“Pick me,” read the wording on the package of Pacific Northwest granny apples. If I saw it, it registered subliminally. I knew what I wanted and pulled the green apples out of the cooler …
“Pick me,” read the wording on the package of Pacific Northwest granny apples. If I saw it, it registered subliminally. I knew what I wanted and pulled the green apples out of the cooler at Dave’s and put them in my basket.
I didn’t expect that to happen when I visited the EGAPL Heart of Rhode Island Rescue in Cranston on Saturday.
It is a far superior facility to the one where we found Ollie, the spotted coon hound whose quest to follow a scent was at the core to stories in this column from his escape escapades to unwavering attention at the dinner table. We put Ollie down on July 4 after a severe internal bleeding episode. We believe he was 16, but like so many rescues from southern kill shelters you really don’t know the back story.
Ollie spoke to us from his cage. There was no welcoming bark or wiggling body like that of a puppy. He didn’t wag his tail. He rarely wagged. But his eyes said “pick me” from across the room filled with caged dogs.
It was the beginning of an adventuresome relationship.
Karen Kalunian and her daughter Kim and Tammy Gallo (then Flanagan), who occasionally stopped at the Beacon while driving a special education bus for the Warwick School Department, introduced us to EGAPL. Tammy has long been involved with animal rescues and now runs EGAPL. Their work was the subject of several stories including Kim’s inventive plan to raise funds at a gallery gala featuring photos of Rhode Island celebrities with dogs for adoption. A portrait photographer donated his skills to make it happen.
I texted Karen Saturday morning, explaining I was looking to get a glimpse of rescue operations in what is being reported as unpresented times. Municipal shelters and non profit rescues have never had so many cats and dogs. Rescue facilities are packed with more than one dog to a cage and volunteers who provide foster care are housing animals for more than a year. The pandemic is considered partially responsible as people who were at home adopted animals and now don’t have the time to care for them. These are the “owner animal” adoptees. As I was to learn Saturday there are multiple reasons for the high numbers of rescues.
The rescue community is tightknit. When a rescue from a kill shelter in the south has a litter of puppies as frequently happens it puts a strain on facilities the staff and volunteers who run them, the word goes out on social media. Rescue organizations help one another. They are stretched whether it is for money, volunteers, staff (jobs are going unfilled), foster homes or the facilities to humanely care for animals.
Karen said all forms of the media are used to get out the word. It’s been exhausting. Karen talks of “compassion fatigue” and how she constantly thinks of whether there will be homes for the dogs she has come to know.
I imagined those looking to adopt would be ushered in, like those walking into a car dealership. There’s some of that.
I found a pair of young men waiting in the enclosed lobby, the barking dogs from the kennels outside clearly audible. One of them had just moved into a family house that has plenty of room and they figured it was time to either adopt or foster a dog.
A staff member asked questions if they had previously owned a dog, time they could devote to the animal and the environs. It wasn’t, “we have the perfect year-old lab mix you’re looking for.” This is not like buying a new or used car even though under the circumstances one would think the faster you can push adoptions, the sooner the system would gain relief.
Mister Bojangles, Bo Bo for short, is a perfect example. He’s been waiting to find a home for a long time. Staff and volunteers talk about him like a family member. He’s become part of the establishment and that is part of the problem.
I’ve seen this at the Warwick Animal Shelter where long-time residents are comfortable where they are. I can understand the attachment and besides it gives the shelter a homey feel that comforts visitors.
Bo Bo is a hound and Karen suggested we would be the perfect home for him even when Ollie was with us. On Saturday she led Bo Bo to a fenced in synthetic turf yard in the back of the rescue to meet a couple who like us had previously adopted from EGAPL. Bo Bo put his nose to work sniffing us over, wagging his tail and bestowing licks, which Ollie never did. He soon focused on the satchel Karen had tied from her waist. It contained milk bones. Bo Bo focused his attention on Karen even when she handed bones to us. Bo Bo was glad to have us give him treats, but it was obvious he knows Karen and those at the rescue as his providers. Karen turned the trait to a positive, explaining whoever adopts him would benefit from the same devotion.
In another meet and greet between prospective adopters and dog, the 8-month old puppy was delighted to be free from a cage, running circles and jumping into the laps of the couple. They instantly loved the dog, offering to adopt it on the spot. But EGAPL doesn’t work that way even in these times when one less dog means they can save another or reduce the load on overburdened staff and volunteers.
They want to ensure it’s a good fit and from years of experience they are perhaps the best ones to suggest a match even though so many dogs in so many ways say “pick me.”