Over the years I’ve frequently had “frying pan” experiences – where suddenly I just knew something. One of my most memorable – and one that has stood the test of time is: How do I want to be remembered?”. There’ve been times I spoke up and, more often, times I zipped my lips.
I never forget that the dogs and cats who enter our lives do not care who we are – they’re just grateful we’ve saved them. Those actions trump words every time. The challenge, however, is too many passionate people who’re involved in rescue have no filter, or a really bad filter, on what they say and when they say it. If you lose sight of saving the animals, the words that come out of their mouths will trump their actions. When that happens, it’s the animals who pay the price – and they do not have a voice.
What puzzles me is why someone would want to be remembered not for the good they’ve done in rescue; but for the obnoxious, unprofessional, words that have spilled out of their mouths. All too often those words derail a rescue, cause undue hardship, and create challenges for future collaboration.
At this time of year, if I had the power to give a gift to those in rescue, it would be the following: Work together, zip the lip, and save lives.
There is certainly a controversy about vaccinations for children. Trust me, there’s an equal controversy about the reality of vaccinations for dogs. Every week we see the results of those who do not believe in vaccinations for their dogs – and the dogs have heart worms or ehrlichia. For the most part, dog owners, get it with rabies vaccinations – in large part due to municipal ordinances and the actual reality that humans are at risk if bitten by a rabid animal.
Every year many people get the flu shot – especially if they didn’t one year and caught the flu. Well, in dogs ehrlichia can make a dog feel as though it has the flu. If you don’t want to feel lousy – then care enough to get you dog the monthly medication so they do not test positive for ehrlichia.
Now – the big challenge. Heartworms. True confession, I grew up in rural Wyoming – it freezes every winter and all the mosquitos die. Heartworm is not the problem it is in this area. They’re preventable with one tablet per month – the treatment if they have heartworm is expensive and the dog must be kept quiet. What’s so sad for too many municipal shelters is the raw fact that they do not have the funds to treat heartworm. You know the rest of the story.
And then there’s fleas - - lots and lots of fleas. Yes, they itch – and when they’re bad enough they cause hair loss. Dorothy (pictured below) is a visual example of a sweet little Chihuahua who was covered (yes covered) in fleas so badly her hair had fallen out. The second picture is Dorothy in her pink Sunday outfit – designed to keep her warm until her hair grows back. I can only imagine how awful she felt before treatment. Fleas itch - - they really, really do. You can prevent fleas on your dogs and cats and in your home by treating the animals on a monthly basis. Simple, effective and guaranteed to give your animals and you an itchy/scratchy free life.
Vaccinate, Immunize, get the shots – it’s a simple solution
It’s true – there’s an Oklahoma Standard when it comes to helping in time of great need. I witnessed it first hand following the Murrah Bombing and one of the devastating Moore tornadoes. Recently, that Oklahoma ability to come together during a tragedy happened on the campus of Oklahoma State University during the Homecoming Parade.
If only that standard could be a part of the world of rescue.
We opened our doors in late April. It quickly became apparent we would need to transport out-of-state if we wanted to save some of the homeless dogs that came into our facility. It felt wonderful to quickly find organizations in Colorado and Wyoming that needed our dogs. However, this great feeling of accomplishment only lasted for a few days. Then reality hits us and we’re once again looking for organizations out-of-state to help us.
What we are really saying is: We don’t have an Oklahoma Standard when it comes to saving the lives of homeless dogs and cats. We’re just sending our problems to someone else. I know, for a fact, that Colorado is beginning to take notice and I won’t be surprised if they enact some changes.
Here’s the math for three months - - from three rescues. A total of 584 - - YES - - 584 dogs were transported out-of-state. Look at an Oklahoma map - - the Vinita/ surrounding area can be multiplied by at least 5 (or more) and you begin to realize in all probability more than 2,500 dogs found new homes out-of-state.
We can set the Oklahoma standard.
Support spay/neuter clinics, be sure your pets are “fixed” or look in the mirror and understand that as the weather turns cold, the roads become treacherous, all of us will send fewer dogs out-of-state. However, that doesn’t mean fewer dogs needs homes – it just means more dogs will die.
There is documented evidence of the connection between domestic, elder, animal and child abuse. Sadly, they are all too prevalent in our society. All you have to do is ask anyone who works in rescue, child welfare, law enforcement, education or religion.
For all the negative aspects, there is hope of breaking the cycle of violence through intervention. One proven, winning, solution has been the interaction between animals, especially dogs, with those have a history of being the recipients of abuse – or were the abuser themselves.
My first encounter with the latter was the dog training program at Lexington Prison. Thanks to a documentary underwritten by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, The Dogs of Lexington, tells the redemptive story of shelter dogs, prisoners, and people. Sarge was a growly, grumpy, nippy schnauzer mix, deemed unadoptable. Today Sarge is the resident therapy dog for the Norman, Oklahoma Veterans Center. I personally watched the magic happen.
Last school year, I spent one day with middle school students in rural Oklahoma. It was disheartening to realize how many of their lives were chaotic, except in the classroom. The value of therapy dogs in schools, like this one, would pay rich rewards as the students transition through high school and then try to find their place in society.
What I have learned is that doing nothing - - solves nothing. The abuse continues, more lives are affected and the cycle grows and grows and grows. It has to stop somewhere – it can stop with you, the person reading this article.
Not sure why too many pet owners make the decision to dump their pets out in the country. While they may think that the farmers/ranchers in this area are just waiting for a new dog or cat to join the clan - - the real answer is not hardly - - no way.
I realized just how frustrating it is for all of us today when I got royally chewed out by a very irate person. She had lots of dogs and a few cats/kittens that needed new homes today and she wanted to bring them to the shelter. Once she heard the word “no” in our response the conversation did not go well. Did she yell - - absolutely; was she mad - - without question; did it change the situation - - no.
The area shelters and rescues work tirelessly to find homes for as many dogs and cats as possible. All of us are committed to saving lives - - each organization may do it differently – but in the end - - we’ve collectively made a small dent in the problem.
The heartbreak is that for all our hard work and expense – there will still be more dogs and cats needing homes.
My ears are no longer ringing from the irate person on the other end of the line. I know it will happen again and again and again. However, all I have to do is look into Megan’s eyes, or see Zelda go out the door purring – and even being yelled at with threatening words is still worth knowing we make a difference. For me – it has been a significant contributor to my white hair.
Collaboration works - - just visit downtown OKC. If you think the people behind the MAPS program always agree - - you're wrong. What they do agree on is rebuilding OKC, they're willing to work collaboratively - and they've been more than successful.
I'm constantly dismayed at the verbal shots fired by people in rescue to and about other rescue organizations. The dogs and cats do not care WHO saves them – so long as somebody does.
Many people involved in rescue are there for all the right reasons. They want to find new homes for as many animals as possible. From there it moves slowly in an arc until you are working with people who truly care about the animals in their rescue and have a policy of only adopting after a home visit.
When it comes to those who rescue cats – the range is from those who feel passionately they should always be in-house pets. At the other end of the spectrum are the farmers and ranchers who need barn cats - - they really do. If there is one common ground it is declawing - - I almost never, ever talk to someone who believes in this painful process.
Add to the mix the transport out-of-state for rescued dogs. Some go by plane, some by car caravans – which is fascinating to see how 5 to 10+ people, using social media, will transport one or more dogs long distances to new homes. In addition there are rescues, both shelter and foster, who send dogs to out-of-state shelters that need, yes need, dogs. Here’s where the disconnect and sometimes nonprofessional bashing comes in to play. Not sure why – it certainly doesn’t help the dogs, rescues or individuals.
I believe rescue can be as successful as downtown OKC - - we’re Oklahomans and we can work together. I’ve seen it first hand in downtown Oklahoma City - The Oklahoma River, Thunder Basketball Team, Boat houses, restaurants, bowling alley - fun things to see and do - - it started with collaboration.
Soon it will be winter – and rescues will be inundated with phone calls from concerned citizens. Their concern will be the cat/kitten colonies in their neighborhood. Each phone call will start and/or end with “Can you help me” or “Can I bring the 8, 18, 28, 4, 6 cat/kittens in today”.
Ninety nine percent of the time we’ll have to say “No, I’m sorry”. It isn’t always about space. It’s about supply and demand. Yes there’s a supply - No there’s no demand.
When I recently spoke to a group of women, I challenged them to work with their neighbors, find a veterinarian who would understand their goal, go door-to-door to raise funds (and awareness), then spay/neuter (FIX) all the stray cats/kittens in their neighborhoods. Fortunately, one of the members lived in a community that had recently done just that. And………… the result…………. There are no hurt, hungry, ill cats/kittens facing a cold winter.
A fellow Rotarian told us “Inch by inch, anything is a cinch”. Hmmm - - -he’s right. Too often everyone sees the big picture - - cats running everywhere. But they do not take that first step to fix the problem. Yes, it is easier to complain, yes it is easier to call someone else to fix the problem. The real answer is - - it starts with YOU - - everyone who’s reading this blog.
So go on a campaign in your neighborhood, find a veterinarian who will work with you and get the cats/kittens “fixed”. You can significantly reduce the overpopulation (and suffering) of too many cats in too many places.
Kay Stout, Ex Director PAAS Vinita e email@example.com 981-256-7227
The PAAS mission is to find new homes for as many dogs and cats as possible - - a mission shared by other rescues in this area and this state. And we’re doing it - - slowly but surely. What is disheartening is that most of the homeless dogs will not find homes in Oklahoma - - but they will in Colorado and Minnesota and other destinations where they need (and want) our dogs.
Cats - - that’s a whole ‘nother issue.
Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter has been open for 4 ½ months. By the end of September we will have sent 100+dogs out-of-state to new homes, and 30+ have been adopted locally. I follow the Facebook page for other rescues and their stories closely match ours. We save lives by sending them out-of-state.
How wonderful it would be to not face this problem every week - - more dogs than there are homes for them in this area. That isn’t reality - - not sure if it will ever be. Until then, we’ll find new destinations out-of-state and work very hard to be able to look into the eyes of scared dogs and know they will soon be in homes where they are loved and wanted.
For those who dump dogs along the highway, throw them out of the car, or just walk away and leave the animals to fend for themselves - - - there are no words to express how angry, disappointed and frustrated we feel when we reach out to help. It’s probably a good thing these heartless people can’t follow our closed groups on Facebook - - we do not mince words when we need to vent.
Want to help? It takes money, animal food, animal supplies and volunteers to make it work. That can be said for everyone who has a rescue operation.
Find a Rescue - - Make a Difference
I know I had a hard life until I was six years old. That’s when a family took me in after I’d been dumped on a country road. The family was good to me – they gave me food and water and provided shelter outside. I do not have a thick coat so it was really hard to stay warm in the cold Oklahoma winters – and cool in the hot summers - but I made it.
Fast forward six years and suddenly, without warning, I’m once again homeless. This time, my family takes me to the Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter in Vinita, Oklahoma. The staff was friendly, but I was terrified. My family was leaving me, there were lots of dogs and cats in the facility and oh, my goodness, the noise. Yes, individuals spent time with me, I was sleeping indoors (which in the summer means a lot), but at 12 years of age I just want to be loved and have a home.
One night two volunteers brought me up to the front office where I met the Director. I couldn’t help shaking – I was just scared. Somehow the director understood my fear and got on the phone to a friend, Stacie. They tell me she dropped everything to come back to Vinita and pick me up. Yes, she adopted me sight unseen!!!!!!
Today I live with lots of friendly dogs and a pot bellied pig (it took me awhile to figure out she wasn’t a dog). I have a comfy bed in the den and at night it’s okay if I get in bed with Stacie and Richard so I can stay warm .
I saw the director today and she was so glad to see me. She knows I’m happy because my tail never quits wagging. I’m old, I’m loved and I have a home.
Life is good for Megan.