Friday, August 05, 2005
You Say Potato...Good judgment. Often times selecting what dogs will enter our shelter comes down to just that. Of course we have a temperament test that we use to assess any potential dog, and of course we have guidelines for what will allow a dog to pass and what deems a fail. Much to our chagrin, however, the dogs refuse to read our guidelines and many insist on doing things that fall squarely into grey areas.
Part of the temperament test is "approach by a neutral stranger". The tester walks slowly towards the dog, hands at their side, eyes resting squarely on the dog's face. Really, this 'neutral' approach can feel mildly threatening to a dog, and we're watching to see how the dog handles stress in an uncertain situation. A pass would be a dog that remains calm and relaxed, wiggly and glad to meet the tester. A fail would be a dog that freezes, growls, barks, or lunges.
What do you do with the dog whose entire body stiffens, and then suddenly relaxes into a loose and waggy greeting?
Even more frustrating are the dogs who I intake with the expectation that they will be adopted within days, only to see them still waiting for their home months later.
Tater is a dog that is in this last group. She's 27lbs of smooshy, five-year-old Shar-Pei goodness. Her wide muzzle reminds me of a stress-relief ball and the noises she makes while eating are reminiscent of a little old lady without many teeth. Tater is low energy, although she does enjoy running the occasional lap around the Soc yard. She arches her back if you scritch the base of her tail, and her back feet kick if you massage her chest.
When I brought her into the SPCA, I thought she would grace our kennels for a week or two, but she's now been available for several months.
She has a couple strikes against her: shar-pei skin and personality. Her skin is, well, a little gross and shar-pei fur can cause some people to break out in a rash after long petting sessions. Also, Tater reserves judgment. She is not a dog to bound up and fawn over you, but to observe with a cool head and decide in a few weeks if she likes you. For us Canine Associates, the coveted "Tater kiss" of a light lick on your nose is something we brag about when we get one, and we don't get them often.
She's a dog looking for the right niche, but that niche has yet to come along.
Did I let Tater down when I picked her from her other shelter? Would she have been adopted faster from there? Or did I save her life by taking her from a municipal shelter that is forced to place set time limits on any dog's stay? I don't know, but given the chance, I'd pick her all over again.