Monday 3rd August: It’s a dog’s life

The stories we hear from people wanting to surrender their dogs are pretty much the same.  Allergies in the family, living in public housing and so on, all irrelevant really as the result is still an unwanted pet, so when a couple came into the office to ask about us taking their pom because of granny’s allergy, it wasn’t anything new.  The story that has emerged, however, is a sad and sorry tale of a kind of subtle and non-deliberate abuse which has turned what should be an easy dog to re-home into one that we’ll find hard to place. 

Dressed like a prince and sitting on a satin cushion

Dressed like a prince and sitting on a satin cushion

This pretty little pom was bought by the wife as a puppy, and through ignorance and “love”, the puppy was never taught anything, or trained in any way.  It’s not toilet trained, as the wife simply cleaned up after it.  It didn’t like having a harness put on so it was never taken out for walks.  It’s now so nervous of strangers and the outside world that when carried outside, the wife covers its head so it can’t see anything.

This little dog has lived in a closed-in world, the extent of which is the four walls of the apartment, and while I believe it’s never been physically harmed the result is almost as bad.  What will a dog like this do if it has to come to kennels?  To be honest, it may well die of shock, not dropping dead but by refusing to eat and getting sick.  Even if not, the dog is terrified of strangers, and like most dogs shows that fear through aggression.  The wife admits she has made mistakes, but it’s a bit late now.

 The questionnaire that we ask all potential adopters to complete has shown us that there are many people who, like this couple, really have no concept or understanding of what a dog is or what its basic needs are.  We turn down a lot of would-be adopters for this reason, and it’s not uncommon for us to receive angry emails as a result.  Today we get one from someone who has said that the dog would be left on its own for up to 10 hours a day, which isn’t acceptable.  Many think that walking a dog once a week, or even less, is OK.   I know that by turning down these applications for adoption the chances are high that these people will just go and buy a pet shop puppy, where no questions are asked other than whether they want to pay by cash or credit card.  I can almost guarantee that those puppies will then live a miserable and solitary life, often in a cage, until they prove to be too much trouble and are passed on to someone else.  I ask the same question again and again: how do you train a puppy if you’re not there?  Who will play with the puppy?  How will the puppy know where it’s supposed to go to the toilet?  This is where the cage comes in, as all pets shops sell them along with the puppy.  Here, easy, just stick the puppy in this when you’re at work and there’ll be no mess and no chewed furniture when you get home. We get the result.

Even with the questionnaire and our attempts to make sure that our dogs go to homes that will suit them and the adopters, we make mistakes.  Or rather, the adopters think that by not being entirely honest they can fool us into letting them adopt.  There are genuine reasons for returning a dog, but for the most part it’s simply a matter of the adopter having taken a dog on a whim, or not understanding that it’s extremely stressful for a dog when it goes to a new home.  Dogs are returned within 24 hours because they make a toilet mistake or are not immediately well-behaved or friendly.  It’s often difficult for the first weeks, and luckily a lot of adopters have the patience and understanding to recognise that, but too many don’t.  Today the cocker spaniel, Tofu, was returned after a week in his new home.  The reason?  “He had a funny smell and the neighbours complained”.  This is from a guy who told us he had a huge area of land round his house where Tofu would be able to run and play.  So now Tofu has been abandoned once again, after having been returned by his previous adopter after two years.  What does he know about the reasons for him being moved from home to home?

Even sadder are the two little dogs I took from AFCD today, both surrendered by the same owner.  One tiny pom, lying so still on the ground that I asked if he was even alive.  The other a Yorkshire terrier, and both totally blind.  I hadn’t realised this until I had taken them out of their kennel, but then it was easy to spot their glassy eyes and the vet later confirmed that neither could see anything.  The pom was old, and so thin under his fluffy coat that he could barely stand, let alone walk.  Both the vet and I had the same immediate thought that euthanasia was the kindest option, as the poor little animal was already half dead.  The Yorkie, at eight years of age, seemed otherwise healthy and in good condition, but still blind.  With no space at the kennels for a vulnerable tiddler like this, Hovis (as I called him) can come back to Lamma, but a foster or new home is urgently needed.

Three older puppies are moved from Lamma to the kennels today, and it’s hard for them and just as hard for me.  Karina has a potential adopter who lives close to the kennels, so it seemed the best idea to move her so she could be available for walks and further meetings. Magic, a beautful boy with a wonderful temperament, was adopted as a young puppy but had to come back because of the daughter’s allergies (Karina too was a returned puppy).  The third puppy, Sinbad, was fostered as a baby because he needed an operation on his eyelid, so all of them have been in homes for a while and have subsequently  lived in a “semi home” environment, that is, in a house with many other dogs and puppies.  Now they are in kennels, a strange and scary place, and I feel terrible for them but know that this is their best chance of finding a proper home of their own.

As I leave the kennels to go home, the weather is turning as another typhoon is on the way, and I almost stop to take the three doglets back to Lamma.  My heart is saying take them while my head is saying no, and with little Hovis in my arms my head wins.

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3 Responses to “Monday 3rd August: It’s a dog’s life”

  1. eu Says:

    Education makes good dog keepers. That’s why I am thrilled to see that an event on educating kids to communicate with dogs was held at WNP last sunday. This is a very good start to reduce the number of ignorant keepers like the “wife” in your blog today.

  2. tina Says:

    Really loving your blog Sally, you write so well even though you must have so little time with all the other stuff you have to fit in. Somedays what i read nearly makes me cry, other times it puts a smile on my face. Is it going to be made into a book? Even though it’s available as a blog I’m sure it would sell.

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