Opinion

Saving a dog who's hours from death | FOR GOOD, FOR EVER

Lynn Bohart, left, stands with other volunteers who have rescued dogs through rescue organizations. - Submitted
Lynn Bohart, left, stands with other volunteers who have rescued dogs through rescue organizations.
— image credit: Submitted

I rescue dogs. I don’t mean that I stop along the road, jump out and chase them down. I mean I am a foster parent for dogs rescued from high-kill shelters – mostly in Southern California.

According to the Humane Society, approximately 2.7 million pets are euthanized in this country every year. Another source says it’s 4 million. The vast majority of these animals would have made loving companions, if only someone had stepped in and adopted them. Seattle is home to several canine rescue organizations. Some specialize in specific breeds. Others focus on senior dogs, while some, like 6Dogrees Rescue, focus on rescuing from high-kill shelters.

Karleen Brigham, who operates 6Dogrees Rescue, used her bonus check from work to start her organization, while still maintaining her full-time job.

“I had volunteered with other rescue organizations and decided to see how far I could go on my own,” says Brigham.

Many rescue organizations, like 6Dogrees Rescue, are nonprofits. And while adoption fees may seem high, the money pays to have the dogs spayed/neutered, vet checked, and micro-chipped. It also pays for needed surgery or medical treatment.

“It costs me $400 to $500 just to rescue a healthy dog,” says Brigham.

Most rescue organizations are limited by money and volunteers in the number of dogs they can take. For instance, 6Dogrees Rescue works mostly with small dogs and takes no more than 12 to 15 dogs at a time.

The rescue process can be frustrating and complicated, but there is an entire network of people who work together to get these dogs into loving homes. And it’s a good thing. Many of these animals may be only days, or even hours, away from being euthanized.

First, someone finds a dog in a shelter and promotes it through Facebook, getting financial pledges for a stay of execution. A rescue organization steps in when it has an available foster home and asks a qualified “puller” to pull the dog and put it into boarding. There, the dog is vetted and evaluated for behavioral problems.

Once the dog is safe, the rescue organization works with “transporters” to bring the dog up to the Puget Sound area. This can sometimes take weeks to schedule, and the transporters are often picking up dogs along the way and bringing them to multiple organizations.

If this sounds like organized chaos, think of it from the dog’s perspective.

Many of them have been caught off the street or come from abusive situations. Some are “owner surrendered” and pine for the family that abandoned them. They’ve lived in a noisy, barren shelter environment for weeks, sometimes months. They’ve been poked and prodded by strangers and then transported for some 30 hours with 30 or 40 other dogs, only to be handed off to more strangers. They arrive tired, scared and confused.

Foster homes give them stability, so that when a potential family comes to meet them, the dog has a real chance at finding a new forever home.

“It’s always about the dogs,” Brigham says. “I once spent $2,300 on a dog. But her life was worth it.”

Here are a few takeaways: 1.) Never advertise an animal for free on Craigslist or anywhere else. These dogs are often sold as “bait” to dog-fighting rings or for research. 2.) Make sure your own pet has been spayed or neutered. 3.) Adopt from a shelter or rescue organization, rather than buying from a pet store. 4.) Consider becoming a foster parent yourself. Take it from me. It is a heartwarming and rewarding experience.

If you’d like more information on adopting your next pet, go online to Petfinder.com or Adopt-a-pet.com, or contact one of the local rescues organizations in our area. Then, consider volunteering your time or making a financial contribution to help rescue more dogs.

We’ll never get the number of euthanized pets to zero, but perhaps we can get the number under 4 million.

Lynn Bohart is executive director of the Renton Community Foundation, overseeing a number of charitable funds, including two that benefit animals. For more information, go to www.rentonfoundation.org.

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