Today we got a visit at the kennels from a woman, her 14-year-old daughter and a whippet called Charlie. She came apparently for advice, but really, it soon transpired, because she needed someone to take a decision for her. The whippet had been with her for a few days, but it was not working out well. He was not getting along with her other two dogs, a yorkshire terrier and a jack russell, frequently trying to mount them. He peed indoors and also displayed severe separation anxiety, especially with her daughter, who he had apparently become intensely attached to. They'd both had to sleep on the sofas in the living room to keep him calm, despite crating him.
Now the first questions were, of course, where she had got the dog from, and if it was neutered. It had come from a local “rescue centre” (in fact it bills itself as a “sanctuary” on the website) but it was not neutered. It did not have a vaccination certificate, nor had it been micro-chipped. Alarm bells started ringing at this point regarding what kind of “rescue” organization would allow dogs to be rehomed without these provisions, especially the vaccination (although I also believe all rescue dogs should be neutered). Neither was there really any history on the dog, but whether this was because the kennel was not forthcoming or the lady never asked, was unclear. She appeared to have simply turned up at the kennels, chosen a dog, and taken it home. Most tellingly, perhaps, there had been no home-check done, to ascertain her suitability.
By her own account, this lady already had some problems with her existing dogs. She clearly had a big heart, and the best intentions, but little dog-sense. It turned out that the yorkshire terrier, aged ten, frequently peed in the house. She let him out in the garden, she said, indeed, he had a cat-flap and could go out whenever he wanted to, but he often just would not go out, especially if the weather was bad. She didn't walk him very often. He got up at six, she said, and she didn’t feel like walking him then, so he peed in the house. When it was suggested she take him for a walk around the block on the leash later in the evening, to let him empty his bladder and to stop him getting up so early, she said she didn’t want to leave her daughter alone late at night. However, it soon became clear that a major reason she didn’t walk him was that he had aggression issues with other dogs, which he had developed since being attacked by a group of dogs as a puppy. Her subsequent efforts at socializing him at puppy class had failed, she said, and now he flew into a rage every time he met another dog. Unsurprisingly, he did not take to Charlie.
When asked if her other dog, a jack russell bitch, also peed indoors, the answer was a tentative no, at first. Well, only in her dog-bed – well, only on soft furnishings, like the other dog’s bed – and, perhaps a few times, on the lady’s own bed. Amazingly, this lady believed she had done everything she could to work with the problems she had with her two dogs. I do show my dogs that I am in charge, she declared, I always go out of the door first! – having clearly watched a few episodes of the “Dog Whisperer”. She undoubtedly loved animals, and I genuinely don’t think she realized how badly she was failing in controlling her dogs. She had lived for seventeen years with a Siamese cat with reflux, she said, and had cleaned up sick every day, so she was not one to give up on "problem" pets.
She had somehow realized, however, that she would have a hard time settling Charlie into the home. She wanted to know if castration would solve the problems she was experiencing with him. Well, she really wanted to know that castration would solve the problems. She didn’t want to give the dog up, it was already so attached to her daughter, and she to it. She also realized that the kennel it had come from was probably not a great place, and did not want to return him there. Neither did she like the idea of leaving him with Croftview Kennels, as she thought he needed a “proper” home.
At this point it was clear that although she obviously very genuinely concerned about the welfare of Charlie, he would be better off not staying in her home. After much discussion, arrangements were made for the JR Whippet Rescue organization to find a foster home for him, which they are hoping to do in a few days time. It struck me that the lady had really come to Croftview for someone to take the decision to rehome Charlie for her, as she was unable to take it herself (she said she had attempted to call some whippet rescue centers, but had been told they were full), seeing herself as a doggie good samaritan.
In all this, although this lady clearly had little clue about dog behaviour, it was obvious she meant well, and that she was relatively happy with her existing dogs, and the way she lived with them. I guess those two dogs could have been much worse off, but filling your home with dogs you can't properly control isn't helping them, and I think she understood that after getting Charlie, and with him, a lot more trouble. However, she should have been advised against adopting him in the first place. What really surprised me was that she was able to go out and get another dog, one that had already needed rescuing, so easily, and without the basic provisions and precautions. Perhaps the argument is that any kennel that attempts to rehome dogs, allows unwanted dogs have some chance of a better future, but I am unconvinced. Most of all, I fail to see, how, if you decide to take on the task of rescuing and rehoming dogs, you can go about it in such an irresponsible fashion with a good conscience.