Monday, September 5, 2011

Dog shelter stories: Adopting an "under dog" from the shelter

Barbie the dog with some of her family in the background
Lately, it seems like I've been adding a lot of stories about abuse and neglect on this blog. I was very excited when one of my cousins, Amy, wrote about her own dog on Facebook the other day, and I asked her to write a bit for this blog. I think she has a very unique and uplifting approach when it comes to adoption, and I thought we could all use a positive story. So here goes.

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The reason I decided to start looking for a dog was because we have an older dog named Dodger, who is a chow mix, and I felt he needed a companion. My husband and I knew we would go to our local shelter to find a dog who needed a home; we just weren't sure what we were looking for. The kids wanted a puppy of course, but I wasn't sure I was ready for that. We also learned that the puppies NEVER last very long in the shelter. They are adopted out almost immediately. It is the older dogs, or the not-so-attractive dogs, who get left behind.

At first, we decided to foster. We fostered two different dogs. One was a black lab named Sadie (who was VERY attached to my husband), but after only 4 months with Sadie she came down with cancer. We tried two surgeries, but were unable to save her. Once again, we were grieving, but I was still determined to give it another try. The next dog was a big, beautiful, white, dog name Ireland. Well, Ireland was not too compatible with kids, so we had to take her back to the shelter. (However, she was adopted out to an older couple in Portland, and is still with them to this day.)

I went to the shelter to look at the dogs ONE MORE TIME, and was just about ready to give up and head for home, when I heard an employee at the shelter talking about the "under dogs." (Apparently the under dogs are the ones who are too risky to adopt out, or had been in the shelter for a very long time.) I heard Babie's name come up and had seen her there before. I started asking some questions and learned that Babie is a collie mix, approximately 2 yrs. old, who lived with an elderly woman. The woman brought her in one day, said she couldn't handle her, and left. While living with this woman, Babie had chewed up her couches, carpet, and cupboards. She dug holes in the yard, and got out frequently. The woman finally muzzled Babie and left her tied up while she went to work for 8 hrs. a day. (Probably for the duration of about 6 months.)

By the time Babie made it to the shelter, she had scratched and clawed most of the hair off her face, trying to get out of the muzzle. Her face was cracked and bleeding, and she didn't look very "adoptable." Babie had been in the shelter the longest, and no one had ever been interested in her. When I asked to see her, I knew this was my dog. She was fairly small, black, and just looked scared. I was sure that with a little training and TLC, this one would turn out all right.

I will admit, Babie was a little hard to love at first. She pulled extremely hard on the leash when I walked her. She was nervous and skittish. She jumped at every little sound and walked with her body low to the ground, her tail between her legs. She just wasn't very friendly. It was obvious she had never really had any affection or socializing. She even snapped at us a time or two. I decided to read up on dog training and went to work with her.

In a week or two, Babie had won us ALL over.What a dramatic change! No more snapping at us or nervousness. No more pulling on the leash. she's turned out to be very smart and easy to train. (Working dogs such as collies usually are.) Best of all, Dodger is happy and energetic again with his new playmate, and the kids are proud to say that, "This is the dog we saved from 'doggy jail'." As for me, I too, am so proud when people stop me on the street to admire this once "ugly" dog who now has a shiny black coat, a cute face, and no signs of her former situation. My husband teases me that I have a constant shadow wherever I go. She warms my feet at night, lays next to me when I watch tv, or cook, or clean. Her name suits her too because she often tries to sit in my lap. She is so very loyal to me.

We can take her pretty much wherever we go and she stays right there with us. When we leave home, she's happy to have Dodger to keep her company. She's not perfect, but she's found her place in a pack, and found her forever home with us. I started out looking for a dog like the one I had lost, and I got Babie: A dog, who like so many, with a little patience at first, will be true and loyal to the end.
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Isn't this amazing? And aren't you inspired? If you are, head to your shelter today and ask about a few of the unadoptables. The staff typically has a dog or two that they love and can't seem to move. Visit that pet. Love it. Take it home if you can, or share its story on social media.

Together, we can save all of the under dogs.