Dog Rescue: A Cast of Five

After six and a half years in dog rescue, which I have minimal-to-no involvement in at the moment, I thought I’d compile the cast of characters who often occupy a rescue organization. I’m sure you’ll find many of the same types in your workplaces, as most are volunteers and earn money elsewhere. While well-intentioned, if the structure of the organization isn’t very well maintained or established, which is often the case in rescue, all of these types end up being a pain in someone’s ass at some point. If you sprinkle a little mental instability over them, and combine it with a lack of structure, you get the following cartoon-y archetypes:

The Lap
The Lap is there to cuddle dogs. She wants to sit with a dog, cuddle and pet it, and call it a day. She’s not concerned with much of anything else. Often clueless. You may find yourself approaching The Lap and muttering things like, “Could you please move your chair? You’re sitting directly in front of the donation jar.”

When asked to do something, like maybe clean up some pee, or get up and do anything else, The Lap will  start up with herky jerky movements, leash of dog in hand, not sure of how to stand since there’s a dog in her lap, as if she’s never done anything but sit there up to this point in her life. She usually figures it out after a few minutes.

 The Pat on the Back Addict
The Pat on the Back Addict doesn’t like to do anything without effusive praise afterwards. Will often passive aggressively fish for praise. Example, will post on a message board: “Did someone get the five dollar bill I put in the donation jar this Saturday? It was green, had Abraham Lincoln on it, and my name written across it in permanent marker. Please let me know if you saw it and if it’s been deposited. Maybe we can use it to buy some more dog treats since the ones that I previously bought seem to have disappeared.” Does usually wear pants, though.

The Basket Case
The Basket Case is highly volatile and takes everything personally. If a foster home, will say things like, “But Peanut can’t go to a home without a DVR, he gets so nervous during commercials, I think something bad happened to him in his last home when a Swiffer commercial was on.” Then, will turn around and say, “Why did that lady who looks like me and has good manners get turned down for a dog? Our standards must be way too strict if we didn’t let her have one.” When explanations are made, will fly into rage, call people terrible names, storm out of rooms, then become upset that no one takes her seriously.

The Big Idea
The Big Idea comes up with elaborate, grand schemes that are often not thought through and don’t really work in a small organization filled with burned-out people. “I think we should bedazzle the names of every dog on their collars! It will be a good identifier, and will spruce things up and encourage adoptions!” When someone (usually the Wet Blanket) points out that we don’t have any money in the budget for bedazzling supplies, often responds with, “You hate the dogs!” If given permission to do Big Idea as long as she figures out how to do it herself and gets her own help, project often fizzles, and The Big Idea will express surprise about how long bedazzling takes.

The Burned-Out Wet Blanket
The Burned-Out Wet Blanket is hated by all other types. She’s generally a downer. She does a lot of work, and so therefore has a low tolerance for people who don’t do much work or new ideas that will cause more work. Often heard saying things like, “And exactly who is going to do xyz?” Her chit chat with other people consists of correcting something they’re doing wrong, often in passing (literally), which makes it even more bitchy to those being corrected. Saying things like “I don’t think I can do this much longer” is taken by others as a threat, for some reason. She’s really a nice person, or used to be, before her workload enveloped her like a dark beast. Ok, fine, yes, I was the Wet Blanket type.


Don’t Stick Your Fingers in the Crates – Warning Sign Blindness (or, Wizards)

For the past 6-ish years, I’ve worked with a local dog rescue. The first thing to understand about most people who work with dog rescue is the emphasis on the dog part of all of it. People don’t go into dog rescue to interact with other people. That is key. There are endless stories on the mad mad mad world of dog rescue, but today, I’d like to type about warning signs.

There are lots of movies and People Magazine articles about man’s indomitable spirit. There aren’t as many about man’s indomitable ability to not see something in front of his face. And I mean people who can see, not blind people – they have lots of movies and articles.

Every Saturday, our dog rescue fills a van full of adoptable dogs and sets them up at a Petco about 25 minutes away. So, these dogs, who have already lost their homes at least once, get carted off to a weird place with tons of strangers, have to ride in a crate in a van both ways and get jostled around all day long. It’s loud, messy, and chaotic. Almost all of the dogs are friendly, and really have no major issue with the madness.

"Hi, I’m happy, goofy, and ready for anything."

There are some dogs who get overwhelmed by the whole ordeal, mostly, because it’s completely overwhelming, and, because sometimes they may not have had the best life up to this point. Personally, I have had to keep myself from biting other people several times, so I empathize. And, the thing is, for the most part, they DO NOT bite, ever. But, for the sake of liability, fair warning, and to be sure all bases are covered – every crate gets at least one warning sign on the front door. Usually, two – one on the top, too.

Even the invisible dogs shouldn't be touched.

The options were the signs, or try to reason with the dogs, and I now believe we made an error in not trying to reason with the dogs, first. Our adoption event lasts 4 hours every week. And, we try to be polite and “customer service-y.” If you stick your hand in a crate, you will get different reactions, depending on the hour you do it:

First hour: “Hi, please be careful, these dogs are a little overwhelmed so for safety’s sake we ask that you not stick your fingers in there. They may even nip because they think you have a treat or something. I’d be happy to get any dog out that you’d like to meet.”

Second hour: “Please don’t put your fingers in the crates.”

Third hour: “No fingers.”

Fourth hour: Most likely a grunting sound.

Why the deterioration of friendliness? Remember, most of us aren’t people-people. And, secondly, the staggering amount of people who have Warning Sign Blindness. I estimate that nearly 80% of the population is afflicted with it.*

Fingers in Crate
Teach, your children well...
Finger in Crate plus a bob and weave
This lady is ducking under a literal barrier created to keep people from finger sticking.

The only other thing I can come up with is that a wizard cast a spell on all of our warning signs, with the one of two spells:

Crate Spell
The neon and capitalization don’t matter a whit, for no one who needs to will see this shit.

Or, he changed what people see:

While I’m not willing to completely rule out wizardry, I’m pretty sure it’s Warning Sign Blindness. This is based on the reaction to being told that the little sign they are lifting up, to get a better angle at cramming their hand in the crate, has words on it telling them NOT to do exactly that.

  • “Oh, oops, sorry. Duh.” (My favorite)
  • “This dog is mean?” Yep, see the line of 20+ crates, all with warning signs? All of our dogs are rabid.
  • “Oh, it’s ok. I have a dog” (My least favorite.) Is it that dog? Cause if not, take the lotion out of the fucking basket.

I am writing this because diagnosis is key. If you suspect you may suffer from Warning Sign Blindness, err on the side of caution and assume you’re missing something. Find the nearest employee/authority figure and ask if there are any signs that say you shouldn’t do something. If there are, then at least you can make an informed decision as to whether to become a pain in the ass.**

* You may be thinking “oh, but that’s just a couple instances.” I kid you not, I got both of these pictures within 3 minutes of each other on the same day. It. Never. Ends.
**And, seriously, bless, bless, bless these people. They mean well, really. They are so moved by the sight of these dogs they can’t see anything else. I really do get that – when I’m not there and am thinking about it later.