Saturday, May 8, 2010

No good deed goes unpunished

The story I'm going to tell I got from someone in the group I'll designate 1st Rescue. It's important for context, I think, to understand that 1st Rescue is funded entirely out of the pockets of its active members, no outside source of funds. I should also note that this is not a tale from this or any other New England state.

A man with a very senior position in a large company has no dog because he travels too much on business and can't provide a stable long-term home. However, a young male dog wanders up to his house, clearly in need of help, and he takes the dog in, with the intention of finding a new home for it. He consults a person from 1st Rescue for advice, but after a month no new home has been found, and he really can't keep this dog long-term, because of his business travel.

So 1st Rescue takes the dog, has him vetted (shots and neuter), and subsequently transfers him to 2nd Rescue, which for various reasons is better equipped to place this particular dog. (Rescues tend to have specialties.) 2nd Rescue reimburses 1st Rescue for half the vet bill.

1st Rescue then approaches the man, the original rescuer, and asks him to pay the other half of the bill. 1st Rescue is astonished when the original rescuer is offended by the request.

Person from 1st Rescue then posts the story on a pet forum that shall remain nameless. 1st Rescue person also includes, for contrast, the case of a woman in a much more junior position in the same company, who found a dog and had a yard sale to help pay that' dog's "largish" vet bill.

Person from 1st Rescue proceeds to speculate about whether this is a "guy thing" or a result of the fact that people who are better off have no idea what it's like to struggle with bills and make ends meet, while people who are more precarious economically do understand this and are naturally more generous. In the subsequent discussion, essentially all of the comments discuss which of these is more likely the cause, with the weight of opinion running in favor of the man's "problem" being that he's too well off to understand about paying bills.

Plus, of course, the added observation that he clearly has no idea how rescues work and thought his "problem" was solved when he "dumped" the dog.

Excuse me? "Dumped" ? This was not his dog, and he did not "dump" it; he rescued it, and after he was not able to find an adopting family himself, he got the dog into a rescue.

He's one of the good guys, going out of his way to help a dog even though he's not in a position to adopt a dog himself. Yet he's the subject of hand-wringing over how he could be so shallow as to be offended when asked to reimburse 1st Rescue for the other half of the dog's vet expenses. Certainly it would have been good of him to do so. Certainly it seems likely that it would be no financial hardship for him to do so. But he's one of the rescuers, the first rescuer in this case, the one that made it possible for this dog to have a chance--and he's being talked about as having "dumped" the dog, and tsk-tsked over because he didn't pay the vet bills incurred after the dog left his care, on top of having cared for the dog for a month prior to1st Rescue taking him.

Shouldn't we be celebrating his generosity and willingness to take action?


  1. This sort of reminds me of the righteousness of certain religions groups. The bottom line with volunteer work is to acknowledge that different people bring different things to the effort. Sometimes it is time, sometimes commitment an other times it is money but barring some dysfunctional abuse/neglect it is never acceptable to cast aspersions on the person.

    This is **NOT** a way to mentor a person or simply say "Thank you! Well done."

  2. Hey, a comment! Thank you, Kate! :)

    I think rescue people often feel so overwhelmed that they lose perspective. What I find especially sad is that in cases like this, it has the effect of discouraging rather than encouraging potential recruits. The people involved should have smiled, thanked him, and reserved any attempt to ask him for a donation for a later time and a more neutral situation. "Would you be interested in participating in our fund-raising event...?"

  3. As a rescuer, I can attest - burnout happens quickly, and it's hard to maintain a positive attitude some days.

    I used to volunteer for a rescue whose leader would demand a donation for any pet coming in if she was in a poor mood.

    We get lots of people who turn their dog over to us, and include an envelope. They understand our plight, and they are in the position to do something about it.

    Others are not as able. Most of the pets we get are due to constraints that go along with being in a low income bracket. Do we take it personally? Nope.

    However, as a note to your readers who may deal with a rescue group at some point in their life. An envelope with a few dollars in it can grease your dogs way into a no-kill rescue that otherwise would not have had the resources to take in yet another case.

    I also want to note that this goes both ways. If I had a dollar for every rude and ignorant email I've received when I've refused a pet... well, it would pay for a lot of vet bills. Just because I rescue doesn't require me to deal with *every* other human's pet problems.

  4. Oh, yeah, no doubt the rudeness and the sense of entitlement can go both ways. I was just struck by this particular instance of, well, it seems like a form of blindness.