by Karey Wedemeyer
Karey Wedemeyer is a volunteer with the Fresno Bully Rescue. FBR will be sharing their animal rescue adventures with us now every other month.
Have you have ever walked through the rows of kennels at a kill shelter? If so, you’ve probably seen the pleading eyes and heard the desperate barks. Are these animals similar to prisoners in a high security jail, guilty of some kind of illegal action that wronged society? I have heard people say, “Adopting from a kill shelter is just asking for trouble. Dogs in a kill shelter are a menace to society and would wreak havoc on your home and family. They are in the shelter because they are just bad dogs.”
Or are they?
The majority of animals in a kill shelter are less than a year old. 50% of these dogs are full breed, not the “mutts” claimed by those who would bad mouth a rescue dog. Many are just past the stage of puppy, old enough to have lost their “cute” status and they no longer hold the puppy charm to get away with chewing on shoes or going potty in the house. The older dogs in the shelter, easy to spot by the grey muzzle and soulful eyes are often abandoned just because they were old and service to the family deemed no longer needed. Others often find themselves in a shelter for reasons that vary from divorce, to a family moving, to a no-pet policy apartment and my favorite “I just don’t have the time anymore for a dog.” So are they prisoners guilty of a horrible action or are they just innocent victims, only guilty of having a bad owner?
I recently had a discussion with a woman who is a dog breeder that has shown many dogs. It was her opinion that there are no good dogs to be found in the shelters. She referred to them as mutts with irreversible behavior issues. She further went on to say that most, if not all of them, are dog and human aggressive. have to admit that occasionally there can be a dog in a kill shelter that fits her description, a dog that is so poorly socialized it has become an unadoptable animal. But I’ll also state that there are far more wonderful dogs that would prove their loyal ability to be a great companion if just given the opportunity. Unlike the woman who breeds show dogs, my circle of friends are rescuers and adopters. My first hand experience with shelter dogs is very different. It would take up an entire book to share my good experiences and a single page to share the bad ones.
Let me plead my case with a Pit Bull named Vinny.
Vinny had been dropped off at the local animal control shelter/SPCA by his lifelong owner simply because that person no longer had the time for him. He was on “death-row status” with one day to go before being euthanized. Eighty percent (80%) of dogs dropped off at the local animal control/SPCA are euthanized, while the percentage for Pit Bulls is far higher. Vinny was on his last day to attract anyone willing to give him a chance.
Vinny hit the lottery that day.
Fresno Bully Rescue, a breed-specific no-kill rescue organization, pulled Vinny on his very last day. Statistics show Vinny had a one in 600 chance of rescue simply due to his breed. Vinny now had a chance to prove he was not a criminal but a wonderful dog. He had been abandoned with his lifelong brother, a Boxer, for no other reason but “I no longer have time”. Fortunately for Vinny he had a bright future at Fresno Bully Rescue. He would just need to wait for the right owner to give him the love and time he needed. This is exactly what happened and it just took one kiss.
The volunteers at Fresno Bully Rescue are the pulse of the Shelter/Rescue Facility. Carrie Lopez is part of that pulse. Carrie had recently lost her beautiful Boxer of 12 years and decided she would volunteer while taking time to slowly heal from her recent heartbreak. She needed time before she could bring another dog into her family. Vinny disagreed. While walking Vinny along the almond orchards near Fresno Bully Rescue, Carrie bent down to tie her shoe and Vinny kissed her ever so gently on the cheek. Carrie was touched and so began the relationship that had no turning back. Carrie adopted Vinny within a month of their first “kiss.” Carrie soon realized Vinny was even more special than she could have imagined. He knew all his commands, was housetrained, and gentler than any dog she had ever known. Vinny had a calling that Carrie could not deny.
Carrie recognized that Vinnie’s gentle nature and intelligence would be a perfect balance for a service dog. After a year of advanced obedience classes, Carrie and Vinny took the Therapy Dog International Test and passed with flying colors. Carrie combined her two passions; loving animals and teaching children to read. Vinny, who had once been just hours away from being euthanized, was now the local dog librarian. You can see him at local libraries with children struggling to read but finding Vinny’s comfort to be the perfect little bit of encouragement that helps them to find the joy of reading.
Vinny does take days off and enjoys playing with his friends, Sophie the Doberman and Tofu the Dachshund. Recently, Vinny attended a birthday party of six previous shelter dogs celebrating Luna the lab/pit mix’s one year anniversary of being adopted from a kill shelter.
Vinny’s example is easy. Vinny came to the shelter just about perfect. I cannot present my case without honestly saying some of the dogs can have behavior issues, mostly attributed to their previous environments/owners. These animals often come from the kind of owners that dump dogs at the shelter. They were not raised with the tools to become a perfect dog. But, “You can teach an old dog new tricks!” There’s a myth that shelter dogs are more appreciative and given the chance will try even harder to learn. I’m not sure about that myth, but I do know I have witnessed dogs leaving a kill shelter and I cannot deny there is a definite change of demeanor and expression. They are grateful for the second chance. Given the time, dedication and love that all animals deserve, a shelter dog is no longer a prisoner or a victim. That dog is now a participating family member, giving back to society and very grateful for a second chance.
I walked away from my conversation with the dog breeder, understanding quite well that she really knew nothing at all about shelter dogs or their ability to provide abundant love, support and loyalty to their families and the community.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Fresno Bully Rescue.