Posts Tagged ‘shelter’

Can toys for shelter dogs stop them from dying?

You’ve decided to adopt a dog, so you’re off to the shelter. Awww…there’s a pooch frolicking with a toy. He throws it up in the air, sees you, runs to you, toy in tow. “Wanna play?” he’d ask if he spoke English. There’s another pup in the corner, disengaged. Which one will you choose? Which one will your kid choose? What if the entire shelter were full of disengaged dogs—or aggressive ones? Would you leave with or without one?


dog with toy

A dog with a toy is a beautiful thing.

Statistics show: socialized dogs—dogs with behaviors that fit their environment and culture—are more likely to be adopted. What helps dogs socialize? Toys. They give dogs something to do. Toys keep dogs calm and interested—and for shelter dogs, this is especially important behavior to exhibit in a less-than-ideal situation. Because the more quickly pups adapt to their surroundings, the faster they’ll get adopted into a forever home, and the more likely they’ll be kept for good.


Teeny’s Friends is a smart project begun by some spirited people in Austin. Last year, they held toy drives at local businesses and ran a benefit buy-one-donate-one sale. They managed to get 300 toys into needy dogs’ mouths last year. And they want to do more.

If they get enough votes (hint, hint), they could win a $5000 Pepsi grant. What would they do with it? In addition to a website, signs, toys and shipping fee, Teeny’s Friends aims

  • To provide 1,000 toys for dogs in local shelters.
  • To significantly decrease the euthanasia rate in Austin, Texas shelters.
  • To raise awareness about the importance of adoption.
  • To provide 200 toys for dogs in low-income families.

So please vote!

P O S T  S  C   R   I    P    T

Of course, toys are part of the answer. But to stop euthanasia altogether, we must:

  • Increase adoption rates. Shelter people work their patooties off doing this, so I’m not going to preach on they can do it better. And I’d say we’re pretty maxed out on the communication that adopting from a shelter is better than buying.
  • Eliminate surrendering. How? Education, education, education. Pre-adoption counseling. (I know, you do.) Free behavior training. (I know, you’d love this.) Free vet care for those who can’t afford it. (Can we get a pet care overhaul?) And how about a nationwide PR campaign finally making it uncool to move without your pet! (Did you know almost 30% of pets are in shelters because their families say they couldn’t move with them? Come again?)
  • Stop the stray cat (and dog) strut. Less than 2% of cats and only 15-20% of dogs are returned home. Why? No ID. The lesson: all pet parents should give all four-leggeds a microchip AND a collar with a tag. Wait—pause—not just a microchip, not just a collar and tag: BOTH. (Read this .pdf by the Humane Society for why.) Tattooing? Err… I have sensitive skin, but maybe your dog doesn’t! Just please ask first. Then send me a picture. Cute!
  • Make sure you and everyone you know are talking to their dogs and cats about sex. A mere 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, versus 75% of pets in homes. Why? Neutered pets have less wanderlust, so they stay at home. Take it from a dog who knows. But I have a microchip, collar and tag, too—just in case my nose takes over.

Anything else you can think of, while I’m dreaming of a perfect world?

Statistical sources:

ASPCA, 2003, 2010
The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP)
“Behind the Numbers” by Stephen L. Zawistowski, Ph.D.


Are you an animal addict?

This post is dedicated to the kindhearted peeps participating in today’s BtC4animals’ Blog the Change. They’re writing for animals. I’m writing for them.

“No budget, no donations and my personal credit cards are maxed. I will eat macaroni and cheese and currently even rent rooms in my house to be sure that the animals have the good stuff. I love doing rescue… but… they say they are going to put the animal to sleep and it’s my fault.”Anonymous Best Friends Member

“I scream that I’ll never foster another dog again… then I see another dog with sad eyes that will die if I don’t help…” -Post on Rescue Anonymous

“I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My… mom ask[ed] if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!” -Julia Kamysz Lane in “When a Rescuer Needs Rescuing”

Sound familiar? Are you spending more time with a rescue than with your family? More money on cat food than on treats for yourself? Feeling angry that others abandon or mistreat their pets? Overwhelmed that it never ends? Sad that you can’t fix it all? Burnout, helping addiction, compassion fatigue–call it what you will– if you think you’ve got it, you probably do. And hugs to you for acknowledging it.

1. You’re not alone. See those quotes above? There are oodles more. Though it’s seldom discussed (and difficult to find on Google!), those who help often need help themselves. An estimated 1 of 4 social workers teeter on alcoholism. 23% of psychiatric nurses smoke. Like you, they’re good people doing good for others but harming themselves in the process. And who can blame you? There are lots of loving animals who need help, so…

2. Know that you are needed, but maybe differently than you think. Once, my mom wanted to give blood. As the Red Cross worker prepared mom’s arm, the blood drained from her face when she saw the needle. The nurse stopped, laughed and gave my mom o.j., saying, “There are lots of other ways to give. Having you flat on the floor isn’t going to help us.” Draining your family of “you-time” or your bank account of money will not only hurt you; it will hurt the animals that you love. And your rational mind knows this, but your heart argues. Which leads to (Excuse the gratuitous photo):

Beagle on a lap

This hound takes care of #1. You should, too.

3. The #1 animal NEED is for you to take care of YOU. As a canine, I know what I’m talking about. When my mom is stressed, so am I. Similar to the airlines’ plea for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting children, it may seem counterintuitive to help yourself before helping us–but it’s vital. A burned out you is no good for us.

Of course, there are differing levels of self care. You may just need some stress management techniques, including just talking about it. Or maybe you need some time off, to ask for help in spreading the workload, or to switch duties (e.g., instead of working at a shelter, host a party to raise money; or instead of answering the phones, donate some dog food). But if nothing will be enough–if you’re addicted to aiding animals you may need to stop altogether and do something else. Regardless, it’s important to focus on the work that HAS been done and DOES get done, the dogs and cats and horses and furries that DO get saved. There are a lot of us. And we will always love you, no matter what.

More help for you helpers:

Animals in Our Hearts: Preventing and Healing the Stress of Animal Care Work: A site full of resources for animal activists with compassion fatigue. Wonder if you’ve got it? Need more help? Check it out.

Best Friends’ Solutions for Burnout: An easy-to-follow guide to ensure you stay sane–great if you feel you’re teetering over the edge or have a friend who is.


My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict

My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict          A cute book to help you stay focused on the positive.

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life A classic book on setting boundaries and saying “no” without guilt. Has a Christian slant.

Rescue Matters: Not for the burnt out, but for the burn-out-inclined; this book is full of helpful reminders and a-ha moments.

Have more suggestions for caring for caretakers? Comments? Please share.
Blog the Change

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