came in scarred, both externally and internally.
But as with Vick’s dogs, a few days at our facility, with its supportive environment and patient, compassionate staff, have had an almost magical effect.
Coolridge, a large yellow male with an odd nervous grin, is scared of everyone. In the past, any contact with people was a precursor to a terrible experience—hence, the nervous grin when anyone approaches. But now he is learning that he doesn’t have to be afraid. For instance, the first time you touch his paw, he cringes and freezes in fear. But the second time you do it, he’s ok with it. That’s the beginning of trust.
Even Lincoln, a petite all-black female who has been totally shutdown (unresponsive, won’t eat, hides: essentially, a dog who has given up) crawled out of her crate on her belly to say hello to a trainer this morning. As small as the step was, it was cause for rejoicing.
Slowly and quietly these dogs are beginning to show us all the qualities that make dogs such wonderful beings. And in the process, I like to think that the chance to help them is bringing out the best in us.
It’s not often that life gives you the opportunity to be a part of such a complete rescue and recovery. I find that the work goes both ways: we help the dogs become happy and loving companions, and they help us become better people.
At 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning, four League employees set off in two of our vans to pick up animals from a North Carolina research lab that is under investigation by the USDA. They didn’t return until 10:30 p.m. but they brought back 10 cats and 20 dogs—beagles, terriers, mixed shepherds, and basset hound mixes—all laboratory test animals.
The cruelty at the lab was uncovered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They placed an undercover employee there, and it was her testimony that convinced Professional Laboratory and Research Services, Inc. to surrender the animals.
Click on the photo to watch the undercover video PETA took, but be forewarned: it is not easy to watch!
Descriptions of the experiments carried out on these innocent animals are the stuff of nightmares…literally. Any caring, compassionate person would lose sleep thinking about what was done to them. Truly the worst humanity (and I use that term loosely) has to offer.
Over and over again, people who learn about the plight of these animals ask me, “Why didn’t anyone call the authorities so they could put a stop to the abuse?”
The answer is simple. The abuse is legal. It happens every day all across America. The canine and feline refugees we just took in are not anomalies. We have 30 of them, and they’re safe now. But how many more still linger and suffer unspeakably in labs throughout the US?
Our mission statement, which we take very seriously, directs us to “rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome” animals who have nowhere else to go. These animals are now rescued. Their rehabilitation has started but is bound to be lengthy, particularly for some of them. It will keep our veterinary and behavior/training staff busy for weeks.
You can help by supporting this work and putting out the word that some animals who really, really need a change of fate will be looking for patient, loving homes soon.
And we can all work to bring about the day when laboratories like the one from which these dogs and cats came will no longer exist.
Next time, I’ll tell you about the 10 pit bulls we got from a suspected dog fighting operation in Ohio. They arrived about 12 hours after the animals from the lab.
However you stumbled upon my new blog, it’s a pretty safe bet you have some connection to the animal welfare field: you’ve adopted a dog or cat, you work or volunteer at a shelter, you’re part of a rescue group or you’ve bookmarked an animal adoption page on your computer.
Whatever your connection, you know that the animals’ stories bring up very big issues. They tell us volumes about who we are as people, what terrible and wonderful things we are capable of, and what is really worthwhile about life. It often involves them.
At an animal shelter, something like this can happen at any moment…
A puppy comes in nearly dead of heat stroke after being left in a hot car. His guardian doesn’t seem too concerned. She just wants us to take the puppy so she can be on her way. What makes her so nonchalant? And why do we care so deeply about this puppy whom we’ve never seen before, that we spare nothing to save his life?
The process of rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals is full of decisions, often difficult ones. The animals are totally reliant on us for their care but can only express their wishes in the most rudimentary forms (through their eyes, wagging tails, whimpers, purrs, and cries). We, not they, have to decide what’s best for them.
Here’s a dilemma we faced recently…
The cat transferred from another shelter tests positive for FIV, an immune deficiency that he can live with for years. He’s certainly adoptable but he’ll need a special home, and it will most likely take months to find him one. Meanwhile, how many other cats will be euthanized in area shelters because they have no more room for homeless cats?
These stories and the issues they raise make our field unique. Filled with the drama of animals’ suffering, recovery and fresh starts, our days bring a constant stream of shock, sadness, joy, and often enough, surprising triumphs.
Some moments are truly uplifting, as when…
A pit bull who was turned in because he was too much to handle and was threatening the neighbors becomes a training star at the shelter and finds a grateful family. They report, “We can’t imagine life without Seamus. He’s the perfect addition to our household!”
In this blog, I plan on sharing the stories and reflections that come out of our experience working with animals at the Washington Animal Rescue League. Either on their way or safely sheltered and “out of harm’s reach,” all of these animals have stories. That’s the point of this blog, and of our very unique shelter. I invite you to offer your own reflections, convictions, and stories. And by all means, let me know how we’re doing.