When Rehoming A Dog Might Be the Right Choice
SILHOUETTE, aka SILLY came barreling out of the dog run underneath the dog I was going to take out and work with. She wanted out in the worst way. Once out, she literally glued herself to my back, front and back legs wrapped around me. The warmth of her tummy pressed against my back melted me from the inside out. We remained connected in this way for several minutes allowing the connection to deepen. Our breath became synchronized and together we knew…we were both changed in that moment.
I peeled her off of me, bringing her around so that I could see her sweet and petrified face. I was on a mission to train more adoptable dogs at this very large no -kill facility. This black dog was not on my list. She had been blacklisted; pun intended. With no name, no home and destined to be a lifer here, I could NOT put her back into that dog run, that day. I let her come with me on my training rounds. I was volunteering, training dogs and teaching staff about body language and behavior and let her come with me for the day. Ha, you’re all laughing. YUP, you’re right, after a day with her there was absolutely no way I could let her go back to the hell she was in, day in and day out.
I named her SILHOUETTE because she was pitch black and had such anxiety and fear that she did the silliest things to cope with them. She was a mess when she came to me; physically and emotionally. SILLY was in a large dog run with 15 other dogs, all sizes and ages. This facility housed over 500 dogs at any given time with 15-20 dogs in each run.
I had 3 of my own dogs at the time and was taking one out at a time to train. SILLY was now in our group of 5 dogs this day. She stayed close to me the entire day, watched every move I made. I allowed her the freedom to explore with my dogs yet she felt safe with me. I put no pressure on her, paid very close attention to her, at all times but I didn’t engage much allowing our connection to be about observation only while we moved through our world that day. She was afraid of everything. People, dogs, sounds, etc. You name it, she feared it. She mostly walked in a low slinky way out of pure fear yet stayed with us all day.
I asked the staff about SILLY and why she wasn’t on my list to train. The answer sent shivers down my spine. “She’s black, she’s aggressive, she won’t connect with anyone or any dog, she’ll never be adoptable.” I asked about the aggression because I saw none that day. They said that at feeding time, she’d dart out and start attacking the other dogs for food and this had just recently started. Pushing for more information I came to realize that she had come to them, starved, with mange at 4 months of age. She was now 9 months old and in the beginning, the other dogs wouldn’t let her eat as they were all eating in bowls put out in the dog run where they were free, not separated at feeding time. It was a free for all and she wasn’t getting enough, if any, food to eat. After months of this she began to become aggressive just to survive. She watched the dogs and chose the least threatening one and pushed them away from the bowl so she could eat. It’s that simple. She learned out to survive. The connection to people or lack thereof that I was told was simply because no one tried. This blacklist thing is real in many adoption facilities so they wrote her off from the get go. She had no chance until I came along. She decided that day that she wasn’t going to live like this any more and pushed her way out of there, knowing something else needed to happen. SILLY was truly a survivor.
She lived with me and mine from that day forward and came around in so many ways. I don’t take dogs in, train them and re-home them and I don’t do foster care. I have never gone out to get a dog, they come to me when they need me. I have never had more than 4 dogs, SILLY being the first time that I had 4. There was a lot of training and confidence building to be done for her and she came into herself in the sweetest way. Never saw a sign of aggression and she loved everyone she met. She blossomed into a delightful and confident dog except for one thing. She did not like being part of a group of dogs. She adapted yes, but I could see that she never fully liked being part of a group and my lifestyle of always being around new dogs with us in training was always challenging for her.
Transitions were hard for her. By this I mean, she became reactive getting in and out of cars, going on a walk, a new dog coming in for training, meal time, etc. Reactive in a way that was anxiety driven. Somewhere deep inside me I knew that SILLY would thrive being an only child. She was happy with us but when I asked myself if she was thriving, the answer was no. I kept it in the back of my mind that if the perfect situation came up that I would seriously consider rehoming her.
8 years later, the idea of rehoming my dog came up. A dear friend of mine who knew and loved SILLY and whom SILLY adored as well was about to become an empty nester. Her only child was going off to school and she was dreading not being a mother in these ways. We hiked together, shared our lives in many ways together over the years and when I suggested that maybe she would like to have SILLY. We both looked at each other tears welling up in our eyes, the answer was clear.
You might ask how I could rehome a dog after 8 years and after we shared so much love and rehabilitation and I say, because it’s what’s best for the dog. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way and look at what’s best for the dog.
SILLY had a wonderful life for the next 8 years as an only child. She finally thrived in ways I could only imagine she would. We stayed away for about a month so as not to confuse SILLY and then went for a hike together. We were so happy to see each other, enjoying a long and luxurious hike in the woods. When we came back to our cars and opened our doors, SILLY looked at my car, then at her car both doors open, inviting them to get it, rest and go home. She looked back and forth two times before she happily jumped into her car. This validated my hunch that this is exactly what she needed.
SILLY lived a very healthy life to the ripe old age of 15.