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Scott and I just got finished watching 'V for Vendetta' and I was surprised how much I liked it. Unlike many of the comics turned movie, this one retained a sense of style AND a strong storyline. It wasn't just about being visually interesting and only 'good against bad' for no reason. I highly recommend it.

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.


( 4 thoughts — Whatcha' think? )
Oct. 29th, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
thanks for the reco on v. i have it right here in my nifty little netflix package, to take with me on the holiday trip.

i think i'll pass on the doggie movie, though. i cry at tv commercials as it is. ;_)

we had a food aggressive dog once. he was a small dog, looked like a beagle but was 1/2 bulldog/terrier {the other 1/2 unknown!!}. he was VERY scary when feeding him, though. he'd growl at you when you were just putting the bowl down with the food in it, and snap at you if you didn't drop it and run. no bueno!!
Oct. 29th, 2006 02:55 pm (UTC)
How would you feel about that dog, who I'm sure was otherwise a wonderful dog, being in the house with Cole and Jubal? Would you trust him? If you gave him up for adoption, would you worry about his aggression in the new household?

These are things I had never thought of, because I had never had a dog with food aggression. Heck, our dogs let me turn them on their back and scrape the tartar off their teeth with dental tools. From the time they were very small, any sign of aggression was met with immediate flipping over and us showing our alpha status over them (staring them down, etc). They show none now, even with regards to food, but I think that is their personalities more than anything we did.

I think I'm coming around to a position where I never thought I would be - seeing the euthanization of aggressive animals (not just small issues that can be trained out, but sudden and violent aggression) as similar to fixing of all animals in shelters. It is a way to correct potential problems in the line and avoid giving breeds a bad name.

There are pit bulls who are just the SWEETEST dogs ever! Same with bulldogs, German Shephards, etc. However, there are also lines that are bred to bring out their aggressive nature to make them better protection dogs. Owners who treat them roughly to make them 'mean'. When those animals are allowed to breed and continue to be trained that way, it gets into the breed as a dominant trait. It gives a bad name to what could normally be a very nice breed.
Oct. 30th, 2006 12:48 am (UTC)
"Jack Russell"? How delightly quaint! - and archaic as of April 2003.

Ref: Parson Russell Terrier Association of America
Oct. 30th, 2006 02:43 am (UTC)
How interesting. Always glad to learn something new. And it does make sense to me to 'test' dogs for aggressive characteristics that could make them difficult to place in homes (thus increasing the cost to the shelter to keep them until adopted) and could cause problems in the adoptive home/potentially end in the dog being returned/get the shelter sued. (Yeah, that's the lawyer thinking.) It's great to hear that not all shelters have time limits like I usually assume they do. Thanks for the report.
( 4 thoughts — Whatcha' think? )