Thursday, January 8, 2015

So You Want To Rescue A Puppy? Advice on how to avoid the disasters of trying to do a good thing.

I remind myself daily that "No good deed goes unpunished."

So why do I keep finding myself back at the junction of "do the right thing," and "how to minimize kicking myself later?"

Cinderella and Aurora
I just have to keep reminding myself that I was called to become a veterinarian, and that my obligations remain with helping pets in need. I remain steadfast determined to continue to do this, no matter how many self-inflicted numskull blows to the head I deliver.

I do a lot of work with rescues. Truth be told, I truly love helping them. We are a bunch of frazzled, over-extended, die-hards stuck on the fix of that endorphin potion that tears of happy endings brings. It's the same high gamblers chase to clutch that big payout. That chance that our time, efforts, dedication, and unyielding conviction will pay off somewhere down the line. We all live for the "happily ever after." And, after all, it can happen.


Here is my advice for protecting your heart and wallet from the chances of sad endings when it comes to rescuing a puppy.

1. Go to a local, reputable, long standing rescue. Ask your vet for their recommendation.
2. Ask the rescue if they are a non-profit? Sadly, there are impostors out there. I call them puppy trafficking rings. There are people who go into high density, high-kill shelters removing puppies and shuttling them into high demand areas. The puppies are sold for profit and the cycle continues.

3. Ask when the puppy was transported? A conscientious rescue will hold the puppies for 10-14 days before adopting them out. The stress of transport, the confining of many dogs, and the odds one of them isn't exposed, or shedding disease all trigger and perpetuate disease. Most of these will become apparent within the first two weeks.

4. Ask where the puppies have been kept since arrival. Ideally, they were taken into a foster family with only a few other dogs. This allows socialization, observation, and understanding of what potential health or behavior issues the puppy may have.

5. When were they seen by a vet? All new pets should be seen by a veterinarian within 3 days. Rescue and adoptees alike. Not being seen is not acceptable. Medical records should be willingly surrendered for your perusal and copies should be transferred to you upon adoption.
Four  of the original seven reindeer pups on their way home
from their last vet puppy visit.

Puppies should have the following:
  • Vaccinations every 2-3 weeks. Preferably by a veterinarian. These are patient and location specific.
  • De-worming every 2-3 weeks between 6-10 weeks. Preferably by a veterinarian.
  • Fecal examination for intestinal worms by a veterinarian at 8 weeks, or immediately if having diarrhea. At this time they should also start their monthly heartworm preventative to also protect against intestinal worms.
  • Microchipped. Many rescues require that the chip stay in their name. I am fine with this. Quite honestly, this saves more pets than allowing microchips to be transferred into individuals names. People move, change their phone, and surrender pets. Keep the microchip in the name of the most stable place available, the rescue.
  • A person who has loved them and treated them like family in the time between transport and adoption. The formative months of a puppies development are key to being an obedient, well-mannered companion. An invested foster parent can describe their pups like a proud parent.
  • Pick your puppy based on how well they will integrate into your family. Each puppy, regardless of breed, size, color, or shape is their own person. There should be an equivalent 200 questionnaire to match your pet to you... not you deciding on who  is cutest? (Cute is important, but a long term good match is fundamental).

Walk away if you encounter the following;
  • Elusive, sneaky, "just don't feel right about something" people.
  • High volume, high pressure, salespeople. Pets are not a commodity. People who treat them as such are not going to help you, or the puppy, if, or when, you need them. If they are truly rescuing puppies to help them than it is, and should be, a life-long commitment. The same applies to all  parties involved.
  • A smelly, loud, over crowded, shanty looking site. This is either a halfway house, a store front because the real holding facility is even worse, or a poorly managed rescue. I know the common over riding gut reeaction is to help these souls by getting them out of their deplorable condition, BUT, you are only perpetuating the problem for another soul soon to follow. The only thing that stops a bad business is no business.
  • An argumentative, aggressive, assertive person who makes you feel pressured to pay and go. All rescues need to be selective in their screening process. Please try to understand this. If you were that puppy wouldn't you want your foster parents to be protective and not place you in anything less than a safe loving home? 
Aurora hides.

Rejection; It happens. Don't take it personally. I understand that many loving families are turned down from adopting a puppy that they want for things like; lack of a fenced yard, lack of current vet care (OK, I do think that this is super important, and yes, I am biased), or family dynamics that make placement of a puppy in a household with small children, cats, or other pets less than ideal in the rescues eye. If everyone involved is making decisions simply to benefit the puppy there shouldn't be any hard feelings. I know of so many clients who wanted to rescue a puppy, found the one they wanted, had their hopes on adopting them, and were rejected. So they gave up and went and bought one from a breeder. Their response to why they gave up on adopting?
"Why should we be punished for trying to save a puppy? And why should we put themselves through that stress again?" Good questions.

My Feelings on Puppy Mills; Dealing with the emotional stress of witnessing a pet in dire straits, deep need, and a sad past is really hard to face. I know that many of my compassionate clients want to rescue the puppy from the horrible places they find them in, BUT, buying that puppy is condemning another to the same fate. Money talks. Don't perpetuate the problem by giving the seller the only thing they care about, a buck. Call the local authorities if you see a pet in a poor living condition. Use the power of references, and local word of mouth. Rescuing is not buying from any person who doesn't have the puppies best interest in mind.

Contracts: Read the contract you are given BEFORE you sign it. Know what you are paying for, and know what kind of people you are supporting when you hand over payment in exchange for a life long responsibility.

Veterinary Care; Seek a veterinarian for an examination within three days of adopting your puppy. Bring a fresh fecal sample and all of your puppies records. Have the microchip scanned to insure it is there. If there isn't one have one placed immediately.

The reindeer puppy pile..
my happiest place.
Insurance; Get Trupanion insurance as the first vet visit. A puppy can, and does, get very expensive diseases within the first month. Why not have someone else pay for it? Trupanion offers a free 30 day membership.

Lifelong Relationships; Build a lifelong network centered around your puppy. Being involved with rescue work is hard, emotionally challenging and can be heartbreaking. But if your life is centered around helping pets who have been discarded it is vital to hear, watch, and be a part of pets life who is happy because people like you cared. There are lots of happy endings, there just isn't enough sharing them. Be a life long supporter and advocate for the good rescues that helped you find your forever companion. It is the best way to pay love forward, and the best way to live a life of giving back. 

If you have any advice that you would like to share about anything pet related please come visit us at Pawbly is all about sharing information to empower parents, and help pets. It is free to use and open to anyone and everyone who love their pets as family,

If you would like to visit me I am at the clinic stealing puppy kisses whenever possible. Jarrettsville Vet is located in northern Maryland. Or find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

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