Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Those First (Dreaded) Six Weeks! (Reply)

(Picture Left: [Sweet, but timid] "Lady" -- Almost a "boomerang" dog.)

SKDean Writes: I'm so sorry Diamond's adoption didn't work out. It's too bad the woman couldn't have transformed her grief into an act of loving kindness toward another living being. I hope Diamond finds a wonderful home soon.

Reply: Well, the adopter donated food and other supplies so it wasn't a matter that Ellen was a bad person. She just should have been more upfront in terms of her real motivation for adoption. I would have told the young woman that an animal cannot immediately fill the holes caused by grief and loss of a loved one. There are no magic bullet cure-alls for the misfortunes of life -- other than perhaps time itself.

Time (and patience) is, in fact, the remedy for most of life's challenges, including those that often come with the acquisition of a new cat or dog.

It is stressful bringing home a new pet. The animal has to adjust to new people, a new home, neighborhood and routine. The people have to adjust to new responsibilities and demands upon their time. Both, the animal and the person have to try to figure each other out.

"Bonding" isn't something that occurs either with animals or people in a day or a week.

Relationships take time.

I don't know and don't proclaim that the adoption of Diamond by the young woman was doomed to failure simply because her motivation for the adoption was misguided. It could have worked out if Ellen was willing to give herself and Diamond more time and if she could have kept her expectations more in line with reality.

But, so often when people make emotional and arbitrary judgments based on only having an animal a few days or a week, those decisions are not in the ultimate best interest of either the person or the pet.

I always stress to people at the time of adoptions to call us if they have ANY questions or problems.

I don't consider adoptions a "done deal" by any stretch of the imagination as I am too aware of the many challenges facing both the pet and the adopter in those early days of bringing home a new animal.

With dogs especially, there can be initial problems with housebreaking, separation anxiety, barking, getting along with other pets in the home and even in some cases, trust.

In virtually every case where an adopter (or foster) calls us to discuss concerns or problems and listens to the tips and advice they are given, the placement eventually works out successfully.

One recent case in point:

About a month ago, a young man named Nick adopted an older little hound mix from us named "Lady."

Lady is a lovely, gentle and devoted dog. But, even when we rescued her from Animal Care and Control, it was pretty clear that Lady was a timid, somewhat insecure dog who lacked confidence -- especially after being abandoned by her family who had her for nine years.

When first going into her new adoptive home, Lady lacked the confidence to pee outside (where other dogs have marked the territory) and thus presented with housebreaking issues. Additionally, she had separation anxiety problems and barked when Nick went to work.

This of course resulted in neighbor complaints about the barking and even a letter from the landlord.

Nick was understandably very stressed and faced with the possibility that either the dog would have to go -- or he could potentially lose his apartment.

It seemed that Lady was going to be returned to us -- unless we could somehow solve the problems within a very short time space.

I spoke with Nick several times over the next couple of weeks, getting information from him as well as offering tips and advice. I stressed the importance to Nick of trying to keep his own stress and anxiety issues to a minimum (as dogs pick up on human emotions) even though that is very tough under the circumstances. I offered Nick a "game plan" so to speak, on helping Lady to realize her place in the home and to feel more secure. The game plan consisted of (among other things) not allowing Lady to follow him to the door when Nick leaves the home, not making a fuss when he leaves or comes home, walking the dog during those times when the streets are more quiet and less crowded and walking Lady in a consistent area. A little "Rescue Remedy" might also serve to calm Lady's nerves.

I would be lying were I to say we solved all the problems within a few days.

Rather, it has taken almost a full month for Lady to finally "settle in."

But, the good news is that in a conversation from the other day, Nick tells me that Lady is now consistently doing her duties outside and the barking when left alone has all but ceased.

We are very lucky that the adopter in this case was very willing to listen, heed the advice and "hang in there" through the challenging period of the first month following an adoption.

I always say that if we can get through the first 6 weeks or so, following an adoption placement, it is virtually assured of working out.

The problem of course is getting through those first (dreaded) 6 weeks! -- PCA


No comments: