Saturday, 19 October 2013

Rebellious rescue or pesky puppy?

It's the question that many perspective dog owners think very carefully about. It's certainly something that we thought about long and hard: to rescue or not to rescue?

Our first walk with Caesar at the rescue centre.

Yes, the guardian angel on our shoulder whispers in our ears that the most humane thing to do is to rescue.  Why give a newborn puppy a home and breeders money when a few miles away there are 20 kennels occupied with homeless dogs.  The problem with this, guardian angel, is that a percentage of these dogs are homeless for a reason.  Yes, that reason is related to humans.  However, the question is, how much of other people's wrong doings can you take on?  How much can you cope with?  It's hard to admit it but most of use want to be a good person but are terrified that this idea backfires on us massively.  The other day my dad told me a great saying 'Expecting the world to treat you well because you're a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you're a vegetarian'.  He was right really.  You want it to be true but the harsh reality of it is that most of the time it's not.  Please don't go being a bad person now that I've said that and blaming it on me.

Except, dad, there's more to it than that isn't there?  There's something nice about being a good person.  The feedback you get at the local supermarket when you let someone with a pint of milk go in front of your £50 worth of junk food.  Or when you let someone get out of a junction at rush hour is undeniably satisfying.  That is, if they thank you for it.  If they don't, you can just go home and swear about them and feel better.

'Me?  Hard work?  Never!'

Anyway, back to the debate of rescue vs puppy.  Which, by the way I am not planning to resolve!  Heartlessly, I am now going to compare dog ownership to car ownership (I'm sorry in advance).  Firstly, when you buy a second-hand car, you know nothing about that car apart from what you are told by previous owner/dealer.  Sometimes, the dealer themselves does not know the answer to the questions.  They know what they have been told and they know what they can see at face value.  However, there are things that they will not be able to tell you.  Things like; when it's raining, the engine service light comes on (yes this happens to mine).  Or that, in cold weather, you have to try to start it at least 3 or 4 times before it will even make a noise (making you think, on several occasions, that the battery has gone flat - also a problem with mine).

We'd all like a brand new car right (preferably a Ferrari)?  But can we really justify it?  Firstly, can we justify the price?  It's a fairly well known fact that most new cars lose value from the minute that they're driven off the forecourt.  In the same way that a rescue dog usually costs around £100 to adopt and this usually covers vaccinations and micro chipping as well as on going support from the centre.  Secondly, going back to my car example, environmentally, there are hundreds of second hand cars which are a) cheaper and b) sitting there without a home.  OK, so your heart doesn't wrench when you think of a Ford Escort sitting on the forecourt in the rain but surely the eco-warrior inside considers that it's a waste buying a new car when there are good value used cars available at fractions of the cost.
What do you mean I'll be moving in there if I don't learn to behave myself?!

It's kind of the same with puppies/rescue dogs.  Except there is also the emotional aspect involved.  And this is involved at both ends.  With rescue dogs there is the moral reasoning that they are in a shelter while other dogs of their breed are being 'bred' perhaps needlessly (that's the argument - not my thoughts).  But there is also the emotional aspect that a shelter dog has lost a part of it's life with someone who perhaps didn't care for it or didn't train it in the way that you would have liked.  Perhaps they didn't socialise it or exercise it or even vaccinate it against disease.  These are mild examples, the reality is far more tragic; there are dogs there that wince when you raise your hand to stroke them or that fly into a panic when they see a man or a bike or a car or even a colour.  What has happened to them?  And, perhaps the bigger question, can you fix it?  For Caesar, his lost time was two and a half years.  He was around 2 and a half years when we rescued him.  This seems young and, in some ways it is, but it was enough time for him to be permanently damaged in lots of ways and I know now that my time with him will be two and a half years shorter than it would have been if I'd got him as a puppy.  I don't mean to sound selfish but this is the truth.  Don't get me wrong, this damage may not have been intentional or even avoidable but the fact is it had been done and we have to live with not only the damage and the result of said damage but the knowledge that we will never know what caused it.  We will never know why he panics at the sight of other dogs.  We will never know why he tears the house apart when left alone.

A puppy, on the other hand, is a blank canvas.  This is sometimes a preference for those with children who would like to know that the dog has been raised around not just any children but their own and knows how to act around infants.  Some rescue centres will not allow those with younger children to adopt dogs, I can see their reasoning.  Although all of the rescues that I know work hard to know their dogs well and work with them with lots of different people and situations, you can never be sure a dog is bomb proof, particularly if it's spent the majority of it's time in a kennel.

Perhaps then, you would think a puppy might be easier.  Think again!  I have spent a few days during the last week at my aunt's house.  She has just adopted a beautiful pedigree puppy.  The little pup is perhaps the cutest thing I've ever laid eyes on and is cuddly and soft and playful (as you would expect).  The first time I went round, I spent an hour with her.  I cuddled her and played with her and cooed at her.  She was pretty.  Two days later, I called my aunt.  "How are things?"  By the tone of her voice, I gathered that things were not very easy so went to spend the day helping out.  By five in the evening I was exhausted and I hadn't even done half of the work!  At least once every hour my aunt had to let her outside.  She didn't exactly know that she needed a wee so she had to follow her around the garden in the rain waiting for her to do one.  Then, she had to try to retrieve her from behind some bushes.  Then, she had to feed her several times.  Then she would sleep.  The problem was, if she slept too much during the day then she wouldn't sleep on the night.  But, if we left her while she was sleeping, she would wake up and howl.  My auntie had been in the house with her for three days, having not had her vaccinations yet.  This had become her life and routine.

Meggy - OK so puppies win on cute points!

I thought back to how Caesar was when we got him.  He used to howl in the night and wake us up, true.  He used to mess in his room when we left him, true.  It took him about a week to get over the crying and howling on a night but somehow, the fact that he was an adult dog made it slightly easier to cope with.  The fact that he was howling for his kennel made me think 'it's ok, he'll soon realise that he's safer and better here'.  With a puppy, your thoughts are constantly pulled to 'she's missing her mum!' and you feel incredibly guilty for taking her away from her mother and then for leaving her (even if she is surrounded by 400 toys and the best bed in Pets at Home).

Some people will swear they will never adopt a puppy based on how many dogs are waiting for homes in rescue centres.  On the other hand, some people will never rescue based on a bad experience or a fear of the unknown/damaged dogs.  What are your views? Let me know with a comment.  

Useful links  - A great blog covering the positive and negative sides of rescuing vs adopting.  - An article on Caesar Milan's website about adopting/rescuing.  Also discussing whether you have children or not.  - Some other aspects to consider when making your final decision.

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