Friday, March 11, 2011
Surrendering a Dog
I may have a different position on this issue than others. As someone who has rescued two Shelties, I do believe that it is better to surrender a dog one is not willing to care for than to continue to make the dog suffer for sins it has not committed. This is not the position many hold. Some believe taking on a dog is a relationship that is similar to the “until death do us part” vow taken by couples at a wedding. Bailey and Katy have taught me why this can be a dangerous vision to have.
First, let me state I am a firm believer in educating people about the challenges of dog ownership, specifically of taking on a puppy. I think it is important families and individuals understand the challenges as well as the great joys that come with taking on the responsibility of a dog. What is done up front and at the time of an adoption to help people adjust is very important. Getting people help with training, obedience, and finding affordable vet care can make a rocky start a lifelong companionship. However, not everyone is cut out to be a dog owner. No amount of encouragement to research the process upfront can persuade people to do it.
Bailey was an impulse purchase by people who had no experience with puppies. He was a typical puppy. His owners had no idea it would be like bringing a baby into their home with teeth and no diapers. At four months, they had enough and found a sheltie rescue to turn him over to for placement. Some would condemn them for their actions. I was grateful. They gave us an amazing gift. You rarely find puppies in breed rescues. Most people do “hang on” to their dogs through the puppy stage. Some do emotional and sadly sometimes physical damage to a pet before determining they are not cut out to be dog owners. While it would have been preferable that they researched prior to purchasing, I am grateful that they realized they were not capable of handling his needs before neglect or abuse occurred. I am also glad that instead of dumping him at their local shelter they were responsible enough to find a breed rescue. Instead of being caged, Bailey stayed at a foster home where he was house broken and screened for placement.
We know less about Katy’s background, but while we would have missed her life, it would have been kinder if someone had acknowledged that she was more than he/she could handle before she was two. We are still working to fully housebreak Katy. Her accidents are fewer, but at two, this is a clear indication that someone failed in their duty as an owner. She was never trained to walk on a leash and was unable to respond to her name when called. We changed her name to be closer to the only word she would respond to when we brought her home.
Unlike Bailey, I do not know the specifics of Katy’s history. I am glad that she was released to rescue at two and not made to wait longer to find a home that would treat her with love, respect, and dignity. I only wish someone had made the choice earlier.
I cannot be angry with Bailey’s previous owners. They could have dumped him at the local pound. They chose to be responsible and deal with a breed rescue, which increased Bailey’s chances of finding a permanent home. This time prospective owners were screened to determine if they did understand the challenges and obstacles of owning not just a puppy, but a Sheltie puppy. I do find myself more frustrated with Katy’s owners. Her neglect is not as bad as many stories we have all read, but still clearly not necessary, when other options were available to find her a loving home.
I take my responsibility as a dog owner seriously. This is not a casual commitment entered into lightly. I see these as a death do us part relationships. However, I realize Katy and Bailey were not in healthy relationships before they came to us. Sending those dogs into a quality breed rescue was perhaps the most responsible choice their previous owners made.
I would much rather see other dogs in unhealthy or unsustainable relationships surrendered than to continue suffering out of some kind of misguided belief that the commitment cannot be broken. When dog and human are miserable finding a better home is the right choice.