Anna and Elsa @ 7 months
Anna and Elsa,  Fur parenting,  Life abroad,  Travelling

Insights about dog adoption

Before you begin reading this article, we would kindly remind you about the disclaimer.  If you haven’t read it, please do before you continue reading this article.

A couple days ago, I was googling Home 2 Home Rescue while editing our article about adopting Anna and Elsa and I came upon some rather disturbing posts alleging that the charity is a scam, that it misrepresents the animals that it rehomes and then criminalises the people who have difficulties with their newly adopted dogs.

Phil and I aren’t naïve.  Greed, corruption and sin are rife in this world.  It’s everywhere to a greater or lesser extent and this pet rescue charity, will be no exception.  Phil and I aren’t exceptions, either… we believe God when He says in Romans 3:23 & 24: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

We do not know what weaknesses have befallen this particular charity.  We do not know if crime was involved with our puppies.  We did not have the capability to go to Romania and follow our puppies’ journey from the very start of the “supply chain.”  Could there be a puppy farm in Romania breeding mongrels and passing them off as rescues off the street?  Yes, it is a possibility.  But, could Anna and Elsa have been “legitimately” born to a feral street dog that, through no fault of her own, got bedded when she came into season and was then “rescued” before giving birth?  Also very plausible; and the story that, from my experience, I choose to believe.

Once bitten, twice shy.

When I lived in Bulgaria way back in 1999, street dogs were as common in Sofia as squirrels back in my home town back in the States.  The street dog that lived on my corner was regularly fed scraps by the residents in the local area.  That autumn she had a litter of five or six pups and the cycle of rampant street dogs continued.

As I was walking to work one morning in December that year, that street dog attacked me.  She bit my leg, tearing through my wool coat, my dress and my nylons.  I was shocked.  I hadn’t provoked her; I barely remember her even being there.  The first question I got from the locals as I was rushing to get away from her… “What did you do to provoke her?”  In their mind it was my fault that I was attacked.

That dog continued living on my street, even though I had to pay for rabies and tetanus shots as prophylactics even though “Bulgaria doesn’t have rabies.”  That dog and its puppies remained as free to roam as the birds and squirrels and I was the bad one because I must have done something to cause her to attack.

My point with this story is that street dogs in these countries are wild animals.  The people who rescue them will be doing their absolute best to train and “tame” them, but, in reality, a foster home and prospective adopters are always going to have to be wary of them.  They have not had generations of breeding to know that humans are loving and caring.  Instead, they’ve learned to hunt, to fend for themselves and, importantly, to protect themselves from humans.  They will always have that hint of wild for which an adoptive family will have to stay on guard.

Walk a moment in the dog rescuer’s shoes.

The people at Home 2 Home Dog and Cat Rescue have a tough job.  They are working against the prevailing culture in their countries when they go to work with an ethic that says that animals should not be able to roam wild on the streets.  They are working against the prevailing culture when they argue that such animals should be spayed and neutered to avoid the spreading of disease through the pet (and people) population.  And, they’re taking the tough decisions to rescue and rehabilitate, rather than simply cull or euthanise.

The rescuers then go on to do a heroic job working with these animals and slowly but surely and day by day build up the positive reinforcement that humans aren’t dangerous and can be trusted.  Getting a dog fit and ready for a new, forever home can be a long and painstaking job.  As with my experience in Bulgaria, a dog can turn and become aggressive suddenly, without apparent provocation and these rescuers put themselves into the first line of defence against such attacks so that potential adopters stand a chance of adapting the dog into their home and lifestyle without such an incident. But there can be no guarantees that a bite won’t happen.

And, no matter how many social interactions and experiences these dogs get exposed to, the reality is that the exposure will be limited because of the sheer number of animals that are coming through the rescuers’ doors.  They can’t test and practice dogs in every social situation the dogs will encounter with their adoptive families.  A dog might be fine when he’s interacting with children when he’s within the comfort of a group of dogs that are all interacting with children, but on its own with a new family, the story could be very different.

And prepare yourself before you leap into adoption.

So, if you are interested in adopting an animal from a situation like this, you have to prepare yourself for some significant trials and hurdles.  Dog adoption, by its very nature, is taking a dog out of a less than ideal situation and bringing it into a loving one.  If the dog had been in a loving situation in the first place, it probably wouldn’t be available for adopting at all.

Dog adoption, by its very nature, is taking a dog out of a less than ideal situation and bringing it into a loving one.  If the dog had been in a loving situation in the first place, it probably wouldn’t be available for adopting at all.

Ultimately, we do not know the exact circumstances and situation that brought our puppies into the care of Home 2 Home Dog and Cat Rescue.  We don’t know where our dogs originated.  But, we don’t believe that the work this charity is doing is a scam, nor that it is supporting a puppy farm, nor any other type of corrupt or criminal activity.  Our experience just doesn’t bear that out.

We were not pressured to accept a specific dog, we were charged a fair amount for the adoption fee, we were supported with updates, all of our questions were answered and we’ve had the ongoing support of the cohort of other adopters who took dogs in the same delivery as ours.

We knew from our home check, from our background experience of living in Bulgaria, and from researching dog adoption what we were potentially taking on by adopting, rather than attempting to purchase from a breeder.  And we are grateful that we have had a good experience with Home 2 Home Dog and Cat Rescue.

We’re grateful that God worked his plan and timing so that Anna and Elsa, four month old puppies, were the dogs available to us for rescue.  Our experience could have been very different, but we’re glad and thankful that it has been exactly what it has been.

Adopting any dog, whether from Romania, or Greece or Cyprus or the UK or the US is not a decision to be taken lightly.  A dog with issues is always going to need patience and a wary eye.  They may never become completely “tame.”  Certain people or situations may always cause them to be aggressive as their in-grained behaviour, their flight or fight instinct, takes over.

What about you?

If you’re worried that you can’t handle a dog with issues, then trust yourself and your instincts and don’t rush into the adoption process.  Consider fostering to give it a try, or perhaps dog sponsorship or volunteering directly with a charity like Home 2 Home so you can see first-hand the work that they do before you commit to being a long-term, forever family to a dog that’s come in off the streets.

Because there are dogs being looked after by charities who have issues which mean they’ll never be able to live in a forever home, but who are young and don’t deserve to be culled or euthanised, either.  Consider the support that the charities need to keep these dogs out of kill shelters and consider the service that these charities are doing in the countries where dogs roam the streets like squirrels, or rabbits, or urban foxes, or hedgehogs.  Your support with your time, talent or treasures will be gratefully received, and you’ll get the opportunity to decide whether adoption will work for you and your household.

Have thoughts you want to share on the subject of dog rescue and adoption? Send us a message below.