Friday, December 12, 2008

"Be Careful of What You Wish For...."

(Picture Left: "Lady" -- Our latest rescue. Wonderful, fully trained and affectionate Mastiff mix. Great with kids and cats. But, will be a hard adoption due to size and age -- about 7 years.)

Good news on Goldie, our Cocker Spaniel. She is doing wonderfully in her new home. Goldie is happy, as is her new family with her.

But, as noted the other day, that is an adoption we really had to "work" for.

In the end, common sense prevailed and rather than worry about unforeseen or possible events due to Goldie's "age," the people opted to make the sensible and right choice in adoption.

But, too often those seeking animals are searching on superficial or unrealistic basis.

There is usually much emphasis on "breed" type, age, size or looks of the animal, rather than what dog or cat would be the right animal for the particular situation.

For example, many dog seekers with small children or cats in the home fail to mention these important facts to the adoption agency they are calling. Or, they fail to mention they have long work schedules or live with roommates.

They will however, communicate what type or breed of dog they are seeking, as well as the age and size the dog should be.

But, adoption failures often occur when an animal who may fit the breed, size and age the people seek goes into a home to which the animal is ill fitted and prepared.

An example of this is a call I received a few weeks ago:

The gentleman told me that he and his family had gone to their local shelter and adopted a purebred Yorkshire Terrier.

The dog had arrived at the shelter after "his owner died."

Meanwhile, this dog (who can be presumed to have formerly lived with an elderly person) was placed into a home with small, active children.

The man told me the little dog was terrified of, growling at and trying to bite the children in the home. The dog seemed to be only comfortable with him and spent most of his time with the husband, cowering from and running away from the children and even the wife.

The parents didn't know what to do as the adoption clearly was not working.

I told the man this was a poor adoption choice as the dog was not accustomed to being in a noisy, active home with children and his "adjustment" to such would require a great deal of time, patience and understanding on the part of the adopters and probably some help from a trainer.

The alternative was to return the dog to the shelter where the little Yorkie might be more suitably placed and instead seek a bigger, perhaps younger dog who was more comfortable with kids. -- A Lab mix for example.

Many parents of young children are in fact, frustrated and dismayed that many rescue groups and some shelters generally are reluctant to place small dogs into homes with young children.

The above scenario is the main reason why.

Too often the little dogs have come from quiet homes where they formerly lived with one person -- usually a senior citizen. The adjustment to a drastically different situation is often too much for them to contend with. Add to that the fact that many small dogs are generally more "nervous" and easily threatened than larger dogs and you have a recipe for disaster should the dogs be inappropriately placed.

Goldie was the exception to the rule. But, in Goldie's case, I had information from former owners that Goldie "loved kids" and it was obvious from the start that Goldie was a very well socialized dog who seemed to love everyone she met. She had no obvious "issues" or fears.

Another area where people often run into trouble "getting what they wish for" is in the insistence and choice for very young dogs.

Often there is the expectation that puppies or young dogs will behave like adults.

But, that's like expecting human babies to be born toilet trained.

Young dogs are young dogs and behave in many ways, like human children.

They are active, often "disobedient" and rebellious and can often run havoc in an otherwise, quiet, peaceful home.

Unless exercised properly and enough, a young dog's energy can be unleashed in the home where it can result in excess barking or destructive behaviors a la, "Marley and Me."

And while the antics of Marley to his owners might make for humorous reading or a comedy movie, one can presume they weren't so "funny" to the people while they were occurring.

Fortunately, for Marley, his owners kept him.

But, in too many cases, young dogs wind up being abandoned to pounds and streets after they chew up the couch or tear through a door.

What the owners don't seem to understand is that one cannot expect a puppy or adolescent dog to behave like a mature and already trained dog.

Then there are the people who don't seem to know what they want.

A few days ago, I fostered out an older, (about 7 years) already trained Shepherd/Samoyed mix ("Teddy) to a young, married couple with a cat.

Teddy is good around cats so that wasn't a problem.

But, apparently in a past home, his former owners allowed Teddy to sleep on the couch.

When he settled down on the young couple's fruton (which they didn't want) and the husband attempted to yank Teddy down, the dog snapped at him.

They returned Teddy the following day not so much for the fruton incident, but more so, because the young man explained that they really want a younger dog.

I showed the couple a couple of young dogs we have for adoption, but they felt they couldn't deal with the energy of the overly exuberant pups.

The young man now tells me they want a dog "about 4-years-old" or another cat.

I am not sure what they really want.

The couple's cat is going to be "stressed out" no matter what new animal they bring in.

The bottom line to all this is that there really is no such thing as the "perfect" adoption.

All animals are going to present with certain challenges, "positives" and "negatives."

The advantage of senior pet adoptions is that the animals are almost always trained, generally easier to deal with in terms of energy levels and needs and they more easily fit into working situations or city apartments.

The disadvantages are yes, the animal probably won't live as long as a younger one and some animals can be stubborn or set in their ways (as Teddy jumping on and sleeping on a fruton).

Chance, my older Pomeranian, for example, was apparently never allowed to go on furniture in his former home and though I welcome him to sleep on the couch or bed in my home, chooses nevertheless to always sleep on the floor. It's apparently what Chance is comfortable with and accustomed to so I just let the situation be. (Tina, my other dog sleeps with me anyway.)

While one can still "teach old dogs new tricks," it takes time to reverse the conditioning that many dogs have grown up with and incorporated into their psyches. One doesn't accomplish those things in a few hours or a day.

The advantages of adopting younger animals are that one can more easily "shape" the animal in terms of the dynamics of the home (i.e. children, other pets, etc.) and that the pet will most likely live longer.

But, the disadvantages, as previously noted, are the "shaping" itself -- which in almost all cases, involves training. Additionally, the exercise and chewing needs, particularly of puppies and adolescent dogs are usually a significant challenge to most people. One needs a great deal of time and patience when dealing with young dogs.

So, yes, there is no such thing as the perfect adoption, but there can be the sensible adoptions that in the end, almost always work out.

If only people would put aside the superficial demands, "wishes" and concerns for breed, size, looks and to some degree, age and seek more the animal that is appropriate for their situation.

As the old saying goes: "Be careful of what you wish for. You just might get it." -- PCA