Highly Skilled Shelter DogsBy Elsa in motion
Sunday, March 19, 2017
I have a silly need in this post-truth world we live in to be honest, so in the name of full disclosure I must say: I was adopted! Who would have known, right?! I was adopted as an adult dog from a local shelter, my family loves me and they don't care about my past as a shelter dog, as it should be!
I decided to talk about adoption this week after I came across a widely shared video of a Jack Russel called Olly having fun in the agility ring at Crufts this year. He wasn't the most disciplined dog and had a terribly funny run. Apart from the scary fall in the beginning of the video, which worried me (Olly didn't seem to care at all). The way he flown over the A-Frame was awesome though!
Olly made me question the adopted dog myths I frequently encounter and deal with myself. As he made his way through the agility course, the narrator heard over the video at one point says: "he's all over the place and that's how it should be", and immediately after he says Olly is a rescue dog, and no matter what he's having fun! I agree with the last part, no matter what if he is having fun, it's great, but I don't believe being a rescue should be used as an explanation for his agility run.
Let me expand on that. I was rescued and adopted myself, I hope more people give dogs like me a second chance. So, I think Olly is the way he is, an over excited funny character, but the fact that he is a rescue dog is irrelevant to his performance. I'm not sure what the narrator intention was, he probably meant no harm at all, but as a viewer the message I received was: he's a rescue and that's why "he's all over the place."
Crufts is a controversial event among the dog loving public, but many potential adopters may see this video and making Olly's run in the agility ring about his shelter past reduces his performance to this single fact about him.
Would I be any different if the humans had me as a puppy? Maybe, some shy dogs like me were never neglected and always lived in loving homes.I know of some rescue dogs doing fantastically well. One of the dogs I follow on Instagram is One Up Max (@oneupmax). He's a lovely mixed breed dog who seems to do very well in agility. His Instagram feed has a few videos of him in action, you can see it for yourself. One Up Max and his human (Lisa) don't seem to have any trouble competing in the agility ring.
Another example of how well rescue dogs can do is the service dog academy 4 Paws for Ability, which train shelter dogs for children with disabilities. The dogs trained by 4 Paws do highly skilled and specialized work, such as seizure assistance, diabetic alert, mobility assistance, etc.
The media in general and Crufts' reactions to Olly were great (mostly) and I'm glad he got so much attention and won the Internet over, but I fear that people watching the show would not consider adopting a shelter dog to train agility in the future. If only they had seen One Up Max going through the weave poles!
There are lots of myths about adopted dogs out there, but shelters are full of wonderful dogs from all walks of life. Many dogs are surrendered by their owners because of a life change, like divorce, relocation, death...
Adopted dogs may had a rough start in life, or not, pets end up in the shelter by no fault of their own. If you are considering adopting a dog from a shelter, please read the book Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg. It gives a good insight in what you're in for. It's important, whether buying or adopting, to find a dog that matches your personality and lifestyle.
Would I be any different if the humans had me as a puppy? Maybe, some shy dogs like me were never neglected and always lived in loving homes. There is no way to guarantee if any dog would be different if acquired as a puppy, adult or senior dog. In my case, I'm shy, but also charming and sweet, I was told... I'm also a non destructive dog, which turns out to be very appreciated by all humans!
Think of every dog as a dog period, whether he or she is a rescue or not. I know, it's easier said than done! My Instagram profile does mention my rescue past, but my human (Flavia) promised me it was written with the best of intentions. She hopes that people seeing that I'm adopted will consider adopting too, she believes I'm a good ambassador for rescue dogs in general. I hope she's right.
Just to finish I would like to say that adopting, or buying, a dog is a long term commitment and it should not be walked into casually. It can be hard at times, at the moment I have a serious case of separation anxiety. It's solvable, but it's difficult to deal with and not easy at all for us.