Upon returning home from a trip to New York one late July day in 2016, I found myself scrolling through my facebook feed to come across a post by our local animal shelter for a French Bulldog available for adoption. As a Frenchie fan girl I found this to be surprising considering that Frenchies are not all that common in our area and they tend to cost quite a bit, so I decided to reach out to the then manager who I was acquainted with and not just a little bit suspicious of to see what the situation was. The local animal shelter of which I used to be on the board of had fallen into the hands of this guy the year after I left the board (2010) and things had not been going well under his tenure. I spoke to the manager that day and was told that this dog had been surrendered and since he was such a "highly desireable" breed of dog that they were thinking about auctioning him off. ......Whut.....
Let me pause for a second to give some detail about how dog people respond to this kind of thing. Dog people are no joke when it comes to the ethics we consider non negotiable. Auctioning off dogs is considered to be an utterly unacceptable and extremely unethical way to place a dog. For obvious reasons to anyone with a glimmer of common sense at least. It is also known that dog people are among the craziest and rabid groups to deal with once a line like this is crossed. No one. And I mean NO ONE would ever want to find themselves on the business end of the collective weight of the French Bulldog community world wide (or the purebred dog community of any breed) once you have decided it would be a good idea to AUCTION a dog off as a way to find his new home.
Back to our story. I managed in the course of my first phone conversation with the manager to convince him that auctioning a dog off is the height of bad rescue ethics and that it would likely get him on the news in a less than positive way. He then decided that he would ask a $500 adoption fee........for a 6 year old dog.......because expensive breed.....yikes. This was a pretty big adoption fee for a dog that they had had for 3 days but that doesn't necessarily bother me on its face. I went on in my conversation with the manager to advocate that he be diligent in trying to find the best home for this dog by making sure he knew what Frenchies needed care wise and asking pertinent questions of any potential adopter. I offered to come get him if he agreed that the dog should go to someone with knowledge of the breed. And that was the extend of the first phone call.
Later that evening I got a call back from the manager saying they had discussed it and they would let me take him for $500 since they knew I had a lot of Frenchie experience and it would be best for him. I said I would come out an look at him shortly......
When I arrived at the shelter the manager met me outside and we went in and he was going to go grab the dog. This took an incredible amount of time. Being very familiar with the shelter and its layout I began to wonder if they were storing this dog in another county. Turns out they "couldn't find him"......what.....? I'm Sure in that moment my left eyebrow was traveling well north of my entire head in judgement of this apparent stupidity. (Spoiler, the stupidity was not a one off) The dog was eventually located and brought into the lobby for me to see and as it turned out he was quite a sight.
As this larger than average Frenchie came toward me I could not help but immediately notice that his body was covered (COVERED) in large oozing sores, scabs, flaking skin, yeasty inflamed ears and coat so bad that I couldn't tell he was a brindle dog.....he just looked sort of ashen. Frenchies are of course known to be a tad high maintenance, often struggling with skin issues but this was unlike anything I had ever seen before. What got to me in that moment was the fact that the staff and manager of the shelter had had this dog in their care for 3 days and had done nothing whatsoever to look into what might be causing this dog to be such a mess, a mess you could see with your eyeballs no less...or what they might be able to do to calm it down in the immediate. They had pooled their efforts not in caring for this dog but with getting as much money as quickly as possible for him. My blood was boiling but I managed to point out in a calm tone that this dog has a lot going on physically that really needed to be addressed. It was revealed to me in that conversation that this skin stuff was a major part of why he was surrendered in the first place. Frenchies are not a cheap breed to have around and to not educate a potential adopter on this would easily land him back in this type of situation, homeless and in a lot of discomfort. In order to do due diligence when placing this dog they would have had to have him examined by a vet and given some idea what they were dealing with in order to pass that information along to anyone looking to adopt him. I told the manager that I would be happy to take him and start him on the road to healing but that I was not going to pay $500. I said to him " I have $150 in cash on me right now and I'll give you that but not a penny more, the rest needs to go to the care he needs that you didn't think to provide." He agreed, gave me an adoption receipt with no balance due and we were on our way.
That night upon arriving back at my house I immediately put Koa in the dog tub and gave him a good medicated bath to start helping his skin calm down, let him meet the other dogs and begin to settle in.
The next day I contacted the former owner who surrendered him to that shelter. They let me know that they had only had Koa a short time and he originally belonged to their son and daughter in law who had moved back to Hawaii and were unable to take Koa. They gave me their contact info and I got in touch with Koa's original owner, Jerrica who is now a friend who shares in Koa's life through pictures and conversation, and I just love that. I was able to get a ton of good information on Koa's history in general as well as his health Jerrica later sent me all his health records from his time with them. My next move was to get him to the vet as I could tell that he wasn't just outwardly covered in awful sores but he also seemed lethargic and generally unwell. After going to the vet we came to the conclusion that due to his body being covered in infection that he was run down from fighting all of that. We did a course of antibiotics and chlorhexadine baths every 7 days which helped him fight off all that was going on. As he began to feel better we started to see glimmers of his personality start to let us know who he is.
The Monday after we adopted Koa I had a phone call from the Shelter manager which woke my inner honey badger, gave it super powers, pushed all its buttons and activated angry hulk,honey badger hell scape. This phone conversation started as follows, and I quote. "So uhhh we are going to need you to bring the dog back or bring us $350 more dollars because we have people who will pay more money for him." ...........whut..........I don't do stupidity or bad ethics well so as expected the awakened honey badger hell scape was unleashed with the fury of a thousand suns onto this particular moron. Can I just suggest that in general its bad form to go toe to toe with an expert in the field in question when you are ignorant, especially when you are ignorant and have presicely zero excuses to have remained ignorant for as long as this individual had. Stay in your lane, always sage advice. I proceeded to let him have it. Everything pertaining to the utter absurdity of his request, the legality of it, the outrageous nature of the lack of ethics he was participating in. In the end I gave him two options.
1. You can come get this dog and give me my money back with the full expectation that if he were to choose that option I dedicate an incredible amount of time making sure to humiliate and expose him and the sham of a "shelter" operation he was running to any outlet that would listen, the media, the Oregon Dept of Justice etc.
2. He could drop this right now and never be as blindly idiotic as he had just been ever again.
(He selected option 2)
This entire debacle was eye opening for me. I had volunteered for rescue groups and been a board member for this shelter for nearly my entire adult life as a foster home, and I was aware of the rise of the retail rescue phenomenon.
It was unfathomable to me that a shelter could go from being well run in every way for years and years to falling into the grip of a shifty idiot who within a year or two to being really nothing more than a dog flipping operation. It is so easy for people to see the nice wording in the name of a rescue group and think they are doing something good by adopting from once of these retail rescues. The truth of this kind of thing is that when the adoption fees a rescue group takes in accounts for the majority of the operating income its too easy to take on the mentality of getting animals in and out for as much money as possible, not screening potential adopters to do due diligence in making sure that a particular family is suited to a particular dog or vice versa, not spending money on medical needs as in Koa's case. I hope this serves as a warning to anyone wishing to adopt a dog make sure you research the reputation of any rescue group or shelter you are considering. You should as a potential adopter be asked a lot of questions about your home,lifestyle,experience etc. you should be prepared to have a home inspection done prior to adopting and you should also make sure animals available for adoption have been screened medically at least in a minimal way, spayed or neutered upon adoption, current vaccination status etc. Adopting a dog is a highly rewarding thing and I would never discourage anyone from doing that, but research and make sure you feel confident that the group or shelter you use is on the up and up.
I am happy to report that the shelter here locally is no longer under the control of the unethical manager I dealt with when adopting Koa, and is now in the capable team of wonderful volunteers and an entirely new board who are doing their best to clean up the mess left in the aftermath of that individual. I am also happy to report that Koa is looking forward to his 11th birthday in a few weeks, is healthy as an ox and has been sporting some beautiful, clear skin and shiny brindle coat for over 2 years now. In part 2 I will discuss how a raw species appropriate diet played a major role in his transformation of health and appearance. I hope you will all be looking for that post to drop in a week or so.