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Animal Rescue and Failed Adoptions

Working in animal rescue is rewarding.  Seeing dogs that have been abandoned, abused and neglected grow and flourish into happy, healthy little personalities is such a joy. But, it’s hard work.  Owen and I work exclusively with Bull breeds, and they’re strong, single-minded creatures, and we’ve fallen in love with every single one that we’ve fostered.  We did our best to make sure that they were looked after and prepared to go to their forever homes the best dogs that they could be.

We found out today that our most recent foster dog, Clay, has ended up in a pound, abandoned by yet another owner.  As heartbreaking as that is, it gives us a perfect opportunity to talk about how we can stop things like this happening in future, and the shared responsibilities of owners and rescuers alike.

 

I Blame Wizards - Clay, through PRC Animal Rescue

 

We had Clay as a foster dog for a couple of months.  He had some training issues, sure, and suffered severe separation anxiety which made him destructive if left alone, but it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t handle, and certainly nothing that a good, stable home wouldn’t fix.  He got along perfectly with our two dogs, Tonks and Molly, and we knew he’d make a perfect pet if given a chance.

Stephanie, the force behind Pit Bull Rescue Cyprus (PRC), worked hard trying to find Clay his perfect forever home, when a man named Markos, and his business partner Costas, who own and run an EU funded farm in Limassol came forward.  They came to Steph with plans to extend their farm, talking about taking on rescue animals, becoming a kind of sanctuary where school kids could visit, play with the animals and have day camps etc.  They even said there were plans to develop a dog hotel, so visitors to Cyprus could come and visit with their animals, with swimming pools for dogs and people to keep them cool in the scorching summer heat.  It sounded like the dream home for any dog.

Steph was diligent in screening his potential new owners.  She is often wary of homing to businesses as it is difficult to prove ownership, but any fears on that front were quickly allayed.  He would be co-owned by the two men, and would be looked after during the day by both of them.  When they weren’t on the property there was a couple who lived on site who would look after the animals in their absence.

With everything in order, we said goodbye to Clay, and with happy tears sent him to his new home.

If anyone has adopted an animal from a shelter or worked in rescue, you’ll know that adoption packages are part and parcel of owning an animal.  They don’t generate profit, all they do is help the rescue recoup some of the many costs that go into rescuing animals.  The price of an adoption fee is usually the amount that would cover neutering a dog, and that’s what the money usually goes toward.  Clay was still to be neutered, so an appointment was made and the adoption package left with the vet.

With much prodding from Steph, and a missed appointment, Clay was finally brought in to be neutered.  He was brought in by employees of the farm rather than the owners themselves, and they’d also sent the dog that they already owned to have the operation as well.

After the operation, the two men claimed that Stephanie had offered that the charity would pay for it.  Not only had Clay been neutered that day, but so had their other dog, which had no connection to the charity at all. Steph was expected to pay for it out of pocket.  After days of arguing back and forth, the bill was settled it in part.  As far as I know, the rest of the amount is still outstanding, leaving the charity once again racking up a vet bill.

A few days ago, she was tagged in a post by a friend who keeps an eye out for Pit Bulls in local pounds, to see if the charity can take on the case.  Imagine her surprise when the dog in the tagged post turned out to be Clay!  She recognised him straight away, and thus began the saga of trying to find out how our perfectly happy Clay had ended up in a cage, awaiting death alongside the other dogs who are the fallout of irresponsible pet ownership.

I’ll save you all the ‘he said, she said.’  Long story short, it seems that the couple who were caretakers at the farm left, taking Clay with them and dumping him at the pound.  Both men now refuse to accept ownership, and any further attempts at correspondence have been ignored while Clay is still sitting in a kill shelter in Limassol.

PRC has a network of volunteers supporting them.  We all have day jobs, and the number of people it takes to rehome a dog is astounding.  In Clay’s situation, he was rescued from his previous owner who was going to sell him on a Facebook group known for being a source for bait dogs.  There was a small army of volunteers involved in home checks, collections, lifts from one end of Cyprus to the other, dog minders for when life meant we couldn’t be home with the dogs all day, vets who gave their time, and even volunteers who monitored messages and made phone calls to try and make sure he went to the best home possible.  It’s hard work, and mostly thankless.  But we do it because we love the dogs, and they deserve a chance at life.

 

I Blame Wizards - Clay and Molly, through PRC Animal Rescue

 

Screening potential owners is difficult.  There is always some element of trust involved, and it’s difficult when we feel that trust is violated.  We feel we’ve failed the dogs by putting them into situations that they have no control over, but ultimately, there is nothing to be gained from playing the blame game.

Responsible dog ownership has to be learned, and Clay’s situation is a perfect illustration of that.  He’s been in two homes now who have let him down.  There is no point in publicly crucifying the people who adopted him.  Their actions speak to ignorance, rather than any intended cruelty.  But this ignorance is the exact reason why we need to highlight situations like this, and hopefully, make sure it never happens again.  Clay is a good dog who deserves better.  A dog is for life.  Give them love, and they’ll love you back unconditionally.

Let’s take this opportunity to have a serious and frank discussion about rescue and adoption.  It’s easy to jump to naming and shaming, but ultimately that does more harm than good.  A public outing won’t make someone change their ways but offering support and a willingness to get to the heart of why people act the way they do just might.

When you rescue a dog, you have a support network of like-minded individuals who have the dog’s best interest at heart. Any of us can be contacted for help or advice if the dog gets too much or you find yourself unable to cope alone.  Help is available before abandoning a dog; you only need to ask.

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A Playful Pit Bull Breakthrough!

Blue SleepingIt’s been tough on Tonks these last few weeks as she and Blue haven’t been able to find their level.  She’s going on nine years old now and just doesn’t have the same energy levels as a 12 month old Pit Bull.  Because he’d spent most of his puppy months either chained up in a yard with no mental stimulation or in the pound he really hadn’t had any socialisation so tended to be a bit too boisterous while playing.

Tonks, quite rightly so, didn’t really appreciate being pinned down or stamped on.  He was very obviously trying to play and be affectionate, but he really doesn’t realise his own size.  I mean just look at the picture to the left; he honestly thought he was small enough to fit on that single seat sofa!  For weeks now she’s been a little ‘back off buddy!’ whenever he came too close, but for the first time last night she actually started to play with him.

It’s amazing to see the change in him now that he’s being socialised.  He understands now that he can’t be too rough with her, and if he wants to play he has to do it on her terms.  He rolled over, showed her his belly and she pinned him down and they were off!  Lots of affectionate ear nibbling and some playful growls, waggy tails and now they can’t get enough of each other.  It’s wonderful how fast he learns.

Today I was lucky enough to catch them on video playing.  Hearing two bull breeds play can be a bit daunting to the uninitiated, so rest assured that they are happy playful sounds.  I remember the first time I heard Tonks play with her rope toy I thought she was murdering something in the next room.  But seeing these beautiful, powerful animals be so happy and aligned with each other has really given me an even greater appreciation for both their breeds.  Tonks, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is about a quarter of the size of Blue, a Pit Bull, but she pins him down and gives as good as she gets.  He now knows he’s big and is respectful of her size and she won’t hold back to make sure that he gets a good old play as well.

They’re rubbing along fine now.  Every day he gets better and better, and every day we fall more and more in love with him.  It’ll be hard to let him go when he finds his forever home.  We’d keep him if it weren’t for BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) in the UK which has banned him for being a ‘dangerous’ dog.  The only thing dangerous is that archaic law which punishes the breed, and not the deed.  It removes all responsibility from the owners to raise a happy, socialised and well trained dog, and instead allows them to hide behind a law which has punished their dog for just being born.

 

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The Challenges of Fostering a Pitbull

If you’d asked me three years ago, before I met Owen, whether I could imagine owning an enormous Pit Bull the answer would certainly have been no.  I’ve actually always been a cat person, but since moving in to a home with the lush indecently naked-bellied fur ball that is Tonks the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she just won me over and I now can’t imagine ever being in a home without one.

Pit Bulls have a terrible reputation (as do Staffies, but people are more lenient with their opinions because they’re comparatively dinky!) and in my experiences with them it is entirely undeserved.  The stunning, yet gargantuan, Mr. Blue came to us a few days ago from a pound near Ayia Napa.  Despite being abandoned and kept caged at the pound he was immediately friendly, happy and craving as much attention as he could get.  Due to his rough start in life he’s not yet learned what we term ‘polite’ behaviour, and he’s constantly testing his limits.  Despite his size, he’s really still just a puppy.

Blue is one of the most affectionate dogs I have ever known.  He’s constantly desperate for a fuss, but doesn’t know his own size!  Since the day he walked through the door he’s tried to get on my lap as if he were a puppy, but he’s bigger than I am and just has no concept of that.  He’s awkward and ungraceful, falling over himself constantly and tries to play and instead will trip himself on the tiles and slide head first in to the furniture.  He gets up again though, unfazed, and goes about his day.  He’s still learning.

Tonks is perfectly behaved, and I think it came as a rude awakening when Blue came in to our lives.  He’s untrained and has no manners, but equally he’s quite thoughtful.  When we walk, he could easily pull me over and drag me along.  But he doesn’t.  He’ll pull just enough to let me know he wants to go faster, but never enough to trip me up.  He can be a bit boisterous when he plays, but a few well deserved snaps from our girl and he’s learning fast what is too hard and too rough.

The biggest toll fostering this dog has taken on Owen and I is the fact that we’ve barely been able to sleep.  And definitely not together.  We can’t have Tonks on the bed but explain to him that he can’t.  For the first few nights he was so destructive.  He kept trying to chew the blankets and pillows, and everything was treated as a toy, including our hands and feet.  He’d never been inside before, he just didn’t know what anything was!  We split the two dogs between us and tried to keep him calm so at least one of us could sleep and get some work done the next day.  We alternated like that for a few nights.  Then, one night he just came upstairs, flopped on the bed next to Tonks and fell straight to sleep.  We could have cried with relief!

Since then he’s been getting better and better.  He’s a really fast learner.  He’s learned not to play so rough, he’s learned not to bite hands and feet, and has started replacing it with gentle nibbles.  His furniture biting is now reserved for the minutes he knows are pre-walk, and he will never try and steal our food while we eat!  He knows how to sit, and he takes direction very well.  He’s a gorgeous dog, and if it weren’t for the tragedy that is BSL (breed specific legislation) which states that dogs like Blue are ‘dangerous’ and therefore couldn’t be brought to certain countries we may move to in the future, we’d love to keep him and make him a permanent part of our family.

The biggest thing we’re getting out of this is knowing that, as hard it’s been to constantly supervise this dog, the sleepless nights, the bruises as he navigates his own strength, after all this is over we’ve prepared him for a loving forever home. Because of us he’s alive, and not being put to sleep after languishing in a pound until his last day. The family that gets him will know nothing but the boundless love he has to give.  (I must admit, although it’s been tough with Owen and I sleeping in separate rooms, it’s been so wonderful having such a big dog to cuddle.  He backs in to me so I can spoon him!)  I want his tough start in life to be nothing but a distant memory as he learns to be the best he can be and that he can be loved completely and unconditionally.

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Blue is available for adoption from Pitbull Rescue Cyprus.

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