Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc., Anonymous Sunday, December 10 2023 @ 06:23 am UTC

Decisions Need To Be Well Thought Out

  • Thursday, March 31 2016 @ 04:32 pm UTC
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This past week was a difficult one emotionally for me and for the rescue. There were two incidents that taught me and the parties involved harsh lessons in reality and both need to be memorialized here so that others do not fall into this emotional abyss. When making a decision to either give up a pet or to adopt a pet, the decision needs to be well thought out. Adoption is supposed to be forever, or at least that's what we want in any adoption situation. This past week I ran into two distinctly different issues with adoptions that need to be discussed. The first was a rehoming situation that went wrong and the second was an adoption where I made a what turned out to be a bad decision on an adopter eight long years ago.

The first of the two situations was where a family wishing to surrender their dog wanted him back after the adoption was completed and the dog was rehomed. It began 5 months ago when the family called me and asked me to visit with them to determine if my rescue was the best placement option for their surrendering their two beautiful GSD's. I met with the family in good faith and did my best to outlie what we do and how we work. I discussed the surrender options and policies and I asked them to reconsider giving up these exquisite pets.

After almost 2 hours of visiting with them I believed I convinced them that they should keep both dogs and that the dogs would be best served staying at their home. They were a loving family who cared deeply for their pets. The reasons given for them up for surrender were lack of time for the dogs, lack of attention to their needs, the financial strain of owning multiple dogs and some psychological reasons that traced back to the dogs causing stress in the home. The bottom line was that they were, or seemed to be, both financially capable of retaining the dogs and had a tremendous amount of band width to care for them and love them at every level. Obviously my request was heard and they decided to keep the dogs.

Months went by and I had all but forgotten the incident. My memory sucks and with getting 20+ calls a day, I am lucky to remember my own dog's names much less every dog I see and every person I meet. I received a call from the husband on a Monday requesting that he be able to surrender both dogs again. The discussion was about when, and not if, they were to be surrendered. They had made their decision over these many months and they felt strongly that they were doing what was best for the two animals. I requested that they keep them in their home for the next week or so until I was able to find the right adoptive family. They agreed, and I told them I would get the paperwork to them. Once I found the right family I would call them and we could do the paperwork then as I had destroyed the original paperwork.

That same day I was contacted by a friend who had recently lost his dog. He, like the family surrendering the dogs, has small girls and wanted a dog that was kid friendly and trained. There are times when all of the stars align and this was one of them. I mentioned the dogs to the second family and they agreed to bring the kids and see the dogs that very same evening. All of this happened on that Monday.

That afternoon we all got together; the new and old families and the dogs. When the kids met the dogs they were smitten. The match was fabulous, and after both families blessed the adoption, the dog left with the new family.

Emotional vesting with animals happens quickly. Bonds form with the truest meaning of 'love at first sight'. The dog was brought home and had a chance to bond with the kids. The dog fell in love with the kids, with the attention he was being given and the new pack he was now a member of. He was happy and did not long for his other home or pine in any way. There was no whining or anxiety, rather he was in heaven. The kids dressed him up, walked him in the neighborhood introduced him to all local relatives and considered him permanently rehomed with them.

The following morning the original owner requested the dogs return from the new owners. I was not in the loop. The ensuing decision by the new family, not to return the dog, started an uncomfortable banter between all 3 parties leaving me somewhere in the center of it all. I attempted to explain the finality of any adoption but in my heart I felt that the dog should be returned, as only 24hrs had passed. What I failed to consider was the emotional vesting that had happened and the reasoning behind the decision not to return the dog.

In speaking with both families I understood that on the one side, the prior owners felt deeply for the dog but chose twice to surrender him. The adopter felt as if this was now his dog and wanted to do what he felt was best for his family and for the dog, and that was to keep him. The rationale was clearly that if the original family wanted to surrender him now on two occasions, that the reasoning must have been compelling enough to make that final decision. They felt that the reasons given for the re-homing were oriented around time for the dog and that those expenses and emotional issues were not going away, hence retaining the dog may in fact lead to his being re-homed in a few weeks time also causing emotional stress for the dog and for both families. Both sides continued to make their respective cases to one another, but each side failed to convince the other and the dog remained in his new home.

A decision such as giving up your family pet is not an easy one. There are many compelling reasons to do so and surely as a rescue I have heard many of them. Given that each of us has to decide what's right for them and for their family, I am not in a position to judge any set of circumstances as good or bad. They are usually bad for the dog, but going through my rescue, these rehomed dogs ALWAYS wind up in great homes. In this case what started out as doing the best for the dog wound up being extremely stressful on everyone involved and is an excellent example of making sure the decision you make is one you can live with forever.

To be clear, the legal rights of the adopter were also considered in allowing him to make the decision as to whether or not to send the dog back. The legal rights of the family surrendering the dog were also adhered to 100% because upon surrendering the dog they gave up their rights to him. Under Florida law, a dog is a possession and surrendering him is a right of the owner but recovering him after that surrender is at the discretion of the adopter or, if the dog remained with us, the rescue itself. Since this dog was adopted out, with the blessing of the original family, there was no legal recourse to recover the dog. The decision remained final for all concerned.

As the man in the middle, I felt badly for the original owner but agreed with the adopter to not force the surrender. The stress put on everyone was needless because the decision process was not followed and that resulted in a tragic mistake for them. Had they talked out the process and understood the finality of their decision, they would not have gone down this path at all.

The second incident was one where I made a decision based in part on my heart but not using my gut to adopt a dog out.

With 782 German Shepherd dog's under my belt, the last thing I want to think about was getting dogs back. Our policy is to ALWAYS accept any dog's return for any reason so long as we adopted it out.

On Friday of that same week we got a call from the Lakeland SPCA. They claimed they had one of our dog's there turned in as a stray. That is highly unusual and we could not figure out how a dog (recent adoptions) got up there in the first place. We were told that the dog's chip reverted back to us. We do register each dog when we chip them but we instruct adopters to change that immediately to their name and address. Obviously in this case the adopter did not.

We were unable to identify the dog from their photo but we drove up to Lakeland anyway to pick up the animal. When we arrived we asked about the dog and the person who turned her in. To our surprise this was a dog I adopted out 8 years ago to a disabled Iraq war vet.

Here is when my decision to adopt and not recover the dog came into play. Back 8 years ago, when we were just starting the rescue; I admit I lacked certain perceptions on people and totally used my heart to make decisions about adopters. In this case I felt compassion for the person who had lost a limb in the war. I too am a disabled Vietnam Vet and identified with his situation and desire to have a dog. He wanted to turn this animal into a service dog, so what could be better for both of them?

As the vet began training we noticed his lack of patience and hostility toward everyone and also toward the dog. We cautioned him over and over about misrepresenting the dog as a service animal until she had qualified, yet he ignored our wishes and proceeded to do what he wanted with her. Because of his continued belligerence toward people and animals we were forced to kick him out of training and insist he take private lessons. He did take some lessons from a service dog instructor who also dismissed him because of his attitude. We sought to get the dog back but he relocated and we were unable to track him to recover the dog.

This person had some serious mental issues that he was able to hide from me when he got the animal. I have had 3 vets thus far do the same thing which is why I am reluctant to ever adopt to another one. He abused the dog and I had always considered that decision as regrettable but without remedy.

Low and behold when we arrived at the shelter and put two and two together we realized this was that same dog. She was now 8.5 years old and in lousy shape. Her fur was horrendous, ear and eye infections and luckily enough heartworm negative. We have had her now for a week and she is doing fantastic. She is lucky to have come back to us because surely had she not she would not have made it past the next few months.

I have made lots of adopter decisions and I have tried my best to be right 100% but that is an unachievable goal given that people change and circumstances change all of which affects the dogs well being. In that case we are happy to report the dog was recovered and will be placed in a loving home.