(Closed) What you don’t always hear about rescuing…

posted 8 years ago in Pets
Post # 3
2892 posts
Sugar bee

Guy I work with rescued the cutest little mix. Unfortunately, the previous owners kept her locked up day and night, malnourished her, etc. The dog is terrified of EVERYTHING. Has tons of behavioral and trust issues. She’s getting better. But he’s had to put a ton of work into her and had to be incredibly patient. She’s to the point where she is now at a healthy weight and trusts him. It’s very possible to rehabilitate a rescued animal but you make a very good point that, like any human that’s been mistreated, there are issues that come with your new pet. Some people don’t go into it thinking about that side of the coin then are shocked and disappointed when the animal turns out to be a handful (ex. another guy I worked with who rescued a dog but had no desire to train or help his new pet and after 6 months returned her to the shelter because it was “too hard”).


Post # 4
1765 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I totally agree with what you said! We rescued this adorable mutt (dachshund/hound mix we think), and he had so many issues. But we were fully committed to working through them with him. Everything scared him. Any loud noise (voices, music, moving things). Any time you were holding anything near him at all he would run & hide, as if he thought you’d throw it at him. He had accidents anytime he was nervous or someone he didn’t know well came over (we had to replace our carpet it got so bad). Anytime he was woken up suddenly he went into attack mode, afraid of everything around him. I could go on & on. It took us years to work with him. But now, he’s a totally different dog! I think a bomb could go off next to him now and it wouldn’t faze him. He’s so snuggly now and is one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met. I can’t even describe how much we love him! We’ve had him for about 7 years now. We rescued him from a kill shelter (have a certain number of days, then put to sleep if no one takes them). They had no information on him or anything, so we knew that we had no idea what kind of dog we were taking home. We adopted a cat as well that had a lot of problems too, and it took her a few years to come around, but she is totally different now too. Our newest cat was brought to the same shelther twice in her life. Meaning two owners gave her up.. lowering her chances of her adoption because she was a return. I was fully expecting her to have some problems.. but she had none! I couldn’t believe it. I have so many other stories about other animals we’ve rescued/fostered too. I think the biggest thing is you have to realize the commitment you need to give these animals.. and a lot of people definitely don’t! Sadly, that’s why so many animals end up in shelters or returned to shelters/rescues. 

Post # 5
100 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

We had a rough time with our rescue dog at first, too. She had terrible separation anxiety: could not be alone, at all, for any length of time. I’ve never felt worse than when I left the apartment for a just few minutes and came back to a crying, shaking, cringing dog. I expected there to be some issues, but I had no idea how bad separation anxiety could be.

Things are much better now, a year down the line, but it took a LOT of work and many hours of training to get her to the point where she’s ok with us leaving. We seriously had to work up from like 10 seconds at a time: walk out of the apartment, wait 10 seconds, come back in, and repeat until she didn’t go nuts every time. Then 15 seconds. Then 30. And on and on and on. It took her a really long time to figure out that we will always come back for her — which is just heartbreaking.

One really good thing about the rescue we went through is that they did a really solid evaluation of her when she came to them. They were able to give us a very thorough description of her personality, whether she had ever been aggressive with staff or other dogs, etc. Any good rescue organization should go out of their way to make sure you know what you’re getting into, and if they don’t tell you what they know about the dog’s history, past aggression, or things like that, ask specifically about it or consider another organization. It’s a shame that there are places that gloss over the realities of adopting a rescue (or of pet ownership in general) — it just leads to people having bad experiences with their dogs and dogs landing back in the shelters.

Post # 6
1828 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

I thought about this when we were going to adopt our cats. At first I was dead set on getting an older cat because everybody wants kittens. Then I saw some of the behavioral issues and physical issues they had, and realized it just wasn’t for us. It was our first pet together, and neither of us had that kind of time committment so we ended up adopting 2 3-month old kittens. Maybe some day we will get an older cat or a rescue dog (always wanted a little dog) when we both have more time and understanding.

Post # 7
554 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

this is a great post. I don’t think people often realize what the potential problems might be with rescuing animals. I have a 6.5 year old black lab that I rescued from a kill shelter 5 years ago. She was so sweet and quiet in the shelter but I learned very quickly that she had clearly been abused by her owner the first day I brought her home. Long story short…she tried to bite the vet and was sucessful in biting an older gentlemen who grabbed her roughly by the neck, both within weeks of us getting her.

I immediately started training classes with her which defintely helped but did not solve the problem entirely. She still has her quirks 5 years later and I am hypervigilent about who she is allowed around without supervision and how people pet/play with her (no babies or small kids pulling/laying on her ever). My DH thinks I’m overreacting as he’s never seen her super aggressive, but I’ve seen it and am not willing to take any chances. I feel like it’s my responsibility to protect her as much as it is to protect others. She’s just a dog and it isn’t fair to assume she should just “be good” all the time if she feels threatened.


Eta: All of that being said… I would not trade her for any other dog in the world. She is just as loving and sweet to me as the day I met her and I know we will only chose to adopt any future animals from shelters as well. 

Post # 8
5147 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

Well crap, I just typed a whole long thing and WeddingBee logged me out, so I lost it.


I’ll summarize because I don’t want to type it all again.

We adopted an older dog (pom/schipperke mix, ~6 when he adopted him). He has issues. He marks (has to wear a belly-band any time he’s loose int he house), resource guards, often has to wear a muzzle at the vet when getting shots, and is hard to train. (Street-smart though, if he wants something, he suddenly becomes the world’s best problem solver.) He bites when he’s mad, luckily he’s missing most his teeth (was already missing them when we adopted him) so it doesn’t hurt too bad when he does get you.

Most of the time he’s a sweet and loveable little dog. But he does have issues, we’ve learned what his triggers are to minimize incidents.

We love him and have made a committement to him. It’s a good thing he ended up with us, I think most people wouldn’t have the patience or willingness to deal with him, he would have probably been taken back to the shelter and/or euthanized by many people.





Here’s a “Note to Potential Adoptors” from a papillon rescue group website, I think it’s a good read:

Lassie and Cleo and Rin Tin Tin and Toto don’t show up in rescue. We don’t get the elegantly coiffed, classically beautiful, completely trained, perfectly behaved dog. We get the leftovers. Dogs that other people have incompetently bred, inadequately socialized, ineffectively “trained,” and badly treated.

Most Rescue dogs have had it. They’ve been pushed from one lousy situation to another. They’ve never had proper veterinary care, kind and consistent training, or sufficient company. They’ve lived outside, in a crate, or in the basement. They’re scared, depressed and anxious.

Some are angry. Some are sick. Some have given up. But we are Rescue and we don’t give up. We never give up on a dog. We know that a dog is a living being, with a spirit and a heart and feelings. Our dogs are not commodities, things, or garbage. They are part of sacred creation and they deserve as much love and care and respect as the next Westminster champion.

So please, please don’t come to rescue in the hopes of getting a “bargain,” or indeed of “getting” anything. Come to Rescue to give, to love, to save a life — and to mend your own spirit. For Rescue will reward you in ways you never thought possible.

I can promise you this — a rescue dog will make you a better person.


Post # 9
2065 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

Aw this about broke my heart. :/

Awww @abbyful, he’s a handsome guy. 🙂  

I rescued mine in 2009, she was only a year old, had been born in a puppy mill that got shut down and was sent to a shelter where I found her. 

She was in the last row, the very last cage, and was quiet. Every other dog around her was barking, whining, growling, running around in circles, jumping. But my little girl was just sitting there quietly, staring at anyone that walked by with these huge, sad eyes. I was with my sister, who just looked and me and said “That’s her isn’t it?” Uhhh yeah.

The shelter warned me that she’d been abused, but I honestly had no idea what I was getting into at the time. It took a LONG time for her to be comfortable. She just always seemed convinced that I was about to beat the crap out of her at any second for any reason. After a few months she was great with me and my roommate, but HATED men. I guess it was a man that beat her? When my now husband first came around, my dog didn’t bark at him! She actually trusted him (don’t tell him, but that is a HUGE part of why I kept dating him at first!). 

She’s almost 4 now and still has some strange quirks. She’s scared of hallways in any house, I have to walk with her down them. She won’t go into kitchens. If you take out a flashlight, she yelps and runs even if you’re 6 feet away, still haven’t entirely figured that one out. She’s scared of the sound of her claws on our laminate flooring, so we have rugs everywhere so she can feel safe. But I love my “broken” little girl and wouldn’t trade all the hard work and effort away for anything in the world. 

Seriously…could you have said no to these eyes (taken about 6 months after I got her):


Post # 10
752 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I have two rescue stories. My first rescue is Gia, she is a small mutt rescued from an abandoned house in Puerto Rico. When I got her, I picked her up at her foster house which had two young children. She was terrified, and cowered in the back of the car. When we got to the house, she would slither around rooms alongside the walls like a snake, she wouldn’t go to the middle of a room. She was fearful of everyone and everything. Within about two weeks, she became more comfortable. Anytime we go to a new place though, this is her behavior. 

For the first 4 months, anytime she rode in the car, she would go #2. I learned to put her in the car, then walk her, then actually leave, that way the terror of being in the car would make her go before we left. She no longer does that and gets very excited to get in the car. Except now, once she is in the car, she barks and whines and wimpers at any speed less than 40mph. She decides when it is time to get up each morning-barking and scratching at her crate when she wants out. I have no solution for either of these behaviors.

My second rescue is Lux, a spayed yorkie-poodle mix I rescued from MI. She had ear mites and tape worm, which required about 4 visits (initial visits and check ups) and medication. This was the first two months. About 4 months later, she began spotting. Yes, she was indeed an intact female and her listing of spayed was incorrect. Two vet visits later, she was spayed.

Now, she has developed some kind of allergy. We’ve already had 4 vet visits and tried 3 different foods so it now must be environmental. We had to rule out any other skin mites or infections, so there were about 4 tests done. Now we are trying to rule out one other possibility with medication before considering allergy testing, which will run us $1,200. We don’t have it, and I’ve already spent about $1k on her in less than a year.

It’s a risk you take with any dog but typically with a rescue they are cleared by a vet first. This obviously was not the case with her. If we can’t find an alternative more affordable allergy testing, she’ll be spending her days in a padded cone whenever we are away because she scratches and chews incessantly to the point of breaking skin and bleeding when alone. We are torn on what to do.

Post # 11
2695 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Good luck with you dog! I’m glad that you’re working through it.

I have to disagree with some of your post though–not to say that shelter dogs 100%  won’t have issues, because that is naive, but that people don’t hear about the possibility. One reason at the top of the list for people who go to breeders rather than adopt, especially first time dog owners, is to get a dog as a puppy so that it doesn’t have any behavioral issues from another life. I feel that so many people hear stories just like this one about how dogs at rescues are “damaged” in some way, and that really puts them off considering a rescue dog. Thats unfortunate, as I don’t think that these problems happen all the time.

For me, my dog was one of the “eternally devoted” ones, so I was fortunate that way. I adopted her when she was 9 months old and about 25 lbs under weight. She immediately bonded with me and was very eager to please and learned very quickly. A lot of that has to do with her breed (pit bull mix,) which also meant that her temperament issues were minor. The breed isn’t known to exhibit gaurding behavior and aggression towards people is actually fairly rare (though always makes the news…)

One thing that she does do to this day that evokes her former life is that if you go to pet the top of her head, she will flinch no matter what. She’s 8 now, and it saddens me that she hasn’t outgrown that.

Your story certainly isn’t unheard of, but I also wouldn’t say its the most common scenario. It depends on a ton of factors including breed and age. (I’m Captain Obvious, apparently.)

The shelter I used to volunteer at had a very rigorous temperament testing before they would put any dogs up for adoption. If a dog had snapped at anyone over food, a bone, a toy, etc, it would have immediately been put down, no question. Once the tests were passed, the dogs were put for adoption, but were always under close watch for behavioral issues. Sometimes I really objected to their reasoning, but it made for a good policy overall, and dogs with temperament issues were not adopted out.  If adopting a dog without these types of behaviors is important to someone, I think it is a really good idea to research the kind of behavioral tests that your shelter or rescue does before putting a dog up for adoption. A Humane Society or breed rescue will have more rigorous standards than a county pound.

I’ll continue to adopt from this shelter in the future as I can be assured that the dog I’m getting is mentally stable. They even have a special pit bull program where the dogs have to pass extra temperament tests to be certified as “family dogs,” meaning that they passed all the regular tests plus being obedient, extra good with kids, and good with cats. Its a great policy!

Post # 12
317 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

@abbyful: I love that note from the rescue.  It is so true.  I volunteer for an animal rescue that is a network of foster homes, not a shelter.  Most of the animals we take in have such sad stories. I think if you rescue from a foster home, you can get a better sense of the animal because the foster mom already knows the issues.

My rescue cat was a cat I originally fostererd and because of her issues, she was unadoptable.  No one would have wanted to pay money to adopt this cat, so I kept her.  She has extreme social issues with other people to the point where I actually have to sedate her to take her to the vet because she’s so afraid of everyone. With me, however, when it’s just me and her home alone (she still is afraid of my husband) she’s the best cat. I don’t know what her story was before she came into my rescue group, but I consider myself her protector now and she can live out the rest of her days with me!

Post # 13
79 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

This is great advice!  The Fiance want to become first time pet owners in the next few years, and while we wouldn’t buy from a pet store, I don’t think either of us has the experience or knowledge to give an abused rescue the care they need.  Important to think about things like that, thank you!

Post # 14
1047 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: March 2012

Well said, and thank you for sharing.

I think what you said about rescuing shelter dogs can be said about getting any dog at any age. Raising dogs is much like raising children – it’s a lot of work, and even seemingly small mistakes you could make (babying, showing your anger, etc) can trigger a lot of behavioral problems. In my opinion the overall lesson is to really do research and honestly survey yourself to make sure you’re truly prepared to put in the effort it takes to raise a dog – be it a rescue dog or a puppy. Each dog has its own personality and you really have to be prepared for it. Dogs are cute, but there is a lot of responsibility, trial, and error that comes along with them.

I’m glad to hear you didn’t give up on your dog, though!


Post # 15
6036 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2019 - City, State

I adopted our dog from another family who had about 8 dogs and just couldnt handle all the dogs. seemed innocent enough and came to realize the conditions she was in before we got her were terrible. It was dirty and they just had dogs everywhere and none of them seemed to be well cared for. If we could have taken them all we would have but it just was not in our means at the time, we did get two more of them adopted though by having a friend and a cousin of ours adopt as well. So we did what we could…either way….Our matilda was very nervous and would watch every single move you made with very obvious fear. My suspicion is that she was abused. She had not been groomed in god only knows how long when I picked her up from her previous owners. I think it took around six months of being around us for her to start to warm up. This of course took lots of patience and work, she would refuse to eat when people were around AT ALL. like even if we were in the house and not in the same room she would just sit by her bowl until she felt it was safe to eat. so we would have to put her bowl out and go in the back porch so she could eat. We slowly built her up to being comfortable with eating regularly by feeding her her dry food by hand while we held her. Im not exactly sure why she had this fear but I think that was our biggest battle. She has always been really good with her potty training and after only about 3 or 4 days she was like my son’s new best friend. She took to him before she started to warm up to us adults. We have had her for a few years now and she is just a joy to have. It was work in the beginning but we knew when we adopted her from her previous owners that it was either we take her or she was going to a kill shelter. She’s such a sweet girl now and is really well behaved. My son is still by far her favorite person though, we havent moved up on that scale yet lol. she sleeps with him, watches him play video games and barks at the bad guys, she fetches the ball when he’s in the yard practicing his batting (and actually puts the balls back in the bucket so he can keep going lol) they are absolute best friends and Im so so so glad we decided to work through the issues she did have and get her to come out of her shell and trust us.

ETA: she did not come from a shelter but was on her way to one if we had not agreed to adopt her from her previous owners. I should mention too that much later after we already had her we found out her previous owners ended up getting in trouble with the law for how many dogs they had and how horrible the conditions were at that home. their son was actually living in a car on their property because the house was so full with animals and was filthy. it was not nearly that bad when we were there, but from what i was told it was basically right out of an episode of hoarders.

Post # 16
2103 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2011

I also rescued a female border collie mix! I don’t know her history, but she’s very anxious.  And like you said, she’s just not very affectionate. She’s a loner. She loves me and she’ll come let me pet her and hug her if I call her, but then she leaves and goes off into the other room once she’s had enough.

The biggest issue I have with her is that she is a runner. She won’t dart out an open door…unless there’s nobody standing in front of it and it’s been open a while. But she will find a way, any way, to get out of a fenced yard. And then she takes off. And when I come after her, she makes it a game. She won’t come to me. She’ll let me get JUST close enough until she takes off agains, making me chase her. UGH!! That makes me so mad! I think that part of the reason she won’t heed my commands is because she doesn’t have that devotion to me that puppies who grow up with their people have. She knows I provide her safety and she trusts me more than any other human, but she isn’t really worried about me.

I don’t regret adopting her at all. She’s my very favorite. She’s the softest dog and has the best fur to pet and she taught me that love that you only learn when somebody is dependent upon you.

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