Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reuniting Ranger, so why no Happy Dance at the Houston SPCA?

Meet Ranger! Ranger got lost during Ike.  Look at the photos. 

One family member says the "found" photo has changed their lives forever.   The family's LOST ad read:

Ranger is a 5 year old sweet, gentle, long haired Retriever/Aussie Shep mix. He's got brown eyes and mostly black hair with a patch of white on his chest and bits of white between his toes. He had a blue collar with a tag for his Vet on it out of Bacliff, TX. The rabies code is 4 digits. Ranger weighs about 65 pounds. We really miss him and want him to come home.

Ranger was lost in San Leon, TX during Ike. It is, or was, a pretty place. When the storm surge came before Ike, it became unrecognizable. The familiar landscape was replaced by water that would forever separate some families. 

Here is the story of what happened to Ranger.

Everyone but the son and Ranger left before the surge. The son finished boarding up the house, put Ranger in his van and called his parents to say he was leaving because the water was coming.
But he left too late.

A wave took the van and slammed it into a guardrail. It started to fill with water. The son managed to grab Ranger and swim out of the van.

He swam with his 65 pound dog under his arm. A second huge wave came as the electricity failed.
A third wave, twelve feet high, parted them in the dark as the young man had to let go and swim for his life. He was hit by debris, by alligators, by the dead. Swimming for his life, he endured the horror of being hit by bodies of the drowned.

And as he swam to survive in that terrifying deadly black water, he looked for his dog.
Escaping the surge, he reached safety, but alone. He found a fire truck whose crew took him to shelter.

We will never know how Ranger survived and made it to safety, but he did. He ended up at the Houston SPCA and his family saw his photo online.

A family member called the SPCA and said, "You found our dog!" She provided them with the Ranger's shelter ID number.

You would think the SPCA would be delighted at the prospect of a reunion. Reunions are rare, especially when no effort is made to contact owners, even when the animals are removed from homes.

Instead the Houston SPCA appeared to go out of their way to discourage the family.
"It is not your dog."

That was the immediate response. How did they know? How could they know without checking? (Just look at the pictures above. What do you think?) 

Why didn't the family hear something like, "Wow, let's see. I hope it is your dog!"

Here is a description of the exchange:
"With each question, I felt they were trying harder and harder NOT to reunite him with his family. The final straw was telling me that he was about to be put up for adoption this week if he passed the personality test."
She told the SPCA they were coming to get the dog that day and the unfeeling response was they could not promise he would be there.

She begged them; "Please, as a personal favor, please hold the dog until he can be picked up."

What is it about a disaster that brings out the best and the worst? Why do some people, confronted with a stranger who has nothing, open their homes? And why do other people look down from a position of power and make them plead?

Even if you have no empathy with people, how can professionals, who choose to work with animals, care so little about them?

Dogs grieve. Lost dogs mourn their lost families. (If you do not know this from your own experience, see the literature of Jack London or Charles Dickens.)

Why would the SPCA be so eager to adopt out an animal the family is coming to claim?

And if Ranger goes home, doesn't it mean another dog will get lucky and be adopted? And then somewhere down the line, there will be shelter space for a dog that would otherwise be put to sleep?

Shouldn't that be what an organization called the "Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals" is all about?

Here is why. And it is not just the Houston SPCA.
The ten days were up. No exceptions.

Ten days after rescue, all rescued animals were available for adoption. (Some desirable little dogs didn't even last ten days, more on that in a future blog.)

The focus of the rescue effort was to save animals to re-home them. It is easier and cheaper to adopt out animals than to hold them and reunite them.

Ranger's ten days were up and that's why the SPCA could say Ranger was not their dog. They meant, he is
no longer your dog.

But against all odds, there was a happy ending. Surviving a hurricane makes you strong and the family went to the SPCA to get their dog and would not be denied. 

Ranger was so excited to see his Mom and Dad, he whined and barked and wagged until they had no choice but to admit he had found his family. 

The son broke down when he heard Ranger had survived.

The home he stayed to board up has vanished.

The family has to start over. But now, thanks to Ranger's improbable return, they are not starting over from scratch.

Hope is talked about a lot these days and in a conventional sense. Red or blue, you can have your own ideal of Hope. Neither party holds the copyright. But for this family, Hope is
a sweet, gentle, long haired Retriever/Aussie Shep mix.


Spanish Princess said...
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Amber and Tom said...
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