On July 27, 2018 I said goodbye to The Harlingen Humane Society’s Spay and Neuter Clinic. I had the urge to leave for some time but could never make the leap. The loyalty in my heart said to stay and my head repeatedly told me to get out there and learn more! Donja and I where a well-oiled machine in the surgery room and we overcame so many obstacles every single day in the name of saving animals and helping many that needed help. Countless days were spent educating people for the sake of the health of their animals. Some days were rough and emotional, but others were rewarding and spectacular. Together we were making a difference no matter how much the clinic crumbled around us.
The next week I started my new job. My first week was overwhelming and an adjustment for sure but I was happy. So many new things to see, do and learn. My life continued as a general practice tech. I have endured many sad times working at shelters and had my break downs too so, would my emotional wellbeing be better off at a private veterinary practice? No… just as many bad people visit a shelter as they would a veterinarian. Just because people are willing to pay for services does not make their choices right. Working at such a busy clinic I see my fair share of neglect due to owners being uneducated before obtaining a pet. I don’t know what is worse? Seeing a shelter animal in the drop cages in pain knowing it will be sent over the bridge to feel no more pain soon? Or Diagnostically knowing that an animal is pain and having an owner take them home to suffer because they don’t think its time? Either way my heart breaks.
My heart was both on my sleeve and in my throat for a whole week and I couldn’t shake the feeling until today. Donja called me about a poor little poodle left alone and incredibly injured in a nearby shelter. There was no reason such a delicate little guy should have been neglected in that way. Donja usually calls me when she’s a little upset just to talk but this time I felt her pain through the phone. The little poodle would get better no doubt, especially since Donja and Wendy had him but still I could feel my throat get tight at just the thought of him sitting alone in the dark with no hope in sight. Just for 1 second close your eyes and imagine being hurt, caged, hungry and scared. Next up came Lucky. Lucky had just had intense surgery at my new clinic and the diagnosis revealed cancer. Lucky the 8-year-old big Pitbull full of energy, kisses, tail wags and pure love came in for bandage changes almost daily because his lovely owner needed help because he had too much energy and was too strong. The mass on him was growing and he was running out of time. Every time he came in he had the best attitude, couldn’t even notice he was a sick dog, my heart melted for him but there was nothing anybody could do. I helped euthanize Lucky later that week. Next was the struggle to euthanize one of my own. Little Tink Tink the bunny had found his way to me via my old clinic because he couldn’t use 3 of his legs (he had hip dysplasia and splay leg) I took him in and he thrived! Pain meds on board, eating like a horse, daily butt baths, anything a handicapped baby bunny could need. He was just a baby and 6 months later he was growing stronger every day! Later on, he lost the function of his one only working leg. He was unable to move around or keep him self upright. I knew Tink Tink would not have lived his full life, but I gave him my best. We spent his last night grass grazing, eating carrots and scarfing cherries with a side of kale. The next day I helped euthanize Tink Tink. The last straw that broke my back, heart, neck and spirit….
On a Saturday at an adoption event while I was petting one of the doggies in the window at Petsmart, a gentleman said, “Excuse Me?” I turned around and looked up. A middle-aged man asked if I am from The Humane Society, I said no but some of these dogs are how can I help you? He proceeded to tell me about his senior dog and that it is very sick. I asked if it had been to the vet and if he had had his dog since a puppy? He said no I don’t go to vets and yes, he had his dog since a pup. He then asks “will they automatically put my dog sleep if I leave her in the drop cages of the shelter at night time? I always donate to them at the clinic thing you guys have each month, so I should be good right?” I could feel my ears getting hot, my heart starting to pound faster and my eyes starting to fill. I had to excuse myself and cry in the bathroom for a bit. I am pretty sure this man’s dog spent its last moments scared, alone and surrounded by strangers before she met her end.
Shelter life and practice life both have their ups and downs. I’ve cried in my car in both parking lots. Love and compassion come in many forms and some of us allocate it for different things in our life. Everybody has a hell week every now and again, but do we really bounce back or do we keep chipping away at our own hearts to compensate for those who have none.
What makes me smile after a hell week? The love of a good man, the love of a rescue dog(s), the love of a cool cat(s), the love of hopeful foster(s), a roof over my head, tofu in my tummy and wine in my glass. Revel in the good thing you have tonight and in the morning drink some coffee, put on some gangsta rap (or country) and handle that sh**!
So It Started,
About a year and a half ago I started my first day at The Harlingen Humane Society Paws Spay and Neuter Clinic. As I stepped out of my car I saw a brownish pittie mix sitting down with a perfect smile on its face greeting me as I walked towards the building. I called “Come here, you’re a good boy” and he came running towards me for a pat on the head and went about his way. I knocked on the door to start my new job and Donja opened the door briefly to let me know we aren’t open until 7:15 … “I’m here to work” I said. She continued to sweep and I asked her every annoying question I could probably. I told her there is a dog outside and she went to go get it. She put the dog in a big kennel and proceeded to tell a shelter employee that she would take HER home (the pup was a girl) and that one more dog wouldn’t be a problem; “She’s so sweet, don’t kill her, Ill take her” is what she said. In my mind “This Lady Is Crazy!!!!!!”
Donja and Wendy kept Phoebe (the greeting dog) until she was adopted and she got a wonderful home thanks to them, which was awhile. The need to “need to rescue” is so much deeper than the “want to rescue”. Everybody “wants to rescue” for so many other reasons; the animal is sick can YOU help, the animal is injured can YOU help it, it has no home can YOU take it, my neighbor left It can YOU help, I felt bad so YOU take it, she just had puppies on accident can YOU spay her and the best for last… can I donate a dog to YOU. The need to rescue sounds a little different. It starts with a phone call, text message, email or just random conversations. “Hey how are you doing? What’s going on?” and ends in “ I found a dog, he’s really sweet”, “My dogs are aggressive towards it, I have too many already”, “Her leg looks broken, she’s not eating”, “ I almost ran it over on the road, it looked lost”. Now comes the NEED and Donja and Wendy need to take that dog that is sick, injured, you feel sorry for, got left behind, you felt bad for, will be finely spayed and on that one occasion they did not take the donated dog because that is not something that a dog should be mentioned as.
Give these ladies a chance to breathe for half a second! Too many animals need help, Wendy and Donja need the energy, rest and compromise to move forward with the requests of people who want to rescue.
A few tips before asking for help for a stray animal you wanted to rescue: if you cannot house foster, feed, provide vet care for the animal you rescued take it to your local shelter (that is what they are there for), think about maybe fostering the animal you rescued until it’s adopted, do not rescue an animal when all you intend to do with it is dump it on someone else, if you have yet to find a dog on the street looking sad sponsor an animal that is already in need, help your neighbor spay that dog that has had 9 accidental litters already (super run-on sentence I know).
If you don’t like the way your local shelter is run, then volunteer to make it better don’t bash it because you don’t agree with it! Don’t like Kill Shelters???? Too bad because the reality is everybody likes to say they are “inhumane, disgusting, unnecessary, and HOW COULD YOU” but everybody wants to be on the outside of the glass looking in. That is not how this works. Please do not be a part of the problem and just shake your head in disbelief. Go to your local Kill Shelter and look into all of those animal’s eyes and shake your head, I bet it won’t do anything to help them.
We need more animal advocates, fosters, sponsors and leaders! We need less turning of the cheek and ignoring the real issue….. homeless animal may never find their place if we don’t give them one.
If you are on the fence about fostering, let that other shoe drop! Being a pet foster parent is one of the most selfless things you can do and let me tell you why...
I am not going to tell you that bringing a new temporary pet into your house is the easiest thing to do, well it technically is because taking them home is the easy part. The hardest part is deciding to bring them home and making sure the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, parents and children are on board with this whole fostering concept. My very first foster was a extremely pregnant kitty and I had to clear it with the boyfriend before hand but he was on board. I was sooooo excited that this beautiful mama cat was ready to come home with me. Her name was Earth and she had 7 kittens which we helped deliver. These 7 kittens and mama were my world for the next 8 weeks. I was terrified when I first saw Earth grab a kitten by the neck and carry it back to her nest; I thought she was going to eat the baby ( which is not uncommon in the animal kingdom when the offspring are unhealthy and I have seen it happen) but she was being the perfect mother and just protecting her lil' creations. I could sit there for hours and just watch them; first nursing, then exploring, next was litter box training and finally.... it was time for them to be placed up for adoption. All of them were adopted and now are living there lives amongst families that care for them.
Earth was my first but not my last foster. I have brought home a single puppy, abandoned litters of kittens, scared/aggressive teenage cats, adult dogs of all sizes with behavior issues, mama dogs, puppies and all of them are better off for it because they got adopted. During all this time I have 3 dogs of my own one of which shows aggression, anxiety and wants to be alpha. I am not going to lie there have been fights in my own home and not only between animals but within the household but if you feel strongly about rescue and fostering you stand your ground and fight for what is right and what you believe in.
I wanted my first post to be a little insight about myself but as I thought about it more I decided it should be about the exact moment shelter life smacked me in the face.
As I walked the rows of kennels at the city's animal shelter (in a west Texas border city) I carefully looked at all the faces that pleaded with me to take them. As I walked along with my many leashes hanging out of my scrub pockets and an animal services adoption counselor by my side as we mark who I take with me to the no-kill shelter next door I spot a gorgeous pittie mix! Oh I just had to have her and she was ready for the trip, the trip that would change her life. She was a large dog with the head and body of a pitbull but her coat was exactly like that of a Blue Heeler, I had never seen such a beauty. I grabbed a leash from my pocket fixed it around her neck and now was the hard part... the evaluation. Was she friendly? Was she healthy? She came crashing out of the kennel door straight towards my face and I had zero time to react. When her front legs landed on my waist and she made contact I felt nothing but her big slobbery tongue and wet nose, nothing but pure joy and happiness fell over her and I as she kissed and hugged me. She was thankful, so thankful that she made me carry her like a baby with no struggle next door where she would be safe.
As soon as we hit the intake room I fed and watered her and readied for heartworm testing and vaccines. I put her in a nice quiet kennel with a blankie and waited for the results of her heartworm test. She was positive for heartworms and just as the results sank in she coughed and sneezed up horrible mucous. I stood there in a panic and a million things were racing around in my head "Find another rescue to take her? Foster her and spend my own funds to treat her? Maybe it's just a cold?". As I go to her to wipe her face clear of boogies I notice her twitching in places she should not be and her jaw was trembling. She most likely had distemper and the shelter's policy did not allow any severely contagious cases into the shelter if it could be caught immediately. Now I have treated many cases of parvo and distemper but in those cases they were not showing symptoms upon intake. Sadly and truly I had to walk her back to where she came, I could not risk the healthy population of the no-kill shelter.
The pretty pittie and I walked back to animal services. She walked patiently beside me as we made our way thorough the long hallways to an office where I was to drop her off and alert them she is positive and sick. The staff was too busy to walk her back to "The Room" so I had to do it. We arrived to "The Room" and it was so cold, dark and horribly upseting, it was a room where many local pets find themselves and a room that will be needed until we change our ways. I opened the cold steel kennel door, she hopped right in, sat down, looked at me as if she knew and I gave her a kiss on the head. She seemed to want to take the worry from me. I went on with my day with a huge lump in my throat but I held my head high and did another intake of about 10 doggies that where healthy and now safe form "The Room".
Later that day after my shift I sat in my car crying and asking why? I know why, we all know why... irresponsible pet owners and the lack of education in every community. After that day I knew that the road to rescue is not paved with puppies, kittens and adoption numbers but it is full of unbelievable heartbreak that will shake you to the core.
Lesson: I learned that you cant save them all but we can all F****** TRY!
Moral: Keep your dogs on heartworm prevention, vaccinate and spay/neuter (if this was done that pretty pittie would still be here today)
Fact: Donja's Dogs tests every dog for heartworms and tick-borne diseases and treats them if they are positive with no extra adoption fee added on.