Monday, August 23, 2010

Messages we give kids

*disclaimer: Luke and Anna are playing...he knows how to get out of the crate,
 indeed he was the one that put them both in there with water, snacks and a bed...

Messages, we get them daily. We send them daily.  We either get them or we don't.  Do we actually think about them?  I mean really think about the message, the intent and the actual outcome?

Two stories come to mind today that really bring this home, and I mean right where you live home.

1: Ad posted on-line: please come get our mama cat and her two day old kittens or my boyfriend will kill them.

Follow up: a good, dear friend who is also an animal rescue friend, went to get them.  A child, around 10, told her, "Thank you for taking our kitties, I was so sad that they were going to get killed.  I'm happy they get to live and have a good home."

Questions: what sort of lesson is this young girl learning about why things get killed (someone doesn't want or value them anymore) and about caring for those around us (kill it if you cannot give it away).  what sort of lesson is she learning about being responsible for not only herself but for those animals?  What sort of value does her mother's boyfriend have for her?  Is she as expendable as a mama cat and kittens?  

2.  Woman at a dog park with her children, they are playing rough with their dogs, but the woman is 'proud' that her kids can kick the dog, pull its tail and poke it in the eye.  "See it doesn't even mind if you throw it down!" she states proudly.

Follow up: a friend, who works with dogs and other animals, is concerned. She asks why this woman is proud of her children's bad behaviour. Then she asks what happens if the dog finally has 'enough' and snaps?  Of course the dog will be gone because it broke the biggest rule of all - do not do unto others.  The dog will die, they will get another, and the cycle will start all over again.

Questions: what sort of lessons about respect, caring for others and physical safety are those kids learning?  Are they learning that dogs CHOOSE not to bite us?  Are they learning they are responsible for their animals?  Are they learning that causing hurt is wrong?  Are they being taught to treat others as they would like to be treated?

3.  A neighborhood watches as yet another dog dies of neglect in a yard. The neighbors are not unaware of what is going on, they talk about it, they know who is doing this and it isn't the first dog.  Won't be the last.  No one is sure what to do, so they say nothing, hoping that someone comes up with a miracle, life saving plan.

Follow up: the owner gets pressured to take the dog to the vet, refuses help and no one knows what happened to the dog.  No one knows when the next dog will come to that yard.  Everyone knows what will happen to it.  The families who talk about it, know about it and stay quiet are teaching their children not to get involved. They are teaching their children to be silent in the face of abuse.

Questions: Would they be silent if it was a child being abused? What about an elderly person?  Would they stay silent if they knew they were teaching their children to be quiet in the face of abuse?  What if it was them being abused, would they want someone to speak up for them?

Three tough situations - varying degrees of lessons being taught.  What would you do?  What would you say? Would you speak up or remain silent?

What lessons are you teaching your children? What lessons do you see being taught that you remain silent about?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Empty Collars

Up on a hill, surrounded by rolling grassy slopes and wild flowers, watered by a spring of sweet water, stands a great old tree.  The branches are gnarled and twisted with age, the leaves grow in rich shades of green.  The trunk is wide and offers many roots for climbing, sitting and shade.

This is no ordinary tree, it is a memory tree.  Each branch is hung, not with fruit, but with collars and tags. There are old ones made of rope, some braided twine, others of fine leather or other material. The tags are shiny, they are old and worn, some metal, some plastic, some twinkle and some are empty rings.  Each one holds the memories of a dog that has cross The Rainbow Bridge

Their people come here, to hang the collars, to leave their memories with the tree.  Of little puppy teeth chewing, of old grey muzzles snoring softy, of a working dog's first successful job, of a service dog's last task.  The memories hang from the tree, with each push of the wind the collars shift and softly sound.  With each movement the wind brings memories to the people left behind

We remember a cold nose, soft ears, toe nails ticking on hard floors, puppy barks and old dog mumbles.  

We remember wagging tails, first confident steps, tripping over toys and soggy chewies.
We remember first glances filled with love, we remember puddles and poopsciles.

We remember our dogs, those who wore the collars that hang from the tree, and we love them still.

The memories they leave in our minds also leave paw prints upon our hearts.  

We never forget their first moment with us, nor do we ever forget their last.  That last breath, that last heartbeat, that last living look.  Those who lived long lives or those who were barely here - if they were with us long enough to touch our hearts we can rest knowing we also had them long enough to show them our love.

I never forget: Whiskey, KK, Kahula, Jessie, Voodoo, Andy, Sparkie.  See you at The Bridge!

(this post is dedicated to the memory of the dogs I've loved and those I love still...feel free to change dog for cat, collar for halter, and remember your animal friends who have crossed The Bridge.  The love is the same, no matter who we loved, how or when.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Caring for Fosters

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
- Mother Theresa

Rescue Community,

Perk up your ears.  Give me a tail thump on the floor if you can hear me.  I'm talking to you.  How are you taking care of your fosters?  Not your animals but those people who actually foster animals for you.  What is your plan for caring for them?  If they gave you a grade would you be an A+ or slipping below the D mark?  What color ribbon would you be given at the end of the day?

Give me a woof if you've checked in with a foster, had a foster orientation, perhaps done a foster respite where your fosters get a break (without guilt), how about a foster appreciation day?  Stars on a chart for how many days/dogs/cats/months/years they've fostered?\

Give me a roll over and a 'shake-a-paw' if you've calculated how much your fosters really are worth to your shelter, rescue or group.

Chewies and squeak toys for everyone who has called, visited and stopped by to say 'hey thanks' with something special for a foster.  Seriously, I'll mail them out if you send me proof.  I'll even get the cute animal ones and organic chewies.

Or are you like so many others rushing from pull to pull, dog to dog, always calling for fosters and always needing more?  Instead of saying thanks or do you need a break, are you always looking to your fosters for the next dog?  Do you offer support, respite and training for fosters?  Do you have a plan to help your long term fosters take a holiday or a break by caring for their dogs, which really are your dogs?

What would happen to your rescue, shelter, organization if your fosters were not available?  What if the reason they were no longer available was something you could have prevented?  If hind sight is 20/20 then I'm giving you a long view as someone who has and is a foster - we do it because we want to help, because we care and we are giving people.  We are doing it for you because we chose you or continue to choose you.

Every organization who relies on volunteers takes care of them, or they soon find they have none.  Rescue must operate the same way - you need someone who is responsible from your rescue, shelter, organization for the well being of your fosters.  It is a must - there are so many good and worthy causes for our time - making and keeping us with yours is critical to YOU.

Every organization that relies on volunteers knows their value because they wouldn't be in business if they had to PAY for the work their volunteers do, they would no be able to function.  Especially non-profits and charities, especially those who work in challenging areas with children, the elderly or animals.  

I want to hear from you - good, bad and ugly - what is your BEST foster story, what is your WORST.  What is the BEST thing someone did to say thanks, what was the WORST thing someone did that made you question why you were supporting them with your home, your time and your love.

Fosters are more than a house, a 'free board' for your animals - they offer a chance for animals to become adoptable, they offer many times training and rehabilitiation for those dogs and cats and other animals that wouldn't have chance otherwise.  They give you space to work with those animals who cannot be fostered, those who need special care and aren't ready to get on the adoptable road.  

Fosters are more than people who take care of your animals for you, they are the reason your animals can and do become adoptable . They are the reason successful shelters and rescues have animals get adopted.  Fosters are key to your success, whether you have a few select or you cast the net for anyone who has a spare spot for a crate.

So folks, who is going to be cashing in on the chewies and squeak toys?  Who is going to be re-examining their policy and treatment of fosters, and who is confident that they won't see a foster of 'theirs' commenting with anything other than love and glowing praises?