Long Distance Rescue

As you likely know, the Husband and I adopted Alma at the end of October 2011.

This is Alma.

We had discussed and researched adding another dog to the family for well over a year before Alma joined us.

In the summer, we started getting more serious about it, and had decided we would like to adopt a young adult dog rather than get a puppy from a breeder.  That was not to say our experience with Moses has been anything less than ideal, and I still wholly support reputable breeders, but we wanted to adopt and wouldn’t necessarily miss the house training phase that accompanies a puppy.

Puppy Moses - cuteness definitely makes up for any house training headaches.

We looked for a long time for our rescue dog and cast a wide net.  When you’re interested in pure bred rescue, patience and an open mind are essential.

We had our short list of breeds we’d adopt: Newfoundland (obviously), Great Pyrenees, St. Bernard.  Should we come across a Leonberger or Tibetan Mastiff, they’d also be up for consideration; the main goal was to find a second addition with a similar temperament and energy level as Moses so the transition into a two-dog-household would be comfortable for all.  Sure, there are tonnes of border collie and shepherd crosses up for adoption through Calgary rescues, but our goal is to be a happy forever home, and we have to be honest with ourselves about what we want and what kind of dog would be a good fit.

Our other main consideration was age; we wanted a younger ‘sibling’ for Moses.  A puppy wasn’t even necessarily off the table, since many puppies go through the rescue system, but we also knew puppies don’t often have a lot of trouble finding an adoptable family and we’d be happy to adopt a young adult dog who could quickly become a hiking and camping companion.

With that criteria, the search began. I checked Pet Finder obsessively (there’s an App for that!).  I’d browse the websites of other local rescues that did not take advantage of Pet Finder’s reach (note to rescues: use Pet Finder!).  I canvassed number of breed-specific rescues in western and central Canada.  We made serious inquiries about both a St. Bernard and a Great Pyrenees, only to find we lived too far away to apply to adopt the St. Bernard and the Great Pyrenees had just had a successful home visit with her future family – bittersweet news.

This handsome male St. Bernard is currently up for adoption through Calgary Animal & ByLaw Services. He is neutered, about 2 years old, and has been at the shelter since December 27, 2011. Had he arrived there a few months earlier, there is no question we would have made serious inquiries about him. http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/ABS/Pages/Animal-Services/Adoptable-dogs.aspx

Then one evening Alma (under her former name, Winnie) appeared on Pet Finder as adoptable through the Montana Companion Animal Network. I sent an email instantly and the rest is history.

I mean, sure, we had to drive to Montana to meet her and bring her home.  And Montana IS in another country.  But it’s also a lot closer to home than Manitoba Great Pyrenees Rescue, for example.  Finding a dog in Calgary would’ve been convenient, but we were prepared to travel a little if the fit was right.

Given this lengthy back story, you can imagine my interest was piqued when I came across this article in the Calgary Sun.

The issue was sparked in the media by this heartwarming story about a teacher who came across a stray litter of puppies while volunteering in Afghanistan.  He got the puppies vaccinated and found forever home for a few of them in Afghanistan, but when he couldn’t re-home the rest, he worked to have them brought home to Alberta, and they finally arrived earlier this month.

And while this may be a unique example, importing rescue dogs is not really that uncommon.  For example, a local rescue agency, Pawsitive Match, brings dogs in from countries such as the US and Mexico to find them forever homes in Calgary.

The debate is simple: should we be importing homeless dogs to Calgary when we already have many up for adoption here?

For the Calgary Humane Society and Calgary Animal Services the answer is simple:  NO.

As far as they’re concerned, we need to take care of housing homeless animals within our own city limits before bringing in more pets in need.  Both the City and CHS are continuously burdened with increasing intake numbers, and the adoption of a dog from Mexico, for example, may take away from one at the CHS.

Which means adopting Alma from the Montana rescue means I’m part of the problem – as far as they’re concerned, anyway.

But I’m not particularly bothered by that.

I do not expect Calgary Animal and ByLaw Services to have priorities outside of city limits.  I do, however, expect them to put the welfare of Calgary’s animal population first.  So for them to make a statement against importing more homeless pets into the city, it completely coincides with their purpose.  And it’s Calgarians’ tax dollars that keep them up and running, so I’m sure no one would be pleased if they spent significant funds taking care of foreign rescues.  I get it.

Even the Calgary Humane Society’s position doesn’t surprise me too much.  They are the only ‘kill’ shelter here and should have similarly strict priorities.  Really, an adoption of a pet through any other rescue agency means the adoption didn’t go through them;  just the way internet and pet store sales detract from potential adoptions.

But I don’t think the answer to these concerns is to come out against the actions of others involved in rescue agencies.  A negative message cannot honestly be fostering relationships in the tight-knit rescue community.   I’d much rather see each rescue focus on promoting their own concerns and finding homes for the dogs under their care than cutting down the actions of others.  After all, all animal rescue agencies really have the final goal of putting themselves out of business, so there’s no sense in being in competition with one another.

It’s like criticizing your friends for donating to humanitarian aid elsewhere when, on any given night, there are over 4,000 homeless people in Calgary.

Not to mention, there’s a strong argument to be made that the biggest threat to the local pet population is the lack of responsible spaying and neutering, and this sort of petty argument really detracts from the real issues and the work people are trying to get done.

The bottom line is that it’s not a competition and everyone has different priorities.  Valuing one over the other is just a matter of opinion.

I mean, isn’t helping… helping?

Call me crazy, but as far as I’m concerned, and when it comes to pet adoption, as long as a pet who didn’t previously have one finds a loving forever home, I’m happy.

If those doing the adoption are adopting and not going through an anonymous backyard breeder on Kijiji or buying at a pet store,  I say it’s a good thing.  Rather than trying to guilt or shame those who do not act directly within your organization’s mandate, why not commend them for helping animals in their own way?  Sure, specific priorities may not directly line up, but the common denominator (companion animal welfare) is still there.

If those people looking to adopt really fall in love with an available pet that just happens to have come from across the border, I say it’s a match! Because the goal is to match people and dogs as forever companions – not just settling with what happens to be available at Animal Services even though a husky cross may be too exuberant for your lifestyle.  That’s how rescues get returned.

Given the popularity of Pet Finder and the way it sorts available pets by location, all local rescues would really be better off to make use of its visibility and it may even help to promote and increase local or short-distance adoptions.  Because as it is, it doesn’t take many ads for adoptable Newfoundlands for me to see results from Texas.

Yes, we ‘imported’ our pure bred rescue from across the border; I wouldn’t have it any other way.  After nearly 3 months with Alma, it’s hard to imagine any other dog taking her spot.

I could not be happier that our search lead to this result:

Just another forever home.

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

11 Responses to Long Distance Rescue

  1. Maggie Baker says:

    Best blog I’ve read in a long time. I live 10 minutes from CHS, but I saw 1 in Cochrane that’s got me thinking. A rescued dog is a rescued dog. PERIOD! Happy to hear Moses is doing well & it’s all worked out with Alma.

  2. Anna says:

    So great to see another person do so much research before adding another dog to the family. Many don’t think too much of who they are bringing in, and how it meshes with the other dog’s energy and temp that was already there. Most days I wish our second dog Wyatt had a bit more energy/play drive so he would be more of a playmate for Luna… but the upside is we did not add any extra energy/excitement to the house with the addition of him… so in many ways it does not complicate my already demanding life with Luna. It also is a perfect fit for my husband who likes a more laid back dog. Glad you found your pup match, even if it meant driving a bit farther.

    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

  3. 2browndawgs says:

    I just love the story about how you found Alma!

    It is too bad that rescue is not an option for us because we cannot have a physical fence. We tried rescue for our first dog and no fence=no dog. I understand their rules, but would we really have been a bad option for a dog? Won’t try the rescue route again any time in the near future because we still can’t have a fence.

    To your point about rescues only wanting to help local pets, I really wish rescues would all work together. I also wish that rescue groups would be more receptive to breeders who could help them. I often lament that there is a sort of wall between rescue groups and breeders which does nothing to help a homeless animal find a family of its own. (I am excluding breed specific rescue groups because they usually have breeders among their rescuers, foster homes and supporters.)

    • I just wanted to say that some rescues will adopt out to a potential adopter without a fence. When we got Pearl we had no fence but we were approved anyway, although granted no fence was kind of one strike against us. We moved to a place with a fence, but she jumps it anyway. It’s frustrating that you are having trouble adopting a rescue dog because of the fence issue- I know plenty of great owners without fenced yards and plenty of irresponsible owners with fences!

  4. It is uncanny that you posted this today. I had recently considered stopping volunteering at the shelter I’m at, because they take in dogs from out of the Country.

    I had been concerned about (1) The possibility of bringing a foreign disease home to my own dogs and (2) The idea that dogs in the US were being put down while they were importing more dogs.

    Last week I even went and checked out another shelter that was a little further from my home, to consider volunteering there, even though I really liked the place I was already at.

    But, on a good friend’s advice, I contacted them to ask about their policies.

    As it turns out, they only take in dogs from the US Virgin Islands and Caicos and Turks, and both areas only have diseases that we already have in the US. Secondly, they only do it rarely, and it is because we actually do not have many pups in the North East since spay/neutering is working so well here. And rather than having potential adopters go to puppy mills or backyard breeders, they figure they are saving pups that would have been put down.

    After much deliberating on my part, I decided to stay where I was already at, and earlier today I contacted the new shelter to tell them that I wouldn’t be volunteering there after all.

    What are the odds I’d stumble on this today?

    Anyway, I really appreciate your point of view, and it makes me feel that much better about my decision to stay where I am at. Like you said, they’re giving homeless animals homes. What can be better than that?

  5. I think how you found Alma is a great story! It’s always nice when you can adopt a local dog, but it is much more important to find a match. You were able to provide a loving home to a dog that is a great fit with your family and your lifestyle. A lot of people are discouraged from adopting a rescue dog because they have specific requirements for their potential dog. If they can’t find a dog from a local rescue that has certain desired characteristics but they can find one from out of town and give a dog in need a home, how is that a bad thing? To me, it seems like a win-win.

  6. Jen says:

    What a great topic Jen and so well written, as always. Help is help is so right. Sometimes I feel like I get so looked down for having purebred dogs from a breeder from the rescues, but I also support and help our breed rescue and other rescues as much as I can. I can do both and some people just don’t get that.

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  8. Pup Fan says:

    Great post. I love the message here – seeing a dog adopted is the goal, wherever that adoption takes place.

  9. lauren says:

    i really loved this post, especially this part, “our goal is to be a happy forever home, and we have to be honest with ourselves about what we want and what kind of dog would be a good fit.” i think far too many people don’t put enough effort into choosing a dog when they bring one home. not enough research, not enough time is put into this life-changing event. and so often, people will go to only one rescue/shelter, because it’s the only one they really know of and they’ll just pick from whatever’s there without thinking about things.

    i’m with you, though: help is help. adoption from anywhere is better than adoption from nowhere, as far as a city/state/etc. should be concerned.

  10. Well, a rescue is a rescue… but do we really want Yanks invading Canada? 😉

    Ah, well, Alma’s a Newf, that makes her repatriated. 🙂

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