Giving up a pet (be it a dog, a cat or a gerbil)

Here we go. Another previously adopted dog has been returned. Their reason? Pistachio is just "too shy". Thank goodness rescues gladly take these dogs back before the "owners" think of other ways to get rid of them, as in passing it off to another family member or dumping it at the nearby shelter. So, this adorable, unbelievably loving, but "just too shy" dog is now back.

Did you know that most dogs are returned/given up within the first few months of their adoption. And, when it comes to the calendar, the month of March is the worst of all. Yes, three short months after all those heart-melting Christmas decisions, the teenage versions of same dogs and cats are brought back in numbers. The reasons are typically the same, ranging from "we are just too busy" to "our kid wouldn't walk/feed/clean up.” All in all, what was the peak of novelty has become a burden, a chore. Luckily, with time, rescues do find all these returnees new homes,  but at a heavy price to regular dogs who happen to find themselves in shelters at the same time. And by regular I mean, a Chihuahua picked up after getting lost and not claimed by its family or a Labrador Retriever, whose heartbroken owner had to suddenly give it up because of deployment. Overfull rescues can't take them in that week/month, so with the adoptions at their lowest, these dogs...perish. If your heart is set on getting a pet this holiday season, please ask yourself what reasons would make you return it. This short pondering will save a life.

When it comes to reasons for give up, being a dog with medical condition is not too favorable either. HART often sees emotionally overwhelmed families asking it to take their animals after vet bills have become so astronomical surrendering dog/cat to the rescue (with its own vet arrangements) is the last resort. Death in the family is another reason the dogs are let go. Earlier, I wrote about Tobe, the Spaniel mix, who found himself passed from one family member to the other until he found me. His owner wouldn't have dreamed of giving him up, but after she passed away of a terminal illness, Tobe was left in the care of her son, who after months of trying to find him a home finally brought it to HART.

True, Tobe might be a grumpy old gentleman, but surrendered dogs end up so because they are not housebroken or they growl.  Aside from serious aggression issues, people simply prefer not to invest in a trainer to fix either issue, instead choosing to drop it at the shelter, hoping for the best. Some don't even do that. Letting dogs "out into the wild” or offering them “free to a good home” on Craigslist have become popular options, until people realize that most "outdoor" dogs get picked up by Animal Control and possibly later destroyed or get hit by a car. And, those nice people on Craigslist were looking for nothing more than a "bait" or "training" dog for their "champion" dog-fighting killer. Is that the end you wish for the animal you are trying to rehome? I sincerely think not.

Then, there are special cases. Three years ago, I fostered two nine month old poodle puppies, who were left behind in a foreclosed property as part of that family’s plan "to stick" it to their mortgage lender, Bank of America. If not for the pups’ whining and the overly concerned neighbor, the bank would have had the grim task of finding two innocent bodies while taking over the property weeks later. What's especially devastating is that newspapers are filled with tales of countless older dogs, in the same situation, left to slowly waste away of thirst and hunger, while faithfully waiting by front doors. They die quietly, still guarding their homes and not disturbing any neighbors.

Life is a complicated thing and there are as many reasons for leaving an animal behind, many of which I sympathize with, but there are others, that...Well, you be the judge. Below are the real reasons people gave up dogs as experienced by me and some fellow fosters:
  • We got a fancy refrigerator/TV instead;
  • We changed our furniture to all-white and the dog just doesn't match the new color scheme anymore;
  • The dog is too affectionate, it stalks me around the house;
  • We got the cat for our child, who is now in college. We don't want it;
  • The dog started growling at the kids after we instituted "socialization" hour with the dog confined to its crate;
  • This 5 lbs Chihuahua viciously attacked all three of our 20 lbs cats;
  • The dog is just too shy. Three trainers later and she is still not outgoing enough for our family;
  • He wags his tail too vigorously. The other day, he knocked a family heirloom off the coffee table. He has to go;
  • We really enjoyed him as a puppy, but he's just too old. 17 years is plenty, have someone else look after him now.
My new foster is luckier than that. I know full well that despite her shyness, little Pistachio will find her new forever home, at which point, losing her first family will seem like a blessing in disguise, but if you're thinking of giving up a dog or a cat, please consider if your reason/s can be fixed through a bit more research or action. And, if not, please, please don't take it to the nearest kill pound/shelter. Overpopulation at those kills over 4 million lives each year. Call your vet (they are better connected than you think) or go on to find a local rescue organization to take it in. Your pet deserves a chance at life.

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