Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Understanding (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Chance" -- my "little puppy boy" now, but one very angry and miserable dog when arriving at the shelter last summer.)

In a message dated 3/31/2009 11:00:28 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Amby111 writes:
What a wonderful story. Those dogs are lucky you took a chance in saving them.I also believe that animals condemned to die as "mysteries" in shelters due mostly to inaccurate behavior assessment (shy cats and scared dogs)-- even in so called "no kill" shelters-- is a form of cruelty and should not be tolerated. It is very sad to think of the number of animals "euthanized" because they don't perform well in a traumatic situation.

Reply: The luck was all on my side as I never imagined in a million years that I could find placement for one of the dogs, let alone both -- particularly in the same home. It's very rare to be able to place two dogs together in the same home, especially under the circumstances described.

I totally agree with your second statement.

The way animals "behave" in a stressful shelter situation and the way they are in a home often are entirely different as Fluffy's and Wendy's story so well illustrates.

That's why highest priority must be allotted to trying to get as much information on animals during Intake as possible.

Putting aside variables such as how an animal was raised or the situation s/he came from, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior -- not how the animal is reacting to a particular stress and trauma.

Imagine were humans to be judged solely as to how well or how poorly we reacted to loss, death of a loved one or rejection?

Obviously, some people handle stress and trauma better than others. But, it doesn't necessarily relate to normal behavior or character.

One of the interesting experiences that emanated out of the events with Fluffy and Wendy, was the first day we had the dogs in yard and were speaking with the animal handler who brought Fluffy and Wendy to us.

"It's interesting," Louie said, "but the dogs and cats who are surrendered from good homes where they were pampered and spoiled generally do much more poorly here than the animals that come in as strays. The strays are happy to get a warm place and a little attention. But, the animals from happy homes? They're miserable."

What Louie said was so true.

Certainly in cats the owner surrendered purebreds and declaws are the most likely to "shut down" and become very ill in the shelters. In some cases they die as they just can't seem to get past the pain of loss and rejection. But, the non-feral "strays?" They're tougher, heartier and having already been through so much crap in life, they are only too happy and appreciative if fortunate enough to find a loving home.

Fluffy and Wendy were pampered and perhaps even spoiled dogs. (They both like to sleep in the bed!) The "trauma" of arriving at a city pound where they were no longer special and adored, but rather just two of the many, was apparently horrifying to them. For Wendy particularly, who saw herself as the "protector" to Fluffy, the separation of the two dogs was not only painful, but downright frustrating and infuriating!

Obviously too, both dogs wanted to return to former owners.

But, the real tragedy in animal shelters is that in the majority of cases, "returning to their former homes and owners" is not an option.

The animals have to learn to trust and love again.

And for many, that is not so easy -- especially if given only a few days.

Imagine were humans allotted only a few days to "get over" whatever grief, rejection, loss or abandonment that occurs in our lives?

Imagine were the punishment and price for not "moving on" quickly enough death?

Its a strange world we live in.

Most humans will claim to "love animals" but we don't seem to understand even the most basic things about cats and dogs. (i.e. Their needs for security, stability, routine, order, affection and the familiar.) -- Things that are taken away when they are either dumped at an animal shelter or arrive through other means.

Things that would be easy to understand were we even better to understand ourselves. -- PCA

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