Monday, December 6, 2010

Today I Mourn

Today is the one year anniversary of the death of our Jack Russell Terrier, Jasper.  He would have been fourteen.  He developed heart problems in the last couple of years of his life and he died in my arms as we were driving to the vet to have him euthanized. He was the light of my life and my constant companion for over thirteen years. The picture at the top of my blog is one of the last I have of him - taken on a sunny day last fall.

We got Jasper in 1996. I wanted a Jack Russell and wanted to adopt a dog.  I thought I could give a rescue dog a second chance and a good life.  Anybody that knows Jack Russells know that they are big dogs in a small body - they are a highly energetic, happy, happy, happy,  play, play, play kind of dog. They are sometimes purchased or adopted because of their small size and clean appearance by people who don't understand their prey drive, hunting background and need for a lot of exercise.  So they are often  surrendered because of behavior issues that arise from a lack of mental stimulation and physical activity. 

In 1996 - the AKC had not yet "recognized" the breed. There were no "Parson Russell Terriers" yet.  Only Jack Russell terriers who were registered by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The JRTCA was and still is determined to preserve the working characteristics of the breed.  In 1996 there was not the confusing array of rescues that exist now.  There was no Petfinder.  To adopt a JRT I went to the only source I knew - the national rescue that was run by the JRTCA.  I was denied because we didn't have a fenced yard.

So I did what any determined dog lover would do.  I contacted a breeder.  She had a pet quality puppy that would be perfect for me.  I didn't really want a puppy - I wanted to give an older dog a home. But what's a girl to do? The breeder didn't ask me if I had a fenced yard. She did give me a lot of information about the exercise requirements and breed characteristics of Jack Russell terriers. So the puppy came to live with us.  We named him Jasper.

We lived in four locations over the years without fenced yards: Maryland, Texas and two in Wisconsin. We don't like fenced yards. We choose to live in subdivisions without fences.  Jasper never ran away.  He never got lost. 

Jasper and I went to Jack Russell events.  He enjoyed everything. He did Jack Russell racing, Go to Ground, agility, obedience.  He achieved his Canine Good Citizen certificate.  He flew under the seat in the cabin on airplanes. But his true love was flyball.  We played on Just Say Go, a flyball team in Texas from 1998 until 2005 when we moved to Wisconsin.  We then joined Hair Force One, a team that we played on until he retired at the age of twelve.  We travelled around Texas, Missouri,  Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa staying in hotel rooms and playing flyball.

Was I such a bad owner? Did I really not deserve a rescue dog? I guess I'll never really know or understand.

So today I mourn.  I mourn for my beloved Jasper.  But more than that, I mourn for the dog I could have adopted and given a good life to.  And I mourn for the hundreds of thousands of dogs that have lost their lives because of denied adoptions.  When one is saved - room is made for another.


  1. Great article Kathy - we need to focus on bringing all pet owners together, including those who still enjoy pure bred dogs - into working towards solutions that work.

  2. What's interesting about your article is I too was told I was "qualified" to adopt a basset hound years ago because I already owned three.

    Over the years that pack grew to fifteen personal hounds and countless fosters. I guess I wasn't fit to handle "just" three.

  3. It IS sad that rescues have strange requirements. A friend of mine lost her 17 year old pomeranian and wanted to adopt another, older pom from a rescue and she was denied by seven rescues for the same reason....she had children under 15.....she too bought from a breeder....

  4. I love your article. I'm sorry for your loss. I still mourn for my German Shepherd, that I loss that I got from a friend that had got sick and when she could no longer take care of him. But that being said. I have never managed to adopt a dog yet. The rescue system has frustrated me to no end. I have filled out forms (spent hours doing that). Waited for home visits and no one showed up. Gone to adoption events and the rescue didn't show up. Called rescues and didn't get returned phone calls. And the one that finally did call me back, I wish she hadn't. Our conversation was all of 3 sentences, she only heard that I had a invisible fence and called me cruel. She hung up on me.

    While there are believers and non believers of invisible fences, I live in the country and have to live with nature. I have a choice to make out here. The neighbors that fence in their yards have impaled deers. Their dogs have caught the baby deers that are in their yards and killed them along with other critters. The invisible fence is the most humane choice for all the animals we live around. It was a decision we made after looking at all the issues we had here. Our dogs do not electrocute themselves continuosly. I took the time to train them properly and have never had a problem.

    So back to Rescues. I don't know if I will ever try to adopt from rescues again. I would love to adopt a senior dog, but I don't like being put down. The process is torture, feels like more for adopting a human than a dog. I wish there was more consistency in the Rescue Groups. I'm very leary now. I don't want my feelings hurt when I know I'm a good doggy mama.

    The funny thing, friends have told us, they would love to come back and be dogs in our family. Our babies are spoiled. I think the 2 under my feet would vouch for that right now!

  5. As a rescue, we have placed more than one older Dane in an apartment. VERY successfully! And while we have a requirement for a fenced yard...we have placed Danes of all ages in homes without them, because it was a good home, and they were stay-at-home moms, or folks that worked at home, and could provide sufficient exercise without benefit of a fence.

    My first dogs living at home with my parents enjoyed three unfenced acres, never ran away and knew exactly where the boundaries were.

    Rules should simply be "starting" point, be guidelines...and should be broken without reservation for a responsible home. It's a shame in today's mindset, that we are all considered "irresponsible", and must "prove" ourselves otherwise. Lots of needy animals are paying the price for this lack of vision.

  6. I didn't meet the adoption requirements to adopt my first dog, Jessie. I'm sort of sorry to say that I lied to get her - I'm sorry about the lying part, but she was worth it. We've done okay. :)

    The fence thing in particular drives me absolutely batty. How counter-productive is it to adopt out a powerful dog aggressive dog to a home where they will be unsupervised in a fenced yard a significant portion of the day? I've seen it happen too many times with results as predictable as they are tragic.

    Every good adoptions person I know has used guidelines, never rules, and will bend them freely for a home they know is good and is appropriate for both the people and the dog involved.

  7. Kathy,

  8. I'm sorry for your loss. You did the best you could with what information was available at the time. He looks so young and healthy in the picture--not old at all. I can tell he was a happy dog and you took very good care of him.

    I looked into adopting a greyhound... what a mistake! Some rescues require that you agree to brush the dog's teeth every day! Plus, you cannot be away from the dog for more than 4 hours at a time (seriously?!!). I understand the good intentions behind the idea, but even if someone agrees to do something like doesn't mean they will. Thank goodness now there are,, and many other websites. This is also why I prefer to work with shelters exclusively. Even as a shelter volunteer trying to get shelter dogs into rescues the rescues have been very mean to me. When I am ready to adopt a dog I will adopt from a county or city-run shelter only. The adoption fees are cheaper, the application and interview less invasive, I won't have to meet some of the more stringent criteria, and I stand a better chance at actually adopting a dog. And I can still adopt any breed I would like.

  9. Please people if a rescue turns you down -- DON'T take it personally. Just try another rescue or animal shelter. You can also post a Wanted ad on many online sites like petfinder, dog breed forums, craigslist, eby ads, etc. You can even contact dog breeders and ask about breeding dogs that are being retired.

    Pet rescuers do get paranoid about who we adopt to becuase we see so many pets that are dumped and abused and we are scared it might happen to one of our rescued dogs that we have put so much time, energy, money, and a bit of our heart into.

  10. In Delaware, we mourn the death of Max the Boxer, who was killed by the SPCA rather than letting him be adopted by someone who really wanted him. The tragic deaths of dogs and cats in shelters goes on every day across the nation. In Delaware we have some hope things will change on Jan. 1 when a new law takes effect. The No-Kill Advocacy Center calls Delaware's law the most progressive companion animal protection act in the the nation. No-Kill Delaware will be watching to make sure that the high-kill SPCA complies with the law.

  11. Nice post. So sorry for your loss.

    Myself-I have been turned down by every rescue/shelter in my area/most of the state because I raw feed. I follow Dr Dodd's vaccine protocal. Perform my own wellness checks on my dog (So there is a very scant vet record unless there is an actual problem or a rabies vaccine needed) and I have an unfenced yard. I am willing to be up front an honest with these rescues/shelters-but they refuse to even speak to me unless it is to tell me I shouldn't own a dog.

    My current dog is healthy and doing well. He 7.5 and is the envy of many family friends. I have been in contact with a breeder for the last year and that is leading up to getting a pup in a year or two from her. She took the time to talk to me instead of handing me an application that she read halfway through before tossing in the junk. I still answered all the standard application type questions-but she encouraged me to go in depth and seems tickled that I would want one of her dogs.

    I work in rescue for another species. I know the mistrust that can arise in mankind when dealing with surrenders. If you give into that mistrust and push potentially good homes away because of your bitterness then you can be just as bad for the animals as those people you despise.