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A big pet peeve of mine is when someone oversells a dog to a potential adopter. By oversell, I mean positive personality traits are embellished and negative traits are ignored. This isn't fair to anyone: not to the adopter, not to the dog, not the to shelter.

The descriptions of the dogs on this blog are purposely vague and not detailed because I want people to have their own list of questions when they ask about a particular dog if they're interested (I hope it's obvious to most readers that I'm not providing a complete checklist of personality traits on each dog I feature. I mean, usually I don't even state what sex or age a dog is, though the sex may be obvious from the name). I also have a fair degree of confidence that the staff at Toronto Animal Services South will be forthcoming in discussing any relevant history and issues behind any dog to interested parties.

I'm not talking about minor issues which might be overlooked but bigger ones like whether or not a dog is house-trained, whether or not it is dog/cat friendly, whether or not it has noticeable underlying health issues, etc. Whenever major issues are minimized or hidden from adopters and a person takes the dog home and discovers the dog is a chronic indoor marker (or perhaps incontinent), for example, that just puts the dog and owner in a possibly untenable situation and quite often, the dog gets returned to the adopting agency. Every one loses.

The staff at TAS-South take full disclosure seriously but I'm sure that anyone who has been involved in dog rescue long enough has heard of situations where full disclosure wasn't given and adoptions ended badly.

So here's Bella, a German Shepherd cross.

Within ten minutes of walking this girl she had pulled out of her collar from jerking and jumping around, ripped off the lower branches on a few trees she walked by, dug a one foot hole in the ground so she could try to eat something she smelled in there, tried to pull out a tree root, chewed on anything which looked like it would fit in her mouth and wasn't solidly connected to the ground, munched on my fingers when I gave her treats. When I got her back to the shelter and had momentarily turned my back to her as I was marking her walk time down on the white board, she stuck her head into the trash bucket beside us and started eating a two foot length of gauze. Luckily, extremely luckily, James saw this and pulled it out of her mouth. She had already just been through one surgery to remove an internal blockage.

All of these behaviours from Bella, except for the last one where I was inattentive, could have been stopped or controlled by me but I wanted to see what she was like when left to her own devices because I didn't quite believe what people had been saying about her.

Bella will be a difficult dog to adopt out.

But having said all that, I believe Bella is a highly trainable dog. She is food motivated, she can focus, she is intelligent, she enjoys human companionship, and at the core, I believe her crazy energy is not from some sort of canine ADHD (well, maybe just a bit) but from being couped up all day for pretty much her whole life and being in the shelter doesn't really alleviate any of that. I believe this because after about twenty minutes of walking her, she started to settled down.

I like Bella. I see her behaviour as super enthusiasm for every thing she does but I know the obstacles to adoption she will face because of those behaviours. The challenge will be to find an adopter who can see the positives and is able and willing to work through the negatives.

UPDATE (March 17, 2013) on Bella here.

The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.

9 Comments to “Bella - German Shepherd mix”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful - both Bella and your story about her. She would surely be *AMAZING* for someone who wants to work with a smart, energetic dog - agility, flyball, scenting, etc. What a dream girl for the right person!

  2. Jenny says:

    Oh my goodness. This looks familiar - we have a tree demolition team of our own. We have lost a few saplings to my 40 lb rescue mutt.

    Good luck to Bella and I'm sure a patient loving owner is out there who can redirect some of that energy! And dog-proof a home. Really, really well.

  3. lenni says:

    that tree-eating clip is crazy. But - she is SO CUTE. What a face!

  4. Anonymous says:

    She's gorgeous! and a tree pruner too! Sounds like a fun companion for a dog wise owner.

  5. GoLightly says:

    She's desperate for direction. Tell her what to do!! Love her eager face, and I agree, she needs a LOT to do. A lot lot. Beavers aren't very popular in the suburbs.

    Good luck, Bella!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I really respect your point about not hiding a dog's less adoptable traits and think it was a great idea to include the video. However, I have to say that I really think you should have stopped her from chewing the tree - girdling is what kills trees.

  7. Fred says:

    Anon, yeah that's why I only let her go at it for ten seconds. Tree's doing fine.

  8. jill says:

    That dear, dear face says "Let's go for a run. Let's have some fun. I'm ready to play not tomorrow today." She says to me she's full of young doggie energy and sees you as an excellent playmate.

  9. CP says:

    Bella is now at TAS West (I volunteer there). She is a fetching machine! After about half an hour of high-speed fetch she actually was actually pretty good to walk. A nice dog but perhaps a little high-strung :). If you had the time and space to take her off leash for an hour or so every day and lots of time to invest in training I'm betting she'd be a great dog - she's a smart one and very food motivated.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.