Monday, February 22, 2010

Shoe Salespersons, We Are Not

(Picture left: Beautiful and loving Coco. Her greatest failing is that she is a dog and not a shoe!)

Last week, I mentioned that two of our dogs in longtime boarding had been adopted. But, I only wrote about one, Daisy.

I did not write up the other story because unfortunately, experience teaches that one can never be overly optimistic or confident about adoptions immediately after they have taken place.

Too many dogs are returned shortly following adoptions for failure to "fit" someone's unrealistic fantasies or all-encompassing expectations.

I wanted to think that after spending a full year in boarding, "Coco," a beautiful, loyal and loving Samoyed/Chow mix had finally found her forever home.

Her adopter had previously had a Standard Poodle for 13 years, lived alone, had a good, professional job and had no other pets.

Such might seem the ideal home for a dog who, in the past lived with a single, mature woman in the city projects who apparently died from a drug OD.

But, it was not to be.

You see, "Nora" (the adopter) not only wanted a loving, trained, housebroken and loyal companion to humans, but also a dog who would be a grand hit in the local dog run!

Unfortunately, most mature female dogs are not fans of dog runs. -- That includes my dog, Tina.

From the day I got her (at only about a year-old), Tina never had any interest in dog runs.

Although very active, exploratory and curious (even 13 years following her adoption) Tina was always bored out of her mind at dog runs. I recall Tina almost always going to the gate as if to say, "OK, I've had enough. What else can you show me?"

Dog runs are primarily for very young dogs who need to run off steam and their mostly inactive human owners who like to stand or sit around and chew the fat with other people.

That is not a bad thing of course. On the contrary, dog runs serve a very useful and beneficial purpose especially in large cities where many young apartment dogs can suffer from lack of stimulation, exercise or socialization and play with other dogs.

But, most dogs I've experienced over the years (including the two I own now) enjoy far more, long, brisk and stimulating walks with their people. Dogs like to explore, see and sniff new sights and, I believe, most of all, enjoy that feeling of being "part of the pack" with their human caregivers.

It is thus, the things we DO WITH our dogs (whether training, playing, grooming or walking/running with them) that create that unique and special "bond" that so many people seek with dogs. Such bond does not occur in a dog run where dogs primarily interact with each other and the people chat with other dog owners. Dog runs may be good for human and dog socialization -- but unfortunately do little, if anything at all to create or enhance the dog-to-human bond.

If you want a close relationship and "bond" with your dog then DO THINGS with him or her!

And, as with humans, any substantive, meaningful relationship takes TIME.

I, of course, tried to relate all of these things in several conversations to Nora, Coco's adopter.

Also shared with Nora was the fact that although Coco got along very well with the other dogs she lived with in the boarding situation, she knew those dogs as "part of her pack" and would need time to adjust and feel comfortable with the unfamiliar dogs in a new neighborhood.

Nora was advised by both Chris (Coco's caregiver) and myself not to bring Coco to a dog run at this time.

But, do all people listen to the important advice they are given?


And in almost every instance that adopters fail to heed the advice they are given, the dogs inevitably are returned.

In this case with the adopter claiming that Coco is "vicious" around other dogs -- an odd thing considering Coco is peacefully living in a house with other dogs.

Further questioning by Chris revealed that Nora had indeed brought Coco to a dog run where the 6-year-old female Chow mix exhibited dominant postering towards the other dogs -- something that should have been fully anticipated under the circumstances.

If Nora felt that Coco "wasn't the right fit" for her, this news was never communicated to me.

In fact, Nora unceremoniously dumped Coco back to Chris without even a call to me.

We in animal rescue and sheltering work are not in the business of "fitting" shoes or gloves.

Much to what some organizations, TV shows or individuals might imply, We don't manufacture or mold dogs to "fit" people's fantasies, lifestyles or body parts!

As said so many times in this journal, if one wants an immediately "perfect" dog or cat, one should go out and buy a stuffed one in a toy store.

If one needs an "instant fit," one should go to Walmart or Bloomingdale's and try on shoes or gloves.

Neither we (in animal rescue and placement) nor the "Millionaire Matchmaker" can create perfect relationships or "bonds" for people.

Rather, we create potential and opportunity.

But, potential and opportunity only go so far.

In the end, the "perfect bond" (whether between people and other people or people and their animals) is something that has to be created by the parties themselves and usually not without a good deal of work, time and sacrifice.

Shoe salespersons, we are not. -- PCA


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