For Petfinder’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, I’ve done a lot of thinking on what it means to be “less adoptable.” Petfinder itself surveyed shelter and rescue workers who came up with a list of the most common reasons animals are passed over. The results are not exactly surprising. The one thing I did notice is that no one mentioned colour or breed as a central factor in preventing adoption.
As you may or may not know, I cam very close this summer to taking home a dog that fit this description. Dawson was a high-energy boy who lived in a shelter environment for over a year. From all appearances, he should have found a home fairly quickly. He was young, healthy, and almost too friendly. If there can be such a thing. Unfortunately, he had picked up some bad habits after being cooped up for so long. And the longer he waited for his forever family, the more obvious these negative behaviours became.
In my opinion, they were all things that could easily be trained. I knew that once he got out of the shelter and into a home environment, he would show off his true fun nature. It was convincing adopters of this that was the problem. A local trainer dedicated many volunteer hours into helping Dawson overcome some of his shelter-borne afflictions. I know I showed this video before but I still am in awe of how quickly he picked up on his training. Shiva would do well to learn a few things from him.
Fortunately, as of two weeks ago, Dawson is now in his new home. Hopefully he stays there. I was lucky enough to see him the day before he left the shelter for good and he was just as spirited as always. It amazed me that even though my heart broke for him as the weeks went by, he never lost his big goofy grin. Behavioural issues aside, does such a happy boy turn away so many people? How was he not adopted months ago?
It baffles me. Maybe it shouldn’t.
Before we adopted Shiva, I’d actually been looking at an older border collie mix named Daisy. She was a good size and had a super-sweet temperament. The day we went to the shelter to fill out an application we found out Daisy had already been taken by someone else. I was horribly disappointed. We returned home with our heads low.
A few weeks later I happened to see Shiva’s picture on Petfinder and we decided to go in the next day to meet her. Upon arrival at the shelter we found out Daisy had been returned.
“Separation anxiety,” said the woman at the front desk.
“Oh,” I said. “Then she wouldn’t be good for us either. We live in a duplex and have elderly neighbours.”
Less than thirty minutes later I signed an agreement to adopt Shiva. A dog who not only suffered from a myriad of fear and frustration-based issues, but who also had a definite case of separation anxiety. The same thing that caused me to turn away from the first dog I wanted. Of course, I had no idea until we brought her home. When it was too late.
I am not saying everyone should rush out to adopt a highly reactive dog or a cat who likes to attack everything that moves, just to see if they can handle the problem. But I am saying that all pets come with baggage, some more and some less than others. Even puppies have personalities and problems of their own. If you are the kind of person willing to take in a pet from a shelter or rescue, there is a pretty good chance that pet will have some behaviours that didn’t show up during her stay in the shelter or foster care. With all the resources available, unless the pet is a danger to others, there is no reason the Dawsons of this world need to hang out in a kennel for so long.
Dog training is intimidating. I get that. But everyone who lives with a dog usually ends up working on some level of canine life skills. There is no such thing as a perfect dog. If you have the energy, why not take a chance on an animal who has waited a little longer than others to find that special family? Why not take in that dog or cat who has been returned to the shelter several times? With the right tools, you may surprise yourself.
Adopting Shiva changed my life. I am not the same person I was over three years ago. I hope Daisy’s eventual family is as grateful as we are.