Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wishbone Canine Rescue: Saving Lives!

In case you haven't picked up on this... I LOVE dogs.  They are simple, happy creatures that bring joy to my life.  I found a top 10 list of "Why you should own a dog" and agree with every one of them! Their reasons include: Companionship, mental health, education/responsibility, exercise, security, safety, fill the nest, warmth, entertainment, and unconditional love :)

Dan and I have a vizsla named Winston.  We absolutely adore him, and you may be able to see why:

He is a very HAPPY (and talented) boy!! As much as we like believe he was just BORN perfect, we understand that we gave Winston a chance to be the loveable, irreplaceable companion that he is.

Part 1: The Heartbreak- Why we got involved

This summer, our friends Josh and Emily were approached by two stray dogs near their apartment- out of the goodness in their hearts, they took these two dogs into their tiny apartment, with their current dog, and gave them a home for two days while they literally went door-to-door trying to find their owners, to no avail.  They could not keep, nor did they have the space, to permanently house these two dogs.  However, within the span of two days, they became very attached to these two mellow, well-behaved, and happy dogs.

They called every animal shelter and adoption agency in town- the only agency that was willing to take in these sweet pups was Wishbone Canine Rescue. Straight from their website,  WBCR "is a not-for-profit, volunteer, no-kill organization whose primary focus is finding responsible, loving and permanent homes for surrendered, abandoned, neglected and abused dogs from within our community and the surrounding areas." They accept dogs of all breeds, ages, shapes and sizes.  They usually have LOTS of puppies available too!  This year alone they have facilitated over 500 adoptions!

The catch was, Josh and Emily had to take the dogs to McLean County animal control first; the AC would hold the dogs in case someone reclaimed them, and would perform a "behavior test" on them to determine if they were suitable for companionship.  Wishbone would legally be allowed to find these dogs a home once these prerequisites were met.  This was the only option, so of course Josh & Emily obliged.

The AC is a kill-shelter that does not advertise the dogs available for adoption and has a bad reputation for killing bully breeds regardless their temperament.  When Josh brought them in, it didn't seem promising based on their interactions.  At this point, Dan and I were trying our best to help our friends save the lives and find homes for these dogs.  After a week at the shelter, we helped by calling the AC... day after day.  Asking if they took the temperament test.  Asking if they found an owner.  Asking if they could finally be relinquished to Wishbone...they would NOT give us any clear answers.  This was really getting under my skin.  We even asked if we could just stop by to see/play with/take these dogs for a walk... they said NO. After awhile, they stopped answering the phone (caller ID?)...

We had known of Wishbone Canine Rescue through a friend who had been fostering dogs with them for a while.  I learned that "fostering" entails taking a homeless doggie into your home and caring for it until Wishbone find a home for him/her.  After countless calls to Animal Control, I called Wishbone Canine Rescue and talked to Lisa, the founder.  Turns out she had been actively trying to get information on these pups just as I had, with the same "response." I told her that we would be willing to foster one or temporarily both of the dogs if Wishbone was able to collect them from AC.  She promised that she would do her best!!

My gut would turn and my heart would tug every time I called AC...Dan and I become so frustrated with their lack of information about these two dogs that we actually requested a FOIA on them... and got one!  We found out that they had not been "destroyed" yet and that their owner was in the "legal system" and that "nothing could be done" with these dogs because they were still technically the owner's property (why were they running the streets then??  Did he let them go??).  We also found out their "real" names- Lulu and Snickers.  After a phone call when they finally answered, they "promised" that they would call me with an update on these dogs.

I'm sad to say, but I never called back- and I never heard back from AC. After over a month of heartbreaking phone calls, I didn't bring myself to dial the number again... because honestly, I doubt I could have made much of a difference.

Part II: Doing our Part- Taking Action

What I did know is that it BROKE MY HEART to see perfectly happy and loyal canine companions potentially killed because they could not find a home, or didn't have the opportunity to do so.  Instead of sitting around and crying about it...Dan and I decided that we would DO something and start fostering homeless pups with Wishbone Canine Rescue! We had been toying with the idea of getting a second now Winston has a new playmate every 1-4 weeks :)

We learned that by fostering with WBCR:

  • All dogs are spayed/neutered, microchipped, and receive veterinary care (at no cost to the foster!)- thanks to SmartVet.
  • All foster homes receive food, crates, collars, leashes, and other accessories deemed necessary for the dog.
  • You are under NO obligation to foster or continue fostering... By becoming a "foster parent," you essentially sign up for an email list of "foster needs"...once you are ready and decide to foster, you decide WHICH dog you want to foster, and have a forum (ie a facebook page) of people to help guide you through the fostering process; but if a specific dog just doesn't fit with your home, you can usually swap or simply return the dog.
  • You are supposed to bring your foster dog to weekly adoption events- if you can't, no problem. They can arrange someone to pick up your pup, bring them to the event, and then drop them back off at your house!  Same thing if you are going out of town- with advance notice, the dog can be placed in a different foster home.
  • You are not required to "advertise" your foster dog- that is what Wishbone does via their website, facebook page, Petfinder, adoption events, print and radio ads, etc.  It sure does help if you do, however :)
We quickly realized that fostering was fun and very rewarding!

Meet Our Fosters:
Meet Faith!  Wishbone picked her up from Animal Control- she was found 3 weeks earlier on a rural road- she was lying next to a dead dog that had been hit by a car days earlier- presumably this was her friend.  Wishbone called her "Faith" because she was a faithful friend!  She was our first foster, and we had her for about 5 weeks.  She is a SUPER sweet and cuddly girl- she was so well-loved within the Wishbone family that one of the foster families adopted her!

Yes, those ears are REAL! :) She is the funniest mix!  She is a short, tiny little dog with a big heart.  She's also a mama- her and her baby Louie were originally from Jacksonville, where they were taken away from their abusive owner.  Wishbone took Buttercup and Louie back to Bloomington where they could rest in a home, not a shelter. We fostered her two different times, once for a week, and once for a month :)  I was so attached to this one- just looking at her sweet and silly face would make me smile!  She is also very cuddly and likes to follow you EVERYWHERE- it was very common to feel her nose on the back of your calf, wherever you went. She found a home with her forever daddy who met her at an adoption event- she has a "big sister" with the same ears!  What happened to her Louie?  Well he was immediately scooped up by the Wishbone SmartVet- once she saw this little man, there was no way she was going to let him go! :) He's in VERY good hands!
Buttercup's baby- Louie!


We don't have much to say about Cassie, because we only had her for 4 days!  She was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Chicago- she is a young Shar-Pei mix with LOTS of energy!  Her and Winston ran and ran and played all day!  She found her new family at an adoption event, and she is now playing on a big ol' farm with lots of room to run around!

Ooooh Guen!  We had her for a week and half before her new family fell in love and took her home.  She is a 4-year old English Mastiff who was very well-behaved and well-trained.  Her owner relinquished her because he moved out of the country.  However, she was very very shy and TERRIFIED of men that she did not know.  She became super attached to me instantly, but it took her awhile to warm up to Dan.  She was also a big snuggler- good thing, because now she has a St. Bernard and 3 other doggie siblings to cuddle with! Happy Tails!

Poor Gus, he still does not have a home :(  He is a big lovebug- all he wants is to chill with a human friend!  He is a happy-go-lucky, easy dog when he's around his people; we tried fostering him for a couple days, however, with our schedules, we were not home enough for him to be happy :(  He suffers from pretty severe separation anxiety- he would be a GREAT dog for someone who is home all day, like a retiree, stay-at-home mom, work-at-home professional, etc.!  His owner relinquished him and his brother Rocco when she moved into a community that didn't allow "Pit-Bulls" (STUPID breed-specific rules!!).  Here he is in supermodel-form on a WBCR cover ad!

Oh, his brother Rocco is looking for a home too!! Here he is with ANOTHER WBCR doggie, Roxie (also looking for a home).
Rocco has the red collar!  He is Gus's brother, and Roxie is his foster sister, also looking for a home!

We took the week off from fostering, since Dan was out of town for his Northwestern O&P program orientation in Chicago and I had a busy work schedule, but we'll keep you updated on who we save next! :)

Some people ask HOW we don't keep these dogs- don't we get attached?  The answer is: Yes, we do get attached.  I've shed a couple tears after each dog left.  But we take a step back and remember WHY we are doing this- Wishbone will find these pups  a happy home, and then we will be able to foster another healthy dog at risk of euthanization or a lonely life in a shelter.

Part 3: What YOU can do!

There are so many ways to get involved!  The best thing that you can do is ADOPT one of these loveable pups and make them a part of your family :)  If you can't do that, you can:
  • Foster!  Even if you can only takes dogs during the week or on the weekends, the foster organizations like Wishbone will likely really appreciate the help!
  • Sponsor or donate money or supplies.  Next time you are at the grocery store, pick up a bag of dogfood and bring it to your local shelter or organization
  • Volunteer your time!  I know that Wishbone uses volunteers to help out at adoption events, walk dogs at the facility, help out with "Vet days" on Thursday, cleaning, paperwork, and even transport dogs from shelters to Wishbone or from Wishbone to their new owners.  There is a whole network of "transports" from all over the country... we can save dogs from just about anywhere, just like people can adopt dogs from anywhere!
  • Or if you don't have the time, money, or space, even just reposting information on facebook/twitter/etc.  can make a difference!  
Even if you do not live in the Bloomington-Normal area, there are MANY agencies like Wishbone all over the country- If you are a dog-lover, find yours and get involved :)

If you are local, visit Wishbone's website and/or facebook page, and contact them for more information! They are very responsive to email.  You can always ask me questions too :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Run the Woods 8K!

Yesterday I ran my first "running- only" race in over two years! Success!

A Year Off:
My triathlon training and racing took a big hit this year when my foot did not heal up well from the December surgery I had to remove a bone spur from the back of heel (Haglund's deformity).  The doctor expected a 6-8 WEEK recovery period until I could start training again...unfortunately this was not the case,  and I had to scrap most races and goals I had this season.  A follow-up MRI a couple months ago indicated that despite some really nasty scar tissue, everything is "structurally" OK- no damaged connective tissue (the achilles is fine).  The doctor gave me the OK to train normally. However, I was skeptical because it was SO painful.  Since then I've been gradually building up run volume and intensity, and finding that whether I do a 3 mile jog, a track workout, or a 12 mile run, the pain doesn't get worse and has in fact been subsiding little by little... I'm no where NEAR where pain-free, but the good news is that I'm managing and improving!

The Race!
I volunteered for this race last year, and I knew that I wanted to run it this year- it was extremely well-organized, affordable, and the course was beautiful!  A trail running race during the fall? Um, yes please!  It did not disappoint!

It was a chilly morning, and as I opened up my "winter workout" gear tub and searched for my trusty fleece-lined running tights and jacket, I pulled out no other than my Pearl Izumi thermal tights and thermal barrier jacket... I have had these two items since 2007 or 2008 when I was training through the winter for the Boston Marathon.  Pearl Izumi gear may be a little pricey, but so worth it and they last forever!

I warmed up looking a little like an eskimo... 2 layers of tights and 3 shirts along with a hat and gloves.  When it came time to line up at the start, I shed down to one layer and ditched the gloves. I am definitely rusty at this whole "racing" experience... 6 minutes before the start of the race, I realized I left my race belt in the car, .25mi away!  OOPS.  I did a mad dash to and from my car and made it to the start while they were singing the national anthem :) phew!

As the gun went off, I relaxed into the crowd as we maneuvered our way onto a single-track trail.  I loved breathing in the crisp air, taking in the beautiful fall colors, hearing the leaves crunch under my feet.  My mind instantly remembered what "fast" running felt like:  my turnover was quick, I drove with my knees, engaged my glutes, and stabilized my core. I smiled a little bit, thinking "So THIS is what I've been missing out on!"  I high-fived and exchanged words with friends and training partners who I passed and was passed by... there was no where else I'd rather be on a cool, fall morning!

The trail was especially challenging for my foot, but I managed just fine.  As the field thinned out and the course got a little more "rough,"  I found myself surrounded by a little group of fast runners, which motivated me, especially since a couple "technical" parts of the trail made me a little nervous!  We worked together and caught a couple runners ahead of us, then we fell into our own zones and separated.  There was a strong, consistent runner ahead of me and I was using her as a pacer for the last mile, until I biffed it when I tried unsuccessfully to jump across a little gulley- OUCH!  I hobbled up the little hill, jogged it out, then ran my way to my first "running race" finish in 2 years! :)

Age group awards! 
I am happy to report that I earned a sweet 3rd place age-group award- I'll take it!  Steve blazed his way to FIRST in his age group- I'm a proud coach! :)

I had a great time afterward enjoying the coffee, pancakes, and chatting with old and NEW friends (Sarah and Rachel!)  I'm looking forward to more races and lots of training to come- I'm back!