Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Dog's Eye View of The Misha May Foundation Sancturay, Training and Adoption Lodge by Lorraine May

Please read on to understand our dream of a non traditional rescue home, and help us realize it…

Dawn: Our Overnight Human Caregivers awake and prepare for the day. They immediately let us go outside. Some of us are more isolated due to medical or behavior issues; the rest of us slept in groups with the dogs we like the best. Our Caregivers sleep with, and check on, us all night long in our home-like environment. You will not find this level of 24/7 attention and care in very many animal settings.

I am your guide through this amazing dog-centered, yet human-friendly facility. I have been here the longest, since I have so much to learn, and also had so much to forget.

A Safe Haven for Learning What We Need to Know: Some of us are learning to like humans after mistreatment at their hands, so we get enough attention to make us happy but not scared. Others are learning that being alone is safe, after developing anxiety from being abandoned or frightened, so they receive less attention than they want, but enough to help them feel secure.

The original intention of animal shelters was to protect the public from dangerous animals, and to provide a safe place for lost pets until they were united with their owners. The traditional shelter model is obsolete in this current time of millions of family pets being abandoned. Meantime, these unfortunate throwaways deserve a life, as we work to change the public’s consciousness about when and where and why to get a pet, and how to create a lifelong joyful relationship.

The Morning Humans Arrive: Upon arriving, the Morning Humans clean our sleeping areas and dish out our breakfast, while outside we relieve ourselves, stretch our muscles and get reacquainted through greetings and play. There isn’t much waste to clean up inside since our routine is supportive of house training - just like in a real home (sigh). Special attention is paid to accidents to ascertain if someone is ill, needs more house training, or needs to join the "go-out-in-the-middle-of the-night" gang.

The Big Question: The Mornings join our Caretakers to discuss us. Who needs what? Who did what? Who is improving? And the biggest question of all - howls, barks & yips! - Who chose, and was chosen by, a Forever Caregiver yesterday? There is laughter and tears and excitement. There is also some disappointment for those who didn’t find a match. But we aren’t worried since we know that Misha May will make sure we get our turn.

Food, Glorious Food: Here we are, running inside (politely, of course) to get our breakfast. Food, glorious food! Soon, there is only the sound of munching and crunching, demonstrating our delirious satisfaction with each mouthful. After eating, we rest quietly, digesting, maybe even dreaming about this day‘s possibilities and adventures. Each moment, each day, is so very special at the Misha May Lodge.

The Office: Some Mornings will remain with us, allowing us to have outside time as needed. Everyone else heads to The Office, a very important place. Preparation for the day is important in order to offer what we call Great Customer Service to anyone who contacts Misha May. This is one of the places where Big-Heart Volunteers help us. They are so smart - they know about using computers, answering phones, finding money, cleaning, fixing, planning and leading and well, everything! Some of them also spend time with us walking, training, playing, bathing and comforting. I have so many favorite Big-Hearts!

The Front Door: It is very exciting to watch the front door. So many good things come to us through there: food, toys, donations, money, human friends, and dog friends who need us. People bring their Owned Dogs for training classes, traditional and holistic medical care, boarding, and that ‘special operation.' Radiant Rescuers bring their foster dogs for training and care as well. People borrow from our extensive library, listen to Dogsmart Speakers, watch DVDs, and share and learn at our Monthly Meet and Greets.

Misha May Excellent Owner Model: Rescue colleagues visit from other states and countries. They leave, feeling confident that by following our model, they will demonstrate to their communities how to value, choose, and commit to a new best friend.

I Remember: When I came through the front door, I was very confused and frightened. Immediately, the Greeting Friends helped me feel safe, and over time, convinced me that I would be able to trust and love again. I believe them now. I believe them so much, that I am ready to watch for the Forever Caregivers.

Watching for the Forever Caregivers: They come in looking and talking and wondering. Will they find their friend? We respond by watching, smelling and considering. Are they my new, forever family? Sometimes it is love at first sight; sometimes we are all awkward; sometimes our expectations and dreams match perfectly; sometimes it just doesn‘t work out like we all had hoped.

Quality Companion Animals: Most of us will make a better companion, than any typical non-socialized, caged animal you will buy at a pet store, who has been separated too early (8 weeks is the minimum) from their parents, who are living their lives in torture at a puppy mill, for breeding purposes only. (No reputable breeder would allow their pets to be sold through a pet store, where they have no control over their placement and future.) We are also right up there with any bought bred dog since we receive comparable or better care, plus training. Some of us have quirks which Misha May will be honest about and help the Forever Caregivers work out. None of us brings more money from our reasonable adoption fees than Misha May has spent on our care. Profit is not the focus at Misha May, our futures are.

Not Watching the Leave Behinds: The only time we don’t like to watch the front door is when a Leave Behind arrives with his owner. Sometimes they grasp their situation right away - their pain and confusion is difficult to witness. But, of course, we know that if there is space, Misha May will accept whomever is next, and get them what they need.

Examples of Rehabilitation: The training is reward based, anxiety reducing and primarily instructive in nature, rather than corrective or punitive. Each individual case, including Separation Anxiety and Human or Dog Aggression, is evaluated by an experienced behaviorist, after which a professional team creates a treatment plan. Everyone at the Lodge, from employees to volunteers, joyfully reviews treatment plans, and keeps all of their contacts with each animal consistent and supportive of the goal of adoptability.

Fearful dogs engage in confidence building activities. Unruly dogs receive instruction in manners and etiquette. Puppies are socialized and socialized and socialized some more. Clever, intelligent dogs are stimulated and challenged both physically and mentally. Very active dogs are exercised and entertained. All of us receive supplements, love, training and the time we need prior to facing adoption. Forever Caregivers are informed of everything known about the chosen dog, with the reminders that training is a lifetime process and all dogs are required to be returned if they don’t work out.

Discrimination Policy: Misha May does not turn away any breed, age, behavior, condition, illness, size, etc. The Caregivers are prepared to face each individual situation with compassion and creativity, finding and making available what this being needs. I have seen puppies of all kinds and very old dogs, too. I’ve seen mutts of every combination and purebreds of every type.

At least 25% of abandoned, homeless dogs are purebreds or designer mutts. This means that an irresponsible, uncaring store, puppy mill or breeder profited from their initial sale, while the ultimate price is being paid by the dog, and the financial burden is being carried by the rescue system.
Only about 10% of people getting a dog choose a rescued dog. No wonder so many of us are here!

More on Our Schedule: The remainder of our day until dinner, (food, glorious food!) will bring us what we need and want. Some of us will see a vet or a trainer. Others will play in a supervised group or in a game like agility (we have to keep those active breeds busy). Hikes and field trips are provided - so are swims. Our Lodge was designed for us, and our Humans understand. We aren’t just waiting; we are living. The plan is to help us improve everyday to remain or become exceptionally adoptable!

The Chosen: Forever Caregivers will choose some of us today, and it will be obvious that we have chosen them too. References are called, homes are visited, contracts are signed, and then….what we have dreamed and been patient about, what we have built trust and waited for, is really coming true. As those fortunate ones leave us behind, they feel confident that they have the skills, understanding and matches to live well with their new families. They are also relieved to know that we, their friends who are left behind for now, will have the same opportunities. They are proud to be Misha May success stories, proving that there is a home waiting for nearly every dog.

Evening: For those of us still here, we eat and rest and play and have one last time outside. We bless all living beings and give thanks for our merciful reprieve.

Quiet Time: We settle in with our buddies in our comfortable, and comforting packs, to live and love and play another day…..

Imagine our doggie lives without The Misha May Sanctuary, Training & Adoption Lodge - It isn’t here yet but it will be, won’t it? Will you please donate, fund raise, and network to help us
get the safe haven we so badly need? Please…

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