Becoming a volunteer for an animal rescue organization has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve met many incredible people – dedicated and generous, and just a little bit crazy (okay, some of them quite a LOT crazy). I get a strong sense from some of these folks that they prefer the company of animals to people, which sometimes means that, while we may have common goals, we don’t always get along with each other. In the nearly four years that I’ve been volunteering at the Long Beach Animal Shelter, I have seen a number of differences of philosophy among strong personalities that have resulted in terminations of relationships, although there generally remains mutual respect even after the break. Everyone’s in it for the animals, after all.
Today I attended a “gala” organized by a true friend of Posh Pets, a woman named Yvette Schneider. The amount of work that she puts into the event is impressive. This is the third one I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and each year I have known more and more of my fellow guests. This year there was a whole contingent of Long Beach staff and volunteers, and one of our own, the shelter director Melissa McClellan, was honored for her service, along with the head of the “cat division”, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, who mostly operates out of her Westchester home base but frequently “steals” our best cats from the shelter to bring up to the Post Pets cat room at the PetSmart store in Greenburgh, NY. Both of these ladies are true heroes to me, as is the head of the whole organization, founder Linda Vetrano. I’ve written about this animal-loving triumvirate often, going way back to when I first started my blog [“The Pet Situation”, 3/17/15].
Posh Gala, Long Beach Squad
In addition to volunteering at the shelter on weekends, mostly to clean the cat rooms and give them love and affection, but I help out wherever I can – playing with puppies, washing feeding bowls, folding laundry, scrubbing litter boxes, you name it – I have discovered that I really enjoy fostering animals until permanent homes can be found for them. My boy Gizmo was a “foster fail,” meaning I adopted him when it became clear that we had developed a bond and my home was the best possible home for him. My other Poshie, Mimi, was never a foster – I knew I would keep her from Day One. In fact, I waited a whole year to take her home, which I regret, because she ended up being shuttled between Long Beach, Vanessa’s house (she has an entire cat colony there, including the more elderly, infirm and “problem children” among the dozens of Posh cats), the PetSmart cat room, and back again to Long Beach, which is when I finally said, “What am I waiting for? She’s coming home with me.” Happily for both of us, she’s where she needs to be now.
But since I’ve been in my temporary housing, I haven’t been able to foster at all. A few times, Linda has asked me to take in a small dog for a couple of days because there was no alternative and they would prefer not to leave them in the shelter. (The shelter is set up for larger dogs; smaller dogs have to stay in cages and don’t get walked as often as they should, and they get stressed out with the excessive barking.) At one point, two gorgeous Pomeranian puppies came in, and I took one for a few days and the other for a few days, and both times the lady downstairs freaked out. When the banging on her ceiling was having no effect (and it DOESN’T – the only effect it may have is to make her feel better but it certainly doesn’t alter my/our behavior; in fact, when she bangs, the dogs actually bark MORE, thereby defeating her purpose), she ventured upstairs to complain in person about how she didn’t ask to live downstairs from a zoo. (That was the last time I’ve actually spoken to her face-to-face, although we ran into each other in the elevator once and said NOTHING other than “Have a good night” when she got off on her floor.)
So when Linda asked me this week to foster an eight-pound Chihuahua she had saved from Craig’s List, just for the proverbial “couple of days,” I reluctantly agreed to do so. “He doesn’t bark,” she told me. He didn’t (much). “Chichi” (not my favorite name choice; I mostly called him “Buddy”) was a sweet-natured dog and got along with everyone as soon as he entered the apartment – no fights, no excessive sniffing (although Gizmo did engage in some obsessive licking of the pup’s back while he was eating, for some reason – maybe he tasted good?). Chichi did try to engage and play a couple of times – which of course is a no-no in this apartment because playing would be WAY TOO NOISY for the lady downstairs – but apart from that, the first night was relatively quiet.
Chichi/Buddy/Richie gives us a smile
The next morning, though, first with preparing for walkies and then at feeding time, there was a lot of rambunctious activity – jumping, scratching the carpets, grimbling (sort of a growl/bark thing that Gizmo does) – and here comes the banging from below, on multiple occasions, getting increasingly loud and lengthy. But once the morning activities were complete, we all settled in for a nice, quiet, snowy afternoon.
Unfortunately, I had to go out to do errands and stop at the shelter. Even though I knew I would not be gone for long, I was afraid of how Chichi would react to my leaving, despite the fact that he would have plenty of company in my absence. I do not have a nanny-cam set-up here, so I have no idea if they made noise while I was gone, but as soon as I parked on the side of the building where my apartment is located, I could hear them taking up the chorus, and I knew it would continue the whole time I rode up to the sixth floor in the elevator (which seems to take an incredibly long time when they’re carrying on like that).
While at the shelter, I heard from one of the employees that he and his family were interested in fostering the chi-baby, so I was ecstatic. He would come to my place later that evening to pick him up. But in the meantime, I had a visit from the president of the tenant’s association, a very nice lady who lives on my floor who is also incredibly diplomatic and considers herself EVERYONE’S president (unlike someone else in the news lately). Of course her arrival caused a cascade of barking, but they quit as soon as I stepped outside to talk to her. Some of the neighbors – she waved her hand sort of up, sort of down, sort of sideways, but of course I knew she was talking about the lady downstairs, for certain, and maybe another lady at the end of my hallway (who once asked me, as I was unlocking my door after having parked on the “bad” side so of course the boys were in a frenzy of barking, if I was going to muzzle the dogs to prevent them from making so much noise because “they do that quite often”) even though she didn’t say so – had been complaining to her. The president couched it in terms of, “The dogs sounded like they were in distress,” and “What if something happened to you?”
I thanked her for her concern, admitted I had one more dog than usual at the moment (“Oh, yes, the neighbors can tell when you have more than your two dogs in there” – can they?? Really??), and that they would be barking again in about an hour when the guy came to pick up the extra dog. And soon everyone would be free of us and our noise because I would be leaving in a few weeks (which the president knows, so we talked about the logistics of that for a few minutes, the obligatory dog noise conversation seemingly over).
So the sweet little Chihuahua ended up going to the guy’s house, and he told me today at the gala that they had in very short order fallen in love with the little dude and were going to adopt him, which made me EXTREMELY happy. (They’ve also changed his name to “Richie”, which I think suits him much better!) And I’m stuck here, with my two little noisy dogs and the galloping cats that make life a misery for the lady downstairs, for at least another few weeks. But it’s weeks now and not months, and for that I am eternally grateful. As soon as we get back in the house, the kids can make all the noise they want!! And I’m going to foster the next little doggie that Posh Pets rescues, and maybe even take home a couple of the cats from the shelter of whom I’ve grown very fond. I have a lot of rescue time to make up for!