I used to be on Facebook all the time. I liked to keep up with friends and family, see their pictures, cheer their triumphs, commiserate in their sorrows.
I belong to a lot of animal groups, especially dog rescues. In fact, that’s how Sophie arrived into my family. But I frequently find myself sad because of the information conveyed on Facebook. I realize that it’s information I need to know, but also, it’s information that slices out a big chunk of my heart.
This is why I find it hard to be on Facebook anymore. I feel like my day starts out well, I visit Facebook and then I’m incredibly sad. There’s too much tragedy, too much bad stuff. How do you deal?
English Shepherds Euthanized
Yesterday, I read that a shelter in Georgia euthanized 4, now maybe 5, English Shepherds who had been surrendered by the owner who was no longer able to take care of them. Along with the adults were seven puppies.
The adults were euthanized because someone deemed them aggressive.
Now, I don’t know the particulars, except that someone had these 5 adult dogs for several years and probably these dogs didn’t show aggression in that time.
Border Collies in the Shelter
I’m going to do a tangent here. Come with me back about 20 years ago when I decided I was going to visit shelters and find my first dog.
I went to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter where they had not one but two Border Collies. I love herding dogs. (Okay, I love ALL dogs, but bear with me.) I don’t know why, but I find herding dogs so beautiful and appealing. When I saw these Border Collies, I thought–those are the dogs for me. Their intense eyes and growls changed my mind.
Did I think those dogs were aggressive? Probably. What do I think 20 years later? I don’t think those dogs were aggressive. Those were extremely smart dogs caught in a bad situation. They were behind bars on cement with other scared dogs. They intuited bad things were happening around them. Bad things had happened to them. They were scared and reacted out of fear. Fear biting is a thing.
Sophie the Fear Biter
I now know first hand about fear biting because Sophie, my new girl, is a fear biter. She doesn’t warn before she snaps. She snaps. I don’t know what happened in her past to make her this way. But I do know that 85% of the time and maybe more, definitely more, she is an utter delight. She is mouthy. She uses her mouth and minimal teeth to let you know you should not walk away while preparing her meal. You should not try to keep her locked in a place where she feels like she might be a prisoner. I learned that a month after she arrived when we went on vacation and I kept her in the house while we tried to unpack. Her mouth came down on my sneaker. Huh.
I walk away. I keep her closed up if the situation requires it. We are coming to terms. She is realizing that I won’t hurt her. Her realization means she won’t hurt me.
Sophie also hated to be brushed. She’s over come that. She’s overcome scratching on her back. She’s still funny about being on the bed at nighttime and interactions. Again, she won’t tell me what happened to make her reactive, but I try to calm her as much as possible. She is learning trust.
We are both learning trust because it’s a two-way street. I don’t raise a hand against her and she doesn’t bite me.
She’s still sometimes uncomfortable. I am patient.
I want her to succeed and she wants to play and be happy and eat….always eat.
I think she’s happy; I’m delighted.
Back to Georgia
I have nothing against shelter workers. I think they have a job where they try to do the right thing. It’s a thankless job with very few rewards. Especially in the south, where there are too many dogs who are surrendered and the shelter ends up euthanizing a lot of really good dogs. I know this because a lot of them get shipped north to no-kill shelters where these good dogs are given a second or third chance.
But, I wonder about these English Shepherds, if someone wasn’t a little too quick to decide they were aggressive and I’m basing this on my interactions with herding dogs, especially English Shepherds. They are smart and extremely sensitive. In a shelter environment, I can only think that their worse traits are being exposed. They will bite out of fear and perhaps that is shown as aggression. Biting is a no-no. Biting means that dog can’t be adopted. My regret in this situation is that the shelter didn’t wait for a member of the English Shepherd Rescue to come to evaluate the dogs. This is a situation where someone knowledgeable about the breed could have made a difference.
So yesterday I cried after I read this account. I just couldn’t imagine 4 maybe 5 adult English Shepherds being aggressive beyond repair living with an elderly person.
You see, I think English Shepherds might be the finest dog breed there is. They are not for everyone. They can be stubborn and frequently think they know better. They are thinking all the time. They are not for new dog owners, although I was a newbie when I got one, but she, my Cha, well, just thinking about her brings tears to my eyes and down my cheeks because she was and will always be a keeper. She loved me but also let me believe I was boss. But for people who don’t understand that they can be demanding and smart and always thinking and testing boundaries, they aren’t the breed to get. Just as too many people get Border Collies without understanding what that relationship entails.
People also get English Shepherds because they are cute puppies and beautiful adults, but they don’t understand this breed. I’ve hear some English Shepherd proponents say: “these are family dogs; they should get along with everyone.” No. Let’s not go there. They were bred to multitask and they need jobs or lots of activity. To say that they would fit into a regular family situation like a Golden Retriever is just wrong. You do no favors to the breed or prospective families by indicating that an English Shepherd is for everyone.
We will never know about the English Shepherds in Georgia. But, for me, it feels tragic. I’m better today although still a little heartbroken. I always imagine these what-ifs.
Maybe one day we’ll get there. Until then, I’m probably not going to be on Facebook that much.
PS. I get that if you’re not a dog person you may not completely understand this post. That’s fine. There are lots of things that regular humans find tragic that I don’t get–especially the lack of arugula in some areas. 😉