Random Ephemera

Rehoming a Dog in Houston Is Not an Easy Task

My husband and I rescued our dog Sadie from the Gulf Coast Bull Terrier Rescue organization. I had had bull terriers as a kid and recalled loving them like crazy. Sadie doesn't look like the classic all white bull terrier - the Target dog or Spuds MacKenzie - as she is a nice mix of brown and white. I am not at all being biased when I say she is the cutest dog that ever lived in the entire world. Not a walk or trip to the dog park goes by that I don't get stopped by random strangers telling me the same thing.

But Sadie has a big problem. Aside from living for the sheer joy of ripping the squeaker out of all toys, she doesn't like children. I can't pinpoint when this animus against kiddos began, but it's a real issue. When we rescued her she was six months old and in bad physical shape due to an irresponsible backyard breeder. Who knows what traumas she went through with the smaller set of humans?

At first we didn't notice anything, when she was a puppy she spent Thanksgiving with our friends' new baby staring in a blissful awe, but as she grew older her distaste or perhaps taste for young blood grew. She barks at children at the park, she runs and hides when the neighbor's tikes try and pat her head and she's been known to snap in the direction of a young girl who visits her daycare. Let's get real, she hates kids.

For the first two years we had her, this didn't really bother us. She did snap at my nephew when he came for a visit, but in her defense he was afraid of her from the beginning and dogs can smell fear. We had no children and biology wasn't making it easy for us to have any. In fact, one of the reasons we got her was because we were having a tough time having children. But that all changed, when I found out I was pregnant with twins.

For the duration of my pregnancy I convinced myself that as soon as the babies came, she would become a better dog. I read that dogs know their owner is pregnant and they become very protective of the baby as if it is their own. This sentiment was echoed by multiple "dog people." I did my best to try and explain to her that I was pregnant. My husband and I put down baby toys for her to get used to, I let her smell my new body odor and I reasoned with her every chance I got. She would be just fine, I told myself. But she's not. She just doesn't like kids.

The reality that we had two premature babies that needed my husband and my undivided attention and in no way could we risk a rogue dog getting pissed off enough to try one for a snack came on incredibly quickly. Not only were we worried about Sadie's disposition toward them but also worried about the fact that she is a very demanding dog and we didn't have the attention to give her anymore. Sadly, we came to the decision that we had to give her away. We didn't think it would be all that difficult; remember she is the cutest dog alive.

We were very wrong.

If you Google Houston dog shelter, an endless amount of names come up. To its credit, Houston has an excellent dog culture; people are dedicated to their furry kids and rescue organizations are a dime a dozen. You don't want to bring a dog to just any rescue group. Some groups, BARC and the Houston SPCA, for example, "humanely" euthanize animals that cannot get adopted while in their care. If you've ever walked around BARC looking to adopt a pup, you'll know which dogs are about ready to be put down. It is heart-breaking.

There are also what is called "no-kill" shelters in Houston, such as Friends For Life, Operation Pets Alive! and Angels Rescue, just to name a few. I assumed that my best bet was to contact these organizations and explain the situation and they would be more than happy to take my dog. Again I was wrong.

There is an overwhelming amount of stray dogs in Houston, too many for the no kills to handle. A representative from Friends For Life told me that as they and most of the no kill shelters were foster-based, meaning that they find temporary homes for dogs until they can be placed somewhere permanently, the number of fosters is quite limited. The volume of strays needing fosters is only growing. Preference is made on those dogs that don't have homes.

It was suggested to me that I contact a few of the other no-kills, all of which told me the same thing. As I was to understand it, if I found Sadie on the street somewhere, I could drop her off and a new home would be found for her, but because she was my dog, I was out of luck. Rather than find a home for a dog that already had its shots, was spayed, didn't have any illness, heartworms, fleas or serious behavioral issues, dogs that are a financial burden with unknown problems are taken instead.

Look, I get it completely, and I don't mean to sound insensitive to dogs that truly need the help. What these organizations do is so necessary, and I financially support multiple of them. It is unfathomable that someone can just throw a dog out onto the street to fend for itself and expect society to take care of it. So I was trying my damnedest not to be an irresponsible pet owner such as that, but I couldn't get any help in doing so.

With limited options, I went to the Internet to see what other people did about rehoming their family friend. There is a website called Rescue Me where you can post up your dog but it's difficult to navigate and looks as if it hasn't been updated since the first dotcom bubble. The adoption website Pet Finder used to have a classified section where wannabe pet owners around the country could go to find their one true furry love, but it is no longer active for reasons I wasn't told. Another organization Buster's Friends said they would post up Sadie's picture, but didn't have much hope for her.

While Craigslist might seem like a natural place to turn, I read a slew of horror stories of animal fighting rings and rampant abuse. Even the representatives from the shelters I spoke with strongly advised against putting her up on the site.

I was hesitant initially to turn to social media; I felt completely guilty giving up my dog and didn't want to hear what a bad person I was from friends and their friends. But eventually I did post something to Facebook to which I received a lot of supportive messages from people who ultimately had to do the same thing. At least half of them told me that their family pet was, sadly, put to sleep.

Euthanizing Sadie was not an option for me. It's not her fault that I got knocked up; why should she pay? But it was beginning to look like killing my dog was what I was being forced to do.

Something unique to Houston is the Citizen's for Animal Protection (CAP) Weekend Sponsor program. Dogs and cats that need new homes are given a chance to be adopted during CAP's weekend adoptions and if they aren't the owner comes back and picks them up. For people who are desperate, it might not be an option, but it's a good alternative to euthanization or dumping your pet in the street.

After multiple months of trying, it looks like Sadie will have a new home. This entire experience has been eye-opening. If I had a million dollars I would fund a program for displaced family pets whose owners want to do what's best but can't make it work any longer. I've been wondering why a website doesn't exist for people to try and rehome their unwanted pets to pet-wanters. If it meant finding a loving family for my dog, I would have paid to fly her to Alaska.

As stressful as the entire ordeal has been during a time when I am supposed to be elated with the coos and farts of my new babies, I feel awful for Sadie. She's just a dog and none of this is her fault. Adopting a pet shouldn't be taken lightly, you never know where you'll find yourself in the future.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig