Sunday, January 8, 2012

Choosing Crookytail

I spent most of this weekend recovering from an emotional hangover.

Last week was pretty rough. My previous post on the difficulties of choosing a foster dog was a direct result of agonizing about exactly that decision over the course of several days.

Most of our foster pups have come from Liberty County Animal Control, a high-kill facility in Hinesville, Georgia. Liberty County AC is closed to the public; only rescues can pull from there, and all rescues have to go through the amazingly hardworking Meike Wilder, the sole county-approved liaison. As a result of this incredibly restrictive policy, dogs that weren't reclaimed by their owner or pulled by the local humane society had no chance of getting out alive in past years. The kill rate at Liberty County AC was 98%.

However, as a result of Meike's tireless efforts, devoted support team, and the monthly transports provided by Karen Talbot's MOMS Rescue, which transports dogs and cats up I-95 to receiving rescues in the Northeast for no cost, the kill rate at Liberty County AC has dropped to 2%. In the latter months of 2011 (and all of 2012, as of this writing), no adoptable dogs were euthanized there. Sick and severely injured dogs, who previously would have had no chance at all, have been able to get expensive veterinary care as a result of caring individuals' donations. The team has become so incredibly successful that some of their dogs find rescue placements within minutes of being posted on Facebook.

This is wonderful for the dogs of Hinesville... but because they get pulled so fast now, all the dogs that would have been suited for my foster situation were claimed before I had a chance at them. Liberty County AC is a relatively small facility, and generally there are only one or two dogs at a time that might work for us. It makes choosing a lot easier: there's one obvious answer, and that's it.

But this time those dogs were taken, so I looked further afield. My search led me to the once-troubled Robeson County Animal Shelter. Located in southern North Carolina, Robeson County is the poorest county in the state. Dogs and cats are rarely neutered or spayed, and entire litters of puppies arrive at the shelter almost daily. On the Friday of the week that I chose my foster dog, thirty-eight young puppies -- all under twelve weeks of age -- were surrendered to RCAS. Nine separate litters. In one day.

The previous administration running RCAS was notorious for abusing the animals, so much so that the allegations appear in the county's Wikipedia entry. Under the guidance of its current manager, Lori Baxter, and adoption coordinator Sara Hatchell, RCAS has made an incredible turnaround, utilizing social media very effectively to save hundreds of dogs and cats. Nonetheless, they're only human, and the tidal wave of animals deluging the shelter continues unabated. Through the Herculean efforts of their support team, seventy-three dogs left last week... and eighty-odd came in. Many-upon-many of those dogs would have been great foster pups for us. Which makes it a LOT more wrenching than pulling from Liberty County.

You can't save them all. Everyone in rescue knows this. There are too many animals and not enough homes, and while we all work to reduce the number of unwanted pets and increase the number of people willing to adopt them, the equation doesn't move fast enough to help the pets sitting in shelters today. Changing society takes decades, and these dogs' time is measured in days.

So you choose. You choose, and you know the rest of them will need a miracle to go anywhere.

I chose Crookytail.

This dog, called "Tye" in the shelter, is a medium-sized Aussie/shepherd mix slightly over a year old. According to the shelter workers, he's intelligent and has a confident, friendly personality resilient enough to endure weeks of kennel confinement without showing too much stress. He has unusual, handsome markings and his picture looks quite nice.

But no one wanted him. At the time that I was choosing, Crookytail was the longest-term resident at RCAS, having been there for almost two weeks (a long time, given their intake rates). His time, along with several others', was about to run out... and no one had expressed any interest in him whatsoever.

So, with hours to go, I pulled him. Not because I thought he'd be easy to place. Because I wanted this dog, and I couldn't stand to see him die.

Sometimes one just calls to you. Great if you're adopting, not so great if you're supposed to be fostering.

Crookytail finishes his quarantine and gets here on Friday. My odds of foster failure are high before he even arrives. And I'm still sick over the ones I left behind.

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