the truth about rescues.

We're missing some important information.

Let me explain.

We've all seen the pictures, the Buzzfeed articles with 21 shelter dogs meeting their furever family for the first time or 17 shelter dogs on their way home from the shelter, the article about the rescue dog that changed someone's life.

It looks so easy. You bring home this adult dog, saving it from a life of abuse and neglect and abandonment and the horror of a shelter. You think it'll be so grateful and happy. You think it will take minimal work, maybe a brief refresher course in not peeing inside but not much more. Sure it may be timid for a few days but then surely it will settle in and love you unconditionally immediately.

Here's the thing.

That's never the case. Okay maybe one in a million dogs is like that. But what no one tells you, what all the articles and listicles and photo stories leave out is that your new adult rescue dog will not settle in right away. You're not in for a few rough first days.

You're in for a few rough months. At least.

You see that rescue dog has a history.

They've been abused. They've been neglected. Yet they still loved their humans because that's how dogs work.

And then they were ripped away from their home either because their owners dumped them at a shelter or someone (likely animal control) came and took them away. But all they know is that they're not at home anymore. No, they're now in this loud scary place, locked in a concrete pen next to rows of other concrete pens full of scared, angry, noisy dogs.

It's terrified.

And then you show up. You fall in love with them. You apply and pay your fee and take them home.

But who are you? The dog doesn't know. Sure they may pick up pretty quickly in the difference in how you interact with them.

But years of abuse and neglect condition a dog, change its responses to things.

Even if you're new friend came from a loving home that just couldn't care for them anymore, they were still abandoned. They were still left at the shelter. They're still going to have some issues.

What no one tells you when you bring them home is that it takes more than just being nice and loving on them to overcome those issues. You are after all the proud owner of a dog racked with fear and insecurity.

That fear may come out as aggression. That fear (as was Ronni's case) may come out as anxiety.

Regardless of how they react to fear, you're almost certainly going to deal with separation anxiety. After all they're in a loving home. You're spending  a lot of time with them. But then you leave, even just to grab some groceries, and it's scary. You were there source of confidence but now you're not there and they're alone and oh goodness they've been abandoned again.

You may not have separation anxiety as badly as Ronni. You may not need to do desensitization training. But you're going to have to have to deal with it.

So you'll spend months agonizing over your new dog. You'll spend most of your free time working with them, comforting them, helping them adjust. It'll be exhausting. You'll want to quit. A lot.

I don't care who you are you will have a moment where you're exhausted and you'll just want your life back, the life where you did't have to spend 24/7 dealing with this nonsense.

But then they'll snuggle up to you. Or maybe they'll just stare at you with such love in their eyes. And you'll resolve to not give up on them.

And so it will go for what feels like eternity. Oh and while you're dealing with behavioral issues there's a high probability that you'll also deal with some health issues. After all they likely haven't had any real healthcare before now so things will be broken. You may not have Ronni-level issues (bad arthritis, a partial CCL tear that morphs into a full tear, bad teeth that require you to break milkbones into pieces so she can eat them, and endless GI upset). But you will most likely to have to fix some health problem or other. And that is NOT cheap.

So you shell out the money. You stay home and train them endlessly. You spend your weekends socializing them.

And then one day you'll notice changes.

They're quirkier now, expressing themselves more freely. Ronni climbed up on a bush and pooped in the middle of it. I don't know why she did that. But she felt comfortable enough around me to do it.

They're calmer when you leave.

Their interactions with other dogs are better, friendlier.

They start warming up to other people.

They start to trust you.

They become your best friend, your other half, your partner in crime. It's not something you thought you would ever say about something of a different species but it's true.

And when they do that, they will trust you with a trust deeper than any non-rescue can ever trust. They'll love you with the same fierce intensity too.

There are practical advantages too. They'll be healthier--as it turns out that mood affects health as does proper nutrition & exercise. They'll behave better too. You see, dogs are born and bred to please. They're man's best friend because they want to make man happy. You're their person now so your happiness is their happiness. It takes less work to get them to do what you want. Sometimes just a look will do the trick.

And you, you will find an endless well of patience and love. Especially love. Love is one of those funny things that the more you give, the more you seem to have. It's an endless well that only expands as you drop down into it.

It won't happen instantly. They'll have a really good day and you'll think it's over.  But then they'll go back to their old ways, at least partially. But one day the good days will vastly outnumber the bad.

So please when you go get your shelter dog or when a rescue drops one off, please remember what you're in for. Please know that it's not rainbows and sunshine and love. Please know that they'll be defensive or timid. Please know that they'll be scared.

But most importantly, please know that it's going to take a lot of work and that they won't be better in a week.

Even more importantly, please know that the sleepless nights and the high stress will be worth it. All of the vet bills will be worth it.

You will never be able to drop an adult rescue dog into your life and not do anything to re-train it. That's not the way rescues work.

But the work makes the reward that much sweeter.

No comments:

Post a Comment