Last Fall, our department found itself in the rather unusual position of having to hire a new graphic designer. The person who was leaving was retiring and had more than thirty years of experience in our organization, so the dilemma was how to fill the position. Do we hire someone with similar experience so that jobs could continue to be handled with a certain level of expertise? Or, do we bring in someone with less experience but who would have room to grow and who might bring new ideas to the table? We settled on something in between and made five years of experience the minimum requirement.
While we were reviewing the applications, one, in particular, stood out. The problem? She only had three years of experience. But I could tell that she had talent. I felt strongly enough about it that I urged the others on the team to waive the experience requirement and at least interview this person. To hear what she had to say. To look at what she might bring to the table. The result? She’s now one of our most valuable and sought after team members. And we would have missed out on her had we continued to wear our bureaucratic blinders, checking the appropriate boxes.
My point? I think that some dog rescues could take some lessons from our experience. Particularly breed-specific rescues.
This past January, I arrived at daycare at the end of the day to pick up Beezy and was greeted by a gaggle of extra-giddy girls who could not wait to tell me the news — a French Bulldog puppy was going to be joining daycare that week! I’d honestly never seen them so excited. Most of them weren’t employed there when we first started coming, so this was going to be their first experience with a Frenchie puppy. I was excited as well because we’d been thinking about adding to our family, and I was curious to know how Beezy would react to a puppy.
The big day arrived and I showed up at the end of it to get my girl, wondering how things had gone. The verdict? It was a HUGE success. Beezy and Diva loved one another. The little one followed the big one around and mimicked everything she did. They were described as being very Thelma-and-Louise-like. I was thrilled because I knew we could expand our family and not worry about death matches being held in our kitchen.
The next few months saw the two bonding during their weekly meetings, and I started to look at Diva as a little cousin to Beezy. I helped the owner find the perfect car seat, and even gave Diva an adorable Gwen Stefani hoodie that Beezy outgrew before ever getting to wear. But then Diva stopped coming to daycare.
A short time later, while looking at the website for an Ohio-based Bulldog rescue group, I saw a new entry — a small, female Frenchie named Diva. Certainly, this couldn’t be the same Diva from daycare, could it? It could and it was. The owner had passed away unexpectedly, and the daughter just wasn’t in the position to care for a demanding, challenging breed puppy. She was surrendered to the rescue.
I talked it over with my d00d and we both agreed that we would do whatever it took to ensure that Diva had a good home. I reached out to a friend involved in pet rescue and asked if I could use her as a reference. She and I discussed the situation, and she reached out to some of her contacts. I soon got word that even though Diva was technically not available to be adopted just yet, I should submit an application, pronto. I did.
About a week later, I received a very curt email informing me that my family had not been chosen to move forward in the adoption process. No reason was given. We were just apparently deemed unfit based on some answers provided in an online application.
A Google search has shed some possible light on the reasons why. First, we both work. Second, we don’t have a fenced yard. It’s also possible that they don’t like that I feed a well-balanced raw diet. Or, maybe they didn’t like the answers I provided, like when I said that I thought a dog should absolutely be allowed to be on the couch with me. Maybe they don’t like that we don’t use a crate, even though I explained that Beezy has suffered from IBS from day one and you discover fairly quickly that it’s easier to clean up liquid poop from a ceramic tile floor than it is to disassemble a crate and bathe a dog a couple of times every day.
But let’s take a look at those bureaucratic requirements, shall we?
We work. Both of us. Yes, that is true. Maybe this rescue group doesn’t realize that bulldogs are one of the most expensive breeds to own. We have been relatively lucky with Beezy, but a friend of mine is currently looking at a $10,000+ medical bill for herniated disc surgery performed earlier this week. One of the questions they asked me was how much I anticipated spending on the dog on an annual basis. I did a quick tally and between food, daycare, treats, medical visits, supplements, hotel pet fees (yes, we are a family who travels with our dog), pet insurance, and other assorted costs, I spend about $5,000 a year on Beezy. I would expect to spend about as much on a second dog. We don’t have children and we can afford it. Not everyone can.
Does working outside the home mean I can’t spend all day with my dog? Yes. But it has never stopped me from spending around three hours each weekend, meticulously measuring, mixing, and preparing her meals for the upcoming week. It didn’t stop me from sleeping on the couch with her all night, rubbing her belly and her back while she battled a stomach ailment. It didn’t stop me from bringing her to my office with me after her spay surgery and keeping her under my desk so that I could monitor her vitals.
My job in the ag college of the top university in the state also affords me the luxury of having access to the best medical and research minds in our veterinary school. Some might consider that to be invaluable. Apparently, this rescue does not.
But the fence…
Yes, it is true. Our yard is not fenced. Our village does not allow it. It’s a peculiar rule, I agree, but one we cannot change. It has never impacted our ability to be pet owners, though. As a matter of fact, it has only strengthened our bond with Beezy. You see, dogs don’t have hands so they frequently pick things up in their mouths and eat them, regardless of what they might be. We have eaten toads, rabbit poop, baby birds, and leaves. And that’s all been while being supervised! Because these dogs are quick. Maybe this rescue group doesn’t realize that. Maybe they aren’t aware of the fact that The Rock lost a French Bulldog puppy when it ate a poisonous mushroom. Did I mention that my dog has IBS? Yeah, well, it’s super important for me to be able to monitor her stools. Something I can’t do if she’s just running around unsupervised. So, yeah, I’m a monster for not allowing my dog to roam freely out of my eyesight.
Maybe this rescue also doesn’t know that French Bulldogs are one of the top most commonly stolen breeds. But I do. And there is no way I’m allowing my dog to be out in my yard, even though I know and trust my neighbors, unless I am attached to one end of her.
Now, before I get any comments about how awesome rescue groups are and how this is all sour grapes, let me stop you right there. This dog was not rescued from a horrible situation. She was a voluntary family surrender. We had a personal connection to her. Which is more damaging to the psyche of a dog: not having a fenced yard, or going to a family full of strangers?
My issue is that we were determined to be unfit without anyone ever speaking to us. Despite the fact that we have a French Bulldog already and know what to expect from the breed. Despite the fact that we had two top rescue advocates as references. We were so unqualified that we didn’t rate a phone interview. That is my issue. If you speak with me and still feel like I’m not the right candidate, fine. But basing the decision on a checked box is short-sighted.
So where do we go from here? Well, on a personal level, I will not ever support another rescue group. Did you know that you can designate a charity to receive a portion of your Amazon purchases? It’s true! And trust me, I have Prime so I make a lot of purchases. I have now changed my Amazon Smile charity to one that supports under-funded schools. Yay, teachers!
I will not ever, ever, ever apply to rescue a dog. In the email I received, I was encouraged to keep applying. Why would I? You have already deemed me unacceptable for a dog I actually know. How would that be any different with a dog I don’t know? No, I will now take my money and find a breeder and get a dog from someone who doesn’t make me check boxes or jump through nonsensical hoops. Kudos to you, Ohio-nickname Bulldog Rescue! You have taken a caring, passionate advocate and turned them from friend to foe in one fell swoop. Well done!
And the next time someone gives me guff for not rescuing and for supporting the never-ending cycle of backyard breeders and puppy mills, I will probably just punch them in the face. Or, imagine doing it.