As part of our week-long celebration of National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week, we here at PetMeds are talking to representatives from shelters and rescues across the country. Today, Geraldine tells us about Born Free Pet Shelter:
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Tell us a little bit about your shelter:
Born Free Pet Shelter has been rescuing dogs since 1981. We are a no-kill shelter located in the Redlands, on a 5-acre refuge. Currently, we have 170 dogs under our care, ranging from puppies to seniors. The dogs at the shelter stay with us until they find their forever homes. In some cases, the shelter is home.
How did you become involved in helping to rescue animals?
I have been passionate about animals since I can remember. As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Since I did not follow that career path, I decided to volunteer with the Humane Society. I later learned about Born Free and just saw how my time here would be put to greater use in something that truly matters to me.
How do you feel your animal shelter differs from those in your area?
I would say that we see our shelter as a sanctuary, a place where the dogs do not have a time limit over their heads. There are some dogs here that may have been euthanized at other shelters because they are not highly adoptable. These are dogs that are either way past their prime or have behavioral issues. Our shelter is truly a no –kill.
What does National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week mean to you and your organization?
Our shelter is mostly run by the tireless efforts of a core group of adult volunteers. Therefore, we are appreciative that National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week exists.
Do you have a favorite adoption story you would like to share?
Yes, I have a few, but here is the most recent one. Back in August, I received a call from someone that was specifically looking to adopt a “less adoptable dog.” The first that came to mind was Little Girl. She was a black dog, about 4 years old and had been at Born Free for most of her life. Working in the shelter, you quickly learn that “Black Dog Syndrome” is a reality and that adult dogs are often more difficult to adopt out. Because of those two factors alone, Little Girl was at a disadvantage. However, there was something else – she was almost completely blind. Despite her disability, she was an incredibly happy, lovable, and friendly girl. Whenever the volunteers would play with her, the joy and eagerness that she demonstrated was always uplifting. Sometimes when she would run towards our voices, she would unintentionally bump against our legs. She would then immediately shake it off and look up at us with her tail wagging at full speed and a huge smile on her face. She was a gem. But in all sincerity we were very concerned as to whether she would ever find a home.
Visitors would easily overlook her and no one had inquired about her in recent years. So when we received this call about someone interested in a “less adoptable dog,” we knew that this could be Little Girl’s chance to shine. After some thought, the couple decided to come down to the shelter to meet her. Little Girl, as always, was sweet and affectionate. All she needed was a chance to show potential adopters how wonderful she truly is. Well, they fell in love with her! Soon after, Little Girl was in her new home with a family whose heart and soul was invested in giving her the life she deserves. Little Girl, renamed Bella, has been with her new family for over two months now and has adjusted incredibly well. Her new “parents” say that they are thrilled with her and that she has been such a joy in their lives. They are “madly in love with her.”
We know the work you do is selfless and many may even say underappreciated. What do you feel is the most frustrating part of your job?
While we try to help as many dogs as possible, we are limited in both resources and space and just cannot take in every single dog that we get a call about. The frustrating part is that many of these calls could have been prevented. Besides the fact that a lot of homeless dogs are a result of people not sterilizing their own pets, it is also frustrating to see how quickly some people are willing to give up their own dog. At Born Free we strongly believe that owning a dog is a lifetime commitment and that they should be treated as part of the family. Where the family goes, the dog goes.
Some people see pets as an accessory or instantly fall in love with a puppy, but then just as quickly abandon it after they realize it’s too much work. I believe that when you make a decision to own a dog, you are making a pledge to that creature to take care of him for the rest of his life. Dogs have an unwavering sense of loyalty toward their owners and it is truly heartbreaking that they do not always receive this in return. One of our dogs, Duke, was picked up minutes after someone witnessed a car drive up to the side of the road to simply dump the dog there and drive away. The dog then ran after the car to try to catch up. Fortunately, though, a Good Samaritan picked him up and brought him to our shelter. This happened over a year ago. Duke is still with us and waiting for his second chance.
On the other hand, what do you feel is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Definitely the most rewarding part about what I do is making a difference in the lives of our dogs. First, in bonding with them at shelter, spending time with them and making them feel loved and special. But ultimately, it’s finding the right home for them. It’s wonderful when I receive updates from adopters about how happy they are with their new companion. I just love it when they send me pictures of one of their adopted dogs sleeping on a comfy couch or being hugged by everyone in the family. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?
Is there any advice you would like to give to pet owners, or potential pet owners?
Yes, I would say that making the decision to own a pet should not be taken lightly. With the amount of homeless dogs out there, please do not shop for one, instead rescue one from a shelter. They will need time to adjust to their new environment, some more than others. Also, keep in mind that just as people are not perfect, dog aren’t perfect either. You cannot assume that they will know exactly what is expected of them when you bring them home. The most effective way to communicate with your dog is through training. And in order to train successfully you need to consistently dedicate time to your dog. If you do not have a time for a dog, then it’s best to wait. Discipline, exercise, and finally love make for happy dog.
Lastly, what advice would you give to others wanting to become involved in animal rescue?
Becoming part of an animal rescue can be overwhelming. Many times it feels that there is a lot of work to be done and not enough hands willing to help. However, the rewards that come from it far exceed the negative aspects. If you have a passion for animals, this is a great way to get involved and truly make a difference. The dogs at Born Free give me so much unconditional love. When I look into their soulful eyes, I know that they are sincerely grateful for love and attention that we give them. So, my advice is: Jump in!!
Gery, thank you so much for telling us about Born Free Pet Shelter, and for all the great work you and your organization does to help pets in need!
(Interview conducted via email)