I did/saw something last night that left me with a really heavy heart.
All of my dogs are rescue dogs. Meg and Belle came to us through American Brittany Rescue. K is a National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN) dog. Both rescue organizations are staffed by volunteers who do all kinds of stuff like fostering dogs, helping move dogs from one place to another, screening adoption applications, fundraising, etc. It takes a concerted effort to provide the services these dogs need.
After we adopted our first dog, we just knew we had to pitch in to help, too. If it weren’t for all of those people out there, we never would’ve gotten CeCe. She’s the one who started it all.
Anyway… with three dogs of our own, fostering is just not at option for us. So my rescue involvement is limited. I help with gift wrapping fundraisers around the holidays, participate in transport chains when I can and perform home visits. A home visit is when someone actually goes to the home of a potential adopter to make sure it’s a safe environment for the dog.
I’ve done quite a few home visits over the years and have met many very nice people along the way. I’ve also seen some stuff I’d really rather forget. Oddly enough, the last two home visits I did were awful. I did one last night and it was the absolute worst.
Before I even go on a home visit, I like to do a couple of things. First, read the adoption application carefully to see if there are any red flags and get an idea as to what the adopters are looking for in a dog, their history with pets, do they have kids, etc. Next, I like to talk to the people who are fostering the dog being considered for adoption. Typically, the potential adopter and foster parent will have already spoken. But I like to get the inside scoop on the dog so I can determine if the adopters expectations are realistic.
Back in July, I did a home visit in West Virginia. M and C were considering adopting AND fostering. They live in a big, old farmhouse on the outskirts of a cute little college town. They are absolutely delightful people and their home environment is like doggie dreamland. Plus they are very intelligent people who know how to handle dogs.
The home visit I did last night was for a woman interested in adopting M and C’s foster dog. I was tickled to have a reason to talk to M again. She told me all about how well the foster was doing, how far he’d come, what sort of home he’d thrive in, etc. She’d spent quite a bit of time talking to the potential adopter who sounded great on the phone. It sounded like it just might be the perfect match.
Another thing I do is check out the neighborhood on Google. You gotta love street view. When I did that, I saw the house was in an older suburb, more urban than suburban. It’s on a quiet street, on a corner lot, with a nice, big, fenced yard. I was going in with high hopes.
Two weeks ago when we first started talking about the home visit, M said the potential adopter told her she was a little stressed about the home visit and wanted to clean a bit first. People often think a home inspection will involve a white-glove test or something. I figured she was just one of those people who liked everything to be in its place and didn’t want me to see a little clutter.
When I arrived, the woman said something to the effect of, “I’m sorry my house is a bit of a mess. I’ve been working on straightening it. I did make a spot for you to sit in the basement, so we’ll go down there.”
“Oh, I’m not here to make sure you are super-clean or anything. I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I said.
And then I walked in to something like this…
I was appalled. And completely at a loss for words. I think I might have said, “Wow, this is really a lot of stuff.”
I had Belle with me. The woman pointed us to a path she’d sort of cleared to the basement. There was about a 4′ x4′ section of floor that was semi-visible in front of a sofa piled high with crap. The woman said, “Here, I cleared a space for you to sit.” But she had to move a pile of stuff to make room. There was no place for her to sit. Belle was having a field day sniffing around.
The woman was very nice, clean-looking, nicely dressed, and well-spoken. One would never know she lived like that. We chatted a bit as Belle explored. At one point, Belle started sniffing at a trash bag that was about 5 feet away against a wall.
“Oh, no honey,” the woman said. “You’ll probably find some chicken bones in there.” Then she looked at me and explained that tomorrow was trash day and the bag was sitting there waiting to be taken out.
There was a large, round coffee table pushed up against the sofa, also piled high with crap. There was a corner close to me, sort of clear except for a couple of mostly-empty condiment packets of honey. Belle was quite interested in sniffing those. Then she started nosing at a large pile of papers, pushing it aside to get at what was underneath.
“Oh, don’t dig in there,” the woman said. “There’s some chicken bones under there I meant to throw away.”
Oh. My. God.
I was just beside myself. Normally I’d look around the house a bit, see where the dog was going to sleep, etc. Not there.
It was horrible.
I was completely at a loss.
She assured me the place would be clean by Thanksgiving. That’s two weeks away. She also said she’s got a woman coming in to help her, because she knows it’s too much for her to tackle by herself.
I seriously felt like I was in an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive.
Finally, I’d had enough. I grabbed Belle and we headed up the steps. I had to stop midway and unwrap a large, empty and torn green trash bag from around my foot.
I guess that’s a perfect example of why home visits are important.
This is an interesting Web page that shows the different degrees of hoarding. (last night’s house was about a 5.) While searching for images to use here, I discovered that Fairfax County, Virginia, has a special Web page with information on hoarding.