Sunday, November 22, 2009

Think Before You Adopt

The more I read about breeds and their characteristics, the more in tune I am when I consider placing dogs in specific homes. Recently, someone who has a rabbit wanted to adopt a dachshund that has already shown a burning need to chase cats and tear into them. When I explained that doxies are prey hounds and it is in their DNA to hunt small game, she said she thought she would train the dog not to bother the rabbit. Yes, but could she accomplish this before the doxie killed the rabbit and did she really want to put her poor rabbit through such an experiment? She wasn't convinced, but I was certain I wasn't sending a dachshund to her apartment.

Then there are the elderly sweethearts who are nearly blind but insist that they want black puppies. Puppies! Why do they insist on dark colored dogs that are younger than three? If you tell them that a dog is four or five, they invariably say, "Oh, that's too old." Too old??? You are 83, legally blind, hard of hearing, and you use a walker most of the time, but a five year old dog is too old for you. Delicately, I ask, "What will happen to this dog if you are hospitalized or no longer can live alone?" They usually answer, "I'm doing fine. If I go into the hospital, I will board the dog." In the past I have asked if a daughter or son will take the dog to keep it in the family, but I don't bother to do that anymore. Those who believe their children will take the dog should they have to be in the hospital or a assisted living facility are usually wrong. The dog comes back to us.

Most dogs do show signs of stress when they are bounced from home to home. They like to belong to a pack. The pack represents security; the pack is their family. Remove your whole family and plop you into a strange place or with a new family and wouldn't you be stressed? Often, dogs are taken to a shelter or veterinary first where they languish, confused and depressed and anxious, for days and weeks before being adopted or placed in a foster home. Either way, they are usually distraught and it will take several weeks -- perhaps months -- before their old personalities reappear. Unfortunately, humans are impatient and expect a dog to settle in like a pair of worn slippers. No fuss. No muss. A perfect fit for their households. When it doesn't go this way -- which it rarely does -- they call us with complaints:
"He pissed on the carpet."
"He chewed up my slippers."
"She won't come to me when I call for her."
"She growled at my husband."
Oh dear, I think, those darn dogs are behaving like dogs! How dare they!

Before you adopt, research the breed and take a good look at your house. Are you and your abode ready for a dog and are you certain of the breed or mixture of breeds you want?

It's a big committment. You are saving a life and adding a new member to your family. It's personal. Very personal.

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