A Home for the Animals

23 Aug

I have been looking at places to live out of the area in preparation for being forced out of my home. It has been a somewhat dismaying search, as many properties will not accept pets. Those that do mainly seem to accept cats only. I have two cats and a Chihuahua. Of the properties that do accept dogs, most require that the dogs be small. We also have a Chow, who has been living with an ex who raised him. If we can, we would like to take him with us, as he is very sweet and docile. Out of 100 properties I have looked into, only 2 have posted they are willing to accept large dogs. Of those 100 properties, maybe 12 have stated they not only allow both cats and dogs, but multiple pets. Yet, some of those also require the dogs be small. This makes for slim pickings.

There’s the other matter of hopefully finding a place that has a small yard that the dog, Nina, can run around in. Though I know she will be happy to go without a yard as long as she can be with us, I feel conflicted about moving her from a place where she has a large yard to roam and investigate to a home where her yard consists of a small slab of concrete. Not to mention the two kitties, Maggie and Krishna, who have been raised being indoor/outdoor cats. I’m very familiar with the arguments for keeping cats indoors only, but I was raised with an indoor/outdoor cat, and it never seemed fair to me to keep the cats indoors only while allowing the dog to go to and fro.

In any event, I am refusing to entertain the notion of giving up any of the pets, though we realize that we may not be able to take the Chow, Teddy. And I’m not just talking about apartment buildings, but also houses for rent. It seems apartment complexes are more willing to work with renters. But this quandary about finding the best place for us and our pets leaves me frustrated. Some things I’ve witnessed over the years have added to my determination to find a place that is just right for all of us.

Last year, on a weekend trip to PetSmart, I visited with the pets up for adoption, as I’m always wont to do. On this trip, I noticed a group of five large dogs, all Akitas. As hard as I tried to engage them and show some kindness through offering pets and soft, encouraging words, they stayed well away from me and anyone else coming close, and remained lying down, chins to the floor. In my experience, most dogs are curious, and the skittish ones will back away. Not so with these, and I worried about them being depressed. In my conversation with the lady who runs the organization adopting these beautiful dogs out, she told me they were brothers and sisters, seven years old, and had been raised together. Their family had lost their home and had to give them up. I asked if she was having any luck finding anyone who could keep them all together, and her reply was no. My yard would have been just barely big enough for all five to romp around together, but I would have been willing to give them a loving home, just so that they wouldn’t have to be separated. At seven years old, they had already spent at least half of their lives together. And their loyalty was evidenced through the depression they seemed to be experiencing about no longer living with their humans.

After about six or seven months, the last dog was adopted out. He appeared more and more withdrawn every time I saw him, as his brothers and sisters and the life he knew were torn apart one by one. I am glad they all found homes, but to this day, I still get upset when I think about them.

I know that it is a story being repeated everywhere around the country. Some pets lose their homes when their couple splits up, and neither is willing to keep the pet(s). But seeing that group of dogs just broke my heart, for some reason. We create bonds with these creatures we share our homes with, and they are attached to us in return. Just as our lives become disrupted, theirs do, too.

I’ve even noticed anxiety in my own pets just when a few things have been moved around. It’s heightened so much more now that every spare area of floor space seems to be covered with boxes or pictures standing upright. This prompts me to take a few extra moments every day to pet them and sit with them and talk softly to them, to reassure them that everything’s going to be okay.

With the massive numbers of foreclosures, pet shelters and no-kill rescue groups have been overwhelmed by requests for assistance. Three years ago, we noticed a cat hanging around our house. We had seen him when we first moved in two years prior to that – occasionally, he would take a nap under the bushes in our front yard and we didn’t think anything of it. Then, one hot August, he took to hanging around the house all the time. One night, he was at the back door looking in. He obviously had health issues, and we didn’t want him getting our indoor/outdoor cats sick, so we opened the door to shoo him away. He looked up at us and gave the gravelliest, most heartbreaking “meow”. We said, “Oh my gosh! We have to feed him!” Judging from the amount of food he wolfed down, it had been a long time since he’d had food. He had obviously been someone’s pet at one point, and abandoned to fend for himself. He never let us touch him, and the few times we tried, he batted our hands away – without putting out his claws.

I called rescue group after rescue group, but they either didn’t have room, or refused to take an arthritic, possibly diseased animal. Healthy kittens and puppies only. I understand this – if you are a non-profit, earning the funds to help animals through adoption fees, you’re going to take in the animals you’re sure you can adopt out. At the same time, trying to get help for this cat that I had absolutely no available funds to get healthcare for, it seemed very heartless. Older animals need help, too!

We settled into a sort of co-existence. Our cats became indoor only, and the back yard became the domain of this curmudgeon we named Hobbit. We put a box lined with towels and blankets out for him to protect him from the cold of winter, which he sometimes used, then moved out of when a black widow also took up residence in it. We noticed that he often lay on the rocks between the air conditioning unit and the house, so we lay pieces of carpet there to provide him some comfort. When the weather started heating up again, we talked about what to do, because we couldn’t leave him out  in the heat, and we still couldn’t afford to pay the vet’s bills, even if we could somehow capture him. Then he disappeared. A week later, he showed up again, missing half the fur on his body, glaringly red and angry claw marks crisscrossing his now bare skin, and one of his eyes seemed to be bothering  him.

Still, no one could help us, or offer any advice. As a last resort, we called our local animal control office. They are a no-kill shelter, and they promised that they would evaluate him for treatment. Of course, they did say that there might be a possibility that they might not be able to help him, but they would care for him as humanely as possible. I told them he was not very friendly, and they said they had seen some amazing transformations in animals once they were treated and cleaned up. Feeling we had no other alternative, we set up a trap. That cat was so wily, we caught several of the neighbor’s cats over the next week, even though we’d see him strolling around the yard. On the day the animal control officer came to pick up the trap, Hobbit was in the yard. We literally had to steer him into the trap using a cardboard box, as the smell of an open can of cat food was not tempting enough for him to venture in. We tearfully said goodbye, still torn, but feeling we had done the best thing we could do for him with our limited resources at the time. I still wonder if I could or should have done more.

So, I do understand the circumstances that may prompt some people to give up their pets. And the frustrations many people may be experiencing when trying to find an adoption group or shelter to give their pets over to. It’s no wonder that stories of animals – dogs, cats, horses, even birds – being abandoned are on the rise. I was completely surprised when I took a recent trip out of my home county and saw signs next to the freeway warning of fines of $1,500 for abandoning animals. That county has large stretches of empty land, and it would seem they have seen more than their fair share of abandoned animals.

When Americans have their homes again, these animals will also find homes again. I am looking forward to the day when we can claim no more homeless animals!

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Do you have pets? Have you had to give up your pets due to losing your home? If you are moving soon, are you considering giving up your pets? Do you have any suggestions for people struggling with what to do with their pets?

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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Foreclosure


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