Facebook, every once in awhile, pops up “memory pictures and posts”. I have mixed emotions about this feature because sometimes it brings back a memory I don’t want to revisit. Recently, Facebook delivered pictures of a fox hound we fostered last year, named Marge.
Marge followed me home last December when I was walking Buster. She was young, very skinny, flea bitten and had a few puncture wounds in her back end…but was otherwise healthy and an absolutely delightful creature. She was absurdly obedient and enthusiastic to please her humans. She played beautifully with other dogs. My husband and I thought for sure that Marge must just be “lost” from her family. Someone had to be missing her because she was such a wonderful dog. We tried everything we could think of to find her family. Our local Humane Society took her on TV to make an appeal to find her family. I did Internet searches on her microchip data and literally called every possible person listed in the entire country with that name. I posted her on every possible rescue and shelter site within a several hundred miles. I paid for a pet “amber alert”. We held out for quite a while. But it was crickets. No one was looking for sweet Marge. We loved having her with us for Christmas. Eventually, after zero contact from her family, our local Humane Society put her up for adoption. She was adopted quickly by a lovely couple. We said that terribly sad “foster dog goodbye” but knew Marge was headed for a great life. Both Bret and I moped around the house for days after she left. Maddie and Buster missed her a lot. Her new dad called us daily for a while with reports on how Marge was adjusting. They clearly loved her and had compassion for how hard it is to say goodbye to a foster. Good people.
Fast forward 6 months. I was out walking my dogs and a neighbor approached me. He told me how happy he was to see that I had taken in that “poor fox hound” last winter. I exclaimed…”you knew that dog…where did she come from?”. Well, as it turns out Marge had only lived a few blocks from me, with a family. Her family moved away and left Marge behind in the yard. The neighbor said she hung around the house for a long time…waiting for them to come home. They never came home. Eventually she started running the hood looking for food. Thank God she found us. I was flooded with anger and sadness at this news. How could anyone abandon this sweet dog? Who would leave her to fend on her own? I hate people!
And thus, the “paradox of rescue”. I exist on the periphery of rescue. I adopt only rescues, foster and volunteer where I can. I use my art to raise money. But I do not work deep in the trenches of rescue like many of my friends do. But I see more than enough to make me angry…a lot…it is steadily costing me my faith in humanity. Neglect and cruelty are rampant where I live…I realize these problems are every where…but here in Kentucky there are no laws to protect animals…no deterrents…and there is certainly no justice for animals.
Yet, there is no “rescue” at all if you don’t put faith in humanity to re-home the very same dogs who have been neglected, abandoned and abused by humanity. It really is a horrible paradox. I have met people who initially appeared to be kind and just…good potential pet parents…who later turned and dumped their adopted dog in a kill shelter. I have met many others who are wonderful pet parents. It is an odd paradox to be engulfed in an economy where the work makes you hateful and suspicious of most people but also requires that you trust some of them.
I have no answers…no wisdom other than this; rescue doesn’t work without people. No matter how hard you try to vet potential adopters there will always be lemons/scumbags and there will never be enough good adopters. The scumbag puppy millers and backyard breeders will keep making money off the genitals of the innocent and perpetuate the flood of homeless animals. The reality is five innocent animals die per minute in our shelters…every stinking day. But without people we will never make things better. The animals are 100% at our mercy.
Of one thing I am certain…kindness to animals should be easy…but I have to wonder…why is it so elusive? Animals are without guile, greed or malice. It is frightening that we are incapable of doing right by them. The mass killing that goes on in our shelters is a human created problem. We could fix it. But we don’t. It is such a small percentage of the population that works tirelessly to make a difference for animals. Laws that protect the innocent and punish the evil doers should be easy…but they are insufficient…where I live….the laws just don’t exist. What does this say about our society…a society who claims it is just and evolved? Justice, fairness, compassion…kindness…these are not abstracts…they are intuitively obvious and clear…but yet elusive when it comes to animal care.
Most people in rescue are over-worked and usually emotionally exhausted….it is grueling and heart breaking work. Becoming suspicious of people is an inevitable symptom. Most have developed an edge; I sure have. I don’t keep my mouth shut when someone tells me about their “accidental litter”…or about the “designer dog” (expensive mutt) they plan to pay a fortune for. I tell them the truth. Five innocent animals die per minute in our shelters every stinking day and these type of actions are the reasons why. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem…we all bear responsibility to make a difference. Maybe with some people it will at least make them think about better options…most probably just think I’m a crazy fanatic. I can live with the label of fanatic…I don’t do anything with half of my heart, have long passed the age where I care what others think of me…and answer only to my conscience.
There is no grey area…too many animals suffer in this country at the hands of humans. Only humans can fix it. The moral of the Marge story is this, and it didn’t hit me until I finished this post, Marge completely understood the “paradox of rescue”…in fact…most animals do. She had every reason to hate people…to resent the creepy bastards who left her behind in a yard to starve…yet she chose (or you could argue she was created) to put her faith in people. Maybe the only solution to the “paradox of rescue” is to think more like the dogs.