Being in the rescue world has its advantages being a trainer. Often times I deal with serious cases which have given me the experience and hands-on knowledge to give me what I need to be ahead of my game.
During the times I was overconfident in my abilities, it’s often a rescue that brings me down to being as humble as we all should actually be.
Over the last few years especially locally we have had an influx of rescues being opened and operated.
Some simply ship dogs here and have fostered deal with the clerical and adoption paperwork while others - like us at Fulfilling Hearts Rescue - work and deal with local dogs who need assistance.
Thankfully because of the influx fewer dogs are ending up in shelters and euthanized but there are a few bad points here as well.
In the last few weeks alone I have been tagged in over 15 posts for dogs with issues needing rehoming. It’s not common a trainer is a director of a rescue so this certainly has an effect on the popularity level of our rescue. While I am so grateful to help these dogs, a lot of people are thinking solely with their heart and not their head.
While the cases I will mention aren’t local, they can happen anywhere and the importance of them is priceless.
In the last two weeks, there have been two people who have lost their lives to rescue dogs. Another who is dealing with excruciating wounds who will likely never overcome his fear of dogs.
After this happens we ask how? How could such a good dog possibly do this? How could a dog who had been ‘rehabbed’ possibly kill someone?
Let's talk about the rescue dog.
For the most part, these guys are lacking in any type of socialization. They are often surrendered due to behavioural issues. It’s a common occurrence that the owner has never sought any professional help, nor did any type of obedience training.
The most annoying part is that 99% of the time when owners ask us to take their dogs I offer them help - FREE HELP - which they decline. The decline on their dog, which they have set up to fail from the start or a breeder has bred with a genetically faulty temperament.
I am not being judgmental and when people give it a shot and they still fail I have the utmost respect for them. While there are times I do get a legitimate reason; owners dying, sickness, unexpected life change which I can even understand, most are not quite so easy to get.
Here's a case example.
"A 4-year-old pit mix, being surrendered for not being trustworthy and possibly with become aggressive. Looking to re-home for this reason."
This is posted publicly for anyone. The owner insists ‘ they will be picky’ to place. Then I get the lovely tag ‘April Saulnier will help! She runs a rescue and can rehab dogs very effectively’.
So potentially any random person could message this dog owner and likely say and be a great owner and pick this dog up. No evaluation complete, they pick up the dog and within 2 days the dog becomes terribly aggressive resulting in a hospital visit for a family member.
I will go back to the tag for help from me. While I adore rescuing dogs I don’t over commit myself with rescues and I’m VERY careful on what walks into our doors.
This 4-year-old dog never had a chance to be a normal dog, purchased for the ridiculous price of 800$ a ‘blue nose pit bull’ from a backyard breeder. Never attended training, never socialized environmentally and dog aggressive. Not good with small animals or kids. While I’d love to be a magical dog rehabilitation in real life this dog is going to need 6 months or more to be helped, with a huge potential to not pass a temperament test.
By now my confidence in reading a dog is reasonably successful so I trust my gut when I’m dealing with cases so would I take this dog? No.. not because I don’t want to but because there is a lot, in fact, an enormous amount of pressure on a person like me.
Taking rescue dogs requires a team.
My team is amazing, we have rescue directors, foster parents, an assistant trainer and more! People never realize it’s not me that does all this work - it’s my team! Without them, I would never be able to do this job.
Because I care for my team I can’t ever put them in danger. I can’t put an adopter in danger, or a child running down the street. What about their friend's dog or the in-law's cat! What about our own family who has all been bitten at some point by the rescue dogs I bring into this house. What about our insurance and the risk of an incident would skyrocket our payments making it impossible to continue.
I feel for the most part being the most knowledgeable person on my team this comes down on me, which I never mind but this is why I say No.
- No to the dog who bit a child in the face with over 10 puncture wounds.
- No to the rescue dog who killed the other dog in the household.
- No to the dog who took a portion of his owners finger off.
- No to the dog I cannot make time for due to the commitment of our current rescue dogs.
- No to the dog who is in a shelter but they have had him for 6 months and cannot take his collar off.
All these cases are real. While I’m confident I could make some of these dogs into great companions - it’s rare I can find someone who is going to work like my team.
Are you willing to risk someone's life for one dog? Risk your own dog? I’m not and have come to the conclusion I didn’t fail this dog and it’s not my fault should he be euthanized.
We have spent months and even some years working with and sometimes failure follows due to the severity of the dog's aggression levels or risks to the public.
I’ve spent many days sitting in a euthanasia room laying on the floor or petting that dog before he dies. There have been some who were rehabbed but it took many months to find someone who would commit to the level I needed.
I’ll stop with the depressing facts and also say there are dogs whom I never thought I'd find the perfect person for and they came upon our doorstep in which I will always be grateful for.
So my purpose here is not to cause hate but to tell you to not be afraid to ask for help.
Mainly we need people to realize when you get that puppy - commit to her/him!
Do the training, make that dog the best dog so if he needs a home in the future you have given someone an ambassador, not your problem because you never tried to work with it.
When you have a problem GET HELP immediately. There is always help, so never be afraid to ask for it. Should you have questions about rescue dogs – never hesitate to contact me!