by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF will be sharing their animal rescue adventures with us now every month.
Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
You are a dog. You are a spoiled dog. You are a dog with one crooked ear, and you snooze on a squishy sofa, gobble up leftovers, and bark like mad when those squirrels hijack the bird feeder. You have a human. You love your human, even though she owns a crazy calico cat that hisses in your ear, and refuses to let you drink from the toilet.
What’s the big deal? It’s a pretty cool world you inhabit, as long as the food bowl is full, and the pantry is well stocked with Busy Bones. Life couldn’t possibly get any better, and the sun couldn’t shine any brighter…unless that darn calico abruptly disappeared. That would be a real shame. One evening, your human doesn’t come home. Where is she? But more importantly, where’s your dinner? You find a couple of jerky treats secretly hidden under the La-Z-Boy, head to the bathroom for a gulp from the banned bowl, then hunker down on the couch. As the sun begins to rise, you start to wonder just how long you’ll be stuck here with this fussy feline, and if you’ll have to resort to some Meow Mix…bleah.
Life happens to people. Maybe this dog’s owner had to work late and accidentally got locked in the building. She may be stuck in the third floor ladies room for the night. Maybe that “light dusting” the weatherman predicted turned into the blizzard of the century, and she’s trapped in her Honda. Hopefully, she didn’t have lunch again at that condemned sushi restaurant down the block. One bad batch of tuna and a trip to the ER should be enough for anyone to stay away.
Life is unpredictable, and if something unexpected happened to you, what would become of your pets? Who would be responsible for them? Who would pamper them with Beggin’ Strips? If you’re not well prepared, your little Buster may end up with Auntie Jo, whose idea of a good time is surveying the plastic on her furniture for fuzz balls. If you think she’d welcome your rescue mutt with his flyaway coat and perpetually muddy paws into her pristine home, you’d better think twice. She may have a goldfish named “Bubbles,” but that doesn’t mean she’s Doctor Doolittle.To prove my point, I give you “Bella,” a beautiful Oreo-colored Spaniel/Dalmatian mix, with a beaming smile and welcoming bark. Always thrilled to see you, always happy to sit on your feet, and always willing to shed 12 pounds of hair on your jeans. Her owner, Ashley, is the sister-in-law of my friend Karen. Ashley also happens to have myriad health issues. She moved in with Karen and her husband several months ago, after a serious fall in her home.
It’s a perfect solution for Ashley, as she enjoys nutritious home cooking, her medications are closely monitored, and she sees her doctor regularly. However, this means that Bella, along with her shaggy pal “Anna,” suddenly found herself in the doggy dilemma version of Home Alone. Karen, having four large critters of her own, could not possibly take them in. A plea for help was requested from family members, but there were no relatives eager to get involved. And quite frankly, most of them sounded indifferent about the animals’ future.
Excuses abounded: “I can’t take them, I don’t have room.” “They’re not MY dogs.” “I can’t feed them, I don’t have time.”
Did I mention these are SENIOR dogs…about 10-12 years old? This would be tantamount to leaving your elderly grandma alone in her tiny studio apartment in February, with nothing but a box of Triscuits and an afghan. So Karen began visiting the vacant home to feed and water the dogs, laying warm blankets in the garage, and offering at least a few minutes of love and attention.
As time went on, the situation began to deteriorate. Karen started hearing discussions about taking the animals to the pound, and/or getting them euthanized. That’s when I stepped in. I couldn’t take it anymore. Not only because I volunteer at ARF, and thought we might be able to help, but the whole thing was just making me crazy. I have no patience for people with no patience. Ultimately, an uncle stepped in and agreed to take Anna. I don’t know his name, but I thank him for having a heart. And as luck would have it, we had room for another large dog at ARF, where Bella joined our merry band of misfits.
Bella’s story has a happy ending, which I will share later. Many other dogs are not living under the same lucky star, and when something unforeseen befalls their owner, they can be forgotten. Ashley had no plan set up for her pets. Like the rest of us, she never really thought about the possibility of becoming incapacitated. We’re invincible, right? Well, when you’re up at bat, it’s tough to see the curve ball whizzing toward you, until it’s right in your face. But fear not sports fan,; the fat lady has yet to begin singing. There are a multitude of things you can do right now to ensure the continued well-being of your canine kids, just in case you happen to get ejected from the game.
We all know the internet is a great source of wisdom, and anyone who knows me knows my favorite response to all questions is “Google it.” But since the internet can be SO overwhelming, here are a few websites which address the subject of Fido’s future. They include many suggestions, like Will Planning and Pet Trusts, Pet Protection Agreements, choosing a caregiver, and long-term permanent options. In addition, Petfinder has a ton of terrific ideas for emergencies. For example, having at least two responsible parties (friends or family) with keys to your home, feeding instructions, and veterinary information. Attaching several “in case of emergency” notices to your doors and windows detailing the types of pets you own, and making sure your neighbors know how many animals you have, and the names and numbers of your emergency pet caregivers. Likewise, you might think about carrying a wallet “alert card,” which also lists pertinent data.
And what about that storybook ending for Miss Bella? Not more than two weeks after making herself comfortable at ARF, her lucky star began to shine once again. Our friends from Compassion Without Borders, who rescue dogs from the Central Valley throughout the year, selected her to accompany them back to Sonoma. With a bit of TLC, she stands a very good chance of being adopted and finding her fur-ever home.
This is fantastic news for Bella, of course, but the stress and frustration it took to come about could have easily been avoided. You and your fuzzy buddy are lifelong chums, and we can agree that all dogs go to Heaven. Eventually, you will join your pooch for that permanent play date. Unless you’re packing for someplace warmer. In any event, if you should take that journey first, make sure your pooch is not, literally, left out in the cold. A little bit of planning now, could make a big difference later. Your best friend will thank you. And so will Auntie Jo.
It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn to Cupid, kisses, and candlelit dinners for two. It’s also time for ARF’s annual Breakfast 4 The Dogs, where there’s food, fun, and four-legged friends. So grab your Valentine and join us for delicious treats, vendors, and exciting raffles. And if you don’t have a sweetheart of your own, here’s the chance to find YOUR true love, wagging tail and all! Learn more on KRL’s animal rescue event page.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.