Friday, February 15, 2013

Our Dogs and Coughing

At some point, all of our dogs have likely coughed.  It happened a few times and stopped, or it persists.  As armchair doctors, we can find ourselves brushing it off.  Naturally we don't *want* anything to be very serious, and a cough seems simple enough to brush aside.  Even though stated several times on this blog, let me reiterate, before speaking to coughing in our dogs, rely on your veterinarian for a diagnosis.  If your dog is coughing, read and educate yourself, but always take your dog to the clinic for an exam. 

Some sounds our dogs make can be easily described as a "cough", while others can walk a fine line between that and gagging, or even sometimes a little regurgitation.  What is key to understand about coughs, is that not all coughs are indicative of an airway infection.  While some coughing can be easily diagnosed and treated to be revealed to be just that, what's important to know about coughing is that there are many other potential reasons for it, and some quite serious.

If your dog presents to the clinic with a cough, the doctor will want to understand how long it's been going on, what "kind" of coughing it is, and other factors such as exposure to other dogs.  When a doctor hears "the dog is coughing", they may immediately glance at the age and breed of the dog to already begin a working list in their minds of what is the likely culprit.

If your dog is a puppy or young adult, or was recently adopted from a shelter or rescue, their first inclination may be to rule out respiratory diseases such as Bordetella or Canine Influenza.  There are vaccines for both, but those are only 2 respiratory diseases in a sea of many.  There is no way to "test" to determine what kind of respiratory infection your dog has; the doctor will treat the symptoms and diagnosis therein.  If your puppy is around other dogs and hasn't completed their full vaccine series, they are still susceptible to infections.

Naturally dogs with pneumonia may cough.  Pneumonia can be secondary to another respiratory infection that was allowed to get worse, but it can also be created by things such as "aspiration", where they accidentally breathe in something, usually when vomiting.  

While dogs of all ages can get these infections, if they are older, especially seniors, your doctor may want to rule out more potentially serious things.  When our older dogs begin to get a cough, I've experienced many owners too quick to brush it off. 

If your dog is a toy breed, be aware that they can develop a condition referred to as "collapsing trachea".  This is literally exactly what it sounds like.  The causes are largely unknown, but there is a frequency seen in smaller dogs.  How much they are impacted can vary greatly, and typically doctors can only treat the symptoms.  An x-ray can diagnosis this in your dog.  While there is no cure, dogs can live with a good quality of life in most cases.

A serious concern with symptoms such as a cough is heart disease or heart failure.  Bear in mind that a dog of any age can have severe heart disease, and even puppies can be in heart failure.  Dogs with heart disease who cough tend to be smaller breed dogs.  They are coughing due to heart enlargement, and the heart grows big enough to press against the trachea and create the cough.  This can happen in dogs of any size, but is infrequent in larger dogs due to their confirmation.  Dogs in heart failure will cough because the heart has failed to be able to push blood through properly, and the fluid overload will back up into their lungs and create a condition called "pulmonary edema" (fluid in the lungs).  If your dog goes into heart failure and gets this fluid accumulation, it will *not* go away by itself and the dog must be seen as an emergency.  The fluid can be drained, or "tapped", and your dog will need to begin treatment to manage the failure.  Not all dogs in heart failure will cough!  Dogs with failure to the left side of their hearts will cough, while right-sided heart failure may create fluid in the abdomen instead.

Anything putting pressure on the trachea can cause coughing.  So naturally, we need to rule out masses (tumors).  An x-ray can diagnosis this, but sometimes the doctor may recommend an ultrasound.

Lastly, it's key to understand that our dogs cannot catch colds from us.  Many owners have made the mistake of thinking that their dog caught the same bug going through their family.  Dogs have their own specific infections they can only get from other dogs; not us or even our cats can transmit them.

I think it's easy for owners to consider their dogs "caught something" from the kennel, doggie day care, or the dog park.  Think hard on your dogs age and environment, and consider if you are making light of something potentially more serious.  For diagnostics, be prepared to partner with your veterinarian to properly diagnose your pet.  Blood work is always great, coupled with x-rays and potentially an ultrasound if they feel concerned.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saying "Goodbye": When Angels become Angels


Throw a rock, and you will no doubt find endless resources regarding the death of our pet and grieving, and naturally guides and suggestions on how and when to face one of the hardest decisions in your life.  My work environment is such that I am around death, or the possibility of death, every single day and I witness many grieving, confused, and tormented pet families.

I've had the pleasure of working with many amazing veterinarians, all of which offer very different guidelines, perspectives, and experiences to the owners who seek their guidance regarding making the decision to euthanize their dog or cat.  On the whole, I have never truly disagreed with any perspective or advice I've overheard, but naturally the bedside manner and approach can leave me with things to be desired (but even that is the exception, not the rule). 

My largest observation is that the doctor tends to, whether realizing it or not, balance the emotion and approach in the room.  If the owner is being purely subjective and emotional, they will offer balance and objectivism.  They will focus on the "facts", whether it be the morbidity of the pet, the owners finances, or a combination.  Contrarily, when owners are cold (and that can sometimes mask how "in pain" they truly are) focusing only on finances, I see doctors bring more emotion to the table.  They don't want owners to make decisions purely based on financial constraints, and I see them appeal to the love the owners have for their dog or cat to make their decision; so they can "live" with their choice better and feel settled about it.

My own observations tend to cause me to feel that 1 in 3 owners wait too long, 1 in 3 euthanize too soon, and 1 in 3 do it when the time is right.  This observation, however, I reserve exclusively for dog owners.  With cats, I feel like everything changes, so for the purposes of this blog and site, I am going to focus on dogs.

The "too soon" is usually glaringly obvious to any of the medical staff observing, diagnosing, and treating your animal.  If you are actually worried it's "too soon", you are probably wrong.  The fear of this drives many owners into the "waited too long" category, so you really need to understand what not giving your pet a chance really means. 

Are they young, and can it be cured, fixed, or reasonably medicated?  I must stick to the description "young", here.  When I think of young, I do not think of young in terms of their breed's life expectancy... are they "young" for them?  I personally stress to owners that while your breed's life average may be 10, it's an average.  This means that some will live to be 8, and maybe some even 15.  It's wrong to condemn your dog based on a number that has little relevance to your relationship, observations, and overall health status of your dog.  Surely if we applied this approach to human medicine, we'd never come to terms that people die at 50, while some can live to 100.  Every animal is unique.  It is not wrong to take their expectancy into consideration, but don't let it be the only thing you consider.

Again, people who euthanize too soon may unfortunately have to take financial constraints into a much more weighty consideration than others, and we cannot condemn them for that.  Does it suck when people have diamond rings and euthanize over money?  Yes, but often it's the teary-eyed mother of 3 driving the used car and struggling to make ends meet.  It just doesn't *feel* that way sometimes, because those other types of people stick in your memory so much firmer.  When you think of it, we compromise our own health in our human lives for financial constraints, and I don't think it's always unique that some have to do the same for their pets.  It's key to ask and do your research however, because there are a lot of charities who help financially support the medical needs for owners without resources.

Cured, fixed, or reasonably medicated:  a dog with diabetes can be reasonably managed.  A hypothyroid dog, a dog with allergies, a broken leg;  there are so many diseases that can be reasonably managed with a little money, time, and medicine, leaving the dog with a great quality of life.  Too soon, you ask... yes, people have euthanized over the slightest medical concern..  and sadder than it being financial are those who feel they just "don't have the time" to help manage a condition.  Let's not think about those people too much.

The owners who wait for too late are often hit like a ton of bricks, because their emotional journey has made it such that they have lost their ability to "see" their dog through unbiased eyes.  I feel they live in a fair amount of denial, whether they are treating and medicating or just avoiding the vet's office because they don't want to know the truth.  By the time they arrive to euthanize, it's usually at the behest of a friend or family member who nearly forces their hand.  "Mom, you really need to let him go now".  They arrive on gurneys, unable to lift their heads, and perhaps haven't eaten in days and days.  To the defense of these individuals, they likely have been seeing "good days and bad days" with their dog.  While the idea of euthanizing has been looming for weeks, one day he seems more bright, more alert, and they convince themselves perhaps he is going to get better.  All the same, a tail wag is all it takes for an owner to put it off another day.  

For those in this difficult position, remember that our dogs are not objective, and lack the complete ability to be so.  Never mistake a tail wag for a desire to persist:  they live and breath and desire nothing other than pleasing you, seeing you, and making you call them by their sweet nick names.  If that desire is still present, it doesn't mean they aren't ready to go.  If that desire is totally vacant, you probably definitely have waited too long.  Perhaps that last tail wag can reassure you they still recognize you, and recognize that you haven't left them alone for their last, final journey.

I've heard many doctors give people the suggestion that they should really bare in mind the things that make their dog "them" and happy.  When that list of items diminishes to only a couple or none, then the time may be right.  For example, five things he loves: 1. walks in the park, 2. his treat routine, 3. chasing the squirrels, 4. snuggling on my lap watching TV, 5. doing tricks.  The theory is that if most of these things can no longer make him happy, perhaps his quality of life is such that the timing is right.  I like this idea, but I don't know if I could follow it.  The reason being is that I feel this list changes through life stages.  What made me happy at 20 certainly won't make me happy at 80.  Sure, maybe he cannot physically enjoy many of the outdoors and play activities he once did, so?  He's 100 years old in dog years, and systemically healthy for his age.  He's arthritic and his pain and discomfort can be reasonably managed to a degree, and maybe snuggling and watching TV with you is enough for him.

All things boil down to one important question:  "Is he suffering, and how can I ease his suffering?"  We can all struggle as we age: things hurt, joints are achy, but it doesn't mean we suffer.  An achy dog is suffering because if he was properly medicated, he would be reduced to struggling a little every day, but his suffering would taper.  An anorexic animal is suffering, but they can be potentially reduced to a a struggle if we can stimulate their appetite and try to manage underlying diseases.  The suffering begins when we either don't try to help them, or our help isn't working anymore.  How can I ease his suffering?  When medical treatments no longer work, then we must turn to letting them go.

We are all familiar with the suggestion "You will know when it's time".  I meet this expression with guarded agreement.  I think people on the whole are largely indecisive and unsure of themselves, and this has to play into the flaw in this phrase to some degree.  I think some owners are objective and healthy enough to really look into their dogs eyes and communicate with them, and they walk away feeling very confident they fulfilled their dogs wishes.  The rest, however, walk that line of "I think maybe", and they look to others to assure them it's time.  I think a healthy plan for people who know they are the later personality type need to orchestrate a proper objective support system of friends and/or family during this process.  "Dad, I'm going to rely on you to really tell me when I need to stop trying".  Find someone you trust, or even 3 people to preside over your intensely emotional state.

When it comes to end of life decisions, I cannot stress enough how important I feel it is to have found a veterinarian you truly, truly love and trust.  Someone who has known you and your dog for years, and someone whose advice you won't question after the fact.  Avoid getting lazy with your vet visits, settling for a less-than-ideal bedside manner because it doesn't matter to you, so long as he gets his vaccines.  I've seen people panic to find someone they like better at the last minute, because now is when it really matters, because their friend is sick, and they are not finding the kind of comfort and guidance they feel good about.  Unfortunately, some disasters happen where your pet must see ER and a vet you've never met before.  My only advice in that scenario is to really vocalize to that doctor what your needs are.  Tell them how you need to be communicated with, and how you need your pet to be handled.  It's your pet, your money, and your horrible moment.  It's very, very difficult to be a veterinarian, especially in emergencies and crisis, and they only want to do their job to the best of their ability, serving the best interests of the dog.  And remember, they are advocates for the pet first and foremost, not for you.  Doctors so rarely cannot come up with a treatment plan, so when they tell you it's time to let go, let go.

The one thing I hear often, that I am in complete agreement with, is that it's better to let go when it feels like "too soon" versus "too late".  This is a far cry from those who euthanize quickly at the slightest announcement of disease, rather I mean those of us who's mortgage our homes to save our pet, but we know they are terminal, critical, or chronic and it's only going to keep getting worse.  If it were you, what would you want?  As humans, we tend to cling very tightly to our own personal sense of dignity, having very clear lines in the sand of how we "wouldn't want to live".  Draw this line for your dog as well.

My hope for anyone who has faced this tough day, or will face it eventually, is to give themselves the courtesy of avoiding things like "I know he's just a dog, but.."  It's hard enough, and so many owners feel compelled to explain why they are in so much pain and why the decision is difficult.  Remember that your audience (doctors, techs) so love animals that they choose to spend their lives fixing them.  They are objective in your presence for your benefit, but given their own dog would likely be a frothy, wet mess just like you. 

There is nothing more pure, rewarding, and beyond define than the love and the relationship we have with our dogs.  They are like magical, mythical beings in that they can love so truly and without restraint, all while truly knowing the "real" you in so many ways and judging you only on how you treat and love them, purely and truly.  They never leave us, never lie to us, and never knowingly hurt us.  Their ability is such that even the most hateful, cynical, or jaded person can love and be loved by a dog.  Even the most independent or reclusive of types can find comfort and companionship by them.  As a society we have accepted they are family, and we have accepted that those who would consider them otherwise or use them for selfish or evil intention are the worst kind of humans.  We know that people who do not like dogs cannot be trusted, and we know that people who dogs don't trust are questionable.   It is no wonder saying goodbye to them, when it's entirely in our control many of the times, is the worst day in our lives.  

You may never feel good about your decision, but find a way to make peace with it.  Ask yourself: did you love him, and treat him with love every day? Did you always make decisions for him based on what you truly believed was best for him?  If the answer is yes, then cherish your memories, frame your pictures, and speak about them often in loving memory.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Great Pyrenees and Seizures

The other day I had the unfortunate experience of my Great Pyrenees, 3 year old male, having 2 seizures for the first time.  I was very surprised by this, as on the whole Pyrenees are a very sturdy breed health-wise, but I am reminded of how all diseases can impact ALL dogs regardless of signalment, and sometimes for no good reason.

In all the days of all the Great Pyrenees I have met, and the numbers are considerable, I have never met one who suffered from epilepsy.  Again, while any dog can have a seizure or seizures, working in a clinic I tend to stereotype them as something that afflicts smaller dogs more often. 

Seizures are one of the most baffling, sad, and frustrating things an owner can deal with.  Many dogs can have 1 seizure in their life and never another one, while others suffer from them considerably, and it can be challenging to manage them.  I once heard a veterinary neurologist say that only 30% of all epileptic dogs are "well controlled".  I'm sure opinions and experiences vary greatly.

The majority of all seizures are "idiopathic" (we don't know why they have them), and this can be so frustrating for an owner who just wants to "fix" the problem.  We don't know why, so we monitor and watch them, and we don't tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to the first one or two by means of jumping into medicating them for it.  I've been told "when it becomes a problem we'll talk about treating it".  Outside of idiopathic seizures, there are many things which can cause seizures.  A short list includes anything from toxin exposure to neoplasia.

MRIs can be performed on our dogs.  They are not cheap and they don't necessarily help you "treat" your dog, rather merely understand the source of the seizures if they are believed to not be idiopathic.  Would I do an MRI if I had unlimited financial resources?  Yes.  I believe in diagnosing disease and understanding the full measure of what your animal is facing.  Will I get an MRI for my dog?  No.  I cannot say I believe it to be idiopathic, but if there was a brain tumor I know I wouldn't treat that, rather just the symptoms and that wouldn't require an MRI diagnosis for me to do so.

Often times owners are challenged to understand if it even was in fact a seizure they witnessed.  It can be easy for a person to struggle to differentiate between fainting, collapse, or seizure.  While only your veterinarian can tell you, some key things to look for to determine a seizure versus other events are hyper-salivation, "paddling" (literally your dog laying on their side and paddling their legs), and a recovery phase where they are largely "not themselves".  They could behave as if blind, and they could also behave with considerable behavioral changes.  My dog growled and barked for minutes that seemed like years, even scaring my mother who was afraid he would bite her.  "He didn't recognize me", she said.  If your dog were merely to faint, by comparison, we see the disorientation perhaps, but not the personality changes or the paddling.

I recently spoke to a neurologist about my dog's "aggressive" phase following his seizure.  He said he used to recommend euthanasia in certain instances for uncontrolled epilepsy in dogs who had this tendency following a seizure, for the safety of the families involved.  However, he added, he had since changed his standpoint because he felt like the aggression didn't persist with episodes necessarily.

We cannot cure idiopathic epilepsy.  If seizures are brought on by something such as a toxin, naturally we can treat the toxin exposure and rid the seizures.  On the whole, many owners monitor their dogs after the first seizure or two without medications.  The veterinarian may send you home with a sedative (diazepam or midazolam, for example) to give in the instance of a seizure at home.  If the seizures continue, they will recommend a medication regime and you need to work closely with them and make all your rechecks and take this disease very seriously.

Is there anything you can do for your dog, at home, should they suffer a seizure?  The short answer is no.  If you have drugs on hand because you already know they suffer, then naturally you can give those as advised.  Yet, there is nothing we can "do" to stop the seizure short of those medications, and certainly there is no "home remedy" or "over-the-counter/human" medication you can give.  All you can do is get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible and go from there.  If you have a giant breed such as a Pyrenees, you need to be careful not to injure yourself, and you need to be prepared for the phase following the seizure where their behavior may be strange and unpredictable.  

If you are not too freaked out to do so, try to take note of the time the seizure started, and how long it lasted for.  If they have multiple seizures, likewise.  Before you jump in the car to get them to the doctor, also access if they had any potential exposure to toxins which may be to blame.  It's hard to concentrate when our pets are suffering, but in the least try to watch how long the seizure lasted.

I highly recommend purchasing your dog an ID tag for his dog collar advising of this or any medical ailments he or she may have.  God forbid they were to escape, as our Pyrs are tend to do, this gives whoever receives them a heads up they have a chronic or important disease that needs to be addressed.  My dog's medical ID also lists his medication that he takes.

Neurological diseases are very serious and your dog should be seen by a neurologist if they have a persistent condition.  It's very important we feel confident it's idiopathic (via your vet) versus other reasons.  As with all diseases and abnormalities, never put things off.  And most of all, never be an armchair veterinarian.

Great Pyrenees are not a breed predisposed to seizures.  Why do I feel confident making this claim?  Because I ask.. and ask.. and ask.. about this dog breed with veterinarians.  Not just epilepsy, but diseases in general.  My dog is one of those unfortunate few who just got a raw deal.  He suffers from so many health conditions, and on the whole isn't in great health and never has been.  I like to tell myself that he absorbs all the diseases from so many other Great Pyrenees and takes on their burden so we can continue to adore and love our breed for the healthy, angelic dogs that they tend to be.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays to all the Great Pyrenees owners and lovers out there! 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yes, They Love The Snow... But...

I recently relocated to south Jersey with my two Great Pyrenees.  As if there were not already too many pieces of misinformation out there about giant breed dogs, I anticipate a hard summer down here.  Not for my dogs, but for the commentary from the ever-so-vocal east-coasters who let their opinions be known at all times.  I have been preparing myself for "How can you have those dogs around here?  It must be so hot for them".  No doubt said with a degree of anger and spitefulness, for certainly how could any owner of a Great Pyrenees have them in any place other than snowy mountains?

It amazes people when I inform them that a large percentage of Pyrenees dog ownership in this country is in Texas.  I cannot speak to the family pet aspect, but I know from speaking with Texan rescuers that their shelters get a huge influx of Great Pyrenees.  But..  Texas is so hot!  How could anyone have this long-haired, white breed down there?

I think when it comes to many dog breeds, people need to think less aesthetically and more practically.  Would I be less or more protected walking around naked in glaring sunlight versus wearing clothes?  "They must be sooooooo hot"...  Ironically people always make the "hot" comment while my Pyr stands next to a Bulldog about to fall over from heat exhaustion.  I feel so bad for all the other dogs... so often people neglect their needs because they assume that without a thick, warm coat, that they are great in warm weather.  It's just not true.

Like with all things, we have to ask ourselves where our dogs originated from, what *kind* of a coat do they have, and is their area of origin exposed to many different kinds of weather?  Great Pyrenees love the snow.. Yes.. but they are very resilient to heat and weather, and tend to hold their heads up like champs on summer days while many short-haired breeds suffer. 

Why to Great Pyrenees fair well in hotter climates?  Their coats serve as insulation as well as protection against sun exposure.  On top of it, they are very low energy dogs who don't get all worked up on an amazing summer day.. jumping and loosing their minds and working up their core temperature.  These angels are so good at self-regulating; they are that friend that always says "I'm cool, do whatever."

Please, please never alter your Great Pyrenees.  I don't care if we're talking dew claws or shaving their coats..  These dogs were made to such perfection and beauty.  So please, south Jersey, cut me some slack with my dogs when spring and summer roll around.  After all, everyone so far as thought they were Siberian Huskies.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Understanding How Rescues Work


If you yourself volunteer with rescue or are close to those who do, you wonder how they can do it.  Initially people think more about how someone can subject themselves to such sadness on a daily basis.  So many dogs condemned to die, so many in great need.  If you talk to a rescuer, you will quickly learn that while those elements are trying and difficult, the most difficult aspect of rescue is dealing with the humans.  And no, not the humans who have left these animals in horrible circumstances.. Yes, it's the potential adopters.

I saw a post on Facebook not too long ago which asked, "Why is everyone in rescue crazy?"  Really? They commented on how it must be because they love animals and not people.  Like somehow rescue is meant to support and cater to people, not dogs.  Do it yourself for a year, and if you don't feel like it makes you crazy, then I stand corrected. And it's not the dogs.. it's comments from people like that.

A great percentage of those looking to adopt from a rescue are amazing people who "get it".  These are the people who drop off bags of dog food to the events they pass by, who donate money above and beyond adoption fees/donations, and who perhaps even foster themselves.  If adopting, they will enter it with great understanding and patience not only for the rescue, but for the potential of short to medium term challenges with their new dog.

Sadly, so much time is spent working with potential adopters who really give the rescue a hard time.  I think, bottom line, their shared sentiment is that because they are supporting rescue, the process should be easier, faster, and cheap.  After all, these dogs were perhaps going to die, right?  Why does it cost so much to adopt?  Why does it (sometimes) take so long?  Why do I have to sign a contract and feel "inspected"?  Aren't they better off with me anyway, regardless of all this vetting?  And now, the dog is sick.  I adopted him 2 weeks ago and those rescuers "should have known".. 

Rescues aren't used car salesman.  They are not salesman at all.  There is no profit to be had, no paycheck to receive, and no accolades from co-workers.  All they have is the burned image in their head of the dog when they first met them, and the reward of seeing their wagging tail walking away from them into the car of a new home.  That's it.

Why is the adoption fee/donation so high?  Many rescues have varying requested donations, and I think this can cause some confusion.  Some can ask for as little as $150 for a dog, while others can be upwards of $400.  Like all things, it is still a business, a non-profit business.  A rescue asking for less likely has less overhead.  Perhaps they cater to a smaller area, requiring less driving, thusly gas money expenditure, to rescue dogs.  Perhaps they do less medically with their dogs.  For the higher priced adoption donations, take a hard look at everything they are putting into it.  Do they rescue from out of state?  Do they cover more than core vaccines?  For giant/large breeds, did they pay for a gastropexy during spay/neuter? 

"You'd think if they are serious about saving dogs, they would have called me back by now".  "You think if they are serious about saving dogs, they would charge less."  "You think if they are serious about saving dogs, they wouldn't make me go through such a lengthy process".  I've heard it all before.  Believe me, they want those dogs in homes as fast as possible.  But without taking the proper time and attention, those dogs just come right back.  No words can explain the emotional devastation a rescuer feels when a dog is returned.  Where did they go wrong?  Why was it the wrong family?  NO answer is ever "we spent too much time trying to place them".. it will *always* be the contrary. 

I'm sure a rescuer has felt themselves, under the pressure of the comment about "why haven't they called me back yet", getting home from work and saying to themselves, "I haven't even gone to the bathroom yet today, and these people think I am taking too long".  Full time jobs, personal life, human family..  every spare moment spent trying to re-home dogs, and it often isn't fast enough or good enough.  Again, so many people *get it*, but unfortunately so many do not, and share such exhausting lack of patience which makes rescue much harder than it ever should have to be.  Once a woman came up to me and said "I left (her) 2 messages about adopting a dog and she never called me back.  Make sure you tell (her) that a dog could have been saved today."  She walked off triumphantly.. well, she really told me.  Did she even *see* how many dogs were at the adoption event?  And that 1 woman did it ALL, essentially? 

The adopter needs to understand how much the rescuer loves the dogs they save.  They *don't* have to be doing this.  Life, for them, would be much easier if they didn't rescue.  So when contemplating the adoption application, adoption contract, home visit, and all the other aspects, imagine if it were a human adoption;  I would seriously be cautious about rescues who do not take every special care to ensure the home is a perfect match.  The adopter should be able to walk away saying to themselves, "Wow, they really care where their dogs go".

A person once commented to me that they decided a reason they walked away from adopting from rescue was because they felt that they "didn't have their pick".  They really wanted to be able to say "I want that one", and leave with him or her.  There was no way to make them understand the process: that if 2 families want the same exact dog, (and both are great families!), the rescue will be forced to make a choice.  How else would it work?  They will select the family who they truly feel is the best match.  Feelings get hurt, people get turned off from rescue, but that is how it must be.

"I don't want a sick dog".  This is not only an excuse to not adopt from shelters and rescues, but also a complaint from those who have.  I have to say, lately, I have seen more sick pups who came from breeders.  And here is the thing:  it's not necessarily that the breeders did something wrong.. they are dogs and can get sick.  New adoptive families, travel, etc.  takes it's toll.  They are not unlike humans: how sick do we get when we are stressed out, not eating right, and confused?  Very.  I think on the whole, our dogs fair better than we would in the same situation.

People want their dogs "now" (and I can't blame them.. you fall in love so fast!) but.. we need to understand that many illnesses have "incubation periods".  Unless your rescue is determined to hang onto a dog for a few weeks or longer, you may adopt and see signs of upper respiratory disease, Parvo, or any number of illnesses a week or two into adoption.  It is difficult for a rescue to determine what vet bills they will pay for once the dog is no longer theirs.  Perhaps the dog *was* healthy, and the day after you adopted him or her, you recklessly took them to a place to socialize them without first addressing their vaccine status.  Who's to say where the pup got sick?  How long have you lived in your house?  Did you know that Parvo can *live* in the soil for a year?  Perhaps the tenant before you had a Parvo pup out back.  It really becomes the adopters job to understand animal health, and partner with their veterinarian to make wise choices.  In addition, I'm sure a rescue would love to be able to hold onto a dog for a month for this reason.. but they simply can't.  For each day that dog lingers in rescue or foster, I don't need to count the number of dogs dying, waiting for a spot to open up for them.

"Why do rescues demand contractually that the dog be surrendered back to them, if I decide I no longer want them?"  People feel inconvenienced.  And if not, others just feel ashamed or embarrassed and would really prefer to drop them to a shelter.  Understand how heart-breaking this is.  That rescue did *so much* so ensure that dog *didn't* end up in a shelter.  They trusted you when you said you could love them forever, and then they get a call from a shelter that one of their rescues was dropped off.  Don't allow this contractual obligation to turn you away from rescue: If you are concerned about it, you probably shouldn't be adopting.

Rescues, like women, "all stick together".  Do not be surprised if you find yourself a little "black listed" if you adopted from a rescue, surrendered, and try to adopt from another rescue.  If rescues had their way, there would be a physical "black list" they all could share to ensure they could all partner to ensure that no one ever gave that person a dog again. 

All rescues have different ideas about how to run their business.  You will likely encounter variations in their protocols that reflect the morals and goals of those running it.  The ultimate goal is always the same: save the dog, and find a great home that will keep them forever.  Some may cover less medically, some may take longer to place, and some may be harder to get a hold of.  But, why the rush?  A dog is forever.  Take your time, shop all your rescues and shelters.  Understand how expensive saving a dog's life is, and all the emotional involvement those involved have. 

Before you fall in love, ask the volunteer about the process.  If something doesn't sit right with you, ask them why.  Adopting from rescues and shelters is the only sensible thing to do, and everyone knows it.  Take your time, and understand that the goal is to not have to keep saving the same dog over and over again.  Rescue wants to do it right the first time, and they will take the time needed to do so, the contracts accordingly, and ask you for enough donation to ensure they can save the next dog.  It's really that simple.