Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I'm worried about one of my previous foster dogs. Gretchen was adopted out as a 10 week old puppy. I remember her well. She was part of a litter of 8 puppies, and she was the sweet, quiet, shy one of the bunch. She was more independent than the others, and was least likely to ask for attention or affection. I worked hard to get her over her shyness, and quickly became very attached to her.

Gretchen is now almost two years old. Sometime in the past year and a half, Gretchen has learned that if she's in trouble, the best defense is a good offense. Her owner called me and said he was worried about the safety of his children, because Gretchen had started growling and snapping at people if she was in trouble. Not having seen it for myself, it's hard to know the exact cause. I can't blame a parent for putting the safety of his children first, but I also don't blame Gretchen for using a method to protect herself that she has found works for her. It may simply be a case where with some training, Gretchen can learn better ways to interact with people and feel safe. Unfortunately the family wasn't able to work with a trainer, and had to turn in Gretchen to a shelter. All of the area rescue groups are full right now, so Gretchen ended up at an open admission shelter. She will most likely fail her behavior evaluation, at which point she will be euthanized.

This is the hard part of rescue. What do I do? My living situation aside, it's still a tough choice. If I pull her and foster her, I could be saving a dog that will be very difficult to adopt out. Remember Lizzy the Child-Eating Border Collie? Dogs like Lizzy and Gretchen, who show aggressive behaviors like growling or snapping because they are afraid, are very rewarding to work with. To watch them change and get over their fear, and to learn better ways to deal with fear, is amazing. But they're also very hard to find homes for. They usually need adult-only homes with responsible adults who are patient and willing to work with the dog. Unfortunately there aren't many people like that looking to adopt a difficult dog. So while Gretchen lives with me, it'll keep me from being able to save others. If I consider it by the numbers, it'd be better to spend the time and money that Gretchen would require on the five or eight or twelve dogs that we could save in her place. But rescue isn't always about the numbers - otherwise Ziggy wouldn't still be entertaining me with his antics and driving me crazy with his Ziggy ways. It is a fine line between using your head and using your heart when you do rescue. If you always make decisions based only on emotions, you become either a hoarder, with more animals than you can care for, or you eventually fill up with unadoptable animals and are unable to save any more. And yet if you only make decisions based on what is logical and economical, you will miss out on a lot of really wonderful, deserving dogs, and completely miss the point of rescue.

I hate these types of decisions. This one is made easier by the fact that I haven't moved yet and can't take in Gretchen right now, no matter how much I want to. I've asked the shelter if I can come evaluate Gretchen. I want to see her and get the image of her as a puppy out of my head. That will make it easier to accept whatever happens. I also want to see for myself what she is like, and whether or not I may be able to work with her and help her. Then depending on the evaluation, I can either beg some rescue friends to make room for her until I move, or let her go, knowing that I did all that I could for her. Either way, it will be helpful to see for myself what she is really like. I hope to go see her on Friday.

In other news, I found another home! This one is in Foristell, MO, on two fenced acres, and should be almost perfect for fostering. In fact a previous owner of the home fostered dogs there as well! It is very private and has no restrictions, so I don't have to worry if the dogs want to go outside and bark at the squirrels. It even has "in-law" quarters in the basement, which I could rent out for extra income, if I could ever find anyone crazy enough to want to put up with all the dogs and cats making noise upstairs. Okay, it's safe to say I probably won't be able to rent the downstairs out. But it's a perfect house for me, and I am totally in love with it. I will hopefully be closing on it at the end of the month if everything goes well.


Life with 5 dogs said...

congrats on the house! Sounds Awesome. Fostering dogs can be tough on the heart. I know of a family that dropped a dog at the shelter,because the said the dog was aggressive, dog passed the test with flying colors. Kids were being mean to the dog, and dog wasn't being protected by anyone, so he put but his own way to deal with it.

Amy and The House of Cats said...

First congrats on the house - that sounds awesome! And don't think of it as a place to rent - think of it as a place to escape to if necessary!

And as far as Gretchen, well, that is just a tough situation. Is she really aggressive, is she just in a bad situation like Life with 5 dogs mentioned, you just don't know - I think that you are smart to go and check her out. And hopefully there will be a good ending to the story.

brooke said...

the new house find sounds perfect! our fingers are crossed for you! And I bet you could find someone who LOVES animals that'd be willing to rent out that unit (and maybe even help out with them)!

It's heart breaking to hear about Gretchen. Good luck with your visit with her on Friday as well!

mayziegal said...

Mayzie's mom here. I'm really sorry to hear about Gretchen and I know how heart-wrenching this must be for you. It makes me so sad because this "issue" didn't happen overnight. There were a lot of signs that were either missed or ignored along the way. And if they had been dealt with early on, they might not be in this situation.

But...water under the bridge. I will keep my fingers crossed for sweet Gretchen.

And my fingers are double and triple crossed for you and the house! It sounds SO perfect and I really, really hope it works out!


Two Pitties in the City said...

What an awful situation. It's so frustrating that people just give up so easily on problems that could have been avoided. At the same time, it is understandable that rescues should focus their efforts on dogs that can be adopted out. I had never thought of it that way before, until a long-time foster mom told us that she had a dog that wasn't adopted for 2 years. She said she would never do that again, because she would just think of all the dogs that could have been saved in that time while she was just trying to get that one dog adopted out.

havetailwillwag said...

hi there. i totally understand what you are going through with gretchen.. my dog tony montana is the same. he attacks other dogs, all people he doesn't know and even some he does know, and small children.. all without provocation or warning. luckily he is a rather small dog and has not inflicted any major wounds on anyone. I'm sure if I lived in the states i would've been sued already and tony would've been taken from me and euthanised.

i know that it is impossible to rehome tony but while he's with me i also have to make sure he doesn't harm any of my guests or other pets.. what we've done is give him his own area in the compound. he has a large section of yard, his own toys, crate, bowls.. and he is alone there. i know it sounds bad... but at least he is not dead and we play with him everyday. we just can't allow him to mix with other pets and people. he was attacking my other dog spike every single day and freaking out at visitors. perhaps gretchen could benefit from her own doggy suite and yard as well. or maybe she is not child friendly? i don't konw... hope everything works out!!!!

Kea said...

That's great news about the house and property, not great news about Gretchen. I'm really sorry. What a difficult position to be in. Whatever happens, I'm sending universal Light to Gretchen for her Highest Good and the Highest Good of all concerned.



Cupcake said...

The situation with Gretchen is very difficult. I'm hoping when you go visit her, you will have a better idea what to do.

I'm SO glad you found a house. It really does sound perfect. When you said it had "in-law" quarters, I thought you were going to tell us that's where Ziggy will be staying!

Kari in WeHo said...

the house sounds amazing. Sorry about the Gretchen situation, that has to be very difficult to deal with.

Don't forget, we've moved to http://dogisgodinreverse.com

BerniceK said...

Awwww I remember Gretchen, with all those brothers and sisters that we socialized....

Congratulations on the house. I want to see it when you move in. Will come and help you get ready for dogs!


Remington said...

Your new place sounds great! Congrats! I hope everything works out well for Gretchen.

3 doxies said...

Puddles mum here...
You have a good shoulder on your head. My husband thinks solely with his head AND the economical stand point as well...which can make living with him a nightmare. But, you are right about about the possibly about people becoming hoarders in situations like that. I can only say that a decision shouldn't be made until you see Gretchen and evaluate her AND I think then you will find your answer...you'll know. I wish you all the luck and courage. Hang on, Puddles wants to speak now.

Yo Dog Foster Loving Lady...Oh how I bes missing you. And I so excited bout you getting a new crib to lives in withs all them doggies and kittehs you gots.
Don't worry bouts missing my birfday, I knows you gots lots going on and stuffs. And I know you be missing me too...I mean really, I'm Puddles...hehehe! It's wonderfuls to sees you.

Puddles and Mum

Pibble said...

Congratulations on the house! Paws crossed that everything goes smoothly for you.

Gretchen... Ugh. Yup - this didn't happen overnight. She was probably tormented by the kids, then when she snapped, the parents chimed in with their "corrections." But, who knows the real story.

When you see her, you'll be in a better position to judge whether you can help - realistically.

You're right in that by helping Gretchen you probably won't be able to help several other animals. But you do have to see her and put your mind at ease one way or the other. It won't be easy for you, no question about that. Will you keep us posted?

meowmeowmans said...

Awesome news about the house! Congrats! We are sorry to hear the not so good news about Gretchen. We will send our very best prayers and positive thoughts that everything works out.

Ying and Yang said...

We gots our paws crossed for you on the house, it sound perfect for you.
Mom and us agree with everyone else, Gretchen couldn't have got that way overnight, and there must be a reason she feels she has to protect herself. We know all kids aren't brats, but if the parents didn't teach them how to behave with her what do they expect? We hope it all works out, and that you don't have to tough a time with it.

Grins and Kisses,
Ying and Yang