(Picture Left: "Geena" - A dog who found her way back from the brink. Hoping for a "Geena Outcome" again.....)
Ken, the trainer who spent more than two hours with Dutch yesterday informed me that Dutch had done very well in the session. Dutch remembered Ken and responded well to him. The Shepherd mix was easy to get in and out of the cubicle. Dutch spent some time playing happily with another dog. He was far more relaxed and easy to work with than the previous day. Although Ken was still careful in handling or attempting to pet Dutch the news was welcomed relief to me.
Ken's positive report helped spur me to a final decision on Dutch.
Someway, somehow, I had to get Dutch into "rehab."
I called Chris in Brooklyn.
Chris and his wife, run a boarding/training operation in Brooklyn. Chris has vast experience in both, dog rescue and training. The couple have a small house and yard. Boarded dogs are able to run, play and feel "part of the pack."
Chris is especially experienced in dealing with Pitbulls. But, he works with all kinds of dogs.
About six months ago, I sent "Geena" to Chris for almost three months.
Geena, was a shy, depressed and somewhat nervous, 6-year-old, German Shepherd mix who arrived at the animal pound as an extremely emaciated, half dead, Bronx "stray." Her coat was filthy, raggedy and matted. Geena was missing hair and most of her muscles had atrophied due to malnutrition. Her hanging mammary glands indicated a dog who had previously bourn many litters of puppies.
In short, Geena was a mess.
Geena could not be spayed at the time due to her extremely debilitated condition. Another rescuer told me about Chris and, after calling him, he was willing to take on the dog who looked like she never had a good day in her life.
The road back from hell was difficult in the beginning for Geena. She was guarded, weak, nervous and even a couple of times, snappy with Chris. But, he prevailed and after some weeks, Geena began to come out of her shell, interact with other dogs and develop a strong attachment towards Chris.
More than two months into the boarding, Geena had finally put on weight, been cleaned up and began growing a lovely, silky coat. It was time to get her spayed.
I arranged with Chris to send Geena to my vet via Pet Taxi. Following her spay, I had a couple who were interested in meeting Geena as a possible foster.
When meeting Geena for the first time since her rescue, I could barely recognize her.
Gone was the raggedy, spotty coat, replaced by a clean and plush one. Gone were the protruding ribs and jutted hip bones, replaced by a sound and healthy weight.
Gone was the haunted look in Geena's eyes, replaced by a kind of confidence and enthusiasm.
Indeed, she didn't appear to be the same dog!
On the contrary, instead of the weak, almost lifeless dog I had rescued from the pound almost three months before, Geena was a jumpy, almost puppy-like canine.
The couple from New Jersey who came to meet Geena, did in fact, agree to foster her.
There were a few rough patches in the beginning of Geena's foster as she then had to adjust to new people and a new situation. She was a bit guarded and anxious at first. I advised the young couple to go slowly with her and allow Geena time to acclimate.
There were several conversations between myself and the couple over the next few weeks. Mostly, there was concern over Geena's irregular, blackish nipples and still somewhat large mammary glands. But, since my vet had given Geena a clean bill of health, I assured Joe and Susan that such was simply the aftermath of multiple litters. The nipples and glands would slowly shrink down now that the dog was spayed.
Eventually, Geena came to love the people and they her. This past December, Joe and Susan officially adopted Geena.
It was a wonderful outcome for a dog who was virtually on death's doorstep when she had arrived at the pound so many months before.
When I called Chris again yesterday about Dutch, I wasn't sure what to expect.
I wasn't just calling him about a shy, emaciated Shepherd. I was calling him this time about a dog who had actually bitten several people, including me.
Chris is a very in-demand guy.
When first speaking with me, Chris indicated he was being "inundated" with requests from other rescuers to take dogs.
That didn't sound good for Dutch. But, it was to be fully expected.
The AC&C has been putting a great deal of pressure on rescues lately in a public relations quest to be "no kill" (for space) of adoptable animals during January, February and March (the lowest months of the year for animal intakes).
Each day we (in rescue) are swamped with sometimes more than a dozen email "alerts" with as many as 60 animals on each one who "desperately need rescue!"
It was therefore not surprising that Chris (one of the very few reliable boarding/training operations around) would be overwhelmed with requests to take dogs.
But, for some reason, I was extremely lucky that Chris agreed to take Dutch! (Perhaps the guy just likes a real challenge?)
Over these past few weeks, a number of people had advised me to have Dutch put down -- if not through direct words and advice, then through raised eyebrows and furtive glances.
It was not that these people were cold, cruel or uncaring. On the contrary, most were my friends and people who deeply care for and have dedicated much of their lives to helping animals.
But, there was the very valid concern about possible liability issues with a dog like Dutch, as well as the practicality considerations. "You could spend thousands of dollars to try and turn around this dog and it might not work. That same investment could save many other dogs."
One woman told me that society needed to be protected from dogs like Dutch.
Was this advice wrong? Were all these people wrong?
I can't say. I spent weeks trying to mull over the well intentioned (and in many ways), sage advice, as well as trying to scout my own head and heart for an answer.
But, in this conflict between "head and heart," this time heart won out. No matter how much I tried to rationalize and see the wisdom in the advice from others who cared about me as well as animals, my heart just could not accept pulling the plug on such a young dog who had been so seriously wronged so early in life.
I could justify something on paper. But I could not justify it in my soul.
Yesterday, I asked the question, "Can damage done to humans and animals very early in life be reversible?"
The answer to that question is probably somewhere between "yes" and "no" depending on the individual people and individual animals.
This morning, Dutch was transported to Chris in Brooklyn via help from the AC&C..
The journey was rocky with the frightened dog at first refusing to come out of the Animal Control van. Dutch growled and snarled. The driver suggested to Chris using a "catch poll" but Chris refused. After some gentle coaxing, Chris was finally able to slip a slip leash over Dutch and lead him out of the van.
Despite a few other nervous moments, Dutch has already enjoyed some play time in the yard and according to Chris is now peacefully settled down in a "Great Dane size" crate after eating and drinking.
I know Dutch is now with the right person and in the right situation. Will "rehab" work for Dutch? Can damage done early be reversed?
The answer to those questions will ultimately be up to Dutch.
But, right now I am feeling pretty good about it -- as well as the ultimate decision to try and save this "damaged" dog.
I am hoping for an eventual "Geena outcome!"
Ultimately, its up to the dogs to make their ways back from whatever human wrongs were done to them.
We just have to give them a chance and lend a helping hand. -- PCA