So, I recently found out that my dog was adopted out and returned twice before he came home with me. Which means he was in potentially five homes and two shelters in the first nine months of his life, a fact that I find completely dumbfounding. He is pretty much everything you could want in a dog—he’s smart, sensitive, with a fantastic desire to please. He’s easy going, as the image up top indicates (yes, that is a chihuahua making sweet love to my dog’s lower leg, and yes, he kept it up for like a half an hour without my dog ever loosing patience). He rarely barks, and only does so in appropriate situations, and most importantly he is neither fearful or aggressive in any way. He greets every living thing he encounters as first and foremost his friend, and I don’t think you can ask more than that.
Somehow, that wasn’t enough for at least two families, perhaps more since I still don’t know anything about what happened to him at the first shelter he was at. I only know that the SPCA in this province will move a dog from one shelter to another if they can’t get them adopted–either because they’ve been there too long or they get returned (meaning he could have been adopted out more times than I know). And somehow, somehow poor Mufaasa managed to make it through all that and become a well adjusted canine citizen, aside from a mild and understandable case of separation anxiety (easily managed with crate training, and even that is slowly becoming unnecessary).
The only thing that I can think of that would make someone return him is that he gets really hyper if you don’t exercise him enough—but he’s a frickin’ border collie cross, what were people expecting? Seriously, you only have ten days to evaluate a pet and return it to the shelter if you want your adoption fee back, and I can tell you in those ten days he didn’t do anything that I would consider excessive for a nine month old puppy of any breed. In fact, he didn’t get difficult at all until he was about a year old and entered his adolescent (read: ass-hole) stage, where dogs typically start testing their boundaries. Before that he was like any other puppy—totally in love with his person and happy to follow that person as closely as possible.
I honestly don’t know what people expect when they go to get a dog. I recently talked a couple out of getting a border collie as their first dog. They were at the dog park “shopping” for what breed they wanted (which is not a bad way to meet lots of breeds and talk to the people who own them), but it was plainly obvious that the only reason they were both stuck on the border collie was the damn coat! They wanted something with medium long fur and they thought the black and white was cute. I think I wound up suggesting a spaniel or something (roughly the same length fur but a hell of a lot easier to manage). When I asked them if they’d be willing to put in three or more hours a day to exercising their dog they seem to realize a border collie might not be for them. To be fair they were looking at my dog and couldn’t really believe that it was that hard to take care of him. I get that all the time. “But you’re dog’s so calm.” Yeah, he’s totally calm, AFTER HANGING OUT IN THE DOG PARK FOR TWO HOURS HE’S SUPER RELAXED.
I love spending all kinds of time with my dog, it’s incredibly rewarding for me, but I don’t have a lot of other things to do with my free time, so it’s easy for me. That couple could have easily walked into a shelter looking for a border collie, and probably would have wound up bringing it right back like so many others. Check out this page from a border collie adoption group based in New York—if I decide to get a pure bred BC, I will probably do my best to get one from these people. The site gives a pretty good indication of what you’re going to have to put into a dog like this, and they have a wonderful environment that’s pretty much ideal for rehabilitating their dogs before they get adopted out—most shelters don’t have anything like the facilities of this place, and can’t afford to be as picky about who they adopt out to.
In an ideal world before a dog like Mufaasa (meaning any dog that is from a more difficult breed like border collies, aussies, rotties, etc, basically, working dogs, hell, I’d even include jack russells in this list) is allowed to leave the shelter, the people would meet him, and then be sent home for a 24 hour cooling off period with a pamphlet or information packet containing information on how much time and money you are likely to need to spend in order to have a dog that isn’t going to drive you insane. In the last eight months I have spent countless hours and about $300 on training classes, and it’s likely I’ll spend more before the year is out, and my dog doesn’t have any serious behavioral problems. There is no point in hustling a dog out the door if they’re just going to come back a few days later. A few days of uncertainty, frustration and even fear with a strange family can hardly be considered a better alternative to staying in the shelter for a bit longer.
I don’t work at a shelter, never have, but I see places that seem to be doing it right so I know it’s possible. I try to give what I can to shelters so that the ones with the staff committed to doing it right can help more dogs. However, in my so called ideal world we wouldn’t need shelters.
We also wouldn’t need to tell people they should do some research before getting a dog. It seems like such an obvious thing to me. These days it’s second nature to look stuff up. Want to know the exact date Soylent Green came out? There’s an app for that. Want to know if you’re left or right brained? There’s an app for that. What to know what kind of breed of dog is a good match for your life style? THERE’S A FUCKING APP FOR THAT. You can look this shit up in the car on the way to the pound.
Obviously you should take more time than that, but the point I’m trying to make is that the information is readily available and in a society that is seriously obsessed with information and the instant need to LOOK THAT SHIT UP, it’s unfathomable to me that people just don’t think they need to do that before bringing an animal into their lives for the next 12-14 years. YOU’RE NOT MAKING A BOX OF KRAFT DINNER, PEOPLE, YOU CAN’T JUST WING IT AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.
Anyway, I’m going to stop writing about this because it’s stupidly late and I get madder the more I think about it. What happened to poor Mufaasa is sadly common, but I really just felt the need to write this down. I don’t know, maybe someone will have the smarts to type in “border collie” and “adoption” into the search bar and my website will come up, and maybe that person will think carefully and make an informed decision. Actually, this rant could apply to any number of breeds, but the point is the same. There are so many different breeds out there that finding one to fit your lifestyle is really not difficult, just please think it through and don’t treat shelter dogs like a car you can test drive and then bring back the next day. It’s just not fair.