I was pondering for the last two weeks just what to write about for the Blog the Change for Animals and although there are many things I’d like to write about, none of them really struck me. Although not fully inspired, I began writing a post the other day and although I think the topic is really important, something inside me told me to stop… I just wasn’t thrilled. After further thought, I began thinking about the CGC class I’m taking with Shayne right now and it hit me, that is what I want to write about. I want to write about the second chance dog… the project dog… the dog you didn’t necessarily want but got anyhow.
I was looking for a black and white border collie puppy (or young dog) to do agility with. I was hoping for a dog who was basically a ready-to-go type dog… one that I could take anywhere and do anything with without the need for a lot of remedial training to fix behaviors. I really wanted a dog who was good with other dogs (my previous dog had space issues with other dogs). Although I could work with a variety of behavioral issues, I wasn’t looking for that type of dog at the time. When I sat with Shayne (then LuLu) in the meet-n-greet room and she did everything she could to avoid me for 25 minutes before curling up in my lap … well, there was no saying no.
I knew I was getting a very timid dog who was under-socialized, had some resource guarding issues, and who very easily became overwhelmed with novel stimuli. I discovered I also got a dog who had some fear-aggression issues with men, was fearful of strangers, had a hard time coping in new environments, was very insecure, and who had some issues with other dogs. What I didn’t know was that I’d also gotten a dog who was ultimately very resilient, who desperately wanted to work with me, who taught me more than I could ever imagine, and who would take me from a casual trainer to someone really invested in the science of behavior.
My Blog The Change is not about finding the least adoptable dog and adopting him/her and trying to work through problems without the knowledge or experience to safely handle them. There are many nearly perfect dogs in shelters… anyone who tells you otherwise has probably not been in shelters too much. However, there are also other dogs who may be longer-term residents (if lucky to be in a shelter that has that ability) who may be a little shy, may be a big black dog (regardless of temperament, big black dogs tend to stay in the shelter longer), may lack manners, may not be house-trained, and may have some cage-quirks that cause them to be looked over time and time again.
So what should you take away from this then if it’s not necessarily about adopting the least adoptable dog in the shelter? If you have the means (time/training skill/ability to get into a training class) to adopt a dog who may be shy, who may be timid, who may not be housebroken, who may have some undesirable cage behaviors, please consider giving these dogs a chance–you don’t have to pick the most challenging dog of the bunch to be able to make a huge difference in the world of a dog who may have been passed over. The journey you take with a dog who needed some extra care, and the learning you do as a handler, is simply amazing. I may not have been looking for a project dog, but I cannot adequately put into words how amazing our journey has been. She was not the dog I wanted but she was the dog I needed and the dog who changed the course of my life.
If you know that adopting a dog who may have some extra needs is not what you are able to work with at this time, it’s good that you know that! You may, then, consider donating some time to go to a local shelter and help those dogs who may need some extra work. Spending just a few minutes with some shy dogs on a regular basis can make a world of difference. I think to Shayne, if someone had been able to spend just 5 minutes a day working with her, she may not have hid in the corner of her run and she may have been interested in interacting with me in the meet-n-greet room. Or maybe you consider getting involved with transporting rescue dogs who may need foster homes to help them become more easily adoptable.
Then, while you’re at it, take a minute (or a few days) to browse through the great blog posts for Blog the Change for Animals. I can’t add the link list but you can find it here: http://btc4animals.com/blog-the-change/