Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An email I received today

I thought I would share this email I received today:

Hello -

I am hoping that you can help me find a new home for my little JRT, Lulu. Ours is an urgent and desperate situation in that in a little more than one month, if I do not have an option to surrender her to capable hands who can continue the work of finding her a new home, I will be forced to ask our vet to humanely euthanize her so that I know that she will not suffer through the likely outcome if I surrender her to the NYC animal pound. Given her behavior issues, Lulu will never be adopted from the pound, or even if she is, the probability that she will find another person like me is next to none. She would soon be euthanized (there isn't a single rescuer or trainer or animal welfare person who disagrees with this) -- but after days of being traumatized by the chaotic shelter setting and feeling abandoned by me. While this happens every day to undeserving and loved companion animals, the great loss in this case is that Lulu is eminently re-home-able and has more life and love to give, if only I could find the right new home. That is what I need your help with.

[Note: The reason I have emailed more than one regional JRT rescue contact is that, while we are located in NYC, we will be moving to the SF Bay Area and we also have relatives in Ohio, so if there are real options in any of those regions or even the tri-state area, I CAN and WILL assist in getting Lulu to the next stop on the JRT rescue railroad.]

To start, here is Lulu's listing on Petfinder, where I have described her at great length and posted pictures:

A little background on what has led to the crossroads I'm at today:

In 2004, I adopted Lulu from Waggytail Rescue in NYC ( At the time, I was single, living alone, and consulting from home. I adopted Lulu to be a companion to another rescued dog, my little Chihuahua, Jack. What I did not know when I adopted her was that Lulu *hands-down* qualifies as a "difficult dog." Waggytail did not inform me of this -- perhaps they did not know because they did not take the time to properly assess and actually match her to the right person. And anyway, even if she had come with the label "difficult," I would have had no idea what that meant (though I probably would not have adopted her). I was accustomed to having a tiny pocket pal (Jack) who basically wanted only to sit on my lap, give me kisses, eat, and sleep. Lulu, within a week and a half, turned out to be a dog with serious behavioral issues -- primarily a fear of strangers (human) in "her" territory and the tendency to bark, lunge, and, if given the opportunity, bite. Somewhat naively, I never faltered in my commitment to Lulu. I worked closely with a positive reinforcement trainer (Susan Ward, from the start and spent most of my time exercising and training Lulu.

What changed some months thereafter was that I got a full-time job out of the house. From there, the situation pretty much devolved to where it is now, which is to say that I am merely treading water, barely able to keep my sanity afloat, and in constant crisis-management mode in our household. My job was, and still is, incredibly demanding and unforgiving. I got married. My husband moved in, continued to do his freelance work, and became Lulu's primary caregiver during the day. (We spent a lot of time properly introducing Lulu to him, and to this day, he is the only other person that she tolerates, although she is still reactive to him in certain situations -- for example, she will redirect bites to him at times, or if he startles her, she will nip at his ankle or toes.) Then, we had a baby (20 months ago). My husband is now the primary caregiver during the day for two cats (his, from before our marriage, one of whom is a rescued feral Maine Coon who also qualifies as special needs), two dogs (Jack and Lulu), and our baby. We can't hire a babysitter and/or a dog walker, even if we could find a babysitter or qualified dog walker willing to put up with such crazy circumstances, because the amount of time and effort required to introduce any new person into the household is just not worth the return at this point. Lulu is not safe around our toddler, obviously, and we must constantly keep the two separated, which means that Lulu now spends more time in her crate than ever. We do our best to walk Lulu daily, but it's not enough exercise for her. We try our utmost to manage all the creatures underfoot but in the end, we don't have the ability to give EVERYONE the time and attention they need and demand. It's sub-optimal for everyone, including us (the parents of all of these little ones).

Which brings me to today. You might say to me, "Well, you've eked by for this long, why don't you continue? Change your perspective. Work harder on finding a dog walker, work harder on finding another job or just quitting so that you can devote all your time to exercising and training Lulu, work harder on building a life to accommodate your difficult dog, whom, to be fair, you adopted and said you would provide a home to, six years ago."

What is different now is that we have made the decision to relocate to California at the end of November, and we will be moving into my parents' house for the first six months. Putting a family of three plus two cats and two dogs into my parents' house simply is not possible. We already knew, certainly when our baby was born, that we would eventually need to re-home Lulu because we cannot manage everything and everyone; something has to give, and I cannot live much longer with the constant fear that Lulu will bite my child. No matter how well-trained they both are, I would never, ever trust Lulu with him, particularly as she seems to have more "issues" with other humans when I am in the picture (as in, in the same room -- I think she is a "one-person" dog, and when I'm present, all other living creatures are competition for my attention). Now, we are faced with a real situation that we can't turn away from. Not only will we not all fit into a very small house, but also, Lulu hates my father. The level of tension in the house would be unbearable. We are leaving NYC to try to build a life with a little less tension than what we have lived with for the last several years; to simply move it all to another state defeats the purpose and helps no one at all, Lulu included.

So I am looking for a new home for Lulu.

Waggytail Rescue, from whom I adopted Lulu, says that they don't have the capacity to take her if I were to surrender her back to them.

Susan (dog trainer) has been working many different angles -- trying to get the word out to other trainers, doing research on organizations that could help re-home a difficult dog. The "Pets for Life" safety net program in NYC is also working Lulu's case through whatever channels they have. I was turned away from Best Friends (no capacity in Dogtown), and I am waiting to hear whether Pets Alive in Hudson Valley will consider her case. Now, I'm reaching out to you. Everything that I wrote in Lulu's Petfinder profile is the honest-to-goodness truth. She would make the right someone a wonderful, loving companion. She has so much potential -- I know it from my own experience! That I am not able to give her what she needs any longer is a cold, hard fact. Now, my challenge is to find that right home (or that right halfway house) for her, before we leave NYC.

Can you help? Can you give me any more ideas or people or organizations to contact? Can you put the word out to anyone and everyone you know? And, if we reach the end of November and I still haven't found a home for her, would you, could you provide sanctuary to Lulu and continue the search for her new home? I am available to discuss any and all concerns you have, available to have someone meet and assess her before committing to anything, able to have Susan answer any questions and support everything that I am saying.

I know that this is a tall order. Please help if you can, in any way that you can. Deep down in my heart, I know that the kindest and most humane thing to do, if we reach the end of November and have no one to entrust Lulu to, will be to let her die in my arms, knowing that she was loved. And thanks for listening.



My response to her:


You said in your email to us Which brings me to today. You might say to me, "Well, you've eked by for this long, why don't you continue? Change your perspective. Work harder on finding a dog walker, work harder on finding another job or just quitting so that you can devote all your time to exercising and training Lulu, work harder on building a life to accommodate your difficult dog, whom, to be fair, you adopted and said you would provide a home to, six years ago." Honestly as I was reading your email I was thinking YOUR A SAINT! You have done more for Lulu then I am SURE anyone else would have.

I would also like to say shame on the rescue you got her from to #1. allow a dog with that many issues to be adopted #2. Not telling you of the issues (seriously they had to know) and #3. For not taking her back. As a dog rescue person running not only the Ohio Chapter of Russell Rescue Inc. but also my own rescue for mix breeds that just really makes me mad and I have a few things I would like to say to that rescue (but I won't). Situations like this is what makes rescuing a dog a bad name and honestly we are up against enough UN educated people we don't need the public to think of rescue as a negative thing or a bad experience. Sorry, I will step off my soap box now.

Lulu I am sorry to say is not a candidate to be re homed. We do not take in dogs with a bite history and if a dog were to come into our rescue with Lulu's issues, she would be worked with but if her "attitude" wouldn't have changed she would have been humanely euthanized at our vet office. We all know it is not Lulu's fault she is the way she is but she is going to hurt someone and I always fear that will be a child. There are WAY too many dogs in this world without issues that are being killed that in the big picture it isn't fair to them to die needlessly, it isn't fair to Lulu because she lives her life in total fear / paranoia and that can't be a happy life and it isn't fair to the next family that adopts her.

My heart goes out to Lulu but in my opinion (whatever that is worth) you have done an AMAZING job and have given Lulu the best life possible. At least we can all rest easy knowing #1 Lulu is not suffering mentally any longer and #2 she will go to sleep in the arms of someone she loves, someone that loves her and will no longer feel pain.

As my vet said to me, if a dog was hit by a car and was in HORRIBLE pain that couldn't be stopped / fixed would you put him to sleep? Then why would you allow a dog that is in mental pain to continue to suffer?

Good luck to you and Lulu. You will both by in my prayers and thoughts.

The women is amazing. I feel horrible she is in this situation. I have been there so totally understand!

***update*** I sent her a PS saying I have been in her shoes and attached pictures of my special guy. Her email back to me:


Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you said. And for sharing pix of Ruger. I absolutely understand what you are saying about not being able to take on such a challenging dog when there are so many out there who do not come with these issues, who have a chance. You are not the first rescuer who has very gently told me this, and the intake coordinator and trainer at the Little Shelter on Long Island spoke with me at length on Monday and was the one who first said to me, "Please, whatever you do, don't surrender her to the pound. It is more cruel to her to do that than to let her die in your arms." I think that is the kindest thing anyone has done for me so far - to give me the permission to let her go in a way that at least I know is peaceful.

I will still continue looking for some sort of sanctuary situation for Lulu, but only if I know that the org is committed to either finding Lulu the RIGHT home or is willing to let her stay in the sanctuary forever.

(I have the very same thoughts about Waggytail Rescue as you. I don't want to get into it with the woman behind the operation, whom I have known and been friends with in the past, because it doesn't help Lulu. I'm not a professional dog trainer or handler, or even a rescuer or welfare advocate. But I know that Waggytail's perspective, which is that any extra day for a dog on death row is a victory for all dogs -- with no consideration of the longer-term consequence for the dog or the people who end up being involved -- is a disservice to rescue and to dog welfare, and downright irresponsible and unethical.)

Again - if you think of anything that I can follow up on, just send it my way.

Warmest regards.

What a nice person!


Roberta @ Silverwalk said...

Absolutely the most correct and compassionate response possible. Prayers for them all from Silverwalk, too.

AndeesResQdPups said...

Amy give her this email. They do amazing things with dogs like LuLu. or she can try contacting Rescue Ink at 860-933-0950 there she should talk to Eric. I know they are both in NY and have a ton of people that may be able to help her even with Lulus issues

JOanne said...

There is also a rescue that takes dogs that cannot be rehomed or rehabilitated (although I do not believe that is true except in the most extreme cases). I will try to find the information and post it here. If you have been working with a dog for what six years and have made no progress, you need to re-evaluate your training methods. Let's put it this way, if your kid bit or lunged at people, would you euthanize him. Why do the animals always have to pay for the human's inadequacies or lack of ability with their lives. How would you feel if someone took you, without your consent, stuck a needle in your vein, and ended your life. It is not "put to sleep", it is plain and simply killing the animal. So, let's at least get that clear.

JOanne said...

Here is one that she could contact

Here is another

Dog Rescuer said...

JOanne - You are correct dogs do have to pay for stupid people. And honestly I wish a dog NEVER had to be put to sleep but REALITY is there are 4 million un wanted pets in this world and who says it is fair to take a dog that doesn't have emotional issues and kill them in a gas chamber and then throw their lifeless body in a dumpster.

Have you ever been to a sanctuary? A dog living in a cage with little to no human contact. It is so sad.

I commend this lady for doing what she has done for this dog and I 100% support her decision that if she is unable to care for the dog, keep the dog safe (from abuse) and she is unable to PROTECT HER CHILD from being bitten then yes humanely euthanizing her dog is in my opinion the right thing to do.

For once it is nice to get an email from someone who actually takes responsibility for their dog and doesn't just try to pass it on to someone else. And the even more amazing part to me is that really the dog was DUMPED on her.

selkie said...

what an amazing lady ...

I have a dog very similar to Lulu- although I KNEW what I was taking on as the THS was upfront. I took Darcy (terrier mix) knowing that he has been horrifically abused in his 3 year short life and had spent most of his third year at the THS where he had pretty well bitten (pretty seriosuly too) EVERYONE except myself (a volunteer walker) and one other person - he was at that point relegated to a cage in the back hall and unless I came in, often went for a day or more without a walk. I took him with the understanding that IF after a year I was unablet to rehab him, I would have him put humanely to sleep as like this lady, I would NEVER pass on this poor little guy to experience more mental and physical anguish (nor woudl I expose anyone else to him). In the first 6 months I had him, although he was tethered to myself or my husband 90% of the time, he bit at least 10 people...sighs- including my husband (who he likes) twice.

I had decided to try an antipsyhotic drug as a last choice then was fortunate enough to run ito an AMAZING trainer who felt Darcy could be saved. We have been working with Sam for around 4 months now and ARE seeing a difference.

Not out of the woods, but he is so much HAPPIER... and keeping my fingers crossed. His year is up this month but we are so encouraged by his progress, we are going to continue working with him.

BUT, I know Darcy will NEVER be a dog (not matter how hard I work with him) taht can be comfortably left to run loose around people - all I want is to have a dog that I can handle and will LISTEN and repsond to me.

What a difference from the LAST email woman... I too think this lady is making the correct decision.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Amy!! I think that this dog is suffering. If an animal is suffering then the right thing to do is have it put to sleep. That includes mental suffering. And OBVIOUSLY this dog is as unstable as they come. I feel so sad for all parties involved. But I do not think that re-homing this poor thing is the right thing to do. LuLu will only become more confused and unbalanced. Not to mention be in more emotional turmoil without her anchor(owner). I applaude both the owner and the advice you gave her and hope that she can bring herself to make the right decision for everyone's sake. Including the next person that tries to "fix" this poor little dog.

susan hornik said...

u know, i understand both sides of the equation. but i just read the petfinder ad which says the dog is prozac; just like people too much or too little has an effect too, and it's very possible a naturopath vet could give a more holistic approach that might make all the difference. easily that drug could be making the dog too aggressive...