Recycled Dogs: Reasons to Rethink a Pet
Over 150 travel blogs are on our Google Reader, and we have ‘liked’ several hundred more on our Facebook page. Today, I saw one innocent question asked by full-time travel bloggers:
Have you given up or not owned a pet because you travel so much?
I read the responses, and then I looked through other travel blogs to search for posts regarding the topic. I was quite disturbed by what I found. Many travelers have given away pets. I won’t reveal who wrote these posts because I imagine the bloggers are unaware of the potential impact of their actions. They are entitled to their own point of view, but I thought a different perspective would help.
It was January 2008. It was early — very early — when we got the phone call. My Dad didn’t care about the time difference between Ohio and California. He just wanted the rambunctious puppy gone, and he knew the sap to give her to. That’s how Maui, a one year-old Westie, entered our lives.
It seemed like the perfect idea. We already had an older Dachshund-Chihuahua mix who was timid. Maybe the puppy would bring her out of her shell some? Maui was playful, and simply loved children. When she would knock them over during play, she’d apologize by smothering them with kisses. She made a horrible watchdog because everyone was welcome in our home. She paraded through our parties, making friends as she went. A scratch her, a pet there, she was in heaven.
A year rolled by and we thought we knew Maui well. Then, one evening, in front of the couch, it happened. She jumped our older dog and nearly took off her ear (she was aiming for her throat). Blood spattered everywhere, and we wrapped Bambi in a blanket and drove our car like it was in the Indy 500. We were hysterical, thinking that she would bleed out before we got her to the doggie E.R.
They rushed her into surgery and we sat dumbfounded in the waiting area. Did we get rid of Maui? Should we put her down? What had caused this? The vet techs, who overheard our conversation, and then the vet suggested a canine behaviorist. (Yes, a doggie shrink).
Bambi pulled through, and her ear was reattached. We had to leave her at the vet’s until they were certain that the blood flow would return to her ear (which it eventually did). And, then we returned home, to the monster that did this. We had a hard time looking at her, and decided to place a call to the recommended canine behaviorist. He scheduled us immediately.
He watched Maui, and then Bambi, and all of us interact together. Then, he started digging into Maui’s past. I explained that we were stunned. She had given few signs of this aggression – there’d been a few moments of hostility towards our Chiweiner, but nothing like this. I would never have believed she was capable of morphing from a grumpy sibling to a dog-icidal stranger. We were at a loss.
He listened while taking notes, and asked us more questions. I explained that we have gotten her from my Dad when she was a year old. His wife had gotten her from a co-worker who couldn’t take care of her either. “It’s as I suspected,” he said, “she’s recycled.”
The doctor went on to explain that dogs that are ‘re-homed’ (left behind or given away) will often show aggression later in life. Ninety percent of the dogs that he has seen through his practice were ‘throw away’ dogs. Once deserted by an owner who they trusted, they are never secure again. They are terrified that this happy home will come to an end so they act out. In Maui’s case, she cannot have a second dog in HER home – it makes her insecure. People, babies and kittens are fine. But, no dogs.
Juliet and I debated what to do about Maui. We couldn’t send her to a fourth home, as she would just become more aggressive. The next family might have to put her to sleep. So, we came up with a solution.
We have a gate down the center of our home. Our dogs never meet. They are feed separately. They go outside at different times. They are apart forever. We play an ongoing game of Tetris, when a dog is shuffled into one room to allow the other to roam free. When we travel, they are kept apart by the house sitter, and we don’t leave for extended-length trips.
It basically comes down to this: If you decide to get a dog (cats, from my experience with three, take the approach that if you can open their can of cat food, they’ll ‘love’ you) really consider if you can take care of that animal for the next fifteen years. I know that if someone falls ill, loses a home, etc., that ‘re-homing’ may be the only option. Some dogs do fully recover from this upheaval, but please realize that just as many don’t. If you already have a dog and want to go on the road full-time, become an RVer. By bringing your home along, you avoid depriving your dog of a family and possibly a future.
As a final note, we strongly advocate adopting shelter pets. Juliet worked at a no-kill shelter for several years, and Bambi was rescued by us from the same shelter. Bambi is gentle, loving and a success story. We are simply stating that some dogs will not recover as nicely as Bams.
Have you experienced adjustment issues with a dog?
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.