Over 40 % of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. Less than 8% actually achieve their goals. With that in mind, we started 2014 out with a resolution that would allow us to meet a goal to place our rescue and foster dogs in new homes. In looking at what was holding things up, it was time. They needed focused time with no distractions, no new projects. So we started 2014 with a “no new dogs resolution”. The idea was that there were to be no new dogs until the special needs dogs that were already in the system were fixed up and in forever homes. That came with one condition, with an asterisk of sorts. If we found Tasha’s lost puppy, Number Two, we would help her. Miracle of miracles, we found Number Two right away in January and well, she came with 5 puppies. We launched Operation Floppy Ear and by mid January we were +6 on the “no new dogs resolution”. As New Year’s resolutions go, this one was going to be an epic fail right out of the gate.
On the positive side of our goals and resolutions, the advocacy side started strong and we kicked off the year with a breakfast with Scott Griggs, Chris Watts, and several other neighborhood animal advocates. We talked about the challenges of the current system and set three areas of focus for Councilman Griggs to help work with the neighborhoods to enact meaningful change within the City and Dallas Animal Services (DAS) and to work towards restoring the DAS budget.
On the adoption side, January also blessed our 2013 dog pack rescue Frankie with a fabulous forever home, so our numbers went down by one. One dog counterbalances everything right? When you look at that picture of him with his forever person, it does, it really does.
The work to socialize and raise the puppies began and so did the work to tame Number Two. She was born and raised on the streets of Oak Cliff and had never been touched by a human – she was a special needs project for sure! To complicate things Number Two needed eye surgery. Our neighbors who had watched the pack roam for so many years rallied behind her. We fixed her eyes and brought her home to start her journey towards domestication.
While we were fixing everyone up and finding the puppies homes, we organized and hosted the Oak Cliff Animal Initiative and initiated what will be an annual collaborative meeting of neighborhoods and neighborhood animal advocates. Among other things, we asked neighbors to petition the city to restore the DAS budget and to revamp field services. Ultimately, the budget was restored and the mayor and city council got a raise – so I am sure things are going to make some big progress this year! We’ll be back at it this coming March with a new Oak Cliff Animal Initiative meeting and a new list of suggested action items for animal advocates to take to the city leaders.
As the spring rolled forward, we were introduced to Cookie. Who could say no to such a face and such a heart breaking note? She was left on a porch in a kennel with that note. Cookie was ill with the street crud, nothing is ever simple. But Cookie came with an asterisk too. It was a big asterisk. She was pregnant. She went on to have two puppies. By April we were +9 against on the “no new dogs” resolution. I am clearly not very good at this New Year’s resolution thing.
Before you knew it, summer was here. Summer and early fall were a little rough on the personal schedule and the house pack. The summer brought a very difficult decision to euthanize one of our dogs. Although I knew it was the right thing to do, and still believe it was the right thing to do, this heart wrenching decision wrecked me. Ultimately, we gave a former bait dog a safe and loving place to heal her wounds, to heal her soul, and to thrive and grow. While she was with us she knew nothing but love and we stand behind the decision to humanly euthanize her surrounded by peace and love. Later this year I will write about the lessons learned from this angel, but for now it is too fresh.
For the rest of the pack, well, dogs are like kids – when your work schedule is too demanding and you don’t have time for them, they act out. Special needs dogs are no exception. But a separation anxiety object hoarding street dog makes for some funny and trying moments, and we had some moments for sure. The avocado and olive oil incident is one memorable moment – that looks a lot like you think it would, disaster city. Although on the plus side, olive oil does a nice job reconditioning hardwood floors. I am still not sure if I want to know what Tasha was going to do with the jar of quarters and the bottle of champagne I found her with in her dog bed one day – but I came home in time to foil her evil plan and I guess we’ll never know what a dog needs with money and champagne…
One of our proudest moments was that in 2013 we officially crate trained Tasha. We have been working on crate training and she has been using a crate for a long time – but with the door open. This year we were able to “come to an agreement” and successfully close the door. On the second day of training, Tasha decided she needed out. When I came home, she greeted me in the window. The crate door was closed and locked. All the corners and joints I had reinforced with zip ties were still in tact. The tray was broken and shot out of the kennel. Her dog bed was destroyed. It took a while to see it, but she had bent a 3 inch hole at the base of the crate. That’s all the 75 lb liquidy escape artist needed – a tiny crack. I understand how a mouse goes through a tiny hole, it doesn’t have a rib cage – she has a rib cage!
Anywho…the next day, she went in the kennel and curled up like it was no big deal. She let me shut the door and everything has been fine since. I guess she just wanted to know that she could get out if she needed to. Feral dogs are weird control freaks.
So I like to say we have a mutual agreement – she agrees to stay in the kennel when I ask her to, but only because she wants to and she wants to make me happy.
As the year moved on, we were doing our part to support the economy in replacement dogbeds, remote controls, and miniblinds. But why let epic dogmagedon moments harden your heart against helping dogs….who needs miniblinds really? So during the summer we added the unsocial street dog Elmer to the program. He was suffering in the heat and we had a specialty that could help catch the streety guy, so we partnered up with Elmwood’s Carlin and helped turned Elmer into a domesticated couch potato. And because it was hot over the summer and the heat was killing her too, we helped out a friend who found Mini Lulu at White Rock lake. She was too cute and too sick to say no to too. That made +11
With the two heartworm dogs Elmer and Mini Lulu on the road to recovery and settled into the system, we got back to advocacy and education. In October, for the 2nd year running, we brought animal information to the neighborhood National Night Out. Animal issues are a safety and quality of life issues and we believe that education and prevention are key to a safe neighborhood and happy, healthy pets. The information available at National Night Out included: a low cost mircochipping station run by a veterinarian, information about free spay and neuter and low cost vaccinations resources, kid and pet safety information, dog bite prevention information, an interactive dog language flash card game for kids, coloring books, baby squirrels and a wildlife rehabilitation expert on hand for questions, information on how to report loose animals to 311, information on animal laws, and free treat and food samples from The Petropolitan and Green Pet. The night was a big hit.
Throughout the year we found ourselves deep in miscellaneous advocacy and education efforts. When DCAP and DAS didn’t have the resources to create and print collateral to spread the word about a free spay and neuter program for 75208, we created flyers, printed flyers, distributed flyers, and created a website to help spread the word.
We spoke at several neighborhood association meetings about animal issues and about low and no cost spay and neuter resources, and worked with neighborhood associations to get the word out about the Free Spay and Neuter program available to our zipcode.
While we worked to helped neighbors understand laws and responsibilities, we did all kinds of random interventions like we helped a neighbor navigate the system to help a homeless lady be reunited with her lost dog, we also helped a neighbor navigate the system with a microchipped abandoned dog. Our help allowed him to legally adopt the dog. We also helped a neighborhood homeless man neuter and vaccinate his puppy to make sure the puppy was vaccinated against parvo and distemper and the puppy was neutered at the appropriate age.
We encouraged neighbors to report loose dogs, intact dogs, and incompliant owners. We documented and reported many dogs and chronic offender owners that were not in compliance with city animal laws and we pressured the city to enforce the law. The free spay and neuter grant was a great tool and really helped get resistant and hesitant people in compliance with the law and we were very disappointed to hear that the program has been cancelled early.
We worked with neighbors on safety issue and trapped an aggressive pit bull that had attacked some neighbors in their front yard. We caught a fearful injured dog that had been hit by a car.
and we continued to work closely with our neighborhood Crime Watch to keep animal issues front and center in conversations about safety and quality of life issues.
We helped many random hard to catch neighbor dogs get home.
We did several field visits and coached other rescuers and neighbors to better understand how to approach and work with unsocial and fearful dogs in a behaviorally sound manner so that they could start to gain a loose unsocial or fearful dog’s trust and ultimately catch the dogs.
We shared training links, low and no cost resource links, fence tips, we sat in parking lots staking out dogs, crawled under houses, crawled in the mud, held a sick parvo puppy – cried when he died and then started working with the city to help show that the way they explain a rabies vaccination requirement makes it seem like the other vaccinations are not needed, we networked neighborhood stray dogs for adoption, we continued our partnership with the police and we put loose pit bulls in police cars, we dressed up our dogs in costumes and sweater and we were thankful for all the people that helped and partnered with us along the way.
And as it happens every year – all of the sudden the end of the year was upon us. I usually end my year with a little vacation time. On vacation the miscellaneous work continued. I called 311 about loose dogs at least two dozen times, attended a 3 hour community meeting with DAS leadership, wrote one really ticked off dog blog about loose dogs in the neighborhood, had a meeting with a lawyer about setting Gypsy Dog Ops up as an official 5013c, set the GDO Board of Directors, met with the District 1 Animal Commissioner, I RSVP-ed for a meeting with Scott Griggs and several neighborhood animal advocated for January, went on 4 separate doggie dates for our foster dogs, went on a dog catch to get an injured dog out from under a shed in the cold pouring rain, was mentioned in an editorial column in the Dallas Morning News , went on two quick ride alongs with DAS officers and had great collaborative conversations about addressing the city’s animal issues, wrote an animal column for the neighborhood newsletter, tracked two strays across the neighborhood, trapped a stray dog in a city live trap in my yard, trapped another chronically loose hard to catch dog, advocated with others to help get those dogs adopted (one has been adopted and one still needs a home if you are interested), we are still actively monitoring a city live trap, and the work continues… I think I need a break from my vacation.
During this last year we had some big ups and downs with the house rescues and with Dallas Animal Services. There was a point over the summer that I thought I was done this rescue and advocacy thing forever. But the dogs constantly teach me about life and about being resilient, forgiving, adaptable, and persistent. Tasha and Number Two made some great leaps and had some big milestones this last year and eventually, so did I. Every day when I look at Tasha and Two, I am reminded that they deserve for me to stick to the promise that I made to them and they deserve for all of us to continue to work together to enact change.
There is much to be done in the coming year to enact meaningful change in the city’s animal culture. But I believe 2015 is going to be the people’s year. This is the year that the city is going to hear our voices and overhaul Animal Services’ systemic field services issues and address the animal control issues for the sake of the vibrancy of the city, the safety of its citizens, and the wellbeing of the animals. And if this is not the year the city gets it together, keep the words of Margaret Mead close to your heart:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Because I am a realist wrapped in the candy coating of optimist, I wanted to end the year end recap by showing some of results of all of our collective hard work this year. We worked with and want to thank a wonderful crew of partners, people like you, who give time, love, donations, social media shares, discounted services, and who hold my hand after avocado and olive oil incidents. These dogs are our collective successes. Without further ado, we present our 2014 “no new dogs” adoption list: Frankie, Cissy, Oakely, Puddin’, Lura, Max (re-homed at 5 years old) , Cookie, Cookie’s two puppies, Mini Lulu, the red rat terrier mix from the trap – aka Santa’s Little Helper, and cross your fingers, our sweet Elmer is currently on a very promising extended date. That’s only 4 Operations Floppy Ear puppies you ask? That’s right, Rudy is still looking for his forever home. Let’s not forget about him!
In addition to our adoptions, one of our proudest accomplishment of 2014 was capturing Number Two and all her puppies. This is a significant accomplishment because we have now picked up the last known ( I stress known) feral member of Tasha’s long running urban feral dog pack. By capturing Tasha, Number Two and her puppies, we have been able to accomplish something that paid professionals have not. We have stopped the cycle. Number Two and all her puppies have all been spayed and neutered and we have officially broken the breeding cycle for this long running prolific pack. That’s pretty powerful stuff when you realize how many dogs have come from this pack to date.
I look forward to working side by side with all of you wonderful passionate animal lovers in 2015; all the people that have worked for years quietly saving animals in our communities, the business that help our animals with gestures as simple as hosting Angel Trees for rescue dogs, the business like Green Pet and Petropolitan that give samples and gift certificates to support local animal educational events, our partner veterinarian that works tirelessly to help Oak Cliff community animals even though their office and their client pool is in Richardson, Oak Cliff neighborhood associations that help put the animal issues forward during their meetings, the facebook community that gets information circulated and cascaded out, our neighborhood police officers, NOCUPP, our District 1 Animal Commissioner Chris Watts, Coucilman Griggs, and the our contacts at the City Attorney’s office. You are the village and how the work gets done for Tasha and all she stands for in our communities. And I am proud to work with you all and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in 2015.
Happy New Year everyone!
For your viewing pleasure, a photo gallery of some of of the 2014 hard work and highlights.