Advice For A New Rescuer

I’m still having trouble transferring documents from ‘the old days’ to my new computer.  And I’d really like to finish telling you about the young six pack, kind of closing that chapter, before fast-forwarding to the very difficult years when they were old all at the same time, and I started losing them much too close together. 

So this post is an interpolation, about things I wish I’d known when I started out in rescue.  I’m sure I’ll think of many more things to add to it, and I’m sure, as I go along in my rescue life, I’ll learn more things I don’t know now.  So here’s just a start, in no particular order:

You’ll need a workhorse of a washing machine, and the largest capacity one you can find.  I like the one I have now, a Whirlpool Cabrio.  It’s energy efficient, which is great, of course.  But the best part is that it has no agitator, meaning it can hold all kinds of large comforters.  I can wash even my plush king sized comforter that has a tag saying it must be washed in a commercial double-or-triple loader (I was a nervous wreck the first time I did it, but I had a feeling it might work).  I suppose a front loader might be even better, but I wanted to be able to add things to it once it was started.  I believe they now have front loaders with that feature, but I didn’t see any at the time I was looking.  I’m not the best online shopper, though–most people would probably find it an interesting search, but I wanted my washing machine strong, dependable, and soon.  As a rescuer, you will do much more laundry, much more often than you did before, so do a good search and get what you want and can afford.  I was fairly appalled at the cost of my Cabrio, but it was money well spent, and it’s already paid for itself, in my mind.

You absolutely must stock up on Petastic, which is the new name for the formula that used to be sold under the Nature’s Miracle name.  The new Nature’s Miracle doesn’t work well.  Get Petastic, lots of it.  It’ll keep you from feeling you’re living in a barn, on those challenging days.  If you think you can handle very young or very old rescue pets, buy even more.  🙂  Also treat yourself to a good vacuum cleaner (I’ve got a Shop Vac now, too), a good broom, and a wonderful mop.  This last is tricky.  Since Quickie stopped selling its blue, polyvinylchloride-or-whatever-it-was mop head, I cannot find a mop head or sponge that can hold up at my house for even a month.  That reminds me–

Don’t waste time trying to have carpet where your rescues will live.  You’ll be happier if you have a very easy-to-clean surface, and your house will smell nicer.  If you feel you can’t live without carpet, buy yourself a very good carpet shampooer.  I have a Bissell Pro Heat Clean Shot 2X, and it’s really wonderful.  I could do a commercial for it.  My first floor, where we do most of our hanging out, is carpet-free now, but I used the Bissell several times a week there for years, and the machine is still going strong on my upstairs carpets.  Stock up on your favorite cleaning products, in general, and it’ll be wonderful for everybody if you can learn to have your favorites be natural ones, and ones which use no animal ingredients and aren’t tested on animals.  You’ll be doing a lot of cleaning, so you need to make it as pleasant for yourself as possible.

You should train yourself to look for blankets, soft sheets, comforters, pillows and pillowcases, and old crib mattresses at every garage sale and thrift shop you visit, and you should sign yourself up on your local recycling site so you can get many of these things for no cost at all.  In the old days, you might never have considered buying used bedding (I sure didn’t), but your sensibilities will change.  When I saw Brigadoon through cancer, for instance, I was so grateful for the scores of blankets I had available to me, which meant that he always had clean, soft cloth under him, that I never once cared that they were pre-owned.

And of course, always be on the lookout for dog and cat beds and cushions, bowls, crates, and collars and leashes.  You will find them at garage sales and thrift stores for next to nothing, while at the pet stores, and even at the big box discount stores, they are surprisingly expensive, for what they are.

It’ll be easier for you if your home has lots of rooms you can close off, rather than being of the more modern, open-plan type.  You will frequently want to quarantine new pets, or just give them some private space.  For certain pets, baby gates might be enough–another great item to find at garage sales and thrift stores.

You must have a securely fenced yard, unless you don’t mind having this job be even harder than it already will be.  I can’t even imagine it, without my large fenced yard.  There was a period of a few months when Burberry kept digging under the fence (she’s the queen of quick digging, and she can squeeze through what looks like an impossibly small opening), and she taught some of the others how to get out, too, and I thought I would lose my mind.  I was always trying to put things in front of the holes, bolster the vulnerable places with chicken wire, etc.  Finally, with help, I figured out how to permanently reinforce the fence, and it took several of us two full days to do it, but my life became instantly and beautifully simple again.  Let me know if you have a digger dog and need to know how to do it, by the way.  Before I got the good advice, I had received two similar estimates from two fencing companies, and was prepared to spend close to a thousand dollars on something that I think would not have worked.

Stock up on certain meds, vitamins, and supplements when you can get them on sale, because you need to buy the best quality you can.  But check your expiration dates, too, although some of these aren’t accurate (the items are good for longer than the date given).  The ones I find myself using all the time (and these are for dogs only–I have very little experience with giving cats vitamins and supplements) are vitamins C and E, fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin (always buy a source that has those two things together, my vet says), and MSM.  Vitamin E is useful for so many things that I really can’t do without it. The vitamin C thing is interesting.  Dogs make their own, apparently, but not when they’re sick or their health is somehow otherwise compromised; at least, that’s how I understand it–and by supplementing it if I sense they’re fighting something, or if they’re preparing for surgery, I feel they can direct their energy better.  The glucosamine/chondroitin and the MSM are for arthritis and joint issues, and they work, and work well.  Another very useful thing is milk thistle–readily available here, in our grocery stores–which is a very safe, very potent liver cleanser.  It’s so potent that it can save someone’s life who has eaten a deadly mushroom, if they can get it fast enough.  I’m fairly certain it helped Brigadoon’s liver remain effect-free, although he was on Rimadyl for years.  It certainly won’t hurt.  Ginger capsules are another great thing to keep around, because they work wonders on minor tummy upsets.  For bigger upsets of that kind, you need a supply of Pepcid AC in tablet or capsule form.  You’ll also need the tiny, low dosage aspirins they used to call ‘baby aspirin’–the orange-flavored ones.  The last thing I can think of for now is the herb valerian–and cats can have this–which is an excellent natural relaxant, useful for all kinds of situations.  There are other things people swear by–Bach’s Rescue Remedy is one, but the one time I tried it, I could see no result–and I try to write down all suggestions.  Having supplements around means you can begin to help your animals the minute you notice something is amiss.  And it can and will save you hundreds of dollars in vet bills.

And, speaking of vets, that may be the most important thing of all–you need to have a wonderful vet.  If you’re not crazy about your vet and you think you want to do rescue, shop around for another vet.  You need to find someone who will be honest with you about the care your animals really need, not someone who will be trying to sell you every new, expensive test in order to swell your bill.  But you also don’t want someone who will think you’re trying to skimp on your pets’ care because you do rescue.  It’s a fine line.  You yourself have to want the absolute best thing for your pets, health-wise (and otherwise!), but nothing unnecessary, and your vet has to be of the same mind.  One sign of a great vet in the modern world is that he or she will not be pushing vaccines on you.  There’s growing evidence that we’ve been over-vaccinating in a pretty big way, and a vet who tells you otherwise should make you suspicious.  That doesn’t mean that all vaccines are bad, either.  Your vet should tell you the whole truth–the benefits, the risks, the cutting-edge knowledge and theories.  I love our veterinary office, and especially our special vet, Dr. Scott Miner.  I don’t know what I’d do without him.  Come to think of it, finding that office, after years at a fancy-schmancy, great-on-paper, not-so-great-for-real vet, helped me have the confidence to take on more animals.  You gotta know where your help is coming from…

Well, it’s time to curl up with them and become one with my pack.  I’ll leave you with a painting of Burberry, my Treeing Walker Coonhound, and a link to the artist who painted her, and from whom you can commission your pet’s portrait:

 Burberry, Beloved Queen of the Quick Dig
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