środa, 4 stycznia 2023

Musings on rehoming dogs

I've read a discussion where two visions of dog ownership clashed. 

You are responsible for what you have tamed / A dog is for life  - is one of them.

The other is that sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes the dog and the human are not a match, for whatever reason. Dogs actually take rehomings pretty well, in most cases, provided it's a good change. 

I have seen dogs being misunderstood and not loved in their homes. 

I have seen dogs that were labelled as weird, autistic and not capable of forming a bond becoming the most willing to please and affectionate creatures after changing the owner. 

I have also seen people sticking to their guns, learning, adapting, searching for the right way to communicate with a particular dog despite initial disappointment - sometimes succeeding in objective terms (like qualifying to world championship event), sometimes succeeding in subjective terms (being able to form a bond with a difficult dog, being able to enjoy everyday life with that dog or just meeting whatever goal they have set for themselves). 

I feel that it is good to admit that disappointment at least to yourself - but perhaps even better, publicly, simply because the social media pressure of perfection is becoming unbearable. Sometimes you feel everybody has it better, easier, more natural and you are just the one that is constantly struggling. It's good to let others know that you're struggling - to show them they're not alone, to reach out for help or even just to vent and regroup.

In very human terms, I can relate to that disappointment and I also think that sometimes it gets more difficult to deal with it as you get more successful and more experienced, simply because you expect more - from the dog and from yourself, if you have managed to succeed with numerous dogs before. You expect things to get easier, not more difficult. You meet defeat where you expected another triumph. You've done your research, you've met the puppy's parents, you've seen health results... and yet, something doesn't go as planned. Bad luck, cruel fate, toss of a genetic dice, whatever. 

I guess the decision whether to rehome the dog relies to a great extent both on your priorities (for instance everyday life vs. sport success) and also simply, how much joy you're still able to find in working or just being with that dog. Everybody has their limits. I expect it would be much more difficult for me to deal with a situation in which the dog was actually physically dangerous for myself, my other dogs or my family than to cope with lack of sport success, the dog not even liking the sport in the first place or having a major injury / illness. I was also thinking about the issue of "not liking" the dog or "not feeling the bond", but here is where things get a bit murky: I have experienced just taking one look at dog's picture and feeling that we belong together, but I have also experienced not liking some of my dogs at some point of our life together and because of that, I know that sometimes forging the bond takes time and effort, but the end result is no less (and perhaps more) satisfying and you learn tons in the process (but then, learning is a value FOR ME). I know the euphoria of working with a dog that seems to be made to measure for you: everything is easy, the mistakes seem funny rather than annoying and all is just unicorns and rainbows, but I also know first hand the puzzlement, the annoyance, the tears and frustration of training a difficult dog and being at your wits' end, where literally nothing goes as it should and you don't see any light in the well of despair. 

The perfect ones ;)

I don't know if those musings actually have any kind of conclusion. I'm coming back to the notion that we should examine and re-examine our relationship with dogs (and animals in general) in ethical terms every so often - what you find acceptable will inevitably vary as you gain more knowledge and experience. 

I'm also thinking that when you decide to open your heart and home to a new dog, you should do it with the assumption that it's for better or worse and that you will at least give an honest try to build lifelong relationship. My experience has always been that it's totally worth it if you're capable of more than just blaming the dog / the circumstances / the breeder / whatever and actually manage to focus on looking for solutions rather than problems and excuses. 

But everybody has their own journey. 

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