Superdogs

Police accuse a New Jersey woman of suffocating to death four five-week-old American Bulldogs by stuffing them in a cooler.

Puppy Doe Photo from the Animal Rescue Leage

Puppy Doe
Photo from the Animal Rescue Leage

A Massachusetts resident finds a lifeless young Pit Bull near a Quincy park. “Puppy Doe,” as she is called, has so many broken bones and stab wounds, is so malnourished and weak, that veterinarians can’t save her.

A night-time break-in at a Georgia shelter leaves three dogs dead and fifteen injured. Police say it’s possible that the shelter’s dogs were attacked by dogs brought in by people involved in dog fighting, who wanted to prep their dogs for future fights.

I read about each of the above heartrending cases in the past several weeks. The stories are hard to stomach. I’d love to write that they are unique, aberrations. But they are not. Dogs are the victims of abuse and cruelty more often than any other animal, according to Pet-Abuse.com.

They deserve so much better.

These stories got me thinking about a foundation started in September by Leigh Ann Errico, a friend of a friend. The kidkind foundation and its companion website, www.wearthecapekids.com, are committed to making our communities better places to live, by “restoring the power of kindness and good character.” Errico, the mother of four, writes she’s been disheartened by “the seemingly never-ending string of jaw-dropping news stories,” of incivility, of cyber-bullying, of people treating others in ways they would never want to be treated themselves.

The idea behind “Wear the Cape” is that “we are all everyday heroes, or at least capable of being heroes by doing the right thing, the kind thing, the helping and inclusive thing.” Dogs wear the cape every day: They love us, protect us, are our most loyal friends and trusted teachers. And they do all of this unconditionally.

Perhaps one of their greatest gifts is that dogs help parents raise children in ways that benefit all of society. Here’s how: Researchers investigating the human-animal bond routinely find that children who grow up with a dog have greater compassion, tolerance, and empathy for others.

sisters

sisters

Like so many parents, my husband and I are trying to instill empathy in our daughters. We are fortunate to have Galen to help us in this endeavor. She is there every morning to wake our girls with a cold wet nose to the face. She is there every afternoon, the first to greet them when they get off the school bus. (I remain in the house and watch from the window as their backpacks fall to the ground, smiles brighten their faces, and they drop to their knees to say hello to their tail-wagging sister who’s as thrilled to see them as they are to see her.) I see their love for Galen grow every time they pet her, kiss her, talk to her. And she never fails to return the affection.

Just as dogs are our heroes, we need to be theirs. And that leads me to one other story I read this past week: A two-year-old Pit Bull riddled with bullets was left to die on an Arizona mountain trail. A female hiker found the dog and carried its limp, 47-pound body down the mountain, saving its life. She named the dog Elijah, and her family is now fostering him.

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Mission: Adoption

Fostering a puppy is not easy.

It’s not simply that you must live in a state of constant vigilance to ensure the puppy doesn’t act, well, like a puppy, by peeing on your kitchen floor, chewing up your favorite shoe, or escaping into the neighbor’s yard. What makes fostering a puppy so difficult is that you can’t unplug your heart.

Loki

I feel like we’ve known Loki for months, yet he’s been in our lives just over two weeks.  My husband, Kevin, and my two daughters saw something special in the six-month-old pup, when we met him June 16, at a local Pet Valu. He’d been rescued from a North Carolina kill shelter and brought to New Jersey by Catnip Friends Cat Rescue, but the group wasn’t having success finding him a home. We agreed to foster him, while Catnip sought someone to adopt him.

I quickly came to realize, however, that my daughters, ages 9 and 7, wanted to make Loki a part of our family. Kevin seemed amenable, as did Galen, our 20-month-old lab mix, also a Catnip rescue.  I watched Galen quickly move from indifference to joy at having a playmate at her beck and call. She didn’t even seem to mind that Loki stole every one of her toys, including the Mickey Mouse with whom she shares her crate (Mickey makes a great pillow for a dog’s weary head).

Galen and Mickey Mouse.

I was the lone hold-out, unsure that our house was large enough for two dogs, even if our hearts were.

A few days into Loki’s stay, I engineered a solution that works for me and that my girls, despite tears, are learning to live with: My mom and stepdad adopted Loki. The thing is, there was no way I could return him to the rescue group; he had already been through so much.  Just a month before we brought him home, Animal Control was set to kill him.  It says so right on his intake form: “Release Date 05/15/2012.”  “Release” is a euphemism for euthanasia.

My seven-year-old has taken the decision hardest.  She drew Loki a card.  It reads, “If they end up keeping you, I’ll miss you sooooooo MUCH!!!!! Always remember us.  Love, the Skole family.”  

Dhani’s letter.

***

Loki seems very happy in his new home.  He has a large tree-filled yard to romp in, lots of sticks to chew on, and my mom is already spoiling him: In the evening, Loki settles into a prime spot on the couch right next to her.

As for fostering, I am in awe of those who do it.  One of the co-founders of Catnip told me that fosters are the life-blood of a rescue organization.  Perhaps, we’ll try again.  The need for foster families is great.