WANTED: CHILDLESS, LESBIAN COUPLE, LIVING OFF THE GRID

Originally published April 2013

Author’s note:  I wrote this blog to highlight the issues I see facing rescues who place behaviourally compromised dogs.  I did receive one note from a colleague who objected to the term lesbian.  Please understand that I have chosen to use this word to indicate a female couple and I do not intend to offend anyone for any reason.  I and by extension, my company Dogs in the Park, support inclusivity and acceptance of the broad diversity that makes Canadian society such a wonderful place to be.

 

I often get calls about dogs who need new homes.  Do I know of anyone who would like a dog who has killed the family cat?  Would I like to take on a dog who has chronic stress colitis and is afraid of all humans except for one, all dogs, cats, cars, bicycles and who has bad hips to boot?  Is there perhaps a farm that will take on the dog who has killed seven skunks over the past year, and is now moving onto larger prey?  Is there anyone out there who would like the dog who has been designated a dangerous dog by the authorities because he ran down a cyclist and mauled his leg?

Every time I read an ad or get a call looking for a rehome of these dogs, I think of the title of this blog.  Peruse the files on Petfinder, and you can get a sense of the dogs that are available and considered potential family pets.  What exactly does “Fluffy would be best suited to a family without children or other pets” mean?  Without any further information about this dog, do you want to live next door to Fluffy?  Would your opinion change about living next door to Fluffy if you had a small mixed breed dog?  Would your opinion change if you had two young children?

I have seen ads for dogs that blow my mind.  “Needs space to run.”  “Prefer a single woman owner.”  “Must not live with cats.”  “Suitable for a home with children over the age of 12.”  When you deconstruct what these statements mean, you paint a very different picture.  Like the real estate ads, “handy man’s dream” doesn’t usually translate into “home workshop in the garage outfitted with your dream tools”.  A handy man’s dream usually means that significant renovations are in order and you can expect to spend every waking moment repairing plumbing, wiring, the roof, the railing on the stairs, repainting, installing drywall and so on.

 

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These dogs may be feral, or they may be highly trained pets, or they may belong to the owner of the “handyman’s dream” in the background.  We just don’t know!  When a dog is being placed, it is essential that it is placed appropriately, and sadly, it is not enough to love the dog you are placing.  You have to place the dog in the right place and only take on a dog you have the experience and background to support.  Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_casinozack’>casinozack / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

So let’s deconstruct some of the more common statements.  “Needs space to run.”  What does that really mean?  In my experience it can mean one of two things.  Either the dog is a high energy animal who needs two off leash, one hour walks each day along with structure and training or the dog has really poor impulse control and whose anxiety manifests as whirling in circles.

How about “best suited to a home with a single woman”?  Again, in my experience that means that the dog is not good with men or children.  Do you know of anyone who lives in a world without men or children?  Let’s say we find a woman willing to take this dog.  What should she do if her father wants to visit?  Do we expect that she will never have a relationship with a man?  What should she do about the fact that her neighbours have children?

One of my favourites is “Suitable for a home with children over the age of 12”.  I think this age number is somewhat arbitrary, as I have seen ages from three to 12 in the advertisements, but it does beg the question of why these ages have been selected.  Is it because the dog bit an eleven year old?  Is the dog predatory to toddlers?  Is it just that the dog is huge?  Does the advertizer think that the dog should never be exposed to children under this age?  Has the advertizer thought through what it means for a dog like this to live in a suburban neighbourhood?  If the home has children over the age of twelve, what might happen if they bring home a younger child as a guest?  What will happen if mom has a baby?

The final category that baffles me is “I want to find a nice farm that would like to take on my problem dog.”  People don’t seem to realize that farming is a business.  If I raise crops, I don’t want that dog to be racing through the fields and messing up the growth of my grains.  If I raise chickens, I don’t want a predatory dog who might kill the chickens.  If I am raising pigs or milking cows, I cannot have a dog in the barns, so where is that dog going to be while I am working in the barn?  I think people have a largely detached view of what it means to be a farmer in today’s world.  Farming is a world of heavy machinery, of powerful tools like chain saws and post holers.  In the egg, pork and milk industry, strict biohazard controls are implemented to keep pathogens out of the barns where the animals are housed and handled.  Farmers have no more time, and possibly less time than someone running a machine shop to deal with a problem dog.

 

34495910 - two worker with pallet transporter in factory
I have a very hard time seeing where we would fit a dog into this picture, and have the dog be safe and supported.  Likewise, very few farms are set up to take on a dog with a behaviour problem! Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_arnoaltix’>arnoaltix / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

While I am attracted to the idea that there is a home for every dog, you just have to find it, I see the evidence on a day to day basis that this may not be true.  How many childless, lesbian couples who live far enough away from civilization that a dog placed with these kind ladies would never again meet their problems do you know?  I have to say that I don’t know any.  In some cases, there just isn’t a place for these dogs, which brings me to the point of what I want to say.  If you cannot live with your problem dog, can you ethically send that dog along to someone else?  The humane society is not a magic place where magic people live who magically want to take your problem dog and fix him.  Rescues are often started by people who are trying to address this issue of making better matches for dogs, but they also not equipped with any sort of magical population of people well prepared to meet the needs of the dogs with problems.  There are a few trainers I know who take on these problem dogs, but they are limited in the number of dogs they can take; they often have ten to twelve dogs already, so they may not be able to take your dog on.  There are sanctuaries; places where dogs are housed for the duration of their lives.  Some sanctuaries are better than others, and some of them are much worse.

Many behaviour problems can be helped.  We have loads of tools now to help dogs with a wide variety of problems.  I would like to stop dogs from being surrendered to shelters and rescues.  I would like people to start looking at the problem dogs that live with them and help them in their first homes.  There will never be a day when there aren’t dogs who are in need, but many, many of these dogs could be best helped in the homes they start with.

WANTED: CHILDLESS, LESBIAN COUPLE, LIVING OFF THE GRID

2 thoughts on “WANTED: CHILDLESS, LESBIAN COUPLE, LIVING OFF THE GRID

  1. Whilst I do appreciate the US has different problems from the rest of the world, I’ve got a cat killer, a bunny killer, a lawnmower-bike-car chaser and a couple of resource guarders that have all come from rescues. All they need is management. Of course, I could have them all put to sleep and get myself a bichon puppy or something I guess.

    1. Hmmm. I am not sure if you understand quite what I am talking about here. Let us start with the fact that I am in Canada, not in the USA, and the issue I am talking about is fairly universal.

      Once a dog is in your care, it is your responsibility. You know what you have and you have chosen to live with that risk. The problem comes if you want or need to rehome. If you do that, then when you do that, in my opinion you have a responsibility to inform the new home completely about what that means. And when you rehome large numbers of animals, you need to be aware that some of those animals should not be rehomed. I am categorically opposed to rehoming an animal that has killed a child or another pet. My issue is not with those of you who already live with a dog with a problem (I have lived with many problem dogs over the years); my issue is with rehoming serious behaviour cases due both to the risk to society AND the welfare implications for the dog in question.

      That said, I would prefer not to live next door to your cat killer or lawnmower chaser. You say “all they need is management”. In the professional dog training world where I live, there is an important saying; “All management fails eventually”. What this means is that when your management fails, my rabbit dies. My rabbit doesn’t deserve to live with that type of threat. The stakes get larger when we are talking about a child; when the management of a dog who has killed a child fails, then some other child is at risk, and that is not fair to anyone.

      In case you think I know not of what I speak, I lived for five years with two dogs who were intent on killing one another. We lived in a home with 9 “zones”. There was always an empty zone between these two dogs, meaning that there were always at least two latchable, dog proof gates between the two dogs. In spite of this, and in spite of living with two responsible adults who work in the field of dog training…management failed twice. I have long wondered if I should not have euthanized the dogs before they injured one another so grievously. Both dogs suffered deeply from the fights they had and our family lived with an enormous amount of stress keeping them safe from one another. I have never been sure if management was the right choice in that case, however I was always clear that rehoming either dog was not an option.

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