Our shelter relies upon rescue groups in other parts of the country, a select few but all greatly appreciated, to help us find homes for some of our animals. Last year alone they helped place over 900 animals. Almost as many as are adopted out through our shelter. And there are times they take the most difficult to place, those with medical problems or health issues. And there are times when I know that without doubt, they saved an animal that we could not. Not because we wouldn’t have tried. But simply because sometimes their odds of finding some a home are much better than our own.
We receive over 3000 animals each year. As such, we run out of space. Most of the rescue groups we work with only have as many animals as they have foster homes for. We work with a few no-kill shelters that will choose those that are highly adoptable and will find homes quickly. Others that are very small shelters that only have a few dogs at a time and with a narrow selection, their animals are in high demand.
When the small Vermont shelter Second Chance contacted us around Christmas saying they had room for some dogs and choose a few from our shelter, I urged our rescue coordinator to share with them a foster dog that I had personally rescued and been fostering for over a month. Harris was not a dog that would be easily adoptable in our shelter and I knew it. Not that he wasn’t friendly and smart and cute. He was all that. But he hated a kennel and showed signs of potential separation anxiety. He was a cat chaser and while he got along with some of my dogs, he was choosy in his selection. Making him best for a home where he would be the only pet. Additionally, he was a serious fellow. He was clingy, loving and loyal to me and was content just to be with me. He wasn’t playful and put out a “I’m not sure I want to be friends with you” demeanor with strangers that made him seem standoffish and aloof. At least at first meeting.
None of these characteristics made him highly adoptable in our shelter. Maybe, but how long would it take? And with so many other dogs ready for adoption and will less restrictions, he would likely be in the shelter a long time. He would not take quickly to visitors and his distaste of the kennel would surely make him appear vicious at worst and neurotic at best. Again, a real con with others wagging their tails and happy to greet visitors.
A foster home with another rescue would likely have other pets which ruled him out for most if not all of them. But I knew that Second Chance might be his only chance as while a shelter, they have lots of resources, volunteers, large kennels and even a behaviorist that works with their animals. And while the long trip to Vermont would surely be stressful for him, something told me this might be the only chance Harris would ever have. Sending them a long letter in advance about him so they would be fully informed, they still were willing to give him a chance.
He didn’t travel well as expected and hated the kennel there too, despite its size. The manager would soon make him her roommate in her office, which he loved but it would still take several weeks for him to show signs of improvement and begin to relax some in their shelter. I would hear from her frequently for the first week or two and we discussed the possibility of sending him back if things did not improve. But Harris slowly acclimated and improved…some. And after a few more weeks of radio silence, I would get the news I’d prayed for. Harris had been adopted. They had used great care in finding a home where the owners would rarely be gone, had no other pets and seemed willing and prepared to deal with some of his potential problems.
So today when I received an email from his new mom, I must admit I was almost afraid to read it. Afraid his inability to be alone had made it impossible to live with. Or that he had just not been the right dog for them. Or that they had questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer.
I did what I do when I’m nervous. I scanned down the long email for some hint as to the tone of the message. “He’s a terror when left alone.” “He poops in the house.” “He demolished his dog bed.” “Barks wildly when strangers approach the house.”
Yes, he has separation anxiety but so what if on the rare occasions he is left alone he poops on the floor and grabs things off the counters and chews them. They love him. And it was his dog bed anyway that he chewed to pieces.
So what that he doesn’t immediately make friends with every stranger and barks madly when they approach. They live in a cabin in the middle of 141 acres and visitors don’t drop in often and when they do, he actually warms up rather quickly now and is happy to receive their attention too. Yeah!
So what if he barks at deer in the woods and races to the door when a doorbell rings on TV. Maybe the same barking will scare away the bear that steals birdseed (once he comes out of hibernation.)
They love him.
And the dog that was once so serious that he didn’t know what to do with toys is beginning to play with them. So what he won’t retrieve what is thrown but races about with it gleefully?
I don’t know how I knew that Second Chance was his only chance….his last chance. It’s not often I have doubts about the viability of any animal but finding a great home for Harris was a long shot.
But playing the odds for Harris has paid off for sure as today and for all days, he has a home and people that are committed to him. Despite his imperfections they love him unconditionally and patiently. And I couldn’t ask for more.