Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why I Have Rescue Dogs

I originally posted this on 7/7/12, but decided to scrap that blog and redo it with a new focus, so restoring this post as the first here.

Originally, I was going to dedicate this first "real" post to introducing my dogs. In a sense, I suppose this will still accomplish that goal, but in a very different way that I originally imagined. I watched this short video last night before hitting the hay and it brought me to tears:

AND it got me thinking and waxing philosophical.
First of all, this hit very close to home. I recognize this. The place is slightly different, but the situation is nearly the same. Nearly 10 years ago I was head veterinary technician at a clinic within an animal shelter in Massachusetts. The shelter had partnerships with a rescue group in Puerto Rico and a high kill shelter in southern rural Virginia. The Kentucky shelter in this video and the faces of the dogs shown especially remind me of the situation of that VA shelter. Countless dogs, mostly whole litters of puppies, passed through my hands on their way to better lives. They were dogs that would otherwise would have been euthanized - most before they had the opportunity to truly live as most were puppies between 8 - 14 weeks old. But almost none of them would have ever gotten that opportunity had the partnership with the shelter not been in place to bring them northward toward loving homes where they would become wanted companions. They were the lucky ones that got the opportunity to live and blossom. A multitude of dogs - all worthy of living a full life and experiencing the love and companionship offered by a home and giving back all the love and devotion a dog could possibly offer in return. No less worthy than any purebred destined for the show ring or performance sport or even house pet - although, for some reason, society seems to deem them less worthy. Why? They are just as capable of loving, learning, and demonstrating devotion to their owners as any other dog. The purity of love cannot be, and SHOULD NOT be, determined by the purity of bloodline.

I now have three rescue dogs:

Ollie, my oldest dog, came to me through a program similar to the one shown in the video. He originally ended up in a high kill shelter in WV after being picked up as a stray. He was one of the fortunate ones as he was selected to be brought north to the rescue I eventually adopted him from and has gone on to become a multiple champion in the sport of dog agility. Who would have thought this little hillbilly dog, once in danger of ending up as a casualty of an over-crowded shelter, was capable of shining so brightly? But shine he has!

Poppy. What can I say about this dog I have grown to love so much my heart can't begin to contain it? I have no doubt had I not taken her when I did, she would no longer be here on earth. When I adopted her from the shelter at 6 months of age, she's already been through several homes and shelter situations. She was more than difficult to live with - severe separation anxiety and barrier anxiety, extremely high energy, no clue about being housebroken, constant and annoying attention seeking behaviors. In other words, NOT a dog for the average pet home. That first year living with her was beyond difficult. Yet we both survived and came through with a tight bond. Although she has enormous potential for agility, her ring stress, noise sensitivity and her worry about being "wrong" has proven to be a serious barrier to her reaching her true potential. It does not matter to me. My bond with her looks beyond all my hopes for her agility career. Her greatness lies with who she is as an individual: her crazy personality, the way she can make me laugh like no other dog, and her complete and utter devotion to me. She does everything with intensity - including love. That is far more rewarding than any 50 cent ribbon or acronym appearing after her name.

And then there is my latest edition - Hocus Pocus - who I am still getting to know, but who I've already begun to form a good working bond with. "Hokey" is considered a special needs dog because she is deaf. Breeders often euthanize deaf puppies and deafies are usually at the top of the euthanasia list when they end up in shelters because their "disability" makes them less adoptable. There are a lot of myths out there about deaf dogs - they can't be trained, they are dangerous because they are too easily startled and turn into biters, etc. If people would simply understand how ridiculous that is. Are deaf people unable to learn? Are they inherently dangerous? No. They are simply people like any other. Hokey is no less of a dog than any other just because she can't hear. She acts like any other dog. She is just as capable of being trained, forming a bond, showing love and devotion than any dog that can hear. She is a dog first and foremost. Most people would not realize she is deaf if I didn't tell them. Here is a video I made of us working on training together:
Hokey Training
Why should a dog like this, absolutely capable of achieving great things and, most importantly, being a devoted companion, not be as worthy of life as any other dog?

Three wonderful dogs. But only three. Three out of thousands and thousands of dogs on any particular day who need homes and are in danger of dying merely because they happen to be classified as "unwanted". Too many dogs never get past the "unwanted" category. They never get their chance to shine. The never get to be loved or show all the love they have to offer. That is a real tragedy. I can't understand why people continue to breed dogs and purchase dogs while others go wanting and end up dying simply because there are too many and/or they are not the right "kind". I can't, in good conscious, do that. That is why I have rescue dogs and why I volunteer. Not because of any great feeling of satisfaction I get; it has nothing to do with my ego. It is because the eyes of too many beautiful, wanting, hopeful-until-the-end dogs haunt me and I feel I need to do what little I can to help to give them the opportunity to know what it is to be loved and wanted. It is my wish that you will too.

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