It’s Not Always As It Seems

Sweet SetterMy own scared dog Sunny was rescued from a 477 hoarding site discovered after the hurricanes in 2005. The owner of the site convinced rescue groups that she ran a sanctuary for dogs. She was so convincing that close to 200 dogs were sent to her. Other supposed ‘rescuers’ turned out to work with dog fighting rings or sold dogs to research labs.

If you decide that you are unable or unwilling to keep a fearful dog be suspicious of anyone that offers to take it from you. No-kill shelters are often run by hoarders and most cannot offer dogs a decent quality of life. Out of sight may be out of mind but don’t be fooled into believing that your dog is going to a better life. No dog lover relishes the thought of euthanizing a dog but unless you know without a doubt that your dog is going to a place where it will be well cared for and have a good life, keep it in mind as an option.

I know that I would rather have my dog ‘put to sleep’ with a minimum of stress than to have him end up somewhere he will suffer. If you think any life is better than no life I encourage you to visit a few ‘no kill’ shelters or ‘sanctuaries’ where dogs live out their lives on chains, sleeping in dirt, with inadequate food and shelter, no medical care, no play time, no runs in the woods, no ball chasing, no couches to curl up on, no scratches behind the ears, just plenty of fear and misery until they die. Then you can decide whether or not to put that ‘free to a good home’ ad in the local paper.


6 comments so far

  1. Patrice on

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with Sunny. Tomorrow I am bringing home a 5-8 year old Bichon male who has been used as puppy mill breeding stock all of his life. Newton is scared of absolutely everything, including people, and vibrates with fear when he is in the presence of any human. As a foster parent, I want to help Newton gain confidence, trust and the affectionate, playful personality I know lies underneath the quivering and quaking.

    Can you help me as I integrate Newton into my home? I have two rat terriers who are non-aggressive but inquisitive. Newton has been rooming with two female Bichons who were surrendered from the same puppy mill so I am hopeful he will be okay with my dogs.

    Many thanks in advance.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I understand how challenging and daunting it can be to take on a dog like this. I created the site specifically to help you understand how to work with the dog. It is has a good reading list which should also support you in your efforts.

      Remember that the dog will need time to decompress, give it a safe place (as far as it’s concerned) to hang out. Put as little social pressure on it as possible. Please read through the site, any advice I’d give you is there. Finding a trainer that understands this disability would be helpful as well. There is a link for trainers on the site as well. Be patient you’re on the dog’s clock now. I hope it goes well for this little guy.

  2. fearfuldogs on

    Just in case you hadn’t found it yet, the website is

  3. Lizzie on

    I am not a great believer in life at any cost, and I do agree that some dogs may be beyond the reach of human kindness. I thought that about Gracie before I came to know her as well as I do now. However when you invest a great deal of your time and emotion into caring and working with a fearful dog, it is not so easy to make a decision that would be so final.

    There is always hope and as long as Gracie is going forward I shall persevere. I could not even think about giving her to a shelter, if I did I would have failed her and myself. No, she will be with me for the rest of her life, so long as I am in a position to care for her, however long that may be. So long as she is not in pain physically, and I have done my best for her, then I will be happy in the knowledge that she is in a good place now and enjoys a her life even if it’s somewhat limited compared to a ‘normal dog’.

    I wish Patrice good luck with Newton. Time, patience and understanding will usually win the day, and when frustration gets in the way, just remind yourself where that dog came from and take a deep breath!

  4. Grisha Stewart on

    I didn’t know about the boarders and dog fighters after Katrina. Humans always manage to mess things up somehow. This article is a reminder that, as with everything else in life, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. People often fantasize the perfect farm for their fear-biting, panicky dog. Really, the main choice is rehab or euthanasia. Rehab is my first choice, being a trainer, because I know the progress they can make, in the right environment. But some situations are just untenable, because of kids, a lack of time, etc.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for commenting Grisha. In my perfect world all dogs would get the owner they needed. I was speaking with a woman who ran one of the rescue camps after Katrina and she remarked to me that she wasn’t sure that ‘we did many dogs a favor’ referring to all the dogs transported off to different groups and shelters. Most people are well-intentioned, heck one can even make that argument about hoarders, but too often even the best intentions sour and can go south fast for dogs. A fearful dog that gets sent to a shelter, then rehomed, and then returned to the shelter, rehomed, until it is ultimately euthanized is not an uncommon saga. I have left detailed instructions with a trusted family member about what should happen to my dogs. Should my first two options for rehoming not be possible then I have asked that my dogs be euthanized. In my mind there are fates far worse than death.

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