Which brings me to what I wanted to post about the other day and I forgot. I TIVO'd (don't you love now that it is a verb?) an HBO movie called 'Rescue Dogs'. I wasn't sure I really wanted to watch it, because it claimed to be about a shelter that believed in euthanasia. I have always leaned towards a no-kill shelter as being the best, as long as there isn't a medical reason for the dog to be put down.
Now, this movie didn't completely change my opinion on no-kill shelters. I still do not think shelters should pick some arbitrary time for an animal to be rescued, and if they aren't, perfectly healthy and pleasant animals are killed. However, the documentary showed me alternate views, and I actually came around to some acceptance of a middle ground. I also don't think I would have come to this alteration in my beliefs with a personal experience, which I'll tell in a minute, to give it foundation.
In the movie, you can see the absolute love these workers and the owner have for the dogs that come into their shelter. They WANT them to find homes, and many of them are given a long time to do it. As room becomes open inside, they are moved into 'adoption rooms', which are small rooms containing chairs and blankets like in a home. The ones back in the kennels also get blankets and lots of attention. Every one gets a name. They do not put down an animal just for overcrowding.
Each animal is checked by a vet for medical issues that would make them mostly unadoptable. Those are put down.
The part that changed my thoughts was the second test they do - aggression testing. They see if the animal will allow them to look at their teeth, mess with their paws, inspect their belly by turning them over, and how they react to being held and hugged. They use a fake hand to test if the dog has any aggression when the hand tries to take away food, water, a treat or a toy. If the dog shows a certain intensity of aggression, they are put to sleep.
In the past, this would have bothered me a great deal. I felt that behavior issues were something that just means you need to train the dog. I would have violently disagreed with putting an animal down for aggression like that - after all, they don't understand that you'll give their food back unless they have learned that.
Now for why I found this movie to be so relevant. The last dog I had as a guest (pet sitting) was the SWEETEST little dog ever. She was a Jack Russel Terrier, loved to snuggle under the covers next to you at night, crawled up in your lap wherever you were, played ball and knew a whole BUNCH of commands. This dog was well trained and very socialized to people. The owners said the dog had always done fine with other dogs and kids, and went to the dog park regularly. She did get along with our other two dogs very well.
Until dinner time. I had been feeding them at different times, but one night I fed all of the dogs at the same time - ours in their crates with the doors open and the guest dog in the kitchen. The guest dog gulped down her food and started looking for more. She backed Pepper into her crate and started growling and biting at her. We were able to get them away and didn't feed them all together again. You know - my general belief that food aggression was just lack of training, maybe the guest dog had just never been AROUND another dog with food. We always keep water down for the dogs in the kitchen. There hadn't been a problem with it for the few days the guest dog had been here. The next night, Barqs and the guest dog went for a drink of water at the same time, just as I was walking past them. Without warning, the other dog TORE into Barqs and they started rolling. I tried to get out of the way in time, while yelling for them to stop. It wasn't quick enough and I got bit. Not enough to break skin, but enough that I had a good 3 inch wide bruise for a week or two. Scott and I called the owner of the pet sitting company (who is also our neighbor) and he came to get the guest dog the next morning to stay with him. We were not going to risk having an aggressive dog in the house with two small children and our dogs.
The next evening, my neighbor called and asked if I had a few minutes. He told me how wise it was that I called him. He had a German Shepherd he was watching, and he didn't even have food DOWN. It was on the counter and he moved it. The terrier attacked the German Shepherd, cutting his nose, and the GS attacked back putting several large bites on the JRT's neck. Both went to the vet.
This dog can't be placed with someone who has children or other animals. I would even be wary of whether the dog would show aggression if an adult tried to get near a toy or a treat. There was no warning here, and the attacks were vicious.
The movie made me cry, and it also warmed my heart to see the love for these animals. They wanted the animals they had to be adoptable, and not just show up in another shelter later when the owner deemed them undesirable because of behavior issues.
I'm absolutely going to have to look into what Operation Kindness does to test animal behavior and what they do with animals that may have aggression or other behavioral issues.
Now I've rambled, and I'm not sure how to end this exactly. I'll just leave it with a strong recommendation for those two movies, and sending little prayers out to all of the wonderful animals in shelters to find someone to love them while they are here.