Musings & Threads. Why I Rescue.
Why I Rescue...
In my previous life, I volunteered for a local rescue group. Over 13 years, I fostered and rehabilitated about 200 dogs. But after my world fell apart I moved away and have not fostered dogs since. After mourning the loss of my two dogs last year, I decided that it was time to get another dog.
I have had a number of dogs throughout my life and the dirty little secret is that rescue dogs are rarely as easy as dogs that you raise from puppies. I found that people who surrender dogs either hide the dog’s issues or exaggerate them, depending on their objective. If they want to quickly get rid of a dog and they are concerned that the group will not take the dog, they pretend that the dog is a great dog, but they have to move or some other excuse. The other group want to justify their giving up on a dog, so they come up with a litany of reasons as to why they are doing so.
I confess that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take on issues; but after years of volunteering, I knew that I had no choice but to rescue. When I went to visit Gus, I saw that his previous owners were from the latter group. His issues included: not housebroken at all, leash aggressive, dog aggressive, people aggressive, object aggressive, food aggressive, excessive barker and a biter. And when I met him, I saw a stubborn little guy who wouldn’t give me the time of day because he had bonded to an employee and only wanted her. But the local rescue group really wanted me to take him and did a great job of stroking my ego…which is why I found myself with an 8-year old, not housebroken, aggressive, barking dog.
As I worked with him, it became clear that he was misunderstood. Housebreaking was difficult, because my other dog, who suffers from PTSD and lacks confidence, figured she should be going to the bathroom in the house, too. So, I had to housebreak two dogs. Our breakthrough occurred when I realized that Gus will kill his own mother for hotdogs; so I was able to work on his issues using hot dogs as rewards. I found that he has an extremely sweet side, a major league cuddler. Leash aggression is now rare, no object or food aggression and certainly no biting; and he gets along great with my other dog. We still have incessant barking and some days I get exasperated as I know that this is particularly annoying to my neighbors. But, today I felt that he had made enough progress that I could take him to dog park and not worry about him attacking the other dogs. And he loved it, running around, making new friends, peeing on every tree, rock, pole, fence post, you get the picture. And as he was running around, another dog owner came up to me. She recognized him, he had been owned by one of her relatives, who had not understood him and found him to be a major annoyance. He was kept in a crate pretty much all day, neglected and yelled at. She marveled at how happy he now was.
Oh, yea, that’s why I rescue.