Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Pleasant Fantasy of the Forever Home

I was recently privy to an on-line forum thread about "deal-breaker" dogs.  

The idea was that a dog could have a trait - or lack one - that made it desirable to re-home the dog.

photo: G. Banner
A lot of people see this as heresy.  I don't happen to be one of them.  The idea of a "forever home" is appealing, but not in my experience necessarily realistic.  It makes good ad-copy for rescues and animal pain-porn websites like The Dodo.  But people make mistakes.  Situations change without warning.  Too often, I feel, people feel constrained by what they see as an absolute responsibility, and fail to see how that affects the dog. They are so caught up in avoiding the guilt they might feel by parting with a dog, that they don't see what might or might not make the dog happy.

I had one of those "deal- breaker" dogs for awhile.  Maid was slated to be shot by her owner for being a wash-out at stock work.  She came through a couple of sets of hands and parked herself on my feet one day and wouldn't leave. (literally - she had to be dragged away.)  She was being "test walked" by a man who was looking for a pet.  (He didn't take her) So I bailed her out of a rescue where she was being offered. 

The deal I have with dogs is this:  You show me who you are, what's important to you, and if I can't give you that I'll do my best to get you to someone who can.  I took Maid for a couple of sessions with a herding trainer.  Her evaluation was that the dog had talent and drive. A couple of months later I found a home for her.  She's taking care of 40 goats now.  She's happy.  She's useful.  And I'm out a swell dog.  Does that make me a deal-breaker? Her?

 photo: G. Banner

I really liked that dog.  She was wonderful.  But I could see that she needed something I couldn't offer her.  So I found some one who could - someone who needed the dog's skills as much as the dog needed to exercise her abilities.  Could Maid have been happy running agility courses?  Maybe.  But she was a working dog at heart.  To keep her from that would have been a real deal-breaker.

PS.  I recently had a Chihuahua foster dog.  I didn't want a Chihuahua, but there he was.  He needed help in a big way.  I thought he would be great for my dog-walker, who was down to one dog.  But my dog-walker said no.  So, since he got along well with my other pets, I decided to give him a home. Two months later, my collie's infatuation with him wore off.  His Chihuahua-ness began to wear on my nerves. 

 photo: G. Banner

Then the doGs smiled on us.  I got sick.  My dog-walker took him to take care of until I got well. During that week he (the dog-walker)  decided the Chihuahua was all that after all.  So he kept him.  He loves teeny dogs.  So who's the deal-breaker in this scenario? 

To me it's a case of things will go right if you let them.  The trick is to pay attention and eschew guilt.  Guilt is about as useful as a sneaker full of puppy poo.

 photo: C. McCormick

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