We got a tour of the facilities from Mike, a softspoken volunteer from Oklahoma who does business in Chicago and spends his free weekends there. Mike was helpful, genuine, and obviously a compassionate man. I am grateful that my first trip there was guided by him, and not the jaded, overworked, underpaid government workers that usually help WCAF. He showed us the lost dog and cat rooms, which were full and apparently a large part of the operation. My heart went out to the families searching the rooms hoping to recover their pets. He also showed us the large room full of dogs with pending abuse cases. They must stay in the facility for the entirety of their court cases, and as Mike put it by the time that is over the dog has usually gone insane from stress. Mike also told us that they deal with 30,000 dogs a year, roughly 100 a day. When asked about the euthanasia rate he said 20. Percent? No, 20 thousand. Two thirds. I suddenly didn't feel so good about picking these animals fates.
We headed to a room of dogs not yet on the adoption floor and I was told to pick the dog I would foster. I walked quickly past the full grown german shepherds that seemed to occupy every other crate, and looked carefully at the more "adoptable" dogs. I stopped for a moment to look at the large, overweight, lethargic rottweiler mix that occupied a larger cage. She was stretched out across the cage, barely looking up as I assessed the situation and tried to avoid her soulful eyes. In the center of her cage was two large piles of feces, the kind of feces you call your vet about because your afraid your dog is sick. I didn't want to know how old she was, to learn that her family had dropped her off, or to find out she was another cruelty case so I simply did not look at her card. I kept walking and went back to a cheerful little puppy who would surely find a home. I looked closer and saw that he was kind of filthy, and he had a skin irritation. I picked up his card, "Cruelty." Someone had sprayed his face with something, which would explain his irritation. He also had a bad case of kennel cough, I took him anyway.
We had picked out 5 dogs and went off to the cat room while Mike checked with the vet to make sure all 5 dogs were ok. Bad news, my dog had mange and kennel cough. We can't afford to treat a dog for mange as well as kennel cough, and I'm not sure I have that kind of time, patience, or heart. So we went back and I went right to the shepherd mix down the way. Cute, scrawny, little puppy who hopefully hadn't been abused as well. She checked out, and I happily named her Charlie. Charlie will be my first foster dog. I can't even think about the poor dog I had to pass up, not even for a second.
We weren't done yet, we couldn't forget the cats. The cat room was one of those experiences I will never forget. As a previous dog shelter volunteer I have been in cat rooms before, but never before have I been encountered with so many hopeless eyes in my life. I teared up as we chose 3 cats, and I got second thoughts as 3 more reached their paws out at me. I guess you can say that today I had the kind of job most people don't envy.
I guess the cat room was also unbearable because there were 5 6 week old kittens, who had lost their mother, begging just begging to be taken home and cared for. We had to take them, no we really just had to. Thank god for Andrea, one of my closest friends, who has an even weaker heart than myself. She took all five. They will stay with her until Tuesday where PetSmart (they are more than wonderful) will take take them plus our 3 adult cats for their adoption room.
We sat in the waiting room while our paperwork was being processed. The waiting froom was adjacent to the "owner relinquish" room. A woman dragged in her small dog, who was wearing a sweet little sweater, and sat at a chair. The dog sat down in front of her owner and starred at her, wagging her tail the whole time. I really just don't know what to say about that. I really just can't say anything at this point.
We left, finally. I thanked Mike from the bottom of my heart and we left. I got a rush and was smiling and texting everyone to tell them that I would have Charlie in my home in a few short days. And then it hit me. 20,000 dogs get euthanized in a single facility in one year. I didn't see any pit bulls because they were probably put down right away. That dog who was starring at her owner might be put down today, or she might have a frightening and anxiety filled stay in a shelter. Those cats might never get the affection they were literally reaching for. That facility was understaffed and overused and what the heck can I do?
I now understand Marianne who has a zoo in her home, and Wynette who takes in little sheepie girls just to let them go so she can take in more, and Ingrid and Kaye who devote time and energy into these dogs even though they might end up crying all the way from Independence Blvd. to Lake Cook Rd.
I will post pictures of Charlie when I get her Tuesday, and I will hug my spoiled rotten love of my life dog Walter extra hard before I go to sleep tonight.
|Wow, Heather. I had no idea|
| Heather- My heart is breaking and I am trying to type this through the tears. The little dog waiting with its "owner" just broke my heart - I am a believer that there is a special ring in hell for people like that. The story of the Rottie also got to me - the bigger dogs always have a tough time getting adopted. Your kindness to these animals benefits all of us both four footed and two footed. Thank you!
Best wishes, Martha
Thank you for going to the "pound" .Rescue is hard. I vol for several rescues but do a lot of work for a local German Shepherd rescue.( I do OES also but you saw all the shepherds!!) Our intake coord. has the hardest job in the world. She does what you did on a daily basis. I don't know how she does it. It is a breed rescue but she takes mixes too!!! I think the thing we can do to help these dogs is education. Spay and neuter. Don't breed because your dog is cute or you want your children to witness the miracle of birth. If more people took a tour of a shelter (especially a high kill one) It might make a difference. I applaude you for your effort and hope you keep us all posted. Thank goodness for people like you and rescue.
PS my last three dogs were failed fosters but many a dog has passed through our home on the way to a better life. You can't save all the dogs but you can make a difference, one dog at a time!!!
|Your post has me crying , really.|
|It is so hard, and the things you see and feel you will never forget... but you are doing a great thing...|
|I am sorry you had to go through that. It seems that the reality and result of backyard breeding and puppy mills is only seen by those who are trying to eliminate it.
Every one of those animals was bred by an individual who indirectly or directly allowed a pet or "comodity" to mate and produce offspring....and did not care what happended as a result of thier actions (or lack of).
The only way this problem can be solved is by education.
Please, please please spay or neuter your pets.........
You are either part of the solution or part of the problem...
Again, Heather, I am so sorry you went through that. It will make you stronger.
|What a sad, sad state of affairs for those poor animals. (I hate it when I read things that make me cry at my desk!) I don't know how you did it, Heather, but God bless you and the WCAF for doing it. I would have started crying the minute I hit the dog room and would have cried non-stop until I left the cat room. And just how do you choose? You know you can't save them all, and it tears you up.
We just got done fostering 4 kittens that just showed up at our back door. They were about 6 weeks old when they came to us, and we had them for 2 months. We contacted a local cat rescue organization, FURR (Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab), and they financed the meds. Their foster homes had no room and asked if we could foster them until something opened up. How could you look at those little faces and say no? Of course, we said yes.
We had 4 different colors of cats - an orange shorthair, a tortie (tortoise shell), a tuxedo (black and white), and an all black. The orange kitten was adopted to a customer of my husband's in WV. The other 3 stayed with us the full 2 months until room opened up with an official FURR foster. It was SO hard giving them over, even to the rescue! We know they will be adopted out to good homes (this rescue is VERY particular as to who they allow the cats to be rescued by), but to see their little faces as I handed them over - well, I just can't describe how it felt.
The mother and father of the litter are strays around our house. Now we have to catch them, get them neuteured and spayed, and release them back to the outside. They're too far removed from being house pets, but at least we can make sure they don't create any more kittens. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we don't get any more litters before we can catch mom and dad!
Heather, can't wait for pictures of Charlie! He sounds SO adorable. Put a bit of a guard on your heart, too, otherwise Walter will have a friend for life!!
|This should be required reading for anyone considering breeding.|
|If I am picking up a dog at a shelter I will wait out front and have them bring the dog to me. I can't go in the back anymore. I start crying and makes my heart hurt at all the babies that don't understand why they are there and what is happening.
God bless you for volunteering. You will never be the same.
|Heather I don't even know what to say - that is so upsetting. You are doing a very good thing.|
|That is so sad I can't even respond. Thanks for your efforts to help though.|
|thanks for reading that guys, i didnt mean to bum anyone out too bad.
im actually excited to go back there and see if i can get that little guy who had mange. but in the mean time i am revelling in the good part of rescue. is aw the kitties yesterday and they are beyond adorable. and i am anxiously awaiting charlie, who i know is going to be a lot of fun!
chris- for the first time ever i am thankful that walter does not get along wtih other dogs, so i really cannot keep any of my fosters! woohoo!
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