Thursday, January 26, 2006
Do OverSeveral weeks ago, a family came in during open hours to surrender their dog. They were frustrated, the mother explained, because they were in a transition, staying in a small apartment while they were in the process of moving into a new home. The dog was living outdoors because he was destructive in the house, and he had been jumping the fence and upsetting the neighbors.
I took a look down at the canine in question. He was a large and lumbering dog of white and brindle. The family called him a mastiff mix, which was very likely true. But, what any potential adopter would see was an overgrown pit bull. He was smack in the middle of his adolescence and his big grin and squirmy body suggested a very sweet, if somewhat out of control, dog. Unfortunately his looks and his age were the perfect recipe for a dog who would sit in the kennels for months.
"We wish we could keep him," the mother said, "but we just have no idea what to do." She went on to explain that they had taken in this dog as a young pup, had helped him though several medical issues and spent a large amount of money to make him well again. All to end up in the lobby of our Oakland facility because they weren't sure how to handle the healthy and boisterous adolescent that puppy had become.
"Would you really like to keep him?" I asked. It's a phrase I hear almost every time a dog is surrendered.
"We wish we could keep him but...
...we just don't have enough time anymore."
...he really needs more space."
...he's eaten my curtains and he's starting on the walls."
When most people say "we wish we could keep him," what they really mean is "we've decided we can't keep him, but please don't think we're mean people."
It's an obligatory phrase, but not often a sincere one.
When the mother expressed genuine interest in hearing alternatives to surrender, I began speaking to the family about crating and other management tools. We discussed ways to successfully bring the dog back inside. We came up with exercise options that could work for a busy family. I loaned them a crate and arranged with ND to give the family a free series of training classes. They headed back home with adoption packet, crate, and dog in tow.
A few days ago, I phoned to hear how things were going. I was actually a little nervous about the call, and I was prepared to hear that things were going poorly, and could they schedule another surrender appointment?
"He's doing wonderful," the mother said over the phone. "He's settled right down into his crate and goes in there on his own. The kids help wear him out and when they've gone to bed, we've been making a point to take him out for a nice walk at night. As soon as he came into the house his behavior got better. I think he knew he was getting a second chance."
I felt like I had gotten a gift as well.