Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shelter Dogs

Come adopt this dog!

Recently, a dog named Daisey was adopted from the shelter. At 2 years old, Daisey still has the heart of a puppy, regardless of the time she’s spent in the shelter. People fawned over Daisey at every adoption event, commenting on her sweet, calm demeanor. Some were turned off by her tendency to let out a submissive dribble of pee when first greeting them. Some left with promises of coming to get her the next day, the next week, and so on. Still, Daisey remained in D-bank. Everyone was happy the day someone adopted Daisey. He seemed kind of awkward, but sweet, and loved Daisey’s personality. It seemed as though Daisey finally had her happily-ever-after. Hardly. Within no time, Daisey was back. The guy said she was carsick. He wanted another dog, but he was refunded his money and told to hit the road.
Yes, this one!
That incident made me reflect on all of the current “inmates.” Each one is an individual, but each one has the same curse of being in the shelter. (Fortunately for them, it’s a pretty darn good shelter.) Each dog has a tagline, telling you how they wound up in the shelter. Many are night drops without reason – maybe they were strays or someone just decided they didn’t want their dog anymore. There’s also a lot of owner surrenders. In Daisey’s case, she was an owner surrender because of her energy level. An 8 month old Rottweiler was surrendered because he was “too big.” A Dachshund was surrendered because she “escapes.”
Popular “reasons” include needing too much attention, too much energy, too big, too many animals, and, here’s the kicker, change in lifestyle.
If we’re ever going to improve the condition for dogs, particularly in the South, we’re going to have to teach people that they are not “just dogs.” We’re also going to have to teach people that shelter dogs are not bad dogs. (I call them inmates, which are “residents of a dwelling that houses a number of occupants,” but I’m not referencing a prison.) Not all shelter dogs are mixes, but by law they are required to use that label. What does it REALLY matter, anyway? Pure breed does not equal better.
Dogs are a commitment. Dogs live an average of 10-12 years, some less, some more. If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, first think about where you’ll be in the next year, two years, five years, and so on. If you don’t see a dog fitting into your life, don’t get one. Axle came to live with me in March of last year. It was about the same time we were looking to buy a house, and, of course, we were looking for somewhere we could have our dogs. We found lots of places in our price range and lower, but they wouldn’t be good for our dogs. We finally settled on the house we live in now, with a fenced back yard and an extra room for their crates, etc.
If I dumped Axle (or Spuds) every time they did something bad, they’d be gone multiple times over. Dogs are like kids – you have to teach them desired behaviors and correct them when they do something wrong. Axle used to get car sick every time we went for a drive. I hated it, but I persevered. Now, he feels a little nausea, but he doesn’t throw up. Patience is a virtue! Spuds peed in the house this morning, should I dump her at the shelter? No, I should have a talk with the person that was up last (ahem, my husband) and remind them to let her out before he comes to bed.
We left Axle and Spuds alone in the house together for about four hours last weekend. They ate a corner of the sofa. Should we dump them at the shelter? No, we should not leave them alone so long again. (They tend to more destructive together.)
As to the energy thing…high energy dogs DO exist. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation. If they don’t get it, they’ll be hyper and/or destructive. If you don’t have the time/energy/resources to give a high energy dog (or any dog) what they need, then don’t get a dog.
If size is an important factor in your dog-loving life, adopt a dog that is already grown so you know what size dog you’re getting. If you still insist on a puppy, do a little research on the breed(s) that make up the puppy to estimate a possible size range. (You can also look at a dog’s paws and tell to a certain degree, though many say this is just an old wives’ tale.) If you get a Rottweiler, expect it be to a L-XL dog. If you get a Miniature Poodle, expect it to be a S dog. If you get a Chihuahua mix, expect a S dog. If you get a Bulldog mix, expect a M-L dog. It’s kind of common sense…
I try to be kind, understanding, and forgiving, but sometimes that’s just so hard to be when all you can think is how UNREASONABLE some people are!! The guy that returned Daisey because she was carsick…he was denied another dog because, if he would dump Daisey so quickly, what would happen to any other dog he took home the first time it did something he didn’t like? All of the people that troll the adoptables with their breed comments, “Oh, that’s definitely got Breed X in it. I can’t stand Breed X’s…” Don’t they realize that shelter dog breed labels are merely guesses, some better than others? (Prime example: One dog that looked like a JRT mix, or maybe Rat Terrier…or who knows…was labeled a Standard Schnauzer Mix. Wow.) It gets me when someone just LOVES a dog, ready to take it home, and then they read the kennel card and are shut down by the breed label. Geeez. All dogs are individuals, can we PLEASE quit focusing on breed labels so much??
I like to know the breeds that make up my dogs because a) it’s interesting to be able to answer the people that are making guesses and b) because I like to know what possible genetic diseases they could experience. Axle is an American Pit Bull Terrier. Spuds is an AmStaff/Bulldog/American Bulldog/Boxer/Misc Mix. It made me feel better about Spuds’s breathing when I found out she had both Bulldog and Boxer in her. Those breeds are
brachycephalic, or bred to have a normal lower jaw and a compressed upper jaw, giving them that smushed-in look with an underbite.
Virtually all brachycephalic dogs suffer from an elongated soft palate, since it’s difficult to fit the soft tissues of the dog’s mouth and throat into such a short face. There are other conditions associated with brachycephalic dogs that hinder breathing…brachycephalic dogs are inefficient panters, meaning they can’t cool off as well or as quickly. They are the most likely candidates for a heat stroke. Spuds pants a lot more than Axle, and it takes her forever to cool off. She also can’t breathe very well in some positions. I was really worried about her, thinking maybe she had some disease until I got her DNA results back. Now I understand where her breathing issues are coming from, so it’s extra important to make sure she doesn’t get too hot and that she doesn’t get overweight.
Alas, I digress. The moral to this story is that dogs are a commitment. If you’re not prepared to take the poop with the kisses, the vomit with the snuggles, then just do us all a favor and don’t get a dog. Dogs are not “until” animals – until I get married, until I have a baby, until I get a job, etc. Dogs are forever, or at least, ‘til death do you part (and, ahem, you should have a plan for your animals in the event of your death).


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