I have this weird impossible little fantasy. It's a world where all the puppies of terrier breeds - in fact all working breeds of dogs - gave birth to hideously ugly puppies. Because then people who bought/adopted those puppies might actually think about what life with an active, intelligent dog will be like. Puppy blindness is so common and invariably the people most susceptible to it are the ones least able to actually provide what a dog needs be successful living with humans.
|Salinas is still looking for her "good fit". She's a great girl but has some anxiety issues and will need a family with some skills (or interest in learning those skills) in working to help her gain confidence.|
But terrier puppies are not ugly. They are almost illegally adorable and so the shelters fill up with all the 1+ year old dogs whose humans have failed them and then ultimately blamed the dog for behaviors that are a result of the human's failure. A dog is not just a pretty face - they have a personality, likes and dislikes, fears and possibly phobias, a certain energy level... They are an individual, just like you are an individual and when you add a dog to your family, be sure to keep that in mind.
So as responsible rescuers hoping to change the path a dog's life has taken for the better, we take these undersocialized or hyper or anxious or pushy or snappy or (insert label here) dogs. We start to work on modifying their behaviors so that they are happier dogs who feel more in control of themselves and better understand what's expected of a "family dog."
Here's where it gets frustrating. People go to Petfinder or Adoptapet or even Facebook and they see an adorable photo of one of our cute foster dogs and they can't see anything past the cute. You talk with them about a special needs dog and the type of training you're working on and what kind of environment they tend to struggle in but nothing is heard. They nod their head and say that's fine - no, they won't be upset if the dog submissive urinates or if the dog initially snarls at their guests when they visit.
You see, they have a story all set in their mind where they adopt this dog and a happily ever after occurs and everyone walks off into the sunset. But that's not what happens. Because dogs are living, breathing individuals and building a relationship and learning to live with another living, breathing individual takes time and effort. It is not instant and it is not necessarily easy. Love does not conquer all. Dedication and effort - that is what makes a relationship successful. Love helps but it won't get you to the finish line.
If anyone tells you that all rescue dogs are behaviorally fine they are lying to you. Now, a lot of them have absolutely no issues, or they have behaviors that just need a good basic positive training class to iron out the wrinkles. But I'm here to tell you many of these dogs have been dumped because the person who had them before couldn't deal with some of the behaviors the dog has developed. That behavior could be something as benign as sleeping on the couch or as huge as separation anxiety that is so severe that they tear apart a house. Some behaviors can be modified, but some are deeply ingrained and take tons of time and patience and training of the human to work through.
Now here's what is awesome about a responsible rescue like New Rattitude and probably a little annoying to some adopters as well. We took that dog out of a shelter where it might die, we met them where they were at, and we now live with them in our home. We know these dogs. We know what they can handle and what is so terrifying to them that they cower in a corner. We know their bathroom habits, how often they vocalize and what that vocalizing sounds like. We know how they sleep at night (or don't sleep) and their style of play and what type dogs enjoy them and what type of dogs tend to be bothered by them. We know if they will cuddle with your cat or eat it. And if we don't know, we'll tell you that we don't know. Ask us questions and you will get answers about what life is like with a particular dog.
So if you apply for a dog with significant fear issues and you have a baby and a toddler and a yellow lab and a parrot and a full time job and I as the foster parent say - "this is not going to be a happy fit for either of you" - I am not trying to be mean. I am not judging you for having 3 kids or having lots of pets or working long hours or whatever else may be the case. I am just telling you what I know my foster dog can handle and letting you know that they can't handle your lifestyle.
I've had people get really angry when I told them I didn't think that they and a specific dog where a good match for each other. They say things like "but these are rescue dogs! They need a home!" And they do need a home. But they need a home where they can be successful. A home that will be the last one they ever have to get used to.
I've had dogs returned before - some for really stupid reasons, but some because I didn't follow my gut and I let the applicant sway me. In those cases when I didn't follow my gut, it's been a really awful experience for all involved. The adopters are heartbroken because no matter what training they get or what they do, the dog just seems miserable with them. And the reason the dog is miserable is that their personality doesn't fit the lifestyle of the adopter. If you take an anxious dog and put them in a loud and bustling household they are going to be miserable. Likewise, if you put an active, smart dog who needs lots of exercise and brain work in a house where the owners work 10 hour days and then come home and have dinner and watch some TV, things will not go well.
So again - this is not about being mean and judging a person. This about me having done this whole adoption thing over and over and over for many years and learning (sometimes the hard way) what type of home the different personalities of dogs do well in. This is about me wanting a dog that I have put time and energy into and that I really care about to have the best chance at a happy ending and not having to go through the upheaval of once again being re-homed. I want that dog to have a true "happily ever after" and that means the personality and activity level, and emotional state of dog and human need to mesh.
I guess I should end this with a disclaimer. New Rattitude is a great rescue. It's important to us that our foster parents tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their foster dogs to potential adopters. But I've worked with groups who are not this upfront so you need to be really careful to know who you are working with. Ask a lot of questions about the dog. Ask questions about the rescue group. Check out their Website and make sure the group is fiscally transparent. Use things like Guidestar Exchange to check and see if the non-profit has met certain criteria of fiscal responsibility and transparency to their donors. That isn't necessarily going to guarantee that they are equally transparent about the dogs they rescue, but it's a start. If for any reason you are feeling like something is being hidden or you are getting multiple stories then move on. Don't go buy a dog from a pet store, but don't adopt from a group you don't trust. It could lead to a lot of heartache.
So there's my rant. I know that it's not going to stop this from continuing to be a problem, but at least I feel better for putting it out there.