Column: In defense of long-term dogs
You may have spotted a handsome dog in the newspaper this week named Dexter — a dog who is good with kids and other dogs, walks easily on the leash, and knows tricks. Dexter has been waiting for a home for four months. The only reason he is at the shelter in the first place is because his family was moving and couldn’t take him.
There are many pets with a long length of stay at the shelter. Our goal is for the animal to be placed in a forever home within one month.
Is there a reason pets end up staying for four, five, six months or even longer? Some factors can be breed prejudice, appearance, and behavioral issues. Many times it just doesn’t make sense. For those looking to add a dog or cat to your family: don’t overlook the long-termers; they are often hidden gems!
Take JJ, one of our longest-term dogs of 2016 with a length of stay of 330 days. He is a great dog — lovable and sweet; a volunteer favorite. Time and again he was overlooked. Finally JJ was adopted by a kind man in Yavapai County named Bob, who simply thought JJ was a beautiful dog.
When I say JJ was at the shelter for 330 days, it is not something I say with pride. Yavapai Humane Society has a No Kill Ethic, which is a great motivator for many of our employees, including myself. JJ is a product of our No Kill Ethic in that we did not put an “expiration date” on his length of stay.
However, the best shelter is still a shelter. It is not a home with low stress and a bonded owner. The No Kill Ethic drives us to care for these animals as if we were their own loving owners. Would a loving owner really board their dog for nearly a year?
When a dog stays for as long at the shelter as JJ, we at YHS ask ourselves, “What should we have done better for that dog? Three-hundred thirty days in a shelter is not fair to the animal.” That is because dogs that stay for such a long time in the kennels often succumb to stress and develop medical or behavioral problems that can only be reversed by being in a home.
The fact that JJ coped as well as he did during such a long stay was due to a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. It is absolutely wonderful that he was finally adopted. There wasn’t a dry eye in the Adoptions Center.
One key focus is to find forever homes sooner and lower animals’ length of stay. An easy place to start is to simply remind our community that there is a whole lot to love about these hidden gems.
Hidden gems like Trooper, the boxer mix who was adopted by Ron in 2015 after waiting for five months at the shelter. Trooper is now a certified service dog for Ron, an armed forces veteran. Other hidden gems like Helix, a pit bull who was adopted last week by Roger after waiting for eight months. Roger wrote us to say, “Helix really is a great dog. He has a home with me and my wife now for as long as he lives.”
We hope to be better advocates for all the homeless animals in our care going forward. Our thanks goes to adopters like Bob, Ron, and Roger who believe in these pets, giving them the second chance they deserve.
Elisabeth Haugan is the Marketing and Development director for Yavapai Humane Society. Contact YHS at 928-445-2666 or email email@example.com.