As the year comes to a close, families gather together to celebrate and pin hopes on the year to come. It's an enriching and reflective time that always gives more than it takes. This feeling is very different for an animal rescue.
Every season brings a new hurdle within animal welfare groups, whether it be natural disasters or a sudden influx of newborn pups or kittens. And, each year, the demands continue to grow.
Melissa Kaplan from Southern California Bulldog Rescue has been working in animal welfare for over a decade. "When I started in rescue, there were four dogs, now we are at over 100 and it just keeps getting worse."
All this activity comes to a head during the months of December and January with a two-fold problem. The first issue is how few adoptions happen around this time of year. The stress of holidays and traveling means people are too busy to consider adopting.
The second obstacle is the Christmas puppy. Many families choose to gift an adorable puppy, but hostility with the older family pet may force them to decide between the two later on. The shiny new puppy usually wins, thus animal shelters and rescues begin to fill up with older dogs during the holidays.
When we chatted, Melissa was stuck in Los Angeles traffic with a bulldog who had been surrendered to a local shelter. "Honey is our fourth dog this week; a typical week has 0-1 dogs coming in, and the week isn't over yet."
"Of the four dogs we have taken in" she explains, "three have medical issues including Honey here." Everyone in rescue knows this happens, so they prepare. They stock up at the food bank, ask friendly rescues for help, and hope for the best.
Honey was picked up from the shelter because she has a slight ear ablation, but is otherwise perfect. Everyone at the shelter loved her, so they called SoCal Bulldog to be sure she had the best shot at healing and moving into a happy home.
Many adoptable dogs will wake up Christmas morning in a kennel or rescue facility because everyone wants a puppy, and a puppy in an animal rescue almost always means there is something seriously wrong. Irreputable breeders make a habit of selling dogs and disappearing when costly medical issues arise, leaving local rescues to step in.
Between abandoned seniors, puppies riddled with medical issues, and families struggling to afford their beloved pet, rescue work seems heartbreaking and thankless. However, Melissa is quick to say the biggest outpouring of charity comes at the end of the year. People arrive at their doors with bags of treats, food, beds, blankets.
"Every year we get through it." Melissa says optimistically, "Everytime I think I want to quit, the dogs keep me in it."
To support Melissa and Southern California Bulldog Rescue, visit their poundWISHES page and consider making a donation.
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Bridget Bowhay is the Product Manager at poundWISHES. Follow along on Facebook to hear more amazing rescue tales.