Monday, November 10, 2008

Someone else's perfect dog

In the 2 years I've been volunteering at Toronto Animal Services I think I've met one dog I didn't like or rather it didn't like me (I don't feel too bad, though, because it didn't much like anyone else either). Very occasionally, however, there are dogs that, while I don't dislike them, I don't particular like them either. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting better acquainted. Sometimes it's that maybe during the first meeting we had, the dog was still too stressed out from the new environment. Sometimes, however, it's because the dog is very difficult to handle and doesn't seem to offer much in return. At least not to me.

A dog like that came in this past weekend. It's a yellow Lab. If I had one word to describe it, I'd say it was a nutbar. It is completely wild on a leash. It throws its not insignificant weight around. It doesn't seem to have much interest in people. It's only good quality, if you can call it a good quality, is that it is food obsessed so that at least you can get some temporary control over him if you have a snack to tempt him with. Even if I had no dogs of my own, I would not take this one home.

So, is this dog a write off?

A few months after I started at TAS, a Border Collie mix came in. I don't remember his previous history but I do remember walking him and not being entirely impressed. He too was quite bad on leash. He barked a lot. He was completely untrained. He was easily distracted. He was uninterested in people. The walk was basically 30 minutes of being pulled around by a dog that didn't seem the least bit interested in who was at the other end of the leash. A couple of weeks later, I was surprised when I heard that he got adopted. I was even more surprised when the Border Collie, now Jefferson, turned up at the dog park I go to with my dogs. The person who adopted Jefferson lived near the park and was a long distance runner. Jefferson, with his high strung energy, was what the person was looking for. Jefferson was going to be his running companion. And even Jefferson's continuous barking, which annoyed most everyone else at the park, was no bother to his owner who just said, "Well, dogs bark," to which I thought, "Wow, I'm glad you're not my neighbour."

Of course a few months later, Karma, the Universe, or God, deciding I needed to be taught a lesson, had Jefferson and his owner move in three houses away from me. Almost everyday I would hear and see the two of them as they left their house for their morning 10k run or cycle. Almost everyday, Jefferson would sniff around my front yard and sometimes piddle and drive Stella and Rocky batty as they watched him from the front room window. But, most importantly, everyday, I saw how the relationship between Jefferson and his owner grew stronger and more confident. They weren't just good for each other. They were great for each other. The owner adored Jefferson and Jefferson cherished his owner and soon enough, his barking subsided. Even Stella, who at first didn't want to have anything to do with Jefferson, now started initiating play with him and she doesn't do that with many dogs.

What I've learned is this. Just because there's no bond between a particular dog and myself doesn't mean that I should write the dog off as a dog that no one would want. Every dog deserves the opportunity to be matched up with the right person. That may not be an easy thing to do but when that match is found, it's often these "problem" dogs that really learn to shine.


Anonymous said...

He is a very handsome man. He probably has never had an opportunity to bond with people. Probably bought because Golden Labs were trendy and then when, untrained, he became too much, he was relinquished. And these people probably have children...feel sorry for them... He needs someone who understands dog behaviour and modification. He is food motivated and that is a plus. He will probably make a wonderful pet. He is probably desperate of exercise and has never had any boundaries, rules or limitations set for him. I don't know what the time periods are for dogs like him and I certainly hope someone contacts a Lab Rescue to come and get him. It is a sin and a shame to ruin a dog like that and the people who owned him should never, ever be allowed to own another animal. A dog is commitment and work and love and money and you do it because you took on the responsibility. When it becomes overwhelming, you don't walk away, abandoning something that relies on you 100% for everything in its life and leave someone else to be responsible. And if that someone else doesn't step to the plate, oh well, so the dog gets, let's use that nice euphenism "put down". Everyone should be very, very wary of anyone who abandons their animal. Beware of that person's lack of morals, scruples, principles, etc. They are scum.....

Fred said...

You're absolutely right. I didn't meant to imply by my posting that there was something inately wrong with the dog. I should have been more clear about that. I don't profess to know which side, nature or nurture, molded the personality of this particular dog but I do know that dogs are much more pliable and forgiving than people and that in the right hands, this Lab can do great. I guess my point is that, despite my affinity for dogs, I do sometimes meet one that doesn't particularly appeal to me, for whatever reason, but really, who am I to judge? Just because a dog is not the right dog for me doesn't mean it's not the perfect dog for someone else.

Anonymous said...

Fred, I would really like to do something for this guy. I have three of my own at home but maybe, just maybe, I could spend some time with him on the weekend to teach him some manners. If you think that would work and maybe if I could go down with you, let me know. I have tried to post under my name but it is not working out that way so I have to do it under Anonymous again. Perhaps you have a suggestion in that area also. Joanne.

Fred said...

It would be great if you could spend some extra time doing some training with this guy. Send me an e-mail and we can arrange something (You can get my e-mail by clicking on my name at the beginning of this comment). Or, you can phone Toronto Animal Services directly, 416 338-6668, and ask for James and set something up that way. If it's going to be your first time volunteering down there, you'll need to fill out some paperwork but it's no big deal.

As for posting with your name, I'm not sure about that other than you may need to set up a Google/Blogger account first. I think you may also be able to check the Name/URL option below and sign your name that way.

Anonymous said...

Fred, sometimes your blog sounds like you have been reading my email! Jefferson could be the either of the dogs I brought out of Srbija.

One chose me, to the point of running away from adoptors to come back, the other has allergies that mean no one there would take him. Both have fear-created barking and possessiveness issues that stem from the treatment they got when pups on the street.

Consistent, gentle but firm training has brought other issues -- biting, fear of strange situations, anxiety piddling, food aggression et alia -- under control, but the barking!

I am glad to know that time and a loving human helped Jefferson get over that.It gives me hope for Magic the Wonder Mouth and her sidekick, Jimmy Mac.

I hope Joanne will volunteer and get to the root of what made this Lab what it is. And I will happily accept tips -- feel free to pass on *my* contact details -- on how to contain barking, and cat chasing in the house. Alas, Magic is *very* smart, and figured out that if she raised her head and barked continuously, the anti-bark collar would run out of citrine, and, what Alpha Magic does, Jimmy soon does too.

Every dog is a good dog -- but sometimes that goodness is buried under a layer of psychological scar tissue that takes time and work. Magic and Jimmy are my good dogs, Jefferson was the runner's good dog, and this lab is a good dog, too -- it just needs someone to find that dog and bring it out.

Caveat said...

My Monty was one crazy kid when I adopted him. He was a rottweiler type from Hamilton SPCA. Exuberance out the yin-yang, thought he was the king of N. America (all his life). Dragged me everywhere, kept jumping up biting my arms for the first two weeks - I had the bruises to show for it. I guess somebody thought it was cute when he was tiny, not so cute when he was 10 months old.

We attended obedience class, got a certificate for showing up. The instructor said "There's one dog here who doesn't give a damn about anybody".

Yup. It was my boy.

Well, it was a challenge and it took awhile but he was one of the best dogs I ever had. He never even curled a lip at another dog - they were beneath him. He ignored pups and small dogs, so he and my old Wiener dog got along fine. People didn't interest him, except me and a couple of others but he'd greet anybody on command with the full bum-wiggle.

He was beautiful, everybody commented on that. Walked 1.5 hours every morning before work, 1 hour after work, runs at the dog place 3 or 4 times a week kept him in shape and calmed him down.

Everybody in the neighbourhood liked him, old ladies would totter off their porches in the morning with treats or just to say hello.

He dropped on a walk when he was around 9 or 10. I carried him about a mile, all 90 lbs of him. He died in the car on the way to the vet's. He'd never been sick, had a torn cruciate once. The vet said it was a blood clot, heart-lung=brain, quite common, no pain.

So my point is, somebody will come along, do the work and turn that nice looking fellow into a great friend.

Oh, I picked Monty because all the others were border collies - literally bouncing off the walls *wink*

Anonymous said...

This dog will probably greatly improve over the next week or so once a regular routine is establishes. Im going to see her today. As wild as she was for me yesterday she was also GORGEOUS AND LOVEABLE. she made me laugh when I really needed it. Once we got going and I set down some rules and kept stopping when she pulled, got her attention and continued, we managed to have a really good walk. She just needs time. I think someone will fall madly in love with her. Lab people are fenatical about the breed. I bet shes a fast learner probably thinks shes smarter than us LOL