I recently had to make a hard decision between two dogs at the local Humane Society to be trained as a service dog for TBI. Both Scout and Tony are excellent dogs that somehow ended up in the “pound.” It was a hard decision to make. I have hope that the dog I didn’t choose will find a terrific forever home where he can be loved.
From the first time I saw Scout’s picture on the Society’s webpage, I wanted to meet that dog. There was something in his face and eyes that drew me to him. Our first meeting was awesome. Scout is very friendly towards humans, energetic, intelligent, social. He seems to want to please and learns quickly. Although I was drawn to him, I wanted to meet some of the other dogs before I made such an important choice.
I went back inside and saw Tony. The first thing I noticed about Tony is that he is underweight. His ribs stood out like washboards. This boy had gone through a hard time. But, that doesn’t mean he’s not a good dog. People can be cruel and irresponsible. I took Tony outside. He was a calm dog when I first met him. Like Scout, he learned to sit quickly and was already doing a decent job on a leash considering they aren’t trained yet. I always liked Rottweilers. They are a gentle giant breed. When I left the first day, I was seriously considering Tony, because of his calm demeanor.
I went back the next day to visit the boys again. My parents were also visiting, so they would have a chance to meet the boys before I decided. It was a difficult visit. There were more people there and much more activity. One of the reasons I need a service dog is to help me manage overstimulation and anxiety due to the TBI. I was having a hard time from the time I stepped into the shelter.
People can be inpatient with someone with a disability. One of the staff members was rude and unhelpful. Tony was out at the local Farmer’s Market. I was disappointed that he wasn’t there and asked when he was due back. initially, I was told he wasn’t due back until 4 PM, when the shelter closes on Saturday. She rudely stated that I should have made arrangements to make sure Tony was there if I wanted to see him. After all, taking the dogs out to meet people was important work. I explained that I was looking for a service dog in training. She reluctantly agreed to call the volunteer to see if they could return early. The volunteer’s phone didn’t accept incoming calls unless it’s from an authorized number. I commented that was strange. The lady at the desk made a rude comment about volunteers and started talking to me like I was too stupid to understand her. I went back to see Scout.
Scout enthusiastically greeted me. I had to remind him that jumping up was not appropriate behavior, although it’s perfectly natural for a puppy. My parents really liked him. Scout and I walked for a while. He calmed down enough to sit next to me and be petted. I looked into his eyes and he wagged his tail. I felt the same connection to him that I felt earlier. He is special in some way. After a time, the commotion of barking dogs and moving people started getting to me more. It was time to go. I was getting tired and anxious. Scout actually responded to the anxiety by nudging me for more petting. He also didn’t want to be separated from me at the pen. He whined and pawed the gate. It was sad.
I stopped by the desk on the way out to see if Tony came back early. The volunteer who helped me the day before was back and the bitch was still there. I asked about Tony. The bitch huffed, “He’s not back yet” in a really snotty voice. She suggested I wait. It was only an hour. She also mentioned someone else was interested in adopting Tony. She spoke down to me, as if I was stupid. I went from anxious to pissed off. All the noise and commotion was getting to me. And that chick was treating me with disrespect. That was it. I so wanted to tell her off or walk out and not return. The nice volunteer offered to call me when Tony returned. She could see I was upset. I thanked her and gave her my cell number. My parents and I decided to go get a soft drink and a snack to relax.
Tony came back and I returned to visit him. This visit did not go as well as the first. Tony was extremely anxious and afraid around people. He was unwilling to approach my parents. He tried to pull out of his collar to run. His body language was tense. It was still a busy place, with several volunteers and potential adopters. This visit was short. I was tired and I think Tony was picking up on my anxiety and becoming anxious himself.
After the visit, I emailed the person in charge of the puppies in prison training program. She is an animal trainer and behaviorist. I told her about Tony’s reactions and my mental state at the time. She thought Tony wasn’t properly socialized to people. He read my anxiety and responded as well. Sometimes dogs can be trained out of this type of anxiety. Tony came into the shelter as a stray, so he had a rough start. My heart went out to Tony. I have no doubt that he will make a wonderful pet, given a loving home.
I decided to choose Scout. I was drawn to him from the beginning. He also responded to my anxiety by wanting to comfort. I think that means we’ll have a good partnership. Scout went to prison today to begin his training. That’s my boy! Can’t wait until his first parole so I can have him for a weekend!