Dammit Jim, I am a rescuer, not a vet/trainer/boarder/therapist/millionaire

rescue people think What is a rescue (or more importantly, what we are not)?
I get phone calls (which no one answers) and emails daily for the rescue I started while I sit at my “real” job. It is clear that many of the people who contact us have no idea why there are rescue groups, what we do and why we do it. The people who contact us are focused on their feelings and emotions only, without regard to those of the animals or the “rescuer” on the other end of the conversation.  Since there is so much confusion about what we will do for you, I thought I would write a blog. These are things we deal with week in and out and to try to cut back on the time we spend dealing with these situations, and to keep our energy and focus where it belongs- helping homeless animals.

A rescue is not a BUSINESS:
what1People tell me all the time, generally when they are mad that we will not adopt to them for some reason, that I run a “bad business.” It angers them when I agree or just tell them I don’t run a business.

Businesses make money, on average, we lose several hundred dollars on each dog we take. So clearly we are not a business or at least have an awful business model . We have to do so much work to raise money to make up the difference and we are constantly soliciting for donations. Furthermore, businesses pay employees. The CEO of most successful businesses make good money, the CEO (me) works 40-60 hours a week doing rescue and makes the same as the people who volunteer 3 hours a week – NOTHING. So I will say with pride, we are NOT a business. When I get emails with questions (or PMs or Facebook posts as people come from everywhere), most of my responses are quick and not the detailed, hold your hand, interpret every thought you may have kind of response because as of now there is a 52-page manuscript waiting on my desk to be edited, several meetings that need to be planned and so much else that needs to be done at the business that puts a roof over my head (which the foster dogs appreciate). This is an awful way to do business, but the only way I can to make money and help animals.

We are not a veterinary office (or a wildlife refuge):

These two puppies lived after being treated for parvo. They got it on a transpor from Central California because there were other sick puppies in the van. It is a sad illness and easily prevented.

People think we get discounted vet care, but we do not. We pay the same high prices everyone else pays!

Your dog injured its eye 14 weeks ago and so now you are contacting me to surrender the dog (seriously I just got this email last week) because she “deserves to see!”  I think, if it was that important, why didn’t the owner reach out for help 14 weeks before? We get contacted all the time from random people “my friend’s dog is really sick and can’t afford to take it to the vet.” These are the hardest emails to turn away and the most frustrating. Vet care is expensive, but your responsibility as an animal owner is to care for them. Again if your child was sick you wouldn’t just watch it die, so I don’t understand the thinking of people who watch animals die. We get lots of orphan puppies after the owners’ watch the moms die from difficult labors or infections. People expect we will take their dog, spend $1,000+ on it and then give it back to them. I honestly do not understand this thinking. I want to fix all dogs, but again, as we pay full retail for vet care, our responsibility has to be for the dogs in our care and not anyone who “loves” their dog, but not enough to save money for an emergency or to get insurance knowing they are not financially stable enough to care for their dogs. They expect that I (the woman who again works full time at a paying job and then works full time for free) to care for their animals because they don’t work. Never once has one said they would volunteer or do anything to help raise the funds. I would be happy to put people in touch with the lower cost clinics in the area, but realistically if you have a pet you need to know vet care is expensive. And something as simple as spaying your dog (which there are low/no cost option available) can keep you from needing the $2,500 c-section you can’t afford. And lets be serious, there are ways to avoid your animals who is in heat from getting pregnant; show dogs do it twice a year. Emailing us about an owl you saw, or newborn mice is also not helpful. While there are rescues that specialize in wild animals, do not assume we all take on any animal you find.

We are not a dating service

Occasionally, I get the dirty email or phone message (happened this week thanks to one of the pictures posted with me and an animal), but that is not what I mean. We often get contacted by people and say “I am looking for a purebred French Bulldog, that is white with a black spot on the left eye. He has to be great with dogs, cats, and house trained and will just sit at my feet when I work. I want him to have short legs, be 3 years old, and to know roll over, lay down, and 4 other commands.” Ok, I haven’t gotten that email, but you get the jest. I sadly, do not have the time or organizational ability to keep a database for everyone who wants a specific dog. Please, keep an eye on our page to see if that dog shows up, meanwhile this is not a car factory where I can go in the back and get you what you are looking for in a matter of minutes (unless you want a flawed tan Chihuahua or a Pit Bull as those are everywhere). If you are not finding the dog online, be patient, but expecting me to do the work to find that dog for you is unrealistic.

We are not a boarding facility

This is Delano shelter, one of the ones we rescue dogs from. See the cages with only a tarp to protect from the weather? These are the dogs we want to provide a home for, and not take on animals for people when they cannot have their animals for whatever reason (such as poor planning or life choices).

So you are going to jail for three months or bought a puppy knowing you couldn’t have it at your apartment but thought you could hide it for 4 months until you move but got caught and you need someone to care for your dogs? Not it. There are facilities (you pay) who can do that for you. For every space we take up, SHELTER ANIMALS DIE waiting for a spot. We have worked with our local battered women’s shelter to foster dogs for them, but those are mostly women who do not control their situations. As for you, you made poor choices and that is not for me to deal with (I am not your parents who might help you clean up your mess) and your poor life choices certainly shouldn’t mean other animals die.




We are not dog trainers nor are we responsible for your untrained dog:

A few months back, I received a phone call from someone who got a puppy from another rescue and now 8 months later it nipped at a boy so she was calling me to figure out how to deal with the situation. She wasn’t calling trainers or even the rescue she got it from, but me (I am sure hoping I would take the problem off her hands). Instead of contacting a rescue when you (or a child or a neighbor) has been bitten by the dog who has never been trained, or has destroyed the house because you find crating to be “mean,” or barks outside all day disturbing the neighbors, contact a trainer. Read articles online.

Arnie destruction

Destruction caused by my 6 year old bulldog mix, but even after this I would never think of re-homing him.

Whatever you do, take responsibility for your animal. I can’t tell you how many times I have people who get dogs as puppies, never train them, get a new puppy 6 years later and they do not get along so they opt to get rid of the older dog and want me to take it. The way I see it, dogs are either trainable or not. If they are, then please contact a professional and train them. If your dog is wired wrong and is not trainable and is a danger to society, then you need to be responsible to protect people from that dog. Do not give it to me so I can be liable for it biting a foster, a potential adopter or someone down the line (making me both super guilty and possibly able to lose everything I have worked my butt off for). I was mauled and had a LOT of damage done breaking up a dog fight and don’t think anyone else needs to be in that position. I know most think that is too much time so they hope someone else will take the problem and then they can feel good inside even though they failed. To me, this is like realizing your teen is stealing and putting them in a group home. There are about 60 missing steps in between.


We are not GoogleThis is one that gets to me. I get people asking me questions all day long that could simply be answered with Google. “How much does that breed weigh?” “Where is a vet in my area?” “How long do those usually live?” “How can I get rid of the pee smell?” So with the abundance of info out there, we have become lazy. Sadly, my day has only 24 hours in it, so please before emailing the rescue to ask about dog food or even why your dog pees on laundry, just go ahead and Google it and do your own research first.

We are not here to make it easy for you to give up your animals

So you had a surprise litter of animals (if only there was a way to prevent that!) or you find yourself moving and can’t find an apartment that will let you take your 8 year old Pit Bull. That doesn’t mean it is my responsibility to find your dogs’ homes. I get emails from people all the time and they say they asked another rescue who never responded, honestly that is because we struggle to be polite in these situations and many of us were taught “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all” and that is the option we take. Usually these people contact us with a day or two to spare, and I think the belief is that we are sitting there waiting for animals to take. I have to explain to people all the time that if we have an empty spot, we fill it – with shelter dogs. Your moving and poor planning certainly does not constitute an emergency for me to find your dog a home. This is also why so many rescues do not like to adopt dogs out to people who are not married homeowners. Perhaps because I know there is no way I would have ever lived anywhere without my animals, I still give the benefit of the doubt quite often (although check with landlords to make sure they accept animals). There are sometimes I take the dogs without question, if the owner dies, are put into a home or has a terminal illness I will take the dogs if I can. Of course I think their family should try to keep their parents dog (and I am sad that parents didn’t plan better) but a grieving child doesn’t need judgment and no one chooses to lose their cognitive abilities. Also when it comes to dogs needing to be bottle fed (usually because the owner let the dog get hit by a car or die from complications) just hand them over without question. But I had one woman contact me, her aunt had a hoard of Chihuahuas and couldn’t afford to fix them. I felt bad for the woman, who showed up to meet me in a nice Mercedes, with the fanciest fake nails I had seen, and telling me how these dogs had lived in her other house that was rented out because there were too many in her home and proceeded to give me 4 chihuahua puppies. I fixed 3 of her females, and she said she would donate to help pay for the bills. I had those puppies for a year because no one wanted to adopt tan Chihuahuas. Then she called me later to take more puppies and to fix another one of her females. Clearly, she saw it as my responsibility to take care of her dogs (and provide basic care for them) rather than being responsible for her own animals.

Even shelters are not in place to take the cute puppy you got and then lost interest in. Rescues are in place to help animals (we prefer from shelters) find lasting and loving homes. Shelters are in place to temporarily hold stray animals (and those who are either used for criminal cases and/or dangerous animals). They have been made the scapegoats and forced to care for the millions of overbred animals who are discarded for whatever reason (since unlike my they cannot say ‘no’). I know everyone believes the shelters will kill their animals so they do not want that guilt but they just can’t have a dog with a new baby (because clearly no one has ever raised a child and dog in the same home).

We are not animal control

There is a stray dog running loose that needs to be caught? Your neighbor’s dog barks all the time?  You know someone who doesn’t care for their dog? Those are all hard and frustrating situations.  But none of them are in the scope of what we do.  I have no legal ability to remove an animal from a bad situation, unless the owner wanted to surrender the dog as we do not steal dogs, so if an animal is being abused, please contact your local animal control and NOT a rescue group.  I also cannot leave my job to chase around a stray dog (animal control rarely even does this).  Of course, if I see it these things happening I try to do whatever I can as a concerned citizen, as I encourage you to as well.  Speak to the owners, contact animal control, do whatever you can to make the life better for the animal before expecting someone else to get involved.

What we do

In rescue, what we do (and who we are) is everything for the dogs. The dogs are our customers and not the people. So I make people mad when I won’t adopt a dog to them to be left outside all the time. I make people mad when I won’t drive 3 hours to do a home check (or do skype home checks; because clearly you couldn’t fake that). I make people mad when I won’t take their unwanted animals on as my own, and daily I have people asking me to take on their burdens (and it is rare anyone wants to take any of mine). But I never make the dogs mad by driving 9 hours to rescue 12 of them. I don’t make them mad by taking off a day at work just to care for a sick one, and I don’t make them mad when I find an amazing family thanks to thorough screening. It is hard knowing that animals are your priorities and knowing you can’t save them all, spending all that time fostering them, thinking you have the perfect home where they then turn around and think we are all of the above as well (at least with our dogs we are often all those services for them). We see the worst in humanity, and how dogs can be thrown away and treated like trash (oftentimes this means dogs dying in our arms). I fail all the time, but it isn’t at being nicer to the person who emails me thinking I need to contact another all-breed rescue to help me with one of my dogs, but my failure comes when I want to save an animals and cannot. Although that is an emotional response, because ultimately I know it is the owners who breed, discard, don’t care for or keep their dogs safe. They are the ones who keep me from having time for vacations, birthdays, social lives, a decent night’s sleep or day off. I know I can never do enough for most people out there, because they think it is my “job” to do the items listed above although aren’t willing to pay for any of those things they have listed (and I am not paid for any of my responsibilities or to deal with the rude, angry, and ignorant people). So unless you are looking to adopt, please make sure you do you part before asking any rescue to help you with your problems. Because you have no idea just how many people are doing the same thing and how overwhelming it is to take on even one more dog, or even to manage someone else’s emotional baggage.

Leave a comment