Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Animal Planet"

(Picture Left: My dog, Tina. A "herding" type dog, Tina is forever representative of her natural instincts. Training can modify, but it does not eliminate or overide a dog's natural instincts. -- A lesson learned last night on Animal Planet's "From Underdog to Wonderdog."

Last night, I spent some time catching up to some of the newer shows on Animal Planet.

Impressive was, "PitBull Boss," which follows, "Shorty," a self-described Pitbull lover who does rescue on the side of running a talent agency for little people.

Shorty is an ex-con who got on the wrong side of the law as a teenager growing up on the mean streets of South Central, Los Angeles.

But, apparently while doing time in jail, Shorty developed a respect and love for feral cats, as well as sympathy for Pitbull dogs (who are so much a part of the landscape of the inner cities.)

Shorty has two rescued Pitbulls of his own. He appears to be a very bright and driven guy.

On last night's show, Shorty rescues a "stray" Pitbull from the Watts section of LA and then spends several days trying to find the Pitbull's owner. Since Shorty apparently grew up in Watts, he seems to know the neighborhood folks.

Eventually, the Pitbull's owner comes looking for Shorty, accusing the diminutive, but feisty man of "stealing" his dog.

Shorty learns that the blue Pitbull is being used for "breeding." While being compelled by law to return the dog to the original owner, Shorty attempts to educate the owner against breeding Pitbulls by bringing the man to the Animal Control pound in LA.

The Animal Control shelter in Los Angeles appears very much like the one in New York City.

It is almost entirely filled with Pitbulls.

Most of the dogs of course die, just as they do in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and all the large and diverse cities throughout the US.

Tears welled up in Shorty's eyes as he looked at the endless cages with sad-eyed Pitbulls in them, one after the other. But, it wasn't clear that tears welled up in the Blue Pitbull's owner or that he even "got" the necessity to neuter -- or, at least, not breed his dogs.

But, I think the attempt at education was a very noble endeavor on Shorty's part and more importantly, a vitally NECESSARY one.

Until every backyard breeder of Pitbulls is forced somehow to come to a reckoning of what his (or her) actions are truly doing in terms of animals, killing in shelters and society at large (it is, after all, the taxpayers who ultimately pay for all this carnage) then any talk of any major city in the USA going "no kill" is pure and utter bullshit.

That only every backyard Pitbull breeder could be forced to watch the long line of Pitbulls being killed in shelters each day with the phrase, "You are either part of the solution or part of the problem" being said to them. -- That is my dream. That, and possible laws mandating the neuter of this breed of dog until such time Pitbulls were not overpopulating our shelters forcing endless and unjustifiable "euthanasia" on a daily basis.

Another show on Animal Planet last night airing an early episode for the new season was, "From Underdog to Wonderdog."

Those familiar with this journal will remember I have been very critical of this (second season) show in the past.

Too much unrealistic, "happy ending fluff."

But, last night's show, sadly did not have a happy ending.

The highly active "Shetland Sheepdog" rescued from a shelter (I put in quotes because I personally believe the dog was far more Border Collie mix than Sheltie) was a challenge in terms of the training and other resources that had to be put into "Chases'" eventual rehabilitation and placement.

But, knowing the dog's strong "herding" instincts, it was questionable placing this dog in a situation where the possibility that he might run off and come to some untimely end was in fact, more probability than possibility. This, despite the dedication and hours of hard work put into the training of Chase, as well as the search to find caring and loving adopters.

Reality is, that training only goes so far. I personally don't believe that all the training in the world is enough to totally overcome a dog's natural and basic instincts -- that, which a particular breed or type of dog was bred to do. (Training can modify, but it does not eliminate natural instinct.)

As one who has owned a "herding" type dog for 13years, ("Tina") I am only too aware of my Corgi mix's propensity to chase anything that moves in open space. On three separate occasions I almost lost Tina in Central Park when foolishly allowing her off leash. Tina is a wonderful and well trained dog in every other respect but this one. (She cannot be allowed to run off leash in open space.)

Tina runs to me the second I call her while in the home. But, outside the home, my "herding" dog reverts back to her natural instincts and looks for squirrels, ducks or anything else that she can "herd." Tina is gone in a flash and doesn't look back.

Likewise, I suspect that despite the dedicated "training," Chase was a dog that ran off the second he saw something moving and didn't look back or respond to calls.

The dog's placement on a horse ranch with miles of open space, (while perhaps seeming on the surface like a good adoption for an active dog) was one that when first seeing it, gave me chilling pause.

I just got a "bad feeling" when learning Chase was going to a home with lots of open acreage.

Moreover, I don't believe the adopters were properly instructed and cautioned on how protective and careful they would have to be with a dog like Chase. The tendency to revert back to herding instincts would be with the dog for life, regardless of attempts to "train" or rope that in.

Unfortunately, Chase's life on the horse farm was but a few months. At the end of the show we were sadly informed that Chase was killed by a car.

This had to be very hard for the small group of young, dedicated people who put so much time into the care and rehabilitation of Chase (especially, the trainer), but there is a lesson to be learned:

That is, (as I have been saying for years) that responsible Adoption is a far more complicated and challenging process than what we have been led to believe.

We in rescue and placement have to be careful about making false promises that all problems are solved by "training" or thinking that responsible adoption is only a matter of finding nice people.

We have to find people capable of truly learning about and KNOWING their dog and taking the appropriate measures to address their dog's strengths and yes, perceived "weaknesses," as well.

Every dog I have ever had, I have been able to allow off leash (including, Chance, my Pomeranian.)

But, Tina is the lone exception.

Although Tina gets plenty of exercise daily (one to two mile walks), even at 14-years of age, she will still bolt on leash to chase a squirrel up a tree.

I don't love Tina any less for her instincts or perceived, possible "weakness," but rather respect her uniqueness.

Chase's story on last night's "Underdog to Wonderdog" was a sad and realistic reminder of just how complex and challenging animal placement really is.

I commend the show (and the network) at least for its honesty. -- PCA


No comments: