Working in animal rescue has its rewards and challenges. The rewards are what keeps rescue workers going. The challenges make us frustrated and sometimes even tearful.

The rewards are awesome: Saving an animal on death row and getting it into a loving home; bringing puppy mill dogs into the shelter for rehabilitation and finding them forever homes; and rescuing animals from situations like hoarding or neglect.

The challenges range from lack of education in potential adopters to apathy in pet owners. Many people think dogs and cats come with guarantees. The dog shouldn’t pee in the house; the cat should get along well with other cats in the home. Animals aren’t appliances or TV’s. They don’t come with guarantees! Animals, like humans aren’t perfect! They must acclimate to their new environment and be trained by their new family. The animal should learn the routine of the family and what it can and cannot do.

Animals Best Friends does two week trials just for this reason. People think they want to adopt an animal. However, during the two week trial the dog or cat doesn’t do what they think it should do, so they call ABF to come and take it back. I’ve never heard of people taking a baby back to the hospital because it cried too much! It’s the same principal. Animals, like children, must be taught how to behave. They need guidance and structure. Any good animal trainer will tell you that.

One problem with our society is that if something doesn’t work, we throw it away. If a marriage doesn’t work out, we get a divorce. No one wants to work on things anymore. Relationships take work, whether it is a woman and a man, or a family and a dog or cat. Some people believe animals are disposable. This angers those of us in animal rescue. The attitude some people have towards animals is scary. Whenever any of us hear “It’s just a dog” or it’s just a cat,” we want to explode.

Anyone who reads or pays attention to the latest scientific discoveries knows that animals are much more intelligent than people think. Scientists have proved that animals show thought processes and emotions. When an animal is moved from place to place it is confused and sad. Much like foster children that have no stability or constant love from a family, animals can become withdrawn and fearful.

Our Shadow was taken to the old Independence Animal Shelter because her family lost their home. She was terrified and withdrawn in the noisy shelter. Dianne Sanderson saw her and knew she wouldn’t get adopted, so she decided to pull Shadow and bring her to ABF. Dianne had to get down on her hands and knees before Shadow would come to her. She said that Shadow crawled to her from the back of the kennel because she was so scared.

This horrified dog came to our house in 2005 as a foster and we adopted her soon after. Shadow slowly adapted to our other dogs and our daily routine. Mom said she didn’t want Shadow to be “tossed from pillar to post” so we adopted her from ABF. Today Shadow is my sentry. She sits on my bed during the day watching out the window for any intruders and sounds the alarm if anyone comes near. She is loving and full of life at the age of 12. I’m so glad Mom and I adopted her! Shadow is the perfect example of why dogs shouldn’t be thought of as “disposable.”

If you are thinking of adopting a dog, do some research. There are abundant books on dogs and cats and their behavior. The Internet has lots of information about breeds and their traits. Remember that adopting an animal is a lifelong obligation. Be sure about your decision and be patient with your new pet.