You know those hotlines that people can call about their problems and talk to someone, get advice, or just get what they are keeping inside them out and off their chest? There’s one of those for animals too.
A man with a Chocolate Labrador who barks too much or escapes too often calls, and tells the person on the other end of the line how hard his life has been with this dog around. He has had to pick up his dog from the pound 4 times in the last month. He has gotten citations for the noise complaints from his neighbours. It would probably just be easier to “donate” him to the shelter, he says.
A woman calls, and she would like us to do an emergency C-section on her little Chihuahua. She bred her, and she went into labour 36 hours ago, but no puppies have come out. She is adamant that she does not want the little dog spayed, because she is purebred after all, but does not have the money to have this emergency surgery done to save her little dog’s life. She needs the puppies to sell them, she says. And in no circumstance will she surrender the little dog to the shelter.
I have been the person on the other end of the line; listening, asking questions, trying to solve problems. I would be connected to a telephone headset, taking notes on a computer as the person talked and told their story. A man with a boisterous Labrador Retriever is a simple problem, easily fixed if the owner is willing to put in some effort. With my efforts and working with this man, he will be able to keep his dog, and the dog will not have to be surrendered to the already over-crowded homeless animal shelter. Together, we find out the root causes of his companion barking and jumping the fence, and solve them together.
A woman with a dog whose life is in danger, but is unable to provide treatment is a little bit trickier. I must counsel her to relinquish her dog in the hopes that we can save her. I must also tell her that she won’t be able to have the puppies back, and that after the little dog recovers and comes back from her foster home, we will find her a new home. I must explain that the shelter’s resources are limited, and that we cannot provide veterinary care free of charge.
In these instances, being the person on the other end of the line is not always so easy. I must always keep my cool, and not let my own thoughts and feelings and opinions escape my mouth. Be objective and neutral, not subjective and judgmental. These people called the hotline and it took quite a lot of courage to call and ask for help. The amount of help that I am able to give depends upon how much the caller is willing to help themselves with. There were usually about 100 calls a day on this hotline, with various questions about animal health and behaviour, to which I would always have to consider the welfare of each individual animal in each individual situation. Gingerly, even when the truth hurts, I must tell each person as a representative of the shelter that I work for, which action would be in their animal’s best interest with empathy and understanding.
Programs like these are made available to the public with donations from the public. Want to make a difference locally? Donate to a good cause. There is a great list of adoption shelters in the local area on Ottawa Dog Blog that can all use your help.
Do you have questions about a situation with your dog? Let me give you a helping hand.