By Dolores Swirin-Yao
In the six months since my last blog entry, I have enjoyed getting to know the many community programs of Bideawee, including our pet therapy and Reading to Dogs programs. It was a pleasure to bring our therapy dogs and one very sweet adoptable puppy to The Meeting House after school program, where my son Jeremy is one of the participants.
I ended my last blog with the thought “you can’t stop at just one” after bringing our beloved Tami into our family. That was so true! In December, my family adopted Simba (formerly “Gauge”) from Bideawee Westhampton.
We originally went to see a different dog, Gus. He was sweet with Tami but she wore him out in just a couple of minutes, and having a high-energy friend for Tami was the main reason for adopting a second dog for our family. Gus ultimately found his forever family a few weeks later.
Simba had a wonderful, playful interaction with Tami. We took Tami out of the room for us to get to know Simba a little better, and he immediately jumped up on the couch between my two sons as if to say, “okay, I am ready to go home now!” We do not know a lot about his past life, but we believe that he was a boy’s dog. We are quite sure he was mistreated by an adult, because when he first came home he was afraid to come into the house from the backyard and when my husband would reach out to him he would cower. He also will not go into the basement. Over the months he has gotten more and more comfortable and his true, sweet personality is coming out.
The staff and volunteer matchmakers told us that, at night, Simba could only have a towel in his crate, because he became very anxious and would shred all bedding overnight. But his very first night with us, he settled himself on my younger son’s bed and slept like an angel next to his new buddy. He needs and craves human company. Unlike our little princess Tami, who asks for (and receives) a lot of attention all the time, Simba is usually happy just to be in our presence. He is a couch potato! This all goes to demonstrate how different a dog or cat can be in a shelter vs. at home, and how important it is to find homes for our pets as soon as we can. The matchmakers were not wrong about the shredding though! When left alone, Simba has to have only things that are okay for him to chew.
When we first brought Simba home, we had our trainer from Pumpkin Pups in Brooklyn come over to help us work with Tami and Simba together. Viv was concerned because Tami seemed very stressed out by the new arrival now that he was in “her” space. “You may have made a big mistake,” she told us. We were so worried! We realized that we were very naïve in throwing them together full time without an adjustment period. But Viv gave us good advice about introducing them more gradually and giving them space away from each other. We signed up for a “Manners” class with them both, which we initially thought they were going to flunk. In the first class, Simba jumped out of the pen twice, and Tami barked nonstop. Eventually they calmed down, and though their friendly jumping-up-on-people and leash-pulling behavior is still a work-in-progress, they are much happier and well behaved. Though we still use a pen and a crate (and each boy’s bedroom) to give them some space from each other when their play gets a little too overheated, they can be happily together a lot of the time now.
I mentioned in my October blog that my 94-year-old mom, Henrietta, was going to move into a little apartment we had made her in our new house in November, and that she was going to adopt a cat. The story is bittersweet. She adopted Gordo (whom she called “Baby”) from Bideawee a couple of weeks later, and he was extremely sweet and affectionate. He was blind and she is blind, so it was a very special match. He was a senior cat whose loving owner had had to relinquish him, and his brother had been terminally ill and was recently been put down by his owner. Although Baby got a lot of love from my mom, he was not eating, and when my mom noticed that he seemed lighter, we took him in to the Bideawee Animal Hospital and also for a consult at the Animal Medical Center on the recommendation of our Bideawee vets. They treated him with tremendous kindness, but sadly he had a whole host of serious health issues and was suffering, so he had to be put down humanely.
This was a terribly sad for all of us. One thing that comforted us was a letter that we got from Baby/Gordo’s original mom: “To the big-hearted soul that adopted my Gordo - a fuzzy, chubby, and lovable little friend - you have my enduring thanks. Giving Gordo up was a terrible experience for me, and I wish I had never had to do it. But Bideawee gave him an initial home, and that made things better. When I found out he was blind, I assumed he would live out the rest of his days at Bideawee, thinking no one would adopt him. Then you came along! Thank you for giving my sweet little boy a loving home - from what I understand he immediately received the love and affection he so deserved. I also understand that his time with you was short, and I am so sorry. I assume you fell in love with him, so his loss must have been as palpable for you as it was for me. I learned that you took wonderful care of him, including sparing no expense to try and treat his ails once discovered. Thank you. This is so kind, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.”
More recently, my mom has taken a foster cat from Bideawee—16-year-old Wall-E, who had been at Bideawee for a couple of years. Bideawee has recently launched the Todd B. Richter Foster Care Program and is looking for many foster homes for animals who are not likely candidates for permanent adoption at the current time. Foster animals range from newborn kittens and puppies, to dogs and cats waiting to be ready for surgery or recovering from surgery or illness, to elderly animals like Wall-E and “fospice” animals who are ill. No matter how wonderful a shelter is, animals are still better off in loving homes.
Thanks for reading—and I look forward to hearing your feedback!