Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not So Mini Rant: My Adventures in Adopting, and Surrendering, a Puppy

After our home got broken into, my family decided to get a younger dog to protect our home from invaders. We thought it would be a good idea to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, since it would be less expensive and more helpful than getting a purebred dog. So we searched for possible dogs on Petfinder. We found a possible match within a week of the burglary.

We were told to go to a pet salon to meet the two dogs we were interested in at 9:30 am on a Saturday. As we walked up to the pet salon, I immediately recognized on of the dogs, Haley, that we saw on Petfinder. She was very cute and gave us lots of kisses. The other dog we wanted to meet wasn't there yet. We spent over two hours with Haley while we were waiting for the other dog to arrive. We really liked Haley and thought the other dog would have to be pretty special for us to choose her over Haley. Finally, the other dog arrived. She looked much older than what the Petfinder description stated. She was a nice dog, but she wasn't like Haley. We discussed our decision outside the pet salon and decided to take Haley. As we walked back to the pet salon, we saw a family with two young kids playing with Haley. They were told to go to the pet salon to meet Haley at 10:00, but they got there a couple hours later. The children were having a great time petting and playing with Haley. The children's mother said that they were looking at Haley's picture all week on Petfinder and couldn't wait to meet her. This family believed that they were going to the pet salon to adopt Haley, only to meet another family that wanted Haley too. Haley wasn't promised to either family, but we couldn't bring ourselves to break these kids' hearts by taking away a dog they fell in love with before they even met her. So we told the children's mother that they could take Haley and we would continue to look for our dog. She thanked us with tears in her eyes. We left the pet salon without a dog. As we drove away, we saw the kids outside with Haley jumping up and down happily. We knew we made the right decision and figured we would adopt a dog soon.

Sure enough, we found a dog on Petfinder that we were very interested in. She was an Australian Shepherd/German Shepherd mix named Demi. She was very cute, and she was a great mixture of intelligent and protective breeds. We contacted the rescue and were told to go to a pet store to meet her. I went to the pet store by myself to meet Demi and see if she was the right dog for our family. Demi was not there. I waited for the woman who ran the animal rescue to ask her if Demi was going to be there. When it finally became my turn to talk to her, she walked away. I asked another worker for the rescue, and she said that Demi was already adopted. Swing and a miss, strike two. We continued our search.

For the next few weeks, my mother and I searched on Petfinder for a dog. We contacted countless other rescues and shelters. Most of them did not return our e-mails. Finally, we found another dog on Petfinder that we liked named Loretta. The rescue told my mom to call them if she wanted to adopt Loretta. My mother called and left a message. We did not get any response. I e-mailed the head of the rescue and asked if Loretta was already adopted. I got a response, and Loretta had been adopted. Thanks for letting us know.

About two and a half weeks ago, we found some more Australian Shepherd mixes on Petfinder that we were interested in adopting. I contacted the animal rescue, and they put a dog on hold for us. My brother and I went to a pet store to pick her up. Her name was Abigail. She was sweet and beautiful. I held her while we were waiting for her to be examined by the vet and to fill out the adoption forms. We took her home two weeks ago and changed her name to Maizee. She followed me wherever I went. She loved to play fetch outside and lay in the grass. Whenever someone approached her, she rolled over for a belly rub and wagged her tail wildly. After I got home from work on the first Monday we had her, I played with her outside. She ran around our back yard and taunted our other dog by yapping at him and nipping at his heels. As I watered the flowers, Maizee wiggled herself in between the bushes so that she could get her face all wet. With all the running around she did, I was sure she would have a great night's sleep.

But she didn't. Maizee woke up in the middle of the night several times to vomit. She didn't eat breakfast on Tuesday morning. She slept for most of the day. She finally drank some water and played a little bit outside in the late afternoon. She ate some of her food that evening and kept it down. We took her to her scheduled vet appointment the next day. She had a fever, but not a high one. The vet injected some fluids under her skin to bring down the fever and hydrate her. The next day, we found out that she had two types of parasites and that she should be admitted to the animal hospital for an overnight stay. The vet also wanted to test for parvovirus, which is a contagious and potentially fatal virus that attacks the small intestine in puppies and causes vomiting and diarrhea. On Friday morning, we found out that Maizee did indeed have parvovirus. I was devastated. I was afraid that she was going to die.

My mother contacted the rescue by e-mail and left a message on their voice mail. I couldn't even go to work because I was so upset. I spent the day outside of the house and came home to find a message on my answering machine. It was a representative from the rescue asking me how Maizee was doing. She sounded very cheery, as if she didn't know the devastating news that we got that morning. This was several hours after my mother contacted them -- twice. I was too upset to talk about Maizee's health, so I called my mother and asked her to call the rescue. My mother called them and found out that all three of Maizee's litter mates had parvo too. In fact, one of them was treated and released from the rescue's vet. The contract states that the rescue would contact the litter mates' owners if they found out that one of them had a contagious disease or other health problems. They didn't contact us. We contacted them to protect the other puppies, and we weren't even contractually obligated to do so. We just love animals.

Maizee spent four and a half days in the hospital hooked up to IVs. She had a high fever last Saturday that the vet was able to bring down with some fluids and a cool bath. Maizee was discharged from the hospital this past Monday. I was so happy to see her home that I cried. Maizee came home with a hearty appetite, but not her usual playfulness. We figured she was groggy from the medicine.

On Thursday and yesterday, Maizee was particularly sleepy. She did not want to get picked up, and she did not ask for any belly rubs. She squealed whenever someone picked her up to go outside. On Friday, she didn't have breakfast. The vet requested that she be checked out again. Maizee had a high fever. The vet told me that some parvo puppies never get better 100% and to be prepared for that. He said that he would like to admit her in the hospital again and put her on IVs, but a less expensive option would be to inject her with more fluids and give her another medicine for parasites. I decided for the cheaper option, since my mother had already spent thousands of dollars on Maizee's hospital stay and couldn't afford any more large medical bills like that. I called my mother with the news that the vet gave me. She said that she would be calling the rescue to give Maizee back to them so that she can get treatment at their vet. I was too angry to even be upset. When I got home from work last night, Maizee was already on her way back to the rescue.

And I hesitate to call them a rescue. They sold sick puppies to at least four families two weeks ago. What were they rescuing them from? They didn't even make sure that the puppies were healthy before adopting them out. They didn't test them for parvo. A dog rescue organization should know better. Those puppies had parvo before they went to their new homes, since the virus has a hibernation period of one to two weeks. Maizee did not catch any illness from our home. They pick up these dogs from no one knows where and sells them to the first person to wave cash in their faces. They're disgusting and have absolutely no scruples (unless they rescued a dog by that name. Roll over, Scruples!).

All of these rescues that I dealt with operated unethically. One rescue reserved one dog for two families, two adopted out two that were on hold for my family before we even got a chance to meet them, and the last one sold gravely ill puppies to four families (and maybe more).

Maizee might get better while she stays at that rescue's vet. But she won't be our dog again. If she lives, she'll probably be placed on Petfinder again with a description stating that her previous owners didn't realize how expensive a puppy can be and couldn't afford to care for her any longer. She'll be adopted out again to another family who will have no idea how sick she was.

Everybody thinks animal rescues are doing a great thing. After all, they travel the country to rescue animals that would otherwise be euthanized for no good reason so that they can have a second chance at life and be adopted into a loving home. And everybody thinks that they're doing the right thing by adopting a puppy in need instead of buying one from a breeder. I'm writing this to warn anyone who reads this that this is not the case. The best advice I can give is that if you want to adopt, adopt a dog that's at least a year old, one that has all of its vaccinations and has an immune system to fight off other diseases. If you really want a puppy, go to a breeder. Research the breeder and the breed of dog you're interested in. Puppies from breeders spend the first 8 weeks of their lives with their mothers and litter mates and under the scrutiny of their owners. We bought our first dog from a reputable breeder, and he was never as sick in 10 years as Maizee has been in the past two weeks.

I don't know when, how, or if we'll get another dog. It will take us a while to get over the experience we had with immoral rescues and Maizee's sickness. But I do know that we will not make the same mistake again.

Thanks for listening.

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