Thursday, December 1, 2011

An honest spin

Have you ever read an animal rescue publication full of feel-good stories about senior dogs whose spirits just won't quit, and kittens with lots of spunk and character, and plucky parrots who rule the roost with an imperious claw, and wished that just once these people would say something authentic and raw about the truly gut-wrenching nature of animal rescue work? 

About the fact that not every spunky kitten will easily find a good home, that not every day surrounded by animals with backgrounds of trauma and neglect is a walk in the park, that sometimes a rescuer feels like curling up in a ball in the bottom of the closet and locking herself away from all those furry aliens with competing needs that she fears she will never be able to satisfy?
I've felt that exasperation when I read the Best Friends magazine or any number of excellent publications by groups and people who are saving countless animals and doing endless good. 

But I also get it. Happiness sells, sadness repels and we're all trying to get as many animals as we can into homes.  And much as we may be personally repelled by this aspect of the enterprise, that requires marketing. 

And so as I've written about my own little marketing projects, I've tended to focus on the positives and gloss over the challenges, er, opportunities. I didn't tell you until very recently that Fozzie was in an area called "disaster" at the shelter because he'd been deemed so unadoptable, and I never told you about being in tears, wondering what I had done and calling around to try to find another rescue that would take him, the day after I got him home.

I also didn't tell you about the several nasty scraps Fozzie and Sandy have been in lately, as who wants to adopt a scrappy dog? And what conscientious pit bull blogger would write things that might contribute to the bad rap of this much-maligned breed?
I'll get into the sordid scrappy details tomorrow, but what I'll say for right now is that thanks in part to a couple of our dogblogging friends who have written refreshingly honest posts about the less-delightful aspects of canine companionship, I am feeling that there's got to be a happy middle ground somewhere between brutal honesty that repels and cutesy perkiness that gives no real information. 

Finding that middle ground would I think be a worthwhile project. What do you think?


  1. All very true. The sad truth is that for many of these animals (and their tireless advocates and rescuers) the happy ending never materializes. It is not all Snow White in the forest with the singing birds. And sometimes rescuers and fosterers burn out (I did) and it takes them a long time to regather their forces so that they can try once again to tackle a problem that often seems insurmountable. Meanwhile there are people like you who, even through tears, soldier on. I applaud your honesty.

  2. Turk and Ginger have gotten into a few scrapes that I was reluctant to blog about for fear that it would reinforce negative stereotypes. So, I was so relieved when I saw several bloggers post about the issues they've been dealing with. It makes me feel better to know I'm not alone! Hang in there!

  3. Hi Kirsten, my mom and dad, but particularly my dad, can't handle the stories. I think that he knows how devastating they can be and the effect that they will have on him. And so they donate to organizations that do rescue work, to the volunteers who seek out, trap, feed, care for, spay and neuter the hundreds of homeless cats and dogs that are out there in our city. It's what they can do and what they are able to handle. It may not be everything, but at least it's something meaningful that they're doing.

  4. I agree- its why I started blogging in the first place. To be honest and open about our experiences.

    But even I gloss over stuff... I don't know why exactly. Maybe I'm afraid to scare people away from trying fostering, but then it is a disservice because not everything has a happy ending.

    If you go back and ready stuff about Maisy or Vander on my blog, thats when I was the most brutally honest about my own failures and hardships with dealing with that reality. And I got some not so nice emails and comments at the time... but that comes with honesty I guess.

  5. I think it is important to be honest. Spinning a positive light is important for PR sure but you want Sandy in her forever home, not another temporary home that then gives her back to you because they didn't know about her sometimes scrappies. I applaud you for trying to take the honest approach, even when it isn't rosy. I try to do the same and my strategy is to try and inject a little humor in the not-so-great aspects of having dogs. And as a blog reader, some of my favorite blogs are the ones who post about the good and the bad. I feel like I really connect with those bloggers because I can relate to everything they're saying.

  6. Sure sounds a publication worth reading
    Benny & Lily

  7. I think the publications do a dis-service to the animals they rescue when they only showcase the good. There are pets that are more challenging and rather than gloss over the negative, they should be offering assistance to help people with the harder to place pets. When they don't they are only setting the pet up to be returned causing heartbreak for all.

    You know me, the good, the bad and the ugly. That's what I should have called my blog! LOL

    Don't lose faith Kirsten, keep doing what you are doing you ARE making a difference.

  8. I'm so glad you had the courage to write this post. In the beginning I was very honest about Charlie Machete's challenging behaviors but then I worried that's why he wasn't getting adopted. We kid ourselves and others if we don't acknowledge that fostering can be really stressful. Really stressful. But you are right. The happy medium can be hard to strike.

  9. Yes, a thousand times over. We hear a disproportionate number of 'good stories', but this is, sadly, probably important to ensure that adopters are available. It doesn't help, however, for us rescues who need the support from a community who understands our trials.

  10. Finding the middle ground as you wrote, is the key. I do believe that too much positive info leads to big problems. I've witnessed it having adopted a Golden Retriever who many think of as the perfect dog.

    Most people I've talked to seem to think they come "out of the box" just perfect and don't need training or work. Unrealistic expectations about dogs and the work they take is probably the biggest reason so many of them end up being surrendered to shelters or abandoned.

    Blogging, however, can be a great place to find others who have been through the same things as you. I hope you're able to find some balance in your community online.


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