#2 March 2019
Sharing some lessons that I've learned
Here are some things that over the years, I've learned a lot from
the animals and those who love them and work to help them.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda......
I began thinking about this blog after a recent call from a woman asking what to do with a dog she'd adopted from another rescue. (Maybe we must have our number scrawled on animal bathroom walls?) She said that this sweet new dog, that she'd been told was “cat-friendly,” had killed her beloved cat that she'd had for thirteen years. My heart broke for her.
Sometimes advice given to adopters about the temperament of a rescued dog may not always be accurate. The rescue staff may believe what they are telling you – but, truth is, it's up to you to learn firsthand about your dog. And it's up to you to be cautious and diligent about new pet's behavior and the safety of other animals and people (especially children and strangers) until you really get to know what to expect from the new addition to your household.
We've learned that a dog's personality can change from the time it's in the shelter until it leaves the foster home and goes to a forever home. We work hard to find each of our dogs a good-fit forever home, based on what we've learned about it during foster care. However, a dog is often on best behavior until it feels safe. A dog's true nature will become more clear as it feels more secure and settled.
This means if a dog shows unexpected cat-chasing behavior after it's adopted, it may be for the first time and the person who told you it was OK with cats could have been wrong but unknowingly. This also means that you should be cautious while you get to know your new family member. It may take some time.
Yes, life can be so unfair...
My son brought his mostly outdoor cat all the way from Utah to northern California. He asked if his cat could live with me for a while since he lived on a very busy street. His cat died, hit by a workman driving his truck too fast on a narrow, not-well-traveled road...mine.
I've learned, finally. I will never own and/or be responsible for a cat that has free access to the outdoors. I have one cat now and when he want to be outside, he has access only to my upstairs balcony that's netted in so he can't wander.
Many say, “But I want my cat to live a normal life!” My response to that commendable wish is that the operable word here is “LIVE!” If the cat goes outside in a risky environment, especially in predator territory, the cat is not safe outside and more than likely won't live long outside. Life is unfair, so those of us who care about our animals need to do all we can to protect them.
You don't need to tough it out alone...
If you think some guidance might be helpful, a call and conference with a good dog trainer is invaluable. For example, Our trainer John Garcia taught me how to actually eliminate very aggressive fear-based behavior in a dog I took from an abusive home. I would never have
believed it if I had not experienced it firsthand myself. In one week the dog went from Charlie Manson wanting to bite my hand off to Mr. Rogers and started sleeping with me under the covers. Okay it may have taken two weeks but it really did happen! This dog is now a happy, well-adjusted dog now living with my other dog and me and never thinking about biting anyone.
In my next post, I'll share our trainer's suggestions about helping this particular dog. Until then I'll leave you with my warmest wishes for all you animal lovers who go the extra mile to help these helpless abandoned animals.
Bless each of you,
P.S. I love this quote from one of my heroes, Helen Keller...it is helpful when things seem a bit tough:
Power of One
I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do
The something that I can do.
Susan Wallace, founder of Scooter's Pals, welcomes your feedback. If you have comments about this blog, please send her an email message at email@example.com.