- 8 years ago
I figured I’d share my story about rescuing our (then 3 year old) border collie mix. I’ve been thinking about sharing for a while because all I ever heard about when anyone talks about rescuing an animal is how noble it is and how blessed they will make your life (don’t get me wrong, I think it IS noble and my dog DOES bless my life), but it is like pregnancy…no one ever tells you about the aweful side of it.
So anyway, there I was feeling all happy and giddy having adopted for the first time ever… and with my very own dog (my first!). I had all kinds of dreams about how my dog would adore me and I would teach her all kinds of tricks and she would be eternally devoted to me and love me right away for “rescuing” her. That did not happen. At least not right away.
The first few days she was home with us, she didn’t give a damn what we were doing, except when we were feeding her. Otherwise, she was off doing her own thing (part of this is because she is a female border collie), but the other part is that she had no attachment to us. She had been abandoned by her family and grown, while in the shelter, into a more independent and frankly “screw you” kind of dog unless you were carrying something edible.
Luckily, she already had basic obedience commands down and was house trained. I’m sure many of you who have rescued were not so lucky (probably why so many of our four-legged friends were in a shelter in the first place…). But I did receive a nasty shock shortly after taking her home.
One night I heard her chewing something and got out of bed to find her eating one of my socks. Thinking I would tell her off and remove the ruined clothing from her mouth, I reached for her while very sternly saying “no! bad dog”….yeah, I almost lost my pointer finger. While she didn’t bite me, she made it very clear that when she felt threatened she wasn’t one to back down from a fight. It wasn’t even that she was protecting the sock, after I managed my temper she gave it up, not happily, but easily. At that point I realized that she was probably beaten for misbehavior by her previous owners (this would become very apparent the longer we own her).
She and I slowly built up our relationship from day one. I train her in obedience every day, take her for walks, play hours of fetch and bring her with me everywhere I can. Luckily, through these actions we’ve built a wonderful relationship. But the DH doesn’t put that much effort into building a relationship with her and her loyalty and frankly his safety around her suffers for it.
So here’s what I’ve learned from my experience in rescuing…That it is great that people are willing and want to rescue pets, but it really isn’t for everyone. I’m slowly learning that actually “rescuing” them from the shelter is about 1% of what it means to rescue a dog. Our journey has been quite a challenge.
I guess the biggest thing is that we’ve realized we have to be really committed to not just fulfilling their physical needs, but addressing all of the emotional and mental scarring that occurred because she was abused and abandoned. And it has to be a family affair, anyone who is controlling her at a given time needs to be aware of her capabilities, triggers and signs of impending trouble and know how to react effectively. It can’t just be me, because I’m not always around.
Also, I think before someone rescues, they should ask themselves how willing they are to address all of the dog’s potential problems before they sign their name on the line. Just like you would a human if they had been abused and neglected, you would seek professional mental help for your dog if you want them to make the best recovery possible. Just like you would for a child who was physically malnourished and not given healthcare, you have to treat your dog for anything that resulted from their being mistreated.
I think the best thing we’ve done for her is to give her a lot of structure, which is important for most pets, but especially those that have experience such turmoil in their lives.
I think that as noble an act of saving an animal from a rescue is, the person must also be committed to helping the animal get better. Love isn’t enough in most of these situations and I think a lot of people do a disservice to potential rescuers and themselves by not talking about the hardships and responsibilities that come with any type of pet ownership. Especially given the rate at which rescued pets are returned to a shelter at a later point.
Anyway, I’d love to hear how other bees’ rescue stories turned out. Obviously, ours is still in the making and we’re hoping for the happiest of endings 🙂
Were you aware of the potential issues that come with rescue pets? Did any of it surprise you? How have you worked through it?