Are some dog rescue organizations causing an increase in dog homelessness and puppy mills?
Every year my partner and I take Pax and embark on a journey into the Rocky Mountains. One of the highlights of this trip is a paddle boarding adventure on Bow Lake, which is a beautiful turquoise alpine lake surrounded by glacier-studded peaks.
When we were done paddle boarding, a car parked beside us and when the driver opened the door, an adorable puppy jumped out sporting a small vest with a big “ADOPT ME” sign on it.
The puppy's name was Tucker, and it didn't take a long time to recognize that he was very special. At just three months of age, he was obedient, attentive, polite, and even trained to hop into a kayak!
I learned that Tucker and his twelve siblings were rescued in northern Alberta and were all looking for their forever homes.
I looked again at the “ADOPT ME” sign, and my thoughts took me back 20 years to the time when we fostered Millie, a German Pointer, who was adopted by our friends that gave her a fantastic and loving home for 16 happy years.
I sent my friends a message with photos of Tucker asking, “Are you looking for a puppy?”
"Yes!" they replied with excitement. The timing was right; plus, we found them the perfect dog before, so why not again?
The plan was that we would contact the rescue, they would do a video conference, and I would give them a reference for having an exemplary history of dog guardianship. Then, as soon as the paperwork was approved, I would bring Tucker back with us to his new home in North Vancouver, BC, Canada — a dog trail and forest paradise.
Except, it wasn't at all.
Fostering Hope rescue in Red Deer, Alberta adamantly refused to do any video interviews. Instead, they insisted that the entire family had to come out to the shelter — a 14-hour drive away.
We asked if just the mother and her son could fly in, as the father was on a work trip.
“Absolutely not. It is our policy to see the whole family!” The shelter manager, Emily, insisted.
I tried to convince them, providing my references and history of working with rescues as well as donating a significant amount of money over the years. I offered a donation, and assistance with future adoptions, but was given a resolute "No" yet again.
On some level, I believe Emily's intention is to help dogs, unfortunately, her unreasonably rigid stance led to Tucker missing out on an amazing forever home.
I cannot help feeling that Emily's rescue efforts were being overshadowed by her enjoyment of the power she held, which brought me back to a memory of when we were looking for a rescue puppy of our own
Three years ago
We felt ready to adopt and so we began our search for a rescue Border Collie pup. We searched for weeks, and could not find any pups until we finally found one in Oregon. After a week of waiting, we were approved for adoption. I was ready to fly out to Oregon but the rescue didn't want to put a hold on the puppy, which meant it could be gone upon my arrival.
The adoption fell through, and we eventually found Pax and his breeder, who happens to be a veterinary technician in a suburb of Prague. I am aware that some people from our community wondered why we went to a breeder instead of adopting a rescue pup — now you know why.
Back to Tucker
Having my own rescue experience, and seeing how my friends were treated by the Fostering Hope rescue in Red Deer, I decided to share this story with you.
I am frustrated and somewhat angry that Tucker lost his chance of having a truly amazing forever home.
I am sure he will find another one, but it is also possible that he will end up in a situation that will be much less favourable.
I agree that it is very important to verify and screen potential guardians, but many of my colleagues and I have observed this overly cumbersome adoption process with concern.
Most rescue organizations and shelters do amazing work, but many people also feel spoken down to and discouraged by unreasonable scrutiny, and policies that do not have the best interest of rescue dogs in mind. A video call and a background check, along with my guarantee, should have been enough.
I understand that we have to make sure that puppies do not end up in a bad home, but we also have to recognize that if the adoption process is overly complicated, many dogs will never find a forever home.
I find it ironic that an organization called Fostering Hope actually does the opposite, shuttering the hope of exemplary dog parents who would have given Tucker an amazing and loving home.
This brings me to the philosophy and teachings of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who was a big proponent of finding the right balance between being too rigid and too loose.
Perhaps, instead of blindly following policies, we have to follow our intuition and our heart. ❤️
PS: If you are interested in full unedited conversation recording with Emily, the manager from Fostering Hope Rescue, listen here: