July 18, 2013

What do you do?

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 6

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By Monique Dalrymple

When I travel with Jim and meet new people, I am usually greeted with an apology—an apology for having to put up with him and his strong opinions and his beard antics. And then, if they’re interested in talking to me, the conversation inevitably turns to the dreaded question: “What do you do?” I’m never sure what to say. I have been a “stay-at-home mom” for the last 20 years, but this rarely ever interests people, especially when I tell them that my kids are now 18 and 20. Sometimes I say “nothing,” which is not only an insult to myself but all of the other hardworking moms or dads out there who put in 24 hours of work and care with very little reward or respect. But while I could stand on a soapbox and battle it out with working moms, that isn’t what my story is about. Instead, it’s about the the thing I’ve started telling people I do that that gives me more satisfaction than any “real” job I’ve ever had. I’m in dog rescue. I call myself a non-profit dog flipper.

I can tell instantly if the topic of dog rescue interests the person I’m talking to when either they become suddenly vacant or they start looking over my head for someone they think might be more fascinating. Sometimes though, there is a spark and people start to ask questions. The first question is always “How can you let them go? I would keep them.” I wonder if people think I’m heartless since what I do involves fostering a dog that has been through incredible trauma, loving and guiding them to an adoptable state—and then turning them over to their new homes.

I volunteer for a local dog rescue that is involved in bringing dogs on death row from Quebec to Nova Scotia. Quebec has one of the highest kill rates in Canada; it’s also home to many, many puppy mills that mass produce cute little puppies for sale but care nothing about the dogs that produce the litters. Puppy mills keep these breeding dogs in horrible conditions, sometimes never letting them out of their cages except to procreate. They stack metal crates holding the dogs one on top of another, with the waste falling through into the crate below. Many of the dogs are in pain and starving, disease-ridden and completely unsocialized. It is the dogs that most consider unadoptable—living months and years in cages or dumped by their owners into overcrowded shelters where the easiest answer is just to euthanize—that rescues try to save before it’s too late.

Dogs have always been a part of my life—I have two right now—so I know the companionship, loyalty and love that is their very essence. I always feel so very sorry for the people that grow up that don’t know the joy of owning a dog. I’d rather give up chocolate than not own a dog. And I say that knowing they’re messy, time-consuming, hairy and noisy, but they are also like a best friend in fur.

My initial interest in dog rescue was completely selfish. I saw an ad for a Basset Hound that needed a foster home on a rescue site (one of many that I am always checking on, because who doesn’t love pictures of all different kinds of dogs?) I absolutely love the look of Basset Hounds—they are so droopy, wrinkly and cute. I was instantly curious as to how to go about becoming that dog’s foster home. After a family discussion, I got the go-ahead and was very excited to offer my home for fostering. Well, let’s just say that that particular little Basset was like a toddler on crack. She was into everything. I couldn’t turn around for a second or she’d be eating some ornament or dumping over the garbage. It was exhausting, and I wondered what I had gotten all of us into. Our dogs were in a state of shock as the canine tornado took over. Thankfully, they found a new home within a week—an excellent one with a brother Basset Hound for her to play with. Everything returned to normal at my house.

We weren’t in too much of a hurry to put ourselves in that position again, but now we had volunteered our home. We received a call about a week later for an emergency situation that we just couldn’t refuse. And that’s how it began. It wasn’t about the individual dog anymore, but about helping out whenever we could with whatever dog could adapt to our situation. That is the most important rule—the foster dogs have to get along with our dogs, a pair of 2-year-old Border Collies with rather unique personalities. We had failed twice before with a fostering situation (meaning that we ended up adopting the first two fosters ourselves), but to be honest, we were really in the market for the dogs—we just hadn’t admitted it. Not so this time! Two is enough for me. But I love all dogs and can’t say no to a dog in need. (Not another Basset Hound, though.)

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