To the Rescue: Part 2 – How to Help Pets in Need

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

As far back as the mid-1800s, people in the United States rallied to the plight of animals. In 1866, Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the first North American-based humane society. Nearly 150 years later, the ASPCA remains a fighting force for helping animal victims of cruelty and assisting pets and pet parents through adoptions and animal shelter assistance.

The ASPCA estimates there are nearly 14,000 animal shelters in America, and there are innumerable pet rescue organizations as well. From Rez Dawg Rescue, which focuses on helping homeless dogs on Native American reservations, to Kitty Keepers, a cat rescue organization based in Havre, Montana, from large sanctuaries like Best Friends in Utah to smaller, all-volunteer-based rescues like Western Border Collie Rescue, these organizations help the mutts and the breeds as well as provide sanctuary for horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and other creatures.

October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, a time in which rescues and animal shelters bring greater awareness to the number of homeless dogs (Adopt a Shelter Cat Month takes place in June, and Adopt a Senior Pet Month is next month – November: more on that in another post!). Pets benefit people in many ways. In addition to wonderful companionship, many hold jobs as service and therapy dogs as well as K9 and search and rescue dogs. Pets provide people with mental and physical health benefits as well: did you know that a pet can lower your blood pressure, possibly helping you live longer? Some studies show that pet owners, especially those with dogs, have a reduced risk of heart disease and therefore, live longer. Dogs help us exercise physically so blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels can be lowered by owning a dog. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and to be calmer and more relaxed than people who don’t have pets.

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So, how about adopting a dog this month? You’ll be healthier, mentally and physically! And, you may save a life. Approximately 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year because not enough people adopt them and because people don’t spay and neuter their own pets, creating an over-abundance of animals.

But, what if you can’t adopt? Perhaps your lifestyle or housing situation doesn’t allow for a dog (or cat) at this time … or someone in your household is allergic to animals. There are still many ways you can help pets in need, whether at your local shelter/rescue or even via one of the larger, national organizations.

  1. Volunteer/Transport/Foster.
  2. Support/Help at events.
  3. Donate money and/or supplies.
  4. Educate others/Be an advocate.
  5. Encourage spay/neuter.
  6. Report cruelty/neglect.

Volunteer:

loca and family1Foster families are needed by nearly every rescue and by many humane societies and shelters. This is a way you can bring an animal into your home temporarily as it waits its permanent home, helping it to not have to live in a cage while it awaits its forever family. Fosters are volunteers and are often reimbursed for food and vet care. Foster families make amazing impacts on pets in need!

If you can’t foster, there are many other volunteer opportunities. One that I particularly enjoy is transporting: bringing pets into foster care or taking them to their forever homes. I’ve been blessed to help transport dogs through the state of Wyoming, and sometimes into Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota. It usually means a trek of two to three hours, but sometimes much further, especially if I’m traveling to or from my parents’ in Montana. If you enjoy traveling, why not help a dog or cat get where it needs to go? This is one of my favorite ways to help and volunteer!

You can also volunteer with fundraising events or go to your local shelter to socialize the animals: walking and playing with dogs and/or brushing and playing with cats. Interacting with volunteers, perhaps even being obedience trained by volunteers, keeps the animals be more socialized and therefore be more adoptable.

Donate

Rescues and non—profit humane societies always need funds and they always need supplies, such as pet food, treats, cat litter, laundry soap, and other cleaning supplies. Contact your local rescue or shelter and see what their current needs are. Perhaps even run a supply donation drive in your neighborhood, church, school, or club and get more people in your community involved.

Educate

Sage_Gayle_Children_LibraryHelp bring awareness of pet overpopulation and pet ownership responsibility by learning more about the issues of puppy mills, spay/neuter, and pet ownership – then share what you’ve learned! Be an advocate for the animals who have no voice of their own but whose pictures are worth a thousand words. Work with your local rescue/shelter/humane society to help them educate children and adults in your community. You can also be an advocate on social media using hashtags on Twitter and Facebook #NoKill, #AdoptAPet, #SaveThemAll, #NoMoreHomelessPets, and other relevant monikers. You can also work with your state legislators to change and update laws that better protect animals and punish those who exploit and hurt them.

Report Animal Cruelty and Neglect

Remember the Michael Vick dog fighting case? That’s just one of thousands of abuse cases, and of course one of the most publicized. But, animal cruelty happens constantly, even in the smallest of towns and by the smallest of people. Children who abuse animals often grow up to hurt people; there is strong evidence to show that serial killers start off as animal abusers. We can nip both in the bud by stepping forward and reporting to the appropriate authorities any time we witness an animal neglected or being mistreated. This is also opportunity to change laws to better protect pets and hold those abusers accountable. Protecting pets often also protects people, maybe even children who also suffer at the hands of adult abusers.

Spay/Neuter

Pet overpopulation is a big problem. For every one puppy or kitten that finds a home, many others die because each litter adds 4 to 6 more to the population. Fixing the pet helps to fix the problem. Support low-cost spay/neuter clinics, encourage your friends and family to alter their animals, and if you have pets at home, get them spayed/neutered. Having that surgery done to your pets should be the responsible owner’s priority, to not add to the overwhelming number of animals that are killed in shelters every year.

Be A Hero!

inside carThere are innumerable ways we can make a difference in the lives of dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures. As a faith-filled person, I believe God’s word that says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). If the Creator calls it good, how can we humans exploit, abuse, mis-use, mis-treat, and call that creation invalid and invaluable? It is our responsibility as people of this planet to care for it and the living things upon it, to rescue and help those who rely upon our care.

There are many great pet organizations who need and rely upon volunteers, donors, and other advocates; unless one wins the lottery or is in someway a multi-billionaire, it’s hard to donate funds to all of them. So, consider what I’m doing: choose a few in which you can help most. I’ve chosen one in my community (the Casper Humane Society), three regional (Black Dog Animal Rescue, English Springer Spaniel Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws – the two later have a national reach but have a Rocky Mountain base/chapter), and two national, which also happen to be regional (Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and National Mill Dog Rescue) … and I occasionally donate to the national ASPCA. Because my books are about dogs, I donate a percentage of proceeds to these groups throughout the year as well as consider additional donations part of my tithe to the Creator God. That’s how I do monetary donations, but then I also transport for whomever whenever I can, take part in special events as I can, and advocate/educate on behalf of them all as often as I can – such as now.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference, therefore, I encourage you to be a hero: become part of the pet rescue movement in whatever way you can.

#NoKill! #AdoptAPet! #NoMoreHomelessPets!

Greg and MaryAll of my pets, including our newest dog, Mary, have been adopted. Fortunately, my husband supports adoption and advocacy, too!

 

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

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To the Rescue! Part 1

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

On Sunday I helped rescue: I transported a dog for English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America (Rocky Mountain chapter – there are chapters across the country) to his new, although temporary home. I have served as a transporter for various dog rescue organizations for nearly six years, primarily helping Springer Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws (based in Colorado), but I have also transported for Black Dog Animal Rescue (based in Cheyenne, Wyo.) and I’m on the contact list for at least two other groups. I find great satisfaction in helping dogs go from neglect or other difficult situations into new homes, whether those are caring foster homes (temporary) or their loving, permanent homes.

I transported Pepsi, a springer/beagle mix, on Sunday; he had lived with the same family for more than seven years but was kept outside most of his life and the people spent very little time with him; he’s now in foster care with a friend of mine here in Casper. Last year I transported Boone, a senior beagle who found his forever home in Yellowstone Park with an middle-aged couple. And, more than four years ago, I helped Jazmine, a Great Pyrenees mix, get to her new home with a family in Calgary, Canada. Each dog has a story, and I am now a chapter in their life stories – that makes me very happy!

Jasmine2

Pepsi_Car

 

 

 

Jazmine

Pepsi

This month is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, celebrated and recognized around the country by animal shelter and rescue groups. Many such organizations reduce their adoption fees or at least take the opportunity to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals in need of loving homes. While touring Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary last month, I learned the startling statistic of how many animals die in kill shelters throughout this country. Even though I was aware of the annual statistic (3-4 million), the tour guide bravely broke it down to how many every day: 9,000. NINE THOUSAND dogs, cats, and other creatures (bunnies, guinea pigs, birds) DIE EVERY DAY in kill shelters. Yet, Americans shell out billions of dollars every year – in fact, more than $55 billion! – for their pets: food, vet bills, treats, toys, beds, clothing… Americans who love their pets REALLY LOVE their pets to spend billions of dollars every year on them. That’s so cool! Yet, we let 9,000 die every day in kill shelters. That’s very sad and to me, intolerable. It’s estimated that only 35% of pets in shelters are adopted – why do we think an animal is LESS THAN because it’s in rescue or a shelter? The fact is the #1 reason why animals are at those places is because of their human, not because of the animal; the #1 reason people give for giving up their pet is “I’m moving.” Yet, they move with their child, their car, their furniture … and leave their pet behind.

Best Friends has two significant campaigns: No Kill and No More Homeless Pets. Since October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, I think it’s a good time to get on the #NoMoreHomelessPets/#NoKill bandwagon and encourage dog adoption. So, I’m taking the stage with this post and asking my friends to join in. Tweet, Facebook, and tout however you can: #NoKill! #NoMoreHomelessPets! #AdoptaDog! #AdoptDon’tShop!

Boone_YellowstoneBoone singing in Yellowstone!

 

Even if you can’t adopt a dog, cat, rabbit, or other homeless pet, there are many things a person can do to help. Like me, you can transport, or you can donate supplies or volunteer. More about such ways in my next post.

I’ve volunteered and I’ve worked for animal shelters off and on for more than 20 years. Pets are my passion, and I do whatever I can to help. I’m fortunate – I’m a writer, so I can weave my passion into my writing. Whenever I have a book event, I always donate a percentage of sale proceeds to a local or regional animal welfare organization, and I will continue to do so. I’ve participated in animal events as a vendor, selling books and donating back to the group, and I will continue to do that as well.

The dogs’ stories of which I’ve played a part are playing a part in my current writings. I am working on two books that involve dog rescue: an educational/awareness book about dog rescue for children and families – that book idea sprouted from my encounter with Jazmine – and a romance story involving dog rescue (I imagine the hero of my story will rescue the heroine, or vice-verse!). Again, I’m weaving my writing with my passion for pets, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories come together. Also, I’ve written articles for our local paper on the various animal welfare groups and I hope to do more such stories in the future. I also write a pet column for different publications and I’ve written for online blogs, including my own pet blog. To me, pet rescue and adoption are vital, for communities, for the animals, and for people, and I’m happy to share my knowledge and passion with others.

How about you? Do you have some type of “rescue” as part of your stories? Or do animals play a role in your books?

Next time, Part 2: Things we can all do to help the animal groups in our area, even if we can’t adopt one.

Learn more companion animal statistics at this website: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.

 

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines and for the Casper Journal newspaper. She pens a pet column for the Douglas Budget and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She volunteers with several pet rescue and animal welfare organizations, and a percentage of proceeds from her book sales are donated to these groups. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

 

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