In the 2 years I've been volunteering at Toronto Animal Services I think I've met one dog I didn't like or rather it didn't like me (I don't feel too bad, though, because it didn't much like anyone else either). Very occasionally, however, there are dogs that, while I don't dislike them, I don't particular like them either. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting better acquainted. Sometimes it's that maybe during the first meeting we had, the dog was still too stressed out from the new environment. Sometimes, however, it's because the dog is very difficult to handle and doesn't seem to offer much in return. At least not to me.
A dog like that came in this past weekend. It's a yellow Lab. If I had one word to describe it, I'd say it was a nutbar. It is completely wild on a leash. It throws its not insignificant weight around. It doesn't seem to have much interest in people. It's only good quality, if you can call it a good quality, is that it is food obsessed so that at least you can get some temporary control over him if you have a snack to tempt him with. Even if I had no dogs of my own, I would not take this one home.
So, is this dog a write off?
A few months after I started at TAS, a Border Collie mix came in. I don't remember his previous history but I do remember walking him and not being entirely impressed. He too was quite bad on leash. He barked a lot. He was completely untrained. He was easily distracted. He was uninterested in people. The walk was basically 30 minutes of being pulled around by a dog that didn't seem the least bit interested in who was at the other end of the leash. A couple of weeks later, I was surprised when I heard that he got adopted. I was even more surprised when the Border Collie, now Jefferson, turned up at the dog park I go to with my dogs. The person who adopted Jefferson lived near the park and was a long distance runner. Jefferson, with his high strung energy, was what the person was looking for. Jefferson was going to be his running companion. And even Jefferson's continuous barking, which annoyed most everyone else at the park, was no bother to his owner who just said, "Well, dogs bark," to which I thought, "Wow, I'm glad you're not my neighbour."
Of course a few months later, Karma, the Universe, or God, deciding I needed to be taught a lesson, had Jefferson and his owner move in three houses away from me. Almost everyday I would hear and see the two of them as they left their house for their morning 10k run or cycle. Almost everyday, Jefferson would sniff around my front yard and sometimes piddle and drive Stella and Rocky batty as they watched him from the front room window. But, most importantly, everyday, I saw how the relationship between Jefferson and his owner grew stronger and more confident. They weren't just good for each other. They were great for each other. The owner adored Jefferson and Jefferson cherished his owner and soon enough, his barking subsided. Even Stella, who at first didn't want to have anything to do with Jefferson, now started initiating play with him and she doesn't do that with many dogs.
What I've learned is this. Just because there's no bond between a particular dog and myself doesn't mean that I should write the dog off as a dog that no one would want. Every dog deserves the opportunity to be matched up with the right person. That may not be an easy thing to do but when that match is found, it's often these "problem" dogs that really learn to shine.