by Terri Johnson Florentino
I received a call one day from a trainer in a neighboring state. He said he had a three-year-old Border Collie that needed to be rescued. “Can you help? Over the last year, he’s gotten aggressive with his owners, their children, and other animals. He’s bitten a few times.” The owners were wonderful people, he said. “They’re heartbroken.” They felt that they had done all they could for the dog. “They’re afraid euthanasia’s the only option left.”
When I rescue, I bring the dog to live in my home with my family and other dogs. I spend a few months getting to know and training the dog. I aim to place the right dog with the right family. Everybody wins.
This trainer and I talked for a long time, and then, with a heavy heart, I declined to help this dog. How could I possibly put my family and other dogs through the stress of living with such an aggressive dog? I feared for his fate.
About a week later I took my Border Collies to my friend’s farm to work our dogs on her sheep together. After we were done, she asked me to spend some time with a dog that she’d recently taken in. “His name’s Buddy,” she said. “He came from an excellent home but he’s got some behavioral problems.”
She came out of the kennel with a beautiful, traditional black-and-white Border Collie. He followed reluctantly on the lead with a deer-in-the-headlight look. As I slowly approached, not saying a word, Buddy got increasingly uncomfortable. He averted his eyes, and his body stiffened. I bent down next to him. He took a deep breath and let out a very long growl. His beautiful coat stood completely on end, and his lips curled so tightly, he was bearing every one of his teeth.
And yet, I didn’t feel threatened. He never made eye contact, nor lunged to bite. I felt sympathy for the dog. His display seemed to come from fear and pain. I turned to my friend. “Where did you get him?”
Sure enough—Buddy was the same dog the trainer had called me about earlier that week.
Why did this dog keep coming to me? What would I do? What would you have done?
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