This post has been rattling around my head for literally years, since long before we moved back from Arizona. At the genesis I was volunteering at Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption, and before that I did a stint at AGR (Arizona Greyhound Rescue). I learned a lot about the mechanics of rescue organizations, and the hounds that they work tirelessly to place. My recent pair of hounds came from a different group, an all breed rescue, Copper’s Dream a wonderful local group that works to place hounds in loving families.
However, it is truly “Rescue” as these hounds were either abandoned, or surrendered, or otherwise cast off. So, often there are issues to deal with. Health issues are usually the easiest to deal with, but far more likely is behavior issues. Shyness, aggression, anti-social behavior and others are common reasons why people surrender their companion dogs.
In the 15 years I have been adopting rescues, first Greyhounds, and now two wonderful Kauai hound mixes, there have been some issues. Our first Grey, Oliver, was a spook. He was terrified of everything. People, noises, bicycles, loud cars, you name it, he was afraid of it. Also, it was clear that his fear caused his racing trainer to punish him. He was doubly terrified of men (ironically, he bonded with me immediately). Over the years, until he passed from osteosarcoma, he greatly improved.
At the other end of the spectrum is Lizzie, the first of the two Kauai hounds we have adopted. She was a shivering pile of goo when I first met her, terrified of her shadow. But the fact that I was able to gain enough trust to have her take treats from me that first day was enough to know that she could be saved.
She has come a long way in just four months, but there is a long way to go yet. However, adding the exuberant, and quite calm Cerbie is a huge catalyst in her, and her progress is coming along well.
Why are there so many rescues? Many reasons, but it often boils down to people who get a dog, not realizing the commitment in time, money, and energy to train and care for them. Puppies are adorable – I mean who doesn’t want a puppy? – but it is an amazing amount of work, early training, behavior setting and modification, dealing with the teething, the house training, and sleepless nights. Heck it is as much work (in a compressed timeline) as caring for a human infant. They are completely reliant on you, and trust you. Far too many people aren’t prepared for that level of commitment, so a “problem dog” is born.
Rescuing isn’t always easy. However, watching the shy or fearful dog bond first with you, and then come out of their shell is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. It takes patience, consistency, and mountains of love and affection.
At the end, you look back and realize it was totally worth the effort. And you look back through the tears that you are crying as you say the last goodbye. A life well lived.
In loving memory of Astro, Shamus, Oliver, Tate, and Garrett. All who have greatly enriched my life, and who truly made me a better person.