Be a Rescuer
Connie Foster 10/28/2012

What is a rescuer? Why would anyone spend that much money, give up that much time, and be oblivious to smelling like wet dogs and poop?

I'm often told, “I could never do what you do. I'd want to take them ALL home.” If there was ever a declaration that makes me do a double take, this is it.  How does this person think any rescuer feels? Does he see a steel robot who can walk into a pound and bypass the dogs that will die, then pick up the little cuties that are easily adoptable, and exit with a smile on his face? Doesn't the well-meaning, misguided speaker realize that the rescuer's heart is breaking and his crying never stops. Even when a wonderful furbaby soul is taken into a loving forever home and the heart sings, it never heals for the ones left behind.

Does the speaker think the rescuer likes playing God, passing the momma nursing sick puppies--babies that would infect the others back in the shelter and in foster homes? Playing God, passing the matted girl with runny eyes, who coughs and watches his movement with hollow eyes. This girl's backbone sticks up above the mats and she is wracked with canine influenza or kennel cough, both treatable, but also highly contagious. Playing God, bypassing the mixed breed cowering and growling in the corner. His lip is raised and his back feet shake with fear, but how damaged is he? How long will it take to rehabilitate him and make him adoptable? How can anyone know the heartache and guilt of passing the black Lab and tagging the yellow or chocolate one because there's a demand for one color over another? Guilt rides his insides because he made a solemn personal vow to never value one dog over another, but he also knows to save any in rescue, he must present one that is adoptable.

Not everyone can stand it in the trenches. Most rescuers never thought they could either. The difference is that they reached an epiphany. A simple reality. It's not about ME.  When a rescuer goes into the pound to choose who lives and who dies, it doesn't matter how much he cries, how much his heart breaks, or how many hours he lies awake in his own sleepless hell at night. It is about one thing—the dog he can save. That's it.

There's no me in rescue. Everyone has a place in rescue. You may not be the “in the trenches” rescuer, but consider the impact you can make by fostering, donating, or adopting. You may not do what I do, but for every dog I rescue, there is a lag time between his vetting and his forever home. He needs a foster who will help get him ready for adoption.

Everyone can donate. Offer to pay for one spay or neuter a month, take care of puppy shots for a litter of rescued babies, buy heartworm or flea protection for two dogs a month. Consider adding to your family. If you don't have a dog, think about the way pets enrich and lengthen our lives. If you have one dog, chances are good that a second one will give the resident dog a new lease on life, and it will certainly enhance the lives of the people in the family.  Rescue, adopt, foster, donate--everyone can do something.  Lives depend on you.


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