English Shepherds Euthanized and Facebook Sadness

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.

Image by Katrin B. from Pixabay 

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.

Sophie

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.

Sadness

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.

Cha, My Girl, My Heart

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. 😉

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12 replies »

  1. Having worked and volunteered in animal shelters, I can say that many dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, get euthanized simply because no one wants them. 🙁

  2. I feel your pain, we have worked with a rescue in my state until our house became to full with dogs to foster. We still help them when we can with home visits and support. Many dogs are misunderstood because of the situation they are in 🙁 All I can say is support your local rescues and shelters in anyway you can, and hope for the best. 😀

    • I agree! Next month after vacation, I’ll start fostering again. It would be nice if more people considered fostering, especially if they like dogs but can’t see themselves having one permanently for whatever reason.

  3. i cry over the ill treatment of dogs, it really breaks my heart. thank you for writing this so more people are aware what happens to unwanted dogs. I cannot imagine how a dog must feel to be taken away from the home it knows and placed in a foreign place. its not aggressiveness, its fear and abandonment, and not understanding what is going on.

    • Exactly. That’s what I was thinking and even now considering it, I get teary. Dogs are like three-year old children. They don’t know what’s going on. They get frightened. I hope one day there will no longer be any kill-shelters. I guess I hope one day we’ll also be wiser about the world we live in.

  4. Sadly there isn’t enough money and training when it comes to shelters and each one has their own purpose and agenda. It doesn’t help that so many dogs end up in shelters because of irresponsible breeding and owner placement. Matching a dog’s personality to their owner is critical to a dog’s success in the home.

    My FIL decided he wanted a dog for a companion after my MIL passed away. We did the round of shelters to help him try and find one that would fit his personality and lifestyle. The first problem we ran into was that he was stubborn and only wanted a certain size/type of dog and would not listen when we said that would be a poor fit for him. Several shelters we visited were really dishonest in the temperament of their animals, one they claimed to be great with kids (as in they had actually seen it interact with kids) ended up attempting to bite my son who was only about 8 at the time and basically standing still. Another that my FIL actually attempted to adopt, they swore was completely docile and lazy ended up being over the top hyper and destructive (could have been in part the change in environment, but it really was too big of a dog for him to be able to handle, the stubbornness part rearing it’s ugly head). Not saying those were unadoptable dogs, just that they obviously wouldn’t have been a good fit for him. Other shelters were so incredibly strict about who they would and wouldn’t adopt to, demanding prior ownership of the specific breed or they wouldn’t even speak to you. It was a really chaotic process. In the end, we managed to talk my FIL out of getting a dog (he really doesn’t have the temperament for dog ownership and we didn’t feel like it would be a good fit for him), but we ended up with the sweetest girl on the planet that had obviously been abused in the past.

    All of my animals, both cats and my dog came from shelters. I’m way more a cat person than a dog person and have had a few from different places over the years and my biggest beef with most anyone placing animals is the state in which they will adopt out an animal. On two different occasions I’ve adopted cats (over the course of MANY years) that were the most laid back, calm, cuddly personality you could imagine in a cat only to find that attitude was because they were so sick and flea infested that was pretty much all they could do. Once I got them back to health, they were holy terrors, one of them ended up being the most evil, vicious thing on the planet.

    It does no good to the animal or the people adopting if you get an animal where temperaments and personalities don’t fit together. The whole system makes me sad. And yes, I see those stories all too often as well. I have one friend who is actively involved in rescue and transport, so I see a lot of those stories. Then I get to see the other end of things as my cousin is starting up and running a hospice for dogs. Some days, I just don’t want to see what either one of them is posting.

    • It’s definitely tough and frequently disheartening. I have always been very impressed with the people involved with the English Shepherd rescue, especially when it comes to placing dogs. I think that most breed rescues are like this and I know that the same can be said for other rescues. It’s a hard job.
      Right after I published this post, I saw that the rescue was going to have to stop taking dogs in for a while because there has been more dogs coming in than fosters. After I get back from vacation next month, I’ll start fostering again and hope that I can be a good foster (and let the dog go).

      • It’s great that you can do that. My friend that helps with the transports has done a couple of fosters. I don’t think I couldn’t handle it emotionally. I’d get way too attached.

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