Sunday, June 8, 2014

About Rehoming.


They depend upon our making the best decisions for them.

                Let me preface this post by saying that I do understand that, on occasion, someone who really loves a pet has a legitimate reason for rehoming them.  Sometimes people develop allergies. Sometimes people need to fight a serious illness and their pet, a horse or something else, won't be receiving the standard of care that they need, while the owner needs to fight a potentially terminal illness.  Sometimes a family receives a financial blow which makes continuing  pet ownership difficult.   Once, many years ago, I rehomed a pet myself.   I knew a woman in the village I lived in then,  who absolutely adored my silky terrier, Ginger.   When we brought our first child home from the hospital, Ginger was so hurt, she wouldn't eat. I remember clearly that when I arrived home from the hospital with the baby,  I remember running the dog to the vet immediately while my husband took care of the baby.  Ginger really had been the center of attention, and was not sharing my time well. In the weeks which followed,  she didn't show great signs of adaptation to our new family constellation.  I truly loved Ginger and wanted her to have a chance at a continued happy life. I felt that by keeping her, I was letting her down.  I gave Ginger to the woman I knew who adored her so much, and  who had lost her own little dog to advanced age in the prior year. I made sure that the woman had adequate resources, and a good idea as to how to take care of Ginger, in addition to having a strong desire to have her.  (I would love to have a giraffe, but this does not mean I have the resources, housing, or veterinary care for her lined up !)  Ginger went home to a retired woman who was totally devoted to her.  Ginger had her own bedroom with a circular human sized bed !  Ginger traveled to Florida every Spring and stayed in a hotel. I am not sure what Ginger was fed, but I am betting it was fantastic.  My friend stayed in touch and Ginger seemed very happy with her whenever I saw them. I remember thinking that somehow I had done the right thing, even though I really missed Ginger.  When Ginger eventually died, the woman was devastated. She actually had a pet funeral and the dog has a genuine gray granite headstone at a pet cemetery. I am glad that I was able to find Ginger the type of home that she wanted.
                 However, rehoming a pet is not something we should do with any frequency or lightly.  Most pets are very attached to their owners. They will miss us if they don't see us every day, and if we disappear from their lives forever, they will wonder where we went, and often, they will grieve us.   It might also be negative for us to part with our pet.  Pets not only can be the reason for many people to continue to live or manage their own illness, but they help to reinforce a structure, when to get up, when to eat, when to walk or exercise etc.  Some people who part with their pets fall into an isolation or even a depression afterward.  So, from a pet and from a human standpoint, rehoming a pet can be a negative occurrence.    If you adopted your pet from the SPCA, normally you have signed a contract in which you have stated that if you find yourself in a position in which you can no longer keep your pet, that you are agreeing to return him to them.  If this applies to you, then find that contract and read it before doing anything else.

A lot of adult dogs make excellent pets

            In the last couple of years in the United States, the economy has not been good.  Many people have lost retirement accounts, homes, and jobs.  People who owned homes with back yards have lost them, and their large dogs have not been permitted to move with them into an apartment.  Many clustered housing units or apartments do not permit pets, or if they do, they might not permit anything but extremely small pets.   As a result of this, many pets are being rehomed, if not abandoned.

            The first thing I would like to encourage people to do, before taking on a pet, is to consider carefully if you can afford this animal in good times, and in bad.   Most pets aren't terribly expensive.  Most can eat a commercial cat or dog food which is readily available in large bags somewhere like Wal-Mart.  This is generally not too expensive.   Dogs who need a special diet, or some type of grain free may not necessarily cost a fortune.  Many feed stores have started selling a generic brand of some of the special corn free or grain free feeds for dogs with allergies, for example.  I have a large golden retriever who is on a special feed.  Veterinary care need not always be costly.  Most pets need some routine immunizations, and a rabies shot about every three years in most places is mandated by law.  In many places in the US, a heartworm preventive needs to be given.  When money is a problem, speak to your vet. There are generic forms of everything from the heartworm preventive to anti-seizure medications for dogs.  The vet won't know that you are having financial challenges and won't be working to find you lower cost alternatives, if you don't let them know you need help in this regard.   If your vet is the "vet to the very rich and famous" and won't do this, then you need to locate a real world vet. Believe me, they are out there.  Most of them don't make a fortune themselves, and finding ways to render excellent care without excessive cost is a hobby to many of them.

           Of course, there are occasions and pets who require very expensive care.  When this happens you need to consult with your vet, and you might need to try asking for some help with some verification provided, for assistance in funding such as kickstart or some other internet based fundraising site.  I do know several people who had their pets cancer treated absolutely successfully and received some assistance financially through internet based sites.  There was a single mom and boy recently on Craigslist who urged people to contact their vet online to verify their story, or the purpose of donating money for cancer treatment for their beloved dog.  A lot of people have helped, even if all they could donate was five dollars.

          If you find yourself in a temporary crisis, looking at moving with a dog then consider carefully how you might keep your dog.  It is possible to find a temporary caregiver to your dog and then take him as soon as you rent somewhere that is pet friendly following your move.  It is possible to have a relative care for him until you can collect him.   One of the best memories I have is having moved (in one of the hottest days one July) with two large dogs to the American South.   I drove the car with two babies in carseats while my husband drove a giant rented Ryder yellow truck with everything we owned in it, and the air conditioning on full belt for the dogs inside the cab with him.   It was more than 100 degrees fahrenheit on those several days, and the dogs, at least, had the time of their lives.  The dogs lived a full lifespan and only passed when the kids who had been in the carseats were in school.  Most pets are well worth the work we have to do in order to hold on to them.

         If you must rehome a pet, then the best situation is someone you really know.  This way, if something happens where they can no longer continue the task, you will once again be in the loop and be able to help. You also stand a better chance of finding a lifelong devotee to the animal, if you know the person well.  If you must procure a new person, then you need to meet them, and find out something about the home they plan to incorporate your pet into.  Do they have small children ?     Do they have other pets ?    What are their expectations of your pet.  Some pets can remain quietly at home while the breadwinner works, and other pets actually need doggie daycare !    Most importantly, you probably should charge a modest rehoming fee to immediately rule out people who want a free pet and probably can't afford normal veterinary care or pet supplies.  It would also be a good idea to include whatever food you are feeding, and the pet's bed, his food and water dish,  his collar and other articles which are special to him.  You should also include copies of his veterinary receipts with proof of his immunizations.  Keep the originals yourself in the event that the new home loses them or there is a fire.   It is also best if you stay open to talking to the new owners again.  If there is a problem, or even if there isn't. tell them you are open and willing to hear how they are doing.  You may actually make a friend yourself.

        When you can, and when it's possible, try to hold on to your pets, even through life's most difficult challenges.We really shouldn't take on a pet without making a lifetime commitment to them.   I can't say that I completely regret letting Ginger go to a new home, because she found a unique and devoted situation, however, I did miss her afterward and I often rethought over the years, whether I could have kept her.  My daughter who was the baby I brought home from the hospital before we ultimately rehomed Ginger, now has her own home, and a little dog, not unlike Ginger.  I often think of Ginger when I visit there.