Saturday, August 9, 2008

Owner search

I get a call at work. It's from Elizabeth.

"Stella's done something bad at the house."

Sounds ominous.


"She ate the box of oat bran off the countertop. It's all gone. Box is empty."

The immediate worry is bloating (because Stella is a Great Dane and they bloat which is life threatening) so I cut my day short and rush back home from work to keep an eye on her. She doesn't bloat but for the rest of the day and the whole night, she keeps making trips into the backyard to let off bran bombs.

"That's it," I say to her. "I'm trading you in."

That doesn't scare her, of course. She knows it's an empty threat. I've never understood the heartlessness someone must possess to abandon a pet of several years over relatively minor inconveniences, and by minor inconveniences I mean mostly anything outside of a sudden death.

Casey is an 8 year old Lab mix. Her teeth are rotten and she's got an uterine infection. Her ex-owner wrote on the form that he was surrendering her because he was leaving the country to get "marrier". I'm not sure if he meant "married" or "merrier" but either way he was looking to improve his lot in life while Casey's got instantly worse. Being an old, and not entirely healthy dog, her chances of getting adopted out of Toronto Animal Services are about nil.

When Casey was first brought in, she was quite despondent. Now, after a week of getting acclimatized, her mood is better. She's a dog who is very eager to please, tail always wagging when she's around people. She loves human company so it's no surprise that she gets visibly distraught whenever she's returned to her kennel but she doesn't bark or whine.

The first day she was taken out for a walk, when she was still uncertain of her new circumstances, she stopped at one point and her tail went into overdrive. She saw someone approaching. He appeared to be coming towards her and her tail wagged all the harder. She was so happy, she could barely contain herself, stepping joyously from foot to foot. But then, as he got close, her tail suddenly stopped wagging, her head drooped down, her body posture slumped and her eyes saddened. She had thought this man might have been her owner come to take her back but she was wrong. He was just a stranger.

When dogs are abandoned, some will owner search for the first few days or weeks, hoping they'll be taken back home. I shouldn't say that only some will owner search. I should say that with some it's more obvious. With Casey, it was obvious she deeply missed her ex-owner. He, unfortunately, didn't miss her as much.

I don't know how long it takes for a dog to get over the loss of owner and home. Because they can't vocalize their sadness, it's easy enough for us to ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist. They're just animals after all and we humans are as arrogant and self-focused about our ability to suffer as we are about everything else.

Casey will be going into Lab rescue as soon as a space opens up for her. How long after that before she gets a new owner she can wag her tail at is anyone's guess.

As for Stella, the next time she eats a box of anything off the countertop, I'm definitely trading her in.

1 comment:

Caveat said...

Excuses on the sheets at the local SPCA:

Getting married (so? love me, love my dog)
Having Baby (got the dog as a surrogate, did we?)
Moving (to somewhere where your dog isn't welcome?)
Too big (it's a GSD type, people, WTF did you expect?)
Too strong (this one always blows my mind)

Then the real reasons which are never listed:

Out of control because I didn't train him - drags me everywhere

Snaps at the kids because I let aggression escalate

Barks and howls when I'm out because of Sep Anxiety

Soils the house/crate due to anxiety or lack of supervision or being left alone too long

It was cute when he was tiny to encourage jumping, leash-grabbing, snarling and rough play but now he's 85 lbs, knocking the kids over and Grandma can't visit us anymore

I didn't know dogs were so much work

I didn't know dogs were so damned intelligent

I didn't know dogs might not fit my lifestyle

I didn't know that having a dog is like having a four-year-old kid who never gets any older

I didn't know JRT types aren't quiet little apartment dogs

I didn't know that Poodle types needed so much grooming

My house is full of hair and I'm anal so I can't tolerate it

Wow, vet care is expensive, especially when you let things go

I'm a self-absorbed airhead who shouldn't have anything more demanding than a cat or an aquarium.

Listen, things happen, sometimes you just can't keep your dog. Illness, death, financial ruin, etc.

The shelter, with all due respect, would be my last choice when all other avenues had been exhausted - just because of the institutional setting.

However, people who discard dogs for shallow reasons really should take their dogs to a shelter, since at least the new homes will be properly screened and the dogs will receive decent care while they are there - at the good ones, that is.