Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 24 December 2001 Issue
PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS AND ANIMAL CHATTER
by Judith Marie Gansen
The Saga of Packiee - Part 1
Our house would not be a home without dogs. While I love all animals, to me dogs are the world's most perfect creature as they teach us so much about how to be better people. Where else can you get faultless loyalty, tremendous courage, forgiveness beyond compare, and love that is pure and doesn't care what you look like or how much money you have. They take only what they need and give back so much. As I have mentioned before they serve humans as bomb and drug detection dogs, service dogs for vision and physically impaired, visit nursing homes and hospitals, are police officers, etc. They have served us in wartime alongside our soldiers where they saved many lives and have given the ultimate sacrifice for us. We saw their tremendous courage and tenacity during many natural disasters as well as during the World Trade Center crisis. They are truly a precious gift.
Having recently lost 4 elderly dogs in the past 5 years (we still had one elder left, our Tasha) we were ready to provide a good home to another earlier this year. A new dog can never replace the furry ones we miss so much, but while grieving is healthy and normal, there are too many out there that need homes so I don't allow us that luxury for very long. I had learned that finding small dogs in our area is more difficult and had checked humane societies, the pound, advertisements, the net, etc. Quite common were large, black dogs and hunting dogs because these are the ones that are often allowed to roam, have larger litters and are often not spayed or neutered. Rescue groups for hunting type dogs are the ones that burn out the most because they are so overwhelmed. Please remember this when you adopt if you are able -- larger dogs, especially black dogs need help the most. I guess it is sort of a "racism" in the world of dogs sadly. In our situation, I had to go small this time due to a health situation that made lifting extremely difficult and while my husband is a big, strapping guy, I would be main caregiver due to his schedule so our adoptee had to be under 20-30 pounds or so. The dog also had to be young as I was told it would be easier for a younger one to bond with our Tasha. It must have been divine intervention because I went on a website one day to check one last time and found our little guy. There was just something about the expression this puppy had -- it reminded me of the power of the face that "launched a thousand ships" from ancient times. I was hooked!
This dog was a neutered, 8 months old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix I was told. He was given up for adoption by elderly owners who didn't realize how much work a puppy could be. Our other dogs had come from the pound, were found as strays, one from a breeder and two puppy mill dogs -- this was my first experience getting one from a humane society. I rushed down to the humane society when they opened (my husband couldn't get off work to come with me) and the courteous receptionist had me fill out forms and I took out all my animal rights organizations membership cards -- I wasn't asked to do that but I wanted an "edge" -- I wanted this puppy!! The receptionist smiled at me and said "looks like this little guy has hit the lotto!"
I was sent to the foster woman's house. I should preface this by explaining that in our area, there is one small humane society that is extremely overburdened as most are. There are few people here who care for animals let alone willing to foster them until they find homes. The foster woman was older, a farmer's wife with a very small home who currently had about 10-12 dogs in foster care. They were partitioned off with a gate to prevent escape and the little fur-ball came up to me and I recognized him right away. After we made friends, the puppy decided to use me for a chew-stick and began biting me rather hard. She said "I can tell you have a gentle touch, but with an aggressive dog you have to come down hard on them."
Years ago I had a very aggressive Lhasa Apso (from a puppy mill) that I had tried everything with and back then I was told to come down hard on him as well, use "alpha rolls" (you roll the dog over on its back like a wolf mother does supposedly) which I did in ignorance, listening to so-called "dog experts." That dog was taken to obedience and later several people told me we might have to put him down as he would likely hurt someone. He wasn't vicious but just had the philosophy that if you hurt him, he would hurt you. I didn't like it but I used a choke collar as well as I was told this teaches "discipline." You or I would be taught "discipline" too if someone choked off your air! Our Lhasa lived with us for 14 years, couldn't have been loved more and never hurt anyone, but I wish so much that I had the knowledge I have now. No dog in our house will ever have a choke collar used under any circumstances. While I am not a dog training expert, I believe I most likely made the aggression worse through my ignorance. I embarrassingly admit this so others can learn from my mistakes. I also don't want a "dog robot" as some people prefer, just want our dogs to know basic commands for everyone's safety and peace. I want them to be able to be dogs.
I sat and talked with the foster woman for over an hour as she was so nice. Once as the puppy came back to bite me more, she came over and grabbed him harshly by the ear and he stopped and then she said "good boy." She said always finish with a positive. At least she got that part right. She mentioned dogs coming and going and I realized how difficult it would be for the dogs in foster to establish their "pack order" because it was constantly changing. I am sure that would cause a lot of stress for them.
For some unknown reason she chose to disclose to me that as the puppy grabbed at her feet, bit her hard and showed many signs of aggression during the week that she had him, she kicked him. She said "I not only kicked him but I kicked him clear across the room!" I just sat there in horror and shock and didn't know what to say. How could this little old lady who kindly opens her heart and home to dogs to help them, do such a thing?? I decided to play it cool because I was taking that dog out of that environment at any cost. While I was approved at the office, I wasn't sure if she had the power to stop the adoption. I didn't want him to spend one more night with her. I wanted to scream at her in rage -- how could she do that to this little 6 pound puppy? She also said when she picked him up from the humane society, he showed aggression at the office and she grabbed his ear until he squealed and the staff looked up at her and she said "you have to show them who is boss when they are aggressive like that!" Surprisingly they still allowed her to foster this puppy. A poor decision in an overburdened system that ended up hugely affecting the life of this little creature.
The foster lady gave me a leash and collar and said to "keep in touch, bring him back to visit -- let me know how he is doing." As I carried our new baby into my car I whispered into his ear "you will NEVER see that woman again as long as there is breath in this body!!"
Go on to Part 2
Return to Animals in Print 24 Dec 2001 Issue
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