Have you ever wondered how to choose the rescue dog that's best for you?
If so, you probably did what anyone does for information these days: Search the internet for advice. That's what I've done. Although instead of advice on how to recognize the signs that will tell me when I've found "the one", the majority of top ranked articles provided long lists of what to avoid. The most common red flags/signs to look out for that were listed as advice when adopting a dog from the shelter:
- Cowers in the back of the kennel...
- Acts calm...
- Is overly friendly...
- Acts shy...
- Has a dry or flaky coat…
- Afraid of kids…
- Doesn’t want to be pet...
- Pulls on the leash or gets excited when clipping a leash on...
- Breathing heavily or panting...
- Has a lot of energy...
With articles and comments from well-known and widely viewed sources sharing information like that, it’s no wonder there are still so many people questioning whether to rescue/adopt.
Fortunately, there are stories we can share to help counteract the effect of such poorly given advice.
Stories like River's.
She laid pressed against the back wall of her kennel in the tightest curl position she could hold.
The echoing sounds of the kids running through the shelter and banging on glass doors certainly overwhelmed her. But it was the source of the noises that caused her to freeze in her current position. And so this was where she waited for someone that could provide her a calm, single dog household with no children.
It wasn’t River’s fault that she was afraid of children. All of her life they were a consistent source of discomfort and punishment. Any attempt she made to tell the ones pulling on her tail that it hurt, she would be punished by the large male of the family. Then one day they decided to get another dog, which eventually led to their decision to end her time in the only home she had known at 2 years old.
An unsocialized dog with fear of children and men that cowers in the back of a kennel is a common recipe for a long-term shelter resident.
But at first it seemed as if River might beat those odds. Within her first few days of living in the shelter, she had nearly a dozen different families express interest in adopting her. It seemed as though her puppy-like features and beautiful brindled coat captivated many potential families. But there was still one major issue...
Every time people tried to visit with her, she wouldn’t even get up to say hello.
It wasn’t looking good for River. The number of people wanting to adopt a 2-year-old dog from the shelter is already low, but the chances of finding a family that wants to adopt a dog and has the patience, dedication, and willingness to successfully adopt a more challenging case like River’s...it’s less than 1% of the population.
Nearly half of the pets surrendered each year are due to behavioral complications similar to River’s.
And that’s just the ones that were reported. The majority (95%) of those dogs surrendered because of behavior can be rehabilitated into obedient, confident dogs with dog training and proper socialization. Unfortunately, many people aren't very willing, nor have the capability, to provide these two things that are necessary for any dog.
And according to statistics, River was 47% more likely to be returned within 6 months after being adopted. How do you beat those odds?!
This is where Brandon and Chantel enter the story...
After reading her online profile, Chantel was drawn to River because she knew they could provide a home that many people aren’t able to: calm, single dog, and kid-free.
On top of that, she is one of the few humans on this earth willing to take on a more challenging rescue case.
They knew from River’s body language and the environment around them that she was very anxious and might not even be friendly. So, they decided that unless she showed signs of severe fear or aggression towards Brandon, they would put in the application to adopt her. The young couple made their way to the shelter and requested a visit with River in the meet & greet room.
After waiting 5 hours to meet her, the moment finally arrived for them to meet River.
With just 20 minutes left before the shelter closed for the day, it wouldn’t have been nearly enough time for any other family to make such a big decision; especially given the behavioral challenges they were facing. But Brandon and Chantel made their decision within the first few minutes.
A few minutes is all it took for River to warm up to them both!
After meeting 9 other families, Chantel and Brandon were the first people that she approached and showed signs of affection and friendliness. When the shelter tried to tell them to come back tomorrow since they were closing, Chantel adamantly refused to leave the building that day without her new family member.
Since then, the three of them have been inseparable.
Chantel describes River as extremely intelligent, loyal, sweet, and a great long distance runner. They’ve gone on runs as long as 10 miles together! River is also a big fan of Starbucks Puppuccinos.
This dynamic trio recently celebrated their 1 year adoptiversary by sharing all of the amazing things River has gotten to experience over the last year. These include climbing up three 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, digging holes in the beaches of Florida, and spending the holidays in Tennessee.
Although she’s traveled more in that year than most humans do in their lifetime, River’s biggest accomplishments are ones that happen with every passing day.
Chantel and Brandon’s dedication to River has earned her trust and she’s quickly become a very obedient and confident dog.
Her extreme fear of children has even started to fade! While visiting family this summer, River sat on the couch next to Chantel’s 6-year-old brother and let him pet her.
With the help of her love for playing ball and the proper training tools that help River feel safe and remain calm, these two devoted dog parents are now able to invite both female and male friends into their home and let River get some off leash exercise. “Positive distractions are everything to a dog with bad habits,” Chantel states.
But River’s absolute favorite activity? Being sweet and cuddling with Mom and Dad.
“I have to get up at 5am for PT and usually take a nap when I get home, she always curls up next to me and won't get out of bed until I do, say Chantel, “Considering most people don't see that side of her it makes it super special to us.”
If this story teaches us anything, it’s that instead of deciding if a dog qualifies for you and your family based on behavior seen in a short period of time while living in a stressful environment, have an honest discussion about whether you, your home, and lifestyle qualify for a dog.
Keep up with River and her amazing adventures on Instagram @roaming_river
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