2016-04-14 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Most breeds have a purebred rescue network. I know Afghan Hound Rescue best. “First-the Hounds” is the motto of Afghan Hound Club of America (AHCA) Rescue because, despite conflicting egos, vantage points (pet owner, breeder, show fancier) or opinions on how to help a particular Afghan Hound, the welfare of the dog must be top priority. We all agree a rescued Afghan is best placed by the people who know and appreciate the characteristics of our ancient breed.

At one time, 25% of shelter dogs were purebred. The statistic is lower now because of the sad glut of Pit mixes filling municipal shelters. The 200 AKC-recognized breeds and varieties have varying purebred rescue needs. Scottish Deerhound or Komondor people rarely have to mobilize the troops.

Other breed folks like those with Rottweilers and Beagles are too overwhelmed to keep up with pleas for help. The more popular the breed, the more likely scores will appear as owner surrenders or strays. Depending on the region of the country, Beagles, Coonhounds, even Chihuahuas, are frequently discarded. In 2015, Afghan Hounds were #104th on the AKC list of breed popularity but our breed has a disproportionate number of rescues because aesthetics often attract people who are not prepared to own a high-maintenance breed.

The late Afghan Hound “Michaela” minus her mats and embedded purple coat The late Afghan Hound “Michaela” minus her mats and embedded purple coat Afghan Hound rescuers are all volunteers. Besides a national breed rescue, there are regional chapters such as Northeast Afghan Hound Rescue and Afghan Hound Rescue of Southern California, plus lovers of the breed who rescue on their own. We assume a roster of roles when helping our beloved Hounds. The tasks tend to cluster into two groups: the rescuers’ roles while trying to take the Afghan/Afghans out of harm’s way; and the jobs necessary while trying to place the same Hounds in forever homes. Tasks like fundraiser and transporter overlap. Let’s look at the many roles: ROLES ASSUMED WHILE RESCUING AFGHANS: *Dog detective: Years ago the purebred rescue bible was a book called Project Breed. It listed contacts for each breed rescue. We learned about needy Hounds by word of mouth. The Internet changed everything. Nowadays desperate Afghans surface from around the globe. Websites, email and social media connect the international Afghan community. They’ve united to finance the rescue of Khaleesi, a living skeleton from Okinawa. Petfinder and, unfortunately, Craig’s List are often sources of shelter or unwanted Afghans.

As dog detectives, we must investigate the Afghan’s condition, living situation, background and whether there’s a breeder willing to take the dog back before deciding the best course of action. Owners’ stories must be verified. Meeting the dog is a great first step. For example, a LI woman called the national Afghan Rescue chair saying she needed help euthanizing her ill 11-year-old male because her vet refused to do so.

When I did some checking, it turned out her vet visit was a year before. After examining him, my vet found no reason to put the dog down. Truth was she didn’t want Riley anymore. Her Boxers were bullying him, and he was soiling inside. For the last five months, this fellow has blossomed in a Boston-area “hospice” home. His foster mom Pam Wall worked miracles with the old guy. For the first time in his life, he’s frolicking with a younger Afghan clone. *Psychologist/social worker: Often it’s easier to take an Afghan with an unknown history directly from a shelter than from owners. You can spend hours persuading owners surrendering the dogs is the best way help the dog and lessen their personal problems. When possible, we help former owners too.

Even if they are facing eviction, drug charges or animal neglect, some owners waiver out of guilt, denial or misguided devotion for their Afghan. Others are unstable and accuse you of stealing their Afghans. This is why surrenders should be witnessed and documented on paper.

Life crises just happen. At times, show dogs need re-homing. Fanciers are reluctant to call this assistance “rescue” because they fear criticism from their colleagues. These placements or returns to responsible breeders are done under the rescue radar. *Mediator/breed ambassador: Afghan aficionados may be breed experts, but most have never helped in a shelter. If the office gets constant calls from Afghan folks demanding the stray Hound be given to breed rescue, this barrage will alienate the shelter staff. Only one representative should communicate with the shelter to explain the special needs of Afghans. Someone with shelter volunteer experience may convince the director to turn the Afghan over to rescue. Michaela, a pathetic NJ shelter Afghan with a purple coat embedded in her mats, was handed to breed rescue because of dog diplomacy. She died two weeks later at a specialty hospital.

ROLES ASSUMED WHILE PLACING A RESCUED AFGHAN: *Publicist: We promote adoptable dogs to Afghan friends, and advertise homeless Afghans on websites, Petfinder and Facebook. Our AHCA Rescue Facebook page showcases Afghans needing homes, and also revisits success stories; as does the annual AHCA Rescue calendar. My job is to edit about 30 Cinderella stories so they fit in tight calendar spots under the transformed beauties. *Vet tech: Rescuers must become adept at removing mats, cleaning ears, administering meds and watching for pre-existing conditions. *Educator: Each time we have an Afghan with us, or speak about Afghans, we are educating the public. Afghans are not for everyone because of their complex grooming, exercise and emotional needs, so we don’t hard sell. In fact, we discourage people unable to make the commitment from acquiring any Afghan. *Fostering: Foster parents are precious. They provide a safe haven, nurture broken spirits and assess Afghans’ progress so the proper permanent home is found. Sometimes foster parents fail as temporary owners and keep their fosters. *Transporter: The perfect home may be a thousand miles away. Afghan folks share the driving. Sometimes a rescue dog hitches a ride with a handler bringing Afghans to a show near the rescue’s new forever home. *Fundraiser: Rescue costs lots of money. Creative ideas help. Selling the calendar generates funds but this project is more of a public relations keepsake. Rescues have flea market tables at dog shows. Friends in NJ handcraft wooden, stenciled Adirondack chairs especially for relaxing, rescued Afghans.

The composite goal of these Afghan rescue roles is to ensure the Afghan is placed in a loving, sight-hound-savvy home so the Hound never re-appears on the breed rescue radar again.

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Many will inquire about the gorgeous male German Shepherd 16-154 found in Lindenhurst with duct tape around his snout. It’s unclear whether Suffolk SPCA will decide his placement at this time. These tiny cuties, already altered and micro-chipped, are announcing the start of “Kitten Season 2016.”

PET COLUMN CORRECTION: “Pets” Correction from last week: When expressing your concerns about the problems inherent in re-opening Friends of Freddie (formerly in Middle Island), please do not call Suffolk Co. Consumer Affairs. That agency does not oversee nonprofits.

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