Sharing – “Depression and Suicide In Animal Care Professions: What Can We Do?” an article by Jessica Dolce

I saw this article shared on Facebook today, and I couldn’t help but think it needs to be read far and wide, by as many animal-care professionals (veterinarians and rescuers) as possible.

Those of us who see darkness all around us, day in and day out, need to be reminded that there is light in the world and that it is the light who makes us who we are, and gives us strength to do what we do. Even the sassiest, snarkiest, seemingly carefree of us still feel the wear and tear of constant sadness and disappointment.

Jessica Dolce hits it home here, in this article. Please read, and please share. 

While the author of this article would probably frown upon the usual tone and context of my posts, well, we all have our ways of dealing with what the world of animal welfare throws at us. She is a brilliant woman, from the looks of her multiple blogs, and while the event that brought this article from her to the forefront is an absolute tragedy, I hope people who are in the same frame of mind can find comfort and guidance in the author’s words.

Please share Jessica’s article directly from her website, not through Dog Hair & Bourbon.

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Why dog people are crazy… but also totally awesome and better than you. Probably.

I don’t reblog often, but I loved this piece from a fellow dog lover and rescue volunteer.

Six Dog Blog

This morning I awoke to that constricting feeling of when your blanket starts to get wound a little too tight around you… Usually uncomfortably exposing a foot which becomes about 30 degrees colder instantly. Flailing around I finally escaped from the blankets grasp and half-asleep dug around for the phone.

Where the hell is it…. oh god I hope it isn’t on the floor… The thought of having to get out of bed before actually knowing the time was too much to deal with this morning.

Finally my hand felt the cool glass of my screen. Clicking the center button illuminated my digital Mickey sneering at me. Looking above my snarky digital dog, the clock proclaimed it was “6:57AM.” I stretched and felt the familiar and satisfying crack and pop of my back waking up. I also began to hear the scratching of the gate being moved back and forth against…

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Protect your dog (yes, you are your dog’s keeper)

One of the first things I tell people when they ask me about pretty much anything concerning dogs is, “Don’t set your dog up for failure.” It’s really a very simple concept. Most of the situations I see/hear about where dogs have done something wrong could have been easily prevented by the owners. The most common instances involve children, and then strangers.

1. Know your dog

You would think this one is a given, but it’s not. I meet so many people who genuinely don’t know shit about their dogs. I’m not talking about breed, age, name, that stuff. I’m talking about what makes your dog tick. What makes them happy, what makes them nervous, or what sets them off. Which situations your dog can or cannot handle.

When socializing my dogs, especially my rehab dogs, I do push them out of their comfort zones. I do it very gently, very slowly, and I know the moment my dog is officially “done” and needs to go home. I also know when my dog is acting like an asshole and needs a time out.

For your dog’s sake and the sake of the people around you, know what your dog can or cannot handle before throwing them in the fire. It will end better for everyone concerned.

2. Know canine body languageC--Users-Melissa-Desktop-fearposterpic-resized-600

I mentioned this in my dog park rant; it’s all about the body language (insert The Little Mermaid Ursula’s voice, please)! This goes along with #1. It’s really not that hard to understand basic body language; just go watch a few YouTube videos and read some informational articles, and you can at least skimp by. I’m not asking you to be a behaviorist; I’m just asking you to not be an idiot.

Knowing your dog’s body language will allow you to remove it from situations that could be dangerous for the dog or for humans/other dogs around it. Signs of stress, fear, or anger will occur before a dog reacts negatively. When I’m out and about with my dogs, I know every move and sound they make, and what those actions mean. That knowledge has ended a lot of skirmishes before they even started. Dogs are complicated creatures, but they’re not that complicated, if you as the owner will just not be too dense to figure it out.

3. Don’t be afraid/embarrassed to take precautions

I think this is one a lot of dog owners struggle with. Let’s say you’re out in public, and a stranger asks if their child can pet your dog. You can say no, and you probably should! It may make you look like an asshole, but at least you’re the asshole who’s not being sued because your dog bit a child. Also, if you don’t know for absolute 100% certain that your dog friggin’ loves children, please just say no. And if you do say yes, go back up to #1-2 and refresh your memory.IMG_3961

I took a foster dog to the clinic to be spayed, and upon turning her over to the vet tech, I told the tech that if they for any reason thought the dog might fear-bite, just go ahead and muzzle her. The tech looked at me like I was the meanest dog owner ever, but I would rather the dog spend the afternoon in a muzzle than bite a tech. It doesn’t make you a bad owner, and it doesn’t mean you have a terrible dog; it just means you’re using your brain in a situation you might not be able to predict the outcome in.

There was a situation recently in NC where a foster dog with a known bite history was taken out for a “socialization outing” with the foster/trainer and another individual. That outing ended with a bite to the face and a dead dog, shot by a police officer. I won’t voice my opinion on whether the dog should have been out in public or not, but I will assert that had that dog been in a basket muzzle, he would probably be alive today. Play it safe – dogs are too powerful to gamble with anyone’s safety.

4. Protect your dog

Why do you need to protect your dog? Because if you don’t protect them, they’re going to protect themselves. More often than not, when a dog protects itself, it’s going to be euthanized.  There’s been an email floating around about an eight year old Aussie whose owners are throwing out on the curb – why? The dog bit a child, when the child pushed on her bad hip. This dog lashed out in fear and in pain, and I’m not saying that’s okay, but I am saying that those owners failed that poor dog. They didn’t protect her. Eight years old, had been with the family her whole life and probably would have laid her life down to protect them, but they didn’t protect her from the child and now they want her gone. (They also apparently did a really shitty job of protecting their child, by the way.)

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Protect your dog from children, protect it from strangers, and protect it from other animals. It’s not cute and it’s not funny to let your toddler crawl all over your dog and pull their ears. Your dog is not going to “get over it” if you throw it into a dog park with a bunch of big, rowdy dogs that scare the crap out of it. If a stranger walks up and puts its hands in your dogs face, ruffles its ears, and slaps it on the ribs, it’s your job to say, “Hey bud, that’s not okay.” Don’t allow people to disrespect your dog.

Dogs can’t talk, and they can’t make decisions for themselves. I’m sure they would if they could, but they just can’t. It’s your responsibility as the owner to be their voice and their safety net. There are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners.

Dear Breeders: Stop. Just stop.

Seriously – if you can’t do it right, just don’t do it at all. This is definitely a stab piece against dog breeders, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking. I’m not here to condemn dog breeders or spout the “adopt don’t shop” religion. The few good, responsible breeders that exist have my full support and respect. Of my five dogs, two were purchased from breeders, and I will most certainly buy from breeders again. I like knowing my dogs’ bloodlines, and I will pay the money for a dog with health clearances. There are plenty of reasons to get a puppy from a breeder (though there are also plenty of reasons not to, as well).

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Rugby (he’s so frigging handsome, isn’t he?)
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Delaney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what am I bitching about here? The breeders who don’t do their jobs. The breeders who just take their deposits and hand puppies off to the first people who write them a check. The breeders who don’t take their dogs back when the homes don’t work out. Here’s the bottom line: if you choose to bring a living being (in this case, a puppy) into this world, you better as hell make sure that animal goes to the right home. I don’t give a shit, frankly, if you have the most beautiful, healthy, conformation-perfect, whatever litters in the world – if you don’t make sure that puppy is going to a home that knows what they’re doing, you suck. You suck and you need to just stop.

I’m the director of a small, hard-working rescue in the South that focuses on Australian Shepherds and other herding breeds. We get a lot – a lot – of dogs. We pull from shelters, as well as take in owner surrenders. In the month of March, our organization received fifteen forms from owners wishing to surrender their dogs. Of these fifteen, seven were for purebred Aussies purchased from breeders. All seven dogs were under three years old. Let me spell this out for those who may not see what I’m getting at – every single one of these dogs was shopped for, purchased, and sent home, and then was tossed to the side when they started acting like, gasp!, Aussies.

Back to my rescue for a hot second. We have an adoption process, and it super-duper sucks. I mean, we put people through the ringer. We make them fill out a long-ass application, we ask lots of personal questions, then we call their veterinarians, their neighbors, even their coworkers, and we ask them even more personal questions. If after all that we still think they’re pretty cool, we send a volunteer out to snoop around their house! All just to adopt one damn homeless dog.

So here’s my question: if a rescue, comprised of a bunch of weird dog-ladies who have jobs and families and very little spare time, can manage to care enough about some unwanted reject-dogs to make sure that the people who are adopting them aren’t losers, why can’t a breeder? I mean, these dogs are born in your homes; you raise them! You probably raised their parents. You’re putting blood, sweat, maybe tears, and a lot of Clorox into the puppy endeavor. So why aren’t you being more careful as to where your puppies are going?

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Kara – I bet she cost a pretty penny as a puppy. Too bad she ended up on the highway pregnant, starving, and parasite-ridden.

I don’t want to hear the excuses, because you can’t give me one that justifies your actions, or rather, your lack thereof. It’s too time-consuming? Too invasive? You’ll never place puppies? Guess what – you don’t have to breed those puppies in the first place. You really don’t.

Yeah, this is another typical rescue-fanatic “down with the dog breeders” rant. We’re crazy, and we make your lives as breeders such a bigger pain in the ass than you really would like us to. But wait! Who is it that gets to fix the mistakes you make? Oh yeah, that’s me. Yep – your dog comes to my house. Your gorgeous, pedigreed, neurotic, aggressive, bat-shit-crazy dog with no training and no socialization comes to live in my spare bedroom until I can get it to a point where it can be a member of society again. Do you know how it feels to look at an eight month old dog and wonder at what point you need to make “that” decision (you know, the one that involves a needle)?

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Howie – SUCH a handsome Aussie boy. What a shame he had to been born blind and deaf because somebody didn’t know what they were doing (or didn’t care).

Maybe you’re a great breeder, or even a great dog trainer. Maybe your dogs are the image of perfection mentally and physically. None of that matters, however, if you’re breeding puppies and sending them to people who don’t know what they’re doing. You’re putting hand grenades in the laps of toddlers. And ultimately, when that bomb goes off, you’re just as much to blame. Good dogs and good breeds are being ruined because they’re ending up in the wrong hands.

So stop – stop cutting corners, and stop passing the buck. Breeding is more than good bloodlines, it’s more than Best of Breed, and it’s more than getting a merit badge by your name. If you’re going to call yourself a dog breeder, do it right and take complete responsibility for the dogs you bring into this world, not just for the first eight weeks of their lives.

A Dog Park Rant (the first of many, I’m sure)

I love the dog park. I love it for many reasons, most notably the fact that it provides me with a safe, secure venue to exercise and socialize my dogs. It also gives me a way to really understand how my foster dogs interact with strange people and dogs, what type of play they prefer, and which dogs they gravitate towards or avoid. Of course, I don’t leave straight from the shelter and head to the dog park, but after a dog has been tested and proven with my own pack, I’ll venture out.

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Fenrir, child-eater.

 

Since I got Fen, my ten month old Doberman foster pup, I’ve become a bit of a regular at the local free dog park. It’s a mile and a half from my house; I can walk, run, or drive there. I try and go after class whenever possible – usually I take Fen, sometimes one of the Boykins, or another trustworthy foster. Last night, I took Stream along as well.  Both boys were well behaved, and we went home tired. Mission accomplished.

So here we go – five for today.

1. Don’t bring a child to the dog park.

I’m really not sure why I even have to say this. Who in their right mind thinks a dog park is a good place for a small child? You are literally bringing a prey item into a pack of dogs. Anything more than two dogs is a pack, and dogs operate on pack mentality. They are running around, chasing, snapping, barking, wrestling – doing what dogs do. Then you bring a small child into the fold, that runs and squeals, and get mad at me because my dog chases the child? Look, I know my dog is mouthy, I know he’s big, and I know he jumps up when he gets excited. That’s why I took him to a dog park. Not a playground.

2. Don’t get upset when they play rough

Dogs will be dogs. They all have their different methods of play; some like to be chased, some like to do the chasing, some like play ball, some like to bark incessantly in other dogs’ face, some like to play fight. It’s instinct – play behavior in animals is practice for real life. If you can’t handle watching Buddy get all slobbery and growly with another dog, then go home. Most recently, the bitchiest violator of this rule also violated #1. Because my big, vicious, child-eating Doberman puppy chased the boxer who would not stop barking in his face.

3. Understand basic dog behavior and body language

This ties in with #2. If you can’t recognize the difference in angry growl and play growl, I don’t trust you and I don’t want you around. Why? Because you are either super sensitive, or super dangerous. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the dangerous part. Your dog is running around mounting other dogs, hackles raised, and you say, “Oh he’s just playing.” Nope, he’s being a dick, and he’s trying to start a fight. Fix it.

4. Know how to break up a dog fight

Fortunately for me, there’s only been a handful of fights while I’ve been at my park, and I broke up most of them because typically I’m closest and I’m actually watching the cues that led up to the fight in the first place. Also, I’m the crazy dog lady, so I don’t hesitate. But if dog fights freak you out and all you can do is squeal and cry, you need to stay home. Fights happen, they suck, but these are dogs we’re talking about. Your lack of self control and confidence as an owner only feeds into the issue.

5. Don’t be a dick

Probably the most important one here. I swear, last night some frattastic asshole came in with the cutest little golden retriever puppy. We’ll ignore for now that the puppy was probably too young to be there in the first place. Dude walks up, and the dogs rush the gate, so the puppy naturally hesitates nervously. What does he do? Shoves his puppy through the gate and says, “Don’t be a little wimp.” This guy continued to just radiate douchery the rest of the time, laughing when his puppy got picked on by the other dogs, the like. I wanted to punch him. Whether you’re being a tool to your own dog, or to someone else’s dog, or to another owner, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.