Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Belgium to Bostons

I have had the privilege of getting to know Eveline Soors through the Happy Tails Books project over the past several months. Our friendship grew from a mutual love of Boston Terriers. She would love to rescue one but it’s just not that simple in Belgium. Inspired to do her part to help the little guys, she instead signed up with American Boston Terrier Rescue to help them with their website. She’s a wonderful example of how a person can make a difference in dogs’ lives, even if she is not directly interacting with them. I hope this interview will inspire you to also come up with creative ways to give back to dog rescue – they need your help!

HTB: Eveline, you've got a blog about dogs and you've recently become a volunteer with rescue. Where did your love of animals begin?

ES: I have always loved animals. Our first dog was already there when I was born (or… well… he was there for as far as I can remember). He would follow me around the yard and then go crazy on the grass by running in really big circles around it and then laying flat on his side and just moving his legs very quickly. He was so funny and an excellent entertainer for a little kid! When I grew a bit older we got other dogs and learned a lot about dog training over the years. Ever since we got a boxer though I just fell in love with the flat faced dog breeds. I am an only child so the dogs were my only playmates. Why I love them so much? They entertain you, they get all cuddly when you feel sad, and they protect you. It’s just such a great feeling to know you have someone around you who ‘feels’ you and who doesn’t judge and is just always there for you with a love and devotion that is unconditionally.

HTB: What is it about Boston Terriers that you like so much?

ES: There are a lot of things I like about them. Of course their flat muzzles, big ears and attention-seeking eyes. When they’ve done something bad, those eyes are just so cute that you can’t get mad at them! I also like that they look a bit like little boxers, especially as a puppy, but that they do have a very different, very unique temperament.

Being a couch potato, having a dog that’s very lively will be perfect for me, he’ll get me out of my couch, up and running. Also the fact that Boston Terriers are very intelligent dogs is something I’m looking forward to since after reviewing so many dog books, there are lot of dog tricks and games I want to teach my future dog!

A lot of people might consider their ‘sounds’ a negative thing but I got used to that by growing up with boxers that snored and farted. The only sound I don’t like that much is barking, and Bostons don’t bark much so that’s great!

I think they would be a really great fit, in the end I’ll have a little dog with a big dog temperament! (as my boyfriend wanted a little dog and I wanted a big dog we will both have what we wanted)

HTB: What inspired you to help the rescue group? How did you decide which one to work with?

ES: I had heard from rescue groups before and I always thought to myself “I wish we had that in Belgium. I’d love to be able to take care of an animal that’s in a bad condition and bring it back to health.” By reading the rescue books from Happy Tails Books somehow I felt much closer to these organizations and the people who volunteer. It’s different than just browsing the internet. After reading a story about someone who started off by doing a rescue group’s website a bell started to ring in my head. Okay, maybe I couldn’t actually do something with dogs to help them out; I could help out with the website! I love making websites and I love dogs so what better mix could there be? I looked at a list of Boston Terrier Rescue groups and American Boston Terrier Rescue of course was at the very top of that list. I visited their site which was a work in progress, a good sign for me at that moment. It had a menu saying they could need programming skills etc so I decided to give it a go! I wrote to them and offered my help for the site. Shortly after, I was hired!

HTB: Are there similar dog rescue efforts in Belgium like there are in the United States? Are the problems of dog overpopulation as severe as in the United States?

ES: We have no or very few breed-specific rescue groups in Belgium. I personally don’t know any. We have a few organizations that come up for animal rights and we have the shelters for dogs, cats and rabbits. The dogs in shelters are, in general, all in good health.
To give you some idea on dog shelters in Belgium, here are some facts:

• In 2008 33.868 dogs ended up in shelters, 19.216 of them were lost dogs.
• 56,8 percent of the dogs that were lost were reunited with their owner.
This percentage has been increasing these last years because of the obligated ID chip that dogs have to have now. It makes it less simple to dump the dogs and easier to reunite them with their owner.
• 5.447 dogs (16 percent) were euthanized. It's a lot less than previous years but it is still a lot.
• 246 dogs (0,7 percent) died of natural causes.
• 52,3 percent were rehomed. This is less than the year before. I think one of the reasons is the fact that there are more and more breeders or stores who sell a wide variety of dogs with open hours and no parent dogs available. Several ad websites are flooded with these kinds of advertisements and people are only seeing the cute puppy pictures and are forgetting the breed specific official breeder dogs and the dogs in shelters.

People who spend big money on a breeder dog usually have put a lot of thought in it. People adopting a dog also adopt with a purpose. A lot of people who buy dogs at dog stores buy them on an impulse and a lot of these dogs eventually land on ad sites, are sick because of import or are put in a shelter.
Most common reasons for giving up their dog is: couples breaking up and nobody wanting the dog, changing work and having no time for the dog anymore, moving and not being able to take the dog along. I’ve seen a lot of those ads pass the revue..

I do think that, in comparison with the US, people over here feel more responsible in general for their dogs. We might not always admit it but we find it very important what other people think of us so leaving our dogs in bad conditions is something we won't quickly do because we know we would get judged for it pretty quickly. Everyone lives so close together that there's not much that can be hidden.

HTB: What advice would you give someone who may want to volunteer but be struggling to find a way they can help?

ES: Rescue groups are always in need for good foster homes since the list of dogs needing to be rescued just seems endless. Besides fostering there are so many other things you could do. Like transporting the dogs from one place to another, helping out with event preparations or being there at the actual event to promote the rescue group, looking for fundraiser ideas… But even if this is nothing for you there are still many more things you can do that may involve less time, like organizing a special day at work to gain some profit for the rescue group, handing out flyers, if you have special talents maybe make some art work or knit some doggie suits or have people donate toys and such for rescue dogs as they enter or leave a store.. Even if it’s just once, rescue groups need all the money and help they can get for the poor dogs in need. If you want to volunteer just go ahead and ask one of the rescue groups and I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to know that they can possible count on another helping hand!

* Source for statistics of dogs in shelters: FOD Economie - Algemene Directie Statistiek

No comments:

Post a Comment