Post 4.6 - Rescue Me

One of the important things you should know about me if we ever meet is to leave your pets at home or in another room. Not because I don't like animals, but I tend to prefer them to humans -- and if you have a goofy, playful, crazy dog, an affectionate cat who wants me to carry him/her, or a bird that will talk to me, well -- you've lost me completely. Amusement park have a petting zoo? Leave me at the zoo with a bunch of quarters so I can buy food for the goats and I'll see you in a few hours.

This is why we couldn't have just one dog. We have three, ranging in age from 15 to almost 10 (his birthday is next month). Each of their adoptions was a different set of circumstances, but all of them came from shelters. So this week, I want to talk a little about the importance of shelters and rescue organizations.

It is heartbreaking how we treat animals as a society, as a country, even as a species. Some days, I really can't take it and I have to force myself to avoid any discussion of animals at all. The tales of physical cruelty can be beyond belief. But I think the psychological abuse is truly the worst.

For all the complexity of emotion and personality our pets display, animals do not understand cruelty or abuse. And to give them up -- especially to an overcrowded shelter -- for any reason, is not only confusing, but indescribable. I don't think there is human experience that can be compared, because you can't explain to the dog or cat why it happened. And many of the reasons I hear are so completely lame -- "we're moving and can't have pets where we're going"... "my mother died, and no one wants her cat"... "this dog is too playful"... "this cat scratches up my furniture." Or worst of all -- "this animal has too many health issues."

Can you imagine if we did this to each other and the victims had no way of understanding what was happening to them or why? And I am excepting those situations where there is no choice -- a person has died with no family, leaving beloved pets behind.

This is where shelters and rescue organizations perform a vital service.

Most purebreed dogs have breed-specific rescues, and in most US states. Dogs like greyhounds that are retired racers, boutique breeds that are no longer stylish for one reason or another, or unfortunate purebreed dogs that have spent their entire lives in puppy mills, producing litter after litter. Many rescues also make a concerted effort to visit shelters and municipal pounds to identify discarded purebreeds. This doesn't even to begin to address those shelters that rehabilitate the rescued abused animals. And many, if not all of these organizations have a fair number of senior animals, which are among the hardest to place and probably deserve to be adopted the most.

I remember going to look at dogs at an SPCA where I met a 12-year-old beagle -- purebred -- who had been discarded by the only family she had ever known. Can you imagine that? Even for a moment? And the reason? "We're moving and we're not allowed to have pets in our new apartment." Doesn't sound like anywhere I'd want to live.

The sadness and confusion in her eyes was so evident, and she was not the only discarded creature there -- so many had a similar story. It was overwhelming so I had to leave, and I just sat in my car and sobbed. Older dogs, in particular, deserve better for the fewer years they may have left.

My friend Amy in Kurten, Texas, runs Sadie's Sanctuary, and they are currently working toward a 501(c)(3) charitable organization certification. She and her family care for 32 senior dogs currently, using only their regular income to do so. Amy still tries to take in as many dogs as space will allow, and place those that she can. But it's an enormous struggle. Amy also networks with other shelters in Texas to publicize those animals that are threatened with euthanasia, in an effort to place as many in homes as possible before they are needlessly destroyed.

Cats are not spared these indignities, either. Cary Vaughn, a friend of mine in Memphis, frequently assails us with stories of blind cat, Blind Murphy. He led me to a North Carolina-based charity called Blind Cat Rescue which, as its name suggests, rescues and places blind cats for adoption. It isn't always possible, however, given the overall health of the cat; a relatively young cat that I sponsored, Damon, died recently. Blind Cat Rescue therefore houses some cats permanently and have them available for sponsorship, but they also place as many cats as they can -- who were discarded and have nothing more wrong with them than being blind. And like Blind Murphy, they behave just like normal cats.

In addition to outright adoption, many people choose to foster dogs to prepare them for adoption, as well as free up shelter space for more needy animals. Our younger dog, who was considered a senior (he was 7 at the time), came from this kind of environment. My godparents also chose to foster toy poodles, but the fostering actually didn't work out all that well, as they ended up adopting all of them. :-) And one of their fosters who they ultimately adopted was a toy poodle that was 13, and had spent her life in a cage and basically constantly pregnant. She passed away recently, but her last few years were happy and she got to be a part of a real home.

So I beg you -- the next time you are ready to adopt a pet, visit a shelter, rescue organization, or your local pound. If you are interested in donating to a charity, consider Amy's shelter in Texas (you can donate via Paypal to, Blind Cat Rescue, or another animal shelter charity. If you are already a pet owner, please consider the contingencies for what will happen to your pet(s) should something happen to you, just like you would for your children.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at


  1. I adopted a 10 year old cat from my vet's office- they help rescue organizations place animals- and he was one of the sweetest, best cats I ever had. He had been with the same family for 10 years and they didn't want to deal with him anymore. He lived another 8 happy years with us. He died last year and my son still talks about him.

  2. My furry baby Diva is from a rescue - she was rescued from a puppy mill in PA. She spent the first year or so of her life in a chicken wire coop with her "sisters" - she had never stepped on grass until she was rescued. She is the sweetest dog - good natured and enjoys the love she receives from my kids (even when Emily gives her a make-over complete with eyeshadow, blush and lip gloss)!


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