When we opened our sanctuary in July of 2001 we had no knowledge of any other sanctuaries that were established for senior and special needs dogs. No doubt there were some around, but not in our area. Now there are several that we know of, and we are thrilled for the babies that receive the care they need in those sanctuaries. The supply of senior and special needs dogs needing a place to live out their lives is staggering.
This time of year the numbers of dogs needing rescue blows us away. We have 8 or 9 dogs listed on Petfinder as available for adoption. Most of those babies are seniors and several of them are bonded to another baby that must be adopted together. Only once in 16 years have I received an application for bonded seniors and that was earlier this year. And if those seniors take daily medications, their chances of finding a home of their own away from the sanctuary are zero (from our experience). So when we open our hearts and our home to these bonded seniors who have spent their entire lives together, we know they are here to stay. We, obviously, don’t have a problem with that as many of our babies are in that position.
A few days ago I checked on Petfinder to see how many Dachshund or Dachshund mixes were listed needing homes in Texas. The number made me question myself so I checked and double checked to make sure I had entered the correct criteria. There are 3,998 Dachshund or Dachshund mixes in Texas searching for a home right now! Let that sink in for a minute, and remember those are just the Dachshund and Dachshund mixes in Texas. That does not include the other hundreds of breeds that find themselves homeless in our country. That does not include many shelters and some rescues that do not use that site to get their dogs into the public eye. How much attention do you think my seniors and especially my bonded seniors will get in a field of dogs that large?
Any type of rescue deals with many of the same problems that we do; overcrowding, under-funding, lack of foster homes, and having to pick and choose which babies we can help. Every week I am faced with heart-wrenching decisions on several dogs who need help. Someone asked me the other day how many babies are in our sanctuary right now that don’t really need to be here. Admittedly, we have some younger dogs, that we rescued off our streets years ago, that would have been adoptable. But all of those babies have been with us for years, and it would be inconceivable for us to uproot them now and send them to another home. All of those babies received excellent vet care, a safe warm bed, good quality food, and all our love. We spent 11 years caring for these babies. We paid all the vet and feed bills ourselves, we cradled them when they were frightened after being dumped on the streets, and we held them through the night when they were ill. They are permanent residents of the sanctuary, and at this point they certainly need us.
With that being said, there are seniors in our sanctuary that would make wonderful pets for the right family. When we first opened our doors no one ever applied for a senior dog. At that time we received and still do receive lots of inquiries about puppies or young dogs. And of course we get the inquiries that want to insure that a dog from our sanctuary would be perfectly house trained, get along well with children of all ages, accept cats as friends, and be in perfect health. They are looking for the perfect turn-key pet. I’ve not met many of those! Now we get the occasional application for seniors and we are thrilled when we are able to place a senior in a wonderful home. But we have never had a dog that I would guarantee wouldn’t have an accident in the house after being moved to a new environment. We have never had a dog that I would guarantee wouldn’t snap at a unruly child, or be frightened by something in their new environment. In that context I would have to say that there are no seniors here that didn’t need us, or someone like us, willing to accept them, vet them, love them, and prove to them they are safe.
Sanctuaries, unfortunately, are necessary. But they are often left out of some of the benefits available to regular rescue groups. In the last few months we have been turned down by Petsmart and Petco for the programs they have to help homeless dogs. WHY?? It is not because we don’t have the credentials. It is not because we don’t have proof that every single one of our babies receives the best of vet care. And it is not because we don’t provide a necessary service for the MOST needy of the homeless dogs in our society. It is because they don’t think we do enough to find homes for ALL of our babies. So if we take a 14 year old dog from a woman who is going into Hospice Care and wants to make sure her baby is looked after for the rest of his life, we are expected to calm that baby down, suffer with him while he grieves, bring his vet work up to date, help him relax and began to enjoy his life again, and then we are expected to uproot him and put him in another home so he can start that process all over again. Not going to happen! Not even if it means we never receive the support from the big dollar pet companies that pick and choose who to help.
Don’t misunderstand my point here. With the exception of one group that I personally dealt with and a few others that I learned of through trusted friends, all rescue groups deserve our admiration and support. The work they do is extremely important. Thousands of dogs would go unsaved just in the state of Texas each year were it not for these selfless individuals and groups. I applaud them all! And believe me, they are aware of the need for sanctuaries as much as we are. The big corporations that provide substantial support for our homeless animal population do not, however, extend their helping hands to sanctuaries. They are certainly free to decide who to help and who to exclude. Their reasons make me wonder if they are more interested in the number of dogs they have helped get adopted, rather than the number of dogs they have helped.
Adoption is not the best option for many babies that we deal with. Once in awhile we deal with a baby that is not a senior and is certainly not adoptable. Rowdy is a good example of that. He is a long-hair five year old Chihuahua that requires grooming on a regular basis. He came to us right before Christmas when his Mom had to be placed in assisted living. He barked at and snapped at Rick and I for weeks. Then he finally warmed up to me but became frantic if Rick tried to touch him. After months of showing him nothing but love and acceptance and some very well timed spoonfuls of peanut butter, Rowdy will now allow Rick to pick him up and love on him. Certainly we might have been able to place him in a female only home. But how long would it take for him to accept his new living environment? How abandoned would he feel by us? How worried would we be thinking everyday about whether he was snapping at someone, or refusing food, or isolating himself because he had trusted again and was then betrayed. Some will say it is not betrayal to place him in a wonderful home of his own. Ask him!
My final point on sanctuaries is that every one of us that loves dogs, and is even slightly aware of the over-population problem that they face, knows what we do is necessary. Every one of us cheers when a baby like our Trooper gets strong and healthy and even frisky again after the hurdles he had to climb. Every one of us nods our heads with approval when a pregnant dog like Stormy is rescued off the streets to have her litter in a safe place. Every one of us wishes that each and every dog had a home of their own with people that love them and protect them no matter what happens in their lives. And every one of us know how unlikely that is to happen in our lifetime.
So our reality is we can never help too many babies. We can never comfort and hold a trembling rescue too long. We can never spay or neuter too many dogs. We can never pour too many bowls of food. We can never provide too many safe beds for these babies. We can never pay the bills for too many dogs to have their nasty teeth cleaned and the infection cleared from their little bodies. We can, however, run out of assets to do what must be done.
That is where our faithful followers and all dog lovers must step up to help us make ends meet. No one dislikes asking for donations any more than I do. I cringe when I have to put up yet another video on social media asking for people to pull money from their pockets and send it to our babies. But I do it because I am surrounded by need. I am surrounded by babies that are now accustomed to having full bowls of food and heat in the winter. I do it because I have to turn down dogs every week that I just don’t have the space or the funds to help. I do it because this is what I was meant to do.
Every night I hope and pray that the means we need to accomplish our goals for the next day will be there. And this month I say Happy Sweet Sixteen to The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary. We can rest easy each night knowing we didn’t do everything that was needed but we did as much as we could!