adopters, dog rescue, Ehrlichia, foster dogs, heartworms, Humane Society of Shenandoah County, owner responsibility

When the Rescuer Needs Rescue

Rescuing animals can be is overwhelming.

I know that first hand, as does anyone in the rescue world. It’s part and parcel to the whole rescue mentality – you want to help and you can easily over-extend. You can’t bear for animals to suffer.

And sadly, lately, that proclivity to take on more and more has led to rescues turning into hoarding cases.

Two different situations came through my world this weekend that I could do nothing about, but a local wannabe rescuer’s overwhelm did spill into my world, or to be exact, my not-quite-finished foster cottage.

Sam and Rufus are two sweet hounddogs who have taken up residence in our partially completed foster cottage.

Here is their sketchy history, as it has been pieced together:

2021 – adopted from SPCA in Richmond

Some point between then and now – the adopter decided they didn’t want the dogs anymore and dumped them on a relative’s farm (who also didn’t want them) in Shenandoah County. The dogs were barely cared for and became very thin and neglected.

January/February 2022 – Individual in Shenandoah County learned of their plight and removed the dogs, brought them to her house intending to rehome them. She was able to find a home for Sam, but when the adopter took her to vet, she learned that the dog was heartworm positive and had a urinary issue. She returned the dog to the rescuer.

As the dogs lingered at the rescuer’s house, another dog (I believe it was also a foster), became aggressive towards the dogs which required the rescuer to crate the dogs extensively. The stress of the situation became too much for the individual and began to affect her mental well-being. Her mother stepped in to help and contacted the Humane Society of Shenandoah County for help.

Sunday – I met the mother and picked up the dogs. Melisa, the director of the Humane Society is attempting to contact the shelter in Richmond to see if they will take the dogs back. Meanwhile, I took the dogs to the vet and confirmed that Sam is heartworm (and Ehrlichia positive) and Rufus is thankfully not heartworm positive (but is Ehrlichia positive). Both dogs have started on a doxycycline treatment for the Ehrlichia and to prepare Sam for heartworm treatment.

There were a lot of breakdowns in the system that led to this situation.

Why didn’t the original adopters simply return the dogs to the Richmond SPCA?

Why didn’t the family who owned the farm where they were dumped, immediately contact animal control (or Richmond SPCA) if they did not want the animals?

Why did an individual, unaffiliated with any rescue organization take the dogs with no back-up plan, no funds for veterinary treatment, no appropriate facility take the dogs?

Obviously, the original adopter was ashamed to return the dogs. They didn’t have the emotional strength to own up to their situation, ask for help, or admit they’d made a mistake in adopting two dogs. Who knows why they wanted to return them – certainly it’s not a behavior issue, as they are lovely dogs—gentle, sweet, quiet (surprising for hound dogs!), well-mannered (although Sam can get a little zoom on and pull on the leash). Maybe they couldn’t afford them. Maybe their housing situation changed and they could not have dogs. Maybe they lost interest in the dogs.

The would-be rescuer couldn’t stand to see the dogs suffering. Instead of reaching out for help from a rescue organization or allowing the proper animal control authorities to deal with the situation, she and her big heart jumped in and tried to fix it. It’s hard to be patient when you perceive an animal is suffering. I get that, but I’ve also learned the hard way that if you really want to help that animal, you have to be strong enough to go slow and smart, not rush in blindly.

The second adopter was clearly not invested in adopting a dog. I’m guessing here, because certainly I don’t have all the information, but people who want a dog for free often can’t afford a dog and/or have the level of commitment it takes to adopt responsibly. It’s a huge risk from both sides. There was no fee, application, interview, or reference check which made it really easy to adopt a dog on a whim without considering the risk of adopting a dog who didn’t come with any proper vet records, health history, heartworm testing, etc.

And so here we are. Sam and Rufus are safe and hopefully just here temporarily.

But, considering their plight, these dogs are doing well. They are sweet and funny, quirky like every other hound dog I’ve met. Sam is probably a beagle mix –she’s a little firecracker, curious, impulsive, and busy. Rufus, a leggy foxhound, has a lot of energy for an underweight, older dog. He’s believed to be seven. He is lovely and affectionate, a little wary of noises and sudden movements, but so darn sweet.

I’m still awaiting the verdict and trying to get some groceries into Rufus, who doesn’t have a large appetite for a hound dog. They are testing out our cottage, which now has a fenced yard, running water, windows and doors that open/close (and don’t leak) but electricity only in one room.

I’m glad we had the space for them, because this rescuer’s heart was missing rescue.

Until Each One Has a Home,


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7 thoughts on “When the Rescuer Needs Rescue”

  1. They are beautiful AND lovable, Cara. On this topic — I keep wanting a third dog and I keep telling myself I’m not the 30 something I was once who could happily live with and care for six active dogs. It’s hard to face that, but it’s best if I do. Still, sometimes I see a dog like Bear or (worse) a Siberian husky and I just have to say, “You can’t, Martha.” It’s hard, but…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s always best of intentions. I’ve been guilty of it myself at times taking on more than I should. I think the current crisis is pushing everyone even harder and likely the reason for the rising number of hoarding situations and rescues shutting down.

      Liked by 1 person

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