Friday, August 1, 2008

5 - part 3

Continued from previous.

Anne and Pete have been running a very commendable dog rescue just north of Toronto for over ten years and they've agreed to foster one of the five border collies but now talking to Pete on the phone, he's expressing some concerns about the anxiety level of the dog around people. They rehabilitate dogs - and from what I've heard, they do a great job of it - but as with any shelter with limited time and funds (which is of course all shelters), taking on a severely troubled dog and dedicating enough resources to it means that other dogs will be denied. Is it worth trying to save the life of the one dog at hand when the lives of two or three others might be lost? An impossible question to answer. Still, they're willing to give the pup a try and provide it with a foster home. I suspect, this decision comes more from the goodness of their hearts than from logic.

My car is parked on the street and I'm getting it ready to transport the pup up to Ann and Pete's. I have the back seat pulled down so that the back area is open to the trunk. I spread out a large piece of thick plastic over the whole section and tape it down. Someone walks by and checks out what I'm doing and I tell her with a smile that it's my turn to move the body tonight but her eyes just go buggy and she moves off.

Later, at Toronto Animal Services, James gives me some additional absorbant blankets to put on top of the plastic and then we head upstairs to the kennels to fetch the pup.

Like its siblings, well, actually somewhat worse than its siblings, this scared young dog flattens to the floor and goes rigid as soon as the leash is attached to its collar. James ends up dragging it a bit but then decides to pick it up, first wrapping the loose leash around its muzzle for safety against a possible bite. When a dog is this frightened, it's best to take some precautions when lifting it up within range of one's face. On the way to the elevator, while in James' arms, the pup poops and the two blobs fall ignominiously onto the floor. Outside, we try to get it pee on the grass (by saying stuff like, "Go pee, nice puppy, go pee" because, like, that works) but the pup just wants to either tear off or flatten against the ground.

James carries the pup into my car and immediately, it scoots into the furthest back corner in the trunk. It stares out at us from the darkness like the frightened wild animal it is.

James discusses directions up to Ann and Pete's while I only half pay attention. The other half is wondering what the plan will be if the pup poops in the car. Oh well, then so it goes.

The drive up is without incident except at one point when I get a whiff of urine but I'm not sure if that's old dried stuff or freshly wet stuff. Oh well, so it goes.

At least the pup seems to be relaxing a bit. It's got its head up and it's looking around. It really is a beautiful young dog.

About a block away from the destination address, I spot a man by the side of the road in a Tilley hat and sunglasses walking two beagles and guess that he's Pete from the on-line photos. I stop to say hello and he directs me to his driveway and says he'll be there shortly.

I park and exit the car and open the back door. Now the pup is tense again. I grab the leash so that it doesn't jump out and flee when I open the trunk. At first, it doesn't want to come out at all and it plays a game of avoidance going from the door to the trunk to the door to the trunk again as I go back and forth trying to coax it out. Eventually, with enough coaxing and much pulling, I get the pup out but instead of trying to bolt, it ducks under the car and squeezes up against the tire.

"That's not good," Pete says as he walks up the drive.

The pup isn't moving from beneath the car.

"Does he have a flat collar on?" Pete asks.

I know what he's going to say. A flat collar, basically a regular collar, will slip off over the head of the pup if it resists enough and it's resisting enough and the flat collar is indeed starting to slip. It's already come over one ear so I release the tension.

"That's going to come off," Pete says.

"Yeah, looks like it," I say.

We stand there surveying the situation. I find it a little funny that now so close to the end of the pup's journey, it manages to lodge itself into a spot where we can't get it out and I'm about to crack some joke but then I look at Pete and he doesn't look so amused. I start doing a little inner prayer that he's still going to take the pup.

Ann comes out to meet us. The instant I see her and hear her speak, I sense a gentleness about her and I know that if anyone can get the pup out it'll be her.

We try a few things. Cooing voices, a broom to push, some dog snacks (which the neighbour brings over), but finally it comes down to Ann getting down and slowly and gently putting a slip collar around the neck of the pup. And then she pulls it out.

Pete lifts the pup up and holds it in his arms. I ask if he'd like something wrapped around it's muzzle but he says that if it was going to bite it would have bit already. Of course he's right. The pup is scared, panting, drooling scared but it's not a biter.

I say goodbye to them as they take the pup away.

After I get home, I open up an e-mail from James. He writes that as he walked back into the facility after having loaded the pup into my car, he smelled poop. He didn't see any on the floor but after checking around a bit, he discovered that a clump of it had fallen into his boots - must've been while he was carrying the pup to the elevator earlier. Of course I had to laugh over this final parting gift given to the guy whose actions had just saved the lives of five Border Collie puppies.


Sarah said...

Nicely written. I would be very interested in hearing the beginnings of this litter, as well as their (or at least his) progress.

Sarah Ruckelshaus
ED Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue

Caveat said...

What bugs me is that the person who made these dogs so afraid gets off scot-free.

Are you sure they were kept outside? The behaviour is like that of dogs who live their lives in crates, or basements, or garages - they are overwhelmed and afraid of being out of their cages.

They had a newf mix at the Hammer SPCA like that - terrified of being outside because he'd spent his life in a crate.

That pup has never walked on a smooth floor and the pattern on the tile freaked him out, too.

If he were a yard dog, he wouldn't be so freaked outside - it would be his comfort zone and he would relax once out of the building.

Just wondering.

Fred said...

Unfortunately, sometimes there are details about stories I can't publish on a public forum. It's a very subjective judgment call on my part on whether publicizing the facts will help or hinder the people and animals involved and I don't know if I always make the correct decision.

Even some of the details I have published here may not be to some people's liking. I'm finding that some in the rescue community can be a little publicity shy and would rather do their good work away from the prying public eye especially since public opinion can so quickly swing from being supportive to antagonistic. I'm guessing that if you're involved in rescue/advocacy, you may have had similar feelings and experiences?

I obviously have my own opinions on publicity but I have to respect other's privacy concerns as well (or at least try). I suspect I may be pushing those boundaries already with some people and organizations so it's anyone's guess how long some doors will stay open.

I'm going to try to keep tabs on the progress of the Border Collie pups and provide updates but because of the controversy this rescue has caused, the information stream may be a bit dry at times.

With regards to the pup's behaviour, though it's hard to tell from the bad video editing, it actually is more at ease outdoors than indoors but the overwhelming anxiety inducer for the pup is people. Indoors or out, if people are in the vicinity, it panics - especially when it feels the restrictions of the leash. The first thing Ann and Pete said they were going to do with the pup was to just leave it alone and let it destress for a good long while in their yard with their other dogs.

Sarah said...

In response to caveat:
Any under-socialized dog can behave strangely when introduced to new surroundings. I know of a young dog who was raised in a home with a competent owner and when taken to a new home (just for a week or two for vacation) the dog is terrified of a simple vinyl floor (floor in her home is ceramic tile). It seems that the smarter the dog, the more new a different things can be startling. Often it has quite a bit to do with how the humans involved handle the situation.
As for being afraid of the outside if he were a yard dog, the same thing applies. Sometimes it does not matter if the dog has been outside, if it is new or strange the dog still reacts negatively.
In my experience, dogs like these are most often the 'victims' of benign neglect where they have food and water, but not the rest of what they need in order to become 'good dogs'. One of the reasons I am curious about the beginnings for these pups, as well as the end.

Sarah said...

I fully understand the need for diplomacy in relation to facts pertaining to (any) case. I have become quite expert at making the stories behind dogs generic enough so that even the most sensitive of people can deal.
I do feel strongly that education is the key, whether it is the education of the original owner, the shelter, or the potential adopter...or even simply the reader of the article. If no one speaks out with the TRUTH and the FACTS (not a sad story to gain pity) then the dogs (cats, pocket pets...)do not gain.
It sounds like Ann and Pete are on the right path with this pup. Feel free to give them my info should they feel they need some support.

Anonymous said...

I hope Anne and Pete will go the distance with this pup. We've had *adult* dogs here in Beograd that frightened -- and it doesn't matter if they are indoor or outdoor, what seems to be at the root is profound neglect (abuse seems to promote defensive aggression) -- but with much patience and time they became great dogs. In fact, one of them was among our earliest Canadian immigrants, and you would never know, now, that she spent months cringing behind whatever she could find if a human even looked at her for long. It took a lot of gentleness, but gradually she bonded to one of the guards, then to me.

She is a happy girl, now, in an excellent home. And knowing that makes it all worth while, I promise. So keep up the fight, because there is a life to be saved here!

Sharin Barber said...

Good work!