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Animal Rescue on the Mexican Border

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'm in the desert border town of El Paso, Texas, to attend and speak at a fund-raiser gala to benefit the Animal Rescue League of El Paso. The league operates a no-kill animal sanctuary and shelter outside of town that on any given day houses about 100 dogs and cats, many of them rescued by the group from the local dog pound, where they report about 70 dogs a day are put down. The group removes as many of the dogs as it can from what it calls "death row," and brings them to the rescue where they are fed, groomed, given medical attention and vaccinations -- and then put up for adoption. It also takes in strays and those abandoned by their owners, often for no fault of the animal. Last year the group found good homes (the staff reserves the right to reject anyone it feels won't provide the right environment for an animal) for more than 1,000 animals. Pretty impressive for a group run mostly by volunteers and that gets no government funding.

The purpose of tonight's event will be to raise as much money as possible to keep the shelter up and running for another year. Organizers told me they wanted me to be their speaker not so much because of my book, but because of my relationship with "the world's worst dog." As one of them put it to me at dinner last night, "Thank you for not giving up on Marley."

You see, behind all the funny stories about Marley's wild and mischievous ways is a sad sub-text. For every "Marley" that finds a family willing to put up with the antics and give him a home for life, there are dozens that end up abandoned by families that lose patience. Many of those dogs get adopted again, only to be turned back in. At the Animal Rescue League here, all dogs get a second and third and fourth chance. As many as it takes. In addition to taking care of the animals' medical needs, the staff and volunteers work on training them to be better companions. Some have separation anxiety, some have obsessive habits, some, damaged by abuse or neglect, have unpredictable temperaments. But I should add, many, many of the dogs have no "issues" at all. They simply had become inconvenient and so were turned in. Some by families who were moving, some by military members getting deployed, some because of an owner's death. As I walked through the shelter just before dusk last night, I was impressed at how many of the dogs had, as far as I could tell, great, friendly, well-behaved personalities. Perfect pets just waiting for the perfect home.

It reminded me that all dogs deserve a shot at becoming a loyal part of a family, and that sometimes the best pets of all are adopted from shelters. It's almost as if they know that you have given them a second chance at a good life, and they are all the more appreciative for it.

posted by John Grogan at 10:46 AM

13 Comments:

Blogger Tina said...

John:

My ex-husband and I had several dogs (6) over the course of our marriage... we were committed to keeping them for life. We often discussed the fact one of our dogs- which was a Staffordshire Terrier cross- would have ended up a dog house dog or being put down if she had been adopted by someone else. She was very headstrong and she and I were in constant struggle for next in command position. Most people urged us to get rid of her when I had my daughter. I was determined to keep her - as well as our other 3 dogs at the time. I was a challenge to be sure... but I worked hard to keep their schedule the same even at times getting up at 2 a.m. for the day to spend time with just the dogs before Raine woke up for the day... it was so worth it. Squirt ended up passing away from a stroke when she was 12. I'm so glad she ended up with us... as with all of our other dogs ... anyway ... it's just sad to me how often dogs are given up on. Thanks for your new blog :> T

2:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

John,

You are so right about animals that come from shelters seeming to know they have been given a second chance and showing their appreciation. My husband and I adopted a dog a year ago who was abandoned and he is such a sweetheart. Not a day goes by that he doesn't show me his love and affection for giving him a chance at a happy life at his now forever home. These shelters rely upon the good people in their communities and kind hearted individuals across the country to help provide financial support, volunteer their time and partner to help them ensure the animals have a safe place to go. I volunteered my day today at a local animal sanctuary for abused, neglected and abandoned animals and it was both heart breaking as well as inspirational. Heart breaking because of the stories I heard of former owners and what they had done to the animals that now had found peace at the shelter. One dog in particular that I took a liking to was Max, a Labrador Retriever / Shar Pei mix. I found out his former owner came home from work on a daily basis and would take a baseball bat and beat Max. Poor guy, just a 15 month old pup who was as sweet and lovable a dog as you could find. Thankfully, a neighbor saw the beatings and brought Max to the Animal Rescue Fund to save his life. The inspiration I felt comes from all the volunteers that were there helping to support this organization and its desire to find safe and loving homes for all the pets. I have such a love of animals that it's impossible to not be forever touched by the need to do all we can do while we are on this earth to help animals have the best life possible. Thank you John for doing your part to make a difference in many animals' lives.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Gi said...

Oh, John, what a beautifull cause!
I admire so much your engagement with those rights!
Every time I see a dog on the streets, altough I can't bring them home, I always feed them with something that I buy near by... and almost every time, they follow me, and stay around... and it's heartbreaking, because they are truly so loyal, but at the same time underestimated...
It breaks my heart to see a dog with no home... no family... so I try to give them at least love, at least for a short moment.
I intend to adopt dogs when I have my own house... and I admire very much who does that, and people like you, and the volunteers, that do the difference! I totaly support it!
The dogs have so much to teach us, - as you showed on Marley and Me - and if each person gets a lesson from a dog, the world will be a better place, and much more peaceful and with much more love.
Congratulations! Certainly you are helping the institution and helping the dogs to have a home.
Congrats again, John!

Regards,

Giovana - 19
Brazil

ps - your last sentence made me cry!

3:33 PM  
Blogger Shorty said...

I absolutely agree with this! One of the best and longest-lived dogs my family has owned yet is a pound puppy. She's been a true blessing!

Also, the funny thing about your entry here is that it reminded me of a different kind of adoption process - humans. My parents also adopted a boy when my sister and I were young. He had many emotional (and other) issues. Now my parents are foster parents for children with similar issues. Your suggestion that "many dogs have no 'issues' at all; they simply have become inconvenient and so were turned in" holds incredibly true for many children as well. I wish more ppl were willing to adopt animals AND children. I believe the world would be a better place.

8:13 AM  
Blogger LaWanna said...

John,

Thank you for telling your story about the animal- pet bond in a way that has touched the world. Our audience at the event loved the stories and message. Everyone who takes the time to inform others about the plight of homeless animals becomes a part of all those looking for forever homes and love. And all those who do what they can, whether for a moment or a lifetime, become better people for having done so.

8:12 PM  
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8:22 PM  
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8:22 PM  
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8:22 PM  
Blogger JULIUS said...

Olá, desculpe não usar o inglês, mesmo porque nada sei sobre essa língua e nem sei se você iria encontrar um tradutor para o português, enfim...Sou do Brasil, tenho 26 anos e assisti ao filme de "Marleu e Eu", este mês. Tinha assistido um dia antes do meu aniversário e no dia seguinte comprei seu livro "Cachorros encrenqueiros se Divertem Mais".Pois é, acabei hoje e tive uma grande vontade de te dizer "OBRIGADO!" É como estar ao seu lado no dia a dia, conhecer mais sobre seu país e seu povo e notar que os americanos se parecem com os brasileiros e que sinceramente não deveria existir diferenças de raças e nem de nenhuma outra. Aguardo seu novo livro, aqui no Brasil, estarei sempre que puder acompanhando e lógico tentando traduzir para minha língua suas ideias e sobre sua vida.
Obrigado mais uma vez. Abraços!

6:13 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hi John have just finished your book, Marley & Me and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. You told the story so beautifully and though I have never had a lab myself I see plenty of them in my job as a veterinary nurse. We're always extracting something from a stomach, I especially liked the way you described a GDV so many people still don't know what this is and it's such a serious condition that anyone with a large dog should be aware of. Your book made me laugh and cry and I'm sure to read it again, hope you and your family are well please thank them for allowing us a window into their lives.
Sam (Essex, England)

PS am going to see the movie tonight if I was crying at your book does not bode well for living colour.
All the best.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Carol Belisle said...

Just wanted you to know how much I am enjoying "The Long Journey Home".
I had a VERY Catholic mother in law so I can definitely relate.
Keep up the good work. You
are terrific!

9:20 AM  
Blogger O MELHOR LIVRO E FILME PRA MIM MARLE AND ME said...

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3:50 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hi John I just wanted to let you know their is a dog in my town in mc arthur ca named Marley and he acts just like ur Marley..

8:33 PM  

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