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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

a deadly sneeze

I was at the Miami Dade Animal Services again yesterday. I usually don't visit so often- but, I had the misfortune of buying a car from Car Max about a week ago and they keep messing up with fixing some issues with it. I try to keep things in perspective and have decided to not blow a fuse over the fact that I made a 4 hour round trip yesterday to pick up my car .. only to be told that the part was not even in.. so much for the "it'll be done by 4 p.m." .. so yeah, I have decided that it is just the universe forcing me to go to the shelter again.. because the dogs have a cold.
Peter was healthy when I took his picture, but I have read that he now has a URI.

One terrible part of shelter life for dogs- and cats, is that they are often times subjected to germs. Just as we might pick up a cold when we are out at the mall or grocery store ...touching things other people have touched and breathing air others have coughed in.. the animals in shelters also have the same problem. It sucks. URI, or upper respiratory infections are a very common problem with animals housed in groups. Especially when there is an open admission shelter (one that takes in all dogs and cats and does not turn any away) there is more of a chance for the URIs and other infectious problems to be passed on. I have also seen URIs in no kill shelters with selective intake, so it is not unique to large city shelters.. it happens everywhere and is not limited to shelters- pet shops, groomers.. it can be spread anywhere- which is why, if you ever board your pet they should require a vaccine to prevent it while in their care.

Troy was feeling good and playing when I met him, but I have just read that he also has the URI now. 

The URI can actually be a number of things that actually cause it- but generally, when it happens the animals cough, sneeze, become lethargic and act just like we do when we are hit with a bad cold. They are miserable.. just think how you felt the last time you were up all night coughing. I adopted a puppy from the shelter more than a year ago. She had been infected and once I had her home, she quickly became sick. I had my dogs inoculated, but they also became sick. (that is why it is always recommended to quarantine new pets) Now, the URI is usually totally treatable and if a dog- or cat is healthy they should generally be able to go through a course of medication and be fine. In my case, I treated Sylvia and my dogs and it took several days- but everyone was and is still fine. Now, there are times when the URI is too much for an animal. A while back, I fostered a pregnant cat and right before she gave birth, the germs she had picked up at the shelter hit her. She was medicated, her newly born babies were medicated- but they were all lost- they were just too little and not able to fight it. So, just like colds in people, it is important to keep the sick away from he healthy because the young, old, and weak do have a harder time getting through it.

The problem with a URI in a shelter such as the Miami shelter is that people are continually bringing animals in... they bring them in sick and that spreads-- they bring them in healthy and they become sick.. there are so many animals running through that shelter. So many. When I first decided to begin to go over there.. it was because I had read they had taken in over 30,000 animals in 2010. I know it was over 30,000 - but, based on that number it averages to 82 animals a day. So when you are dealing with such numbers and there are not nearly that many adopted and saved daily- there becomes an issue of room and of how to keep the healthy - healthy.

So back to the trip to Miami.. I went back yesterday and it was so upsetting. Some of the dogs that I had taken photos of only a couple of days prior were now sick. The shelter is trying to keep those dogs separate from the others, but today I learned that healthy dogs I met only yesterday are now sick. It is not fair. It just makes me so mad. I do know they are trying. The shelter is also dealing with freezing nights which makes this even harder to deal with. The dogs were brought to the interiors and that just makes it harder to control it all.
These are two dogs that I had taken photos of only a few days ago. I have since learned they are sick, unless at the last second.. a rescue or adopter stepped forward.. they will be euthanized. From what I have read, it appears they were abused dogs.. they never had much of a chance. 

I am angry and upset with it all. I had gone in hoping that maybe the pictures I took could help save a life. But, I am seeing that many are still there- and they are getting sick. Two dogs that I had taken photos of on December 30th will lose their lives either tonight or in the morning because they are now sick.. there is no one coming for them... and the shelter has to keep allowing people to bring in their pets so that there is not adequate room to keep and properly treat the sick dogs and to also keep the healthy ones healthy.

It is a crappy situation. I don't like it.. but, I am not mad at the shelter.. I am mad at society. Every time I am there I see people coming in and dumping their pets. Some are very rude and mean to the employees-- and sometimes even to me thinking I work there.. which I do not. People bring their dogs and cats in because they are old and don't want to deal with them.. they bring them in when they allow them to breed and realize now that they have 10 dogs instead of 1 - they don't want to deal with them anymore... yesterday, someone brought in a tiny chihuahua puppy because they couldn't deal with it... everyday.. every excuse.. and everyday people bring in perfectly healthy pets- that, due to their  irresponsibility will have a slight chance of being adopted or rescued- but have a higher chance to become sick.. to become depressed ..and to eventually to die.

This is all heartbreaking .. it all is. But, I knew it would be when I began.. after all, that is what my work was meant to be about.. a way to give a voice to the abandoned dogs and cats.. and to remember those that were tossed aside. Below are some mixed media paintings that I finished 30 minutes before the start of the new year. They are all images of dogs from the TN shelter.. and they all did not make it out... and these paintings may be the only things that allow them to be remembered. And the really sad thing is that I will need to make more.. because of the dogs and cats who don't make it out today.. because they caught a cold and not enough people are willing or able to home or rescue a dog with a cold.

Used Trashed Pit - 4" x 12" acrylic, pen, paper, photo, fur on canvas
A Hoarder's Dogs- 4" x 12" acrylic, pen, paper, photo, fur on canvas
Old Hound Trashed- 12" x 4" acrylic, pen, paper, photo, fur on canvas 

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