Guest blog by the human who needs to vent!
So far in 2017, yes, as of today January 10th, we have taken in 16 dogs.
Which means, with the Christmas foster dogs also returning, we start the year under severe pressure for space yet again.
Every year, we start on an optimistic note and say this year will surely be the one that allows us to cut back on intake and run the kind of rescue that we dreamed of in the beginning. The one where we have time to actually train and enjoy the dogs, rehabiliatate the troubled ones, work with owners, spend some more time promoting responsible dog ownership… Play with puppies all day like the idealised image…
Instead, however, rescue is always more and more like a game of Tetris. They come in, you find a space for them, assess their needs, sort out their medical issues (few are vaccinated, let alone neutered and some have never known any kind of medical care in their lives), assess their behaviour, try to find them families.
And just like in the game, they come in faster and faster as time goes on.
Some are easy and slot neatly into their slots. Others are a bit sticky, but can be sorted out in time. Some have severe issues, be they emotional or medical and tie up kennel spaces, medical bills, time taken away from other dogs who also need you. Some dogs are just not appealing to people, be it due to age, breed, lack of interest in humans who have repeatedly let them down or due to being “just another Collie”.
Our longest stay dog last year was literally there for all of 2016.
All of this of course takes its toll on the people involved in rescue. Be it us volunteers who give far more of our spare time to rescue than we should for the good of our own dogs, our jobs, our studies, our health, our emotional well being, our relationship with those nearest and dearest to us. Or the few overworked and underpaid staff, who quite often also end up being volunteers on the side as things need to be done and there are not enough hours in a day to do them.
MADRA has amazing support from a lot of wonderful people who we can never thank enough. It’s due to those people that we are able to keep going, in spite of a constant shortage of funds, of time, of space.
However, we do often feel like Sisyphus at times, doomed to roll the same rock up that same hill for eternity, as every year sees the same march of dogs coming in, from the pound, from wandering, as owner surrenders.
As it becomes clear that, while Ireland has taken a huge step forward in the awareness of animal welfare over the last 11 years since MADRA started, the same old attitudes are still out there and dogs are still seen as disposable commodities by so many.
That some people still put less thought into getting a dog than they do into buying a new smart phone and that they value them even less – no one has ever let their iPhone take a stroll around the block and been surprised when it didn’t come home after all.
There are many rewards to being in rescue, especially the happy dogs who are alive today because of us. Who at this stage number in the thousands.
Seeing them and their happy families does make it all worthwhile.
But I must admit to feeling just a little like Groundhog day as we face another year of unwanted dogs…
Maja, Jasper’s human, MADRA volunteer since 2009