As many of you are aware we put a new sign in here at Cambridge Veterinary Services this summer. Every couple of weeks the staff take turns coming up with the “saying” that will offer the weekly “food-for-thought” to those who pass by our country clinic just outside of Cambridge. This week it says “Second Hand Animals Make First Class Pets”. There may not be a truer saying out there, and this is certainly a topic I hold close to my heart.
Growing up in a small farming community in mid-western Ontario our dogs always consisted of whatever breed of puppies the local farmers dog “accidentally” had. As a teenager with the “I love animals” bug, I saved all of my money from my after school job to buy a chocolate labrador retriever puppy I named Indy. He was perfect!…not even close. He had his share of genetic issues and a whole host of behavioural issues that would put Marley to shame, but I loved him just the same.
Five years ago, my now husband, suggested we get a dog. “Sure” I said, “sounds like a great idea”. You can imagine my apprehension when he suggested we look at the local humane society- all of the stereotypes of adopting dogs are running through my head (behaviour issues, not house trained, barking, chewing…the list goes on). If my “perfect” Indy whom I raised in a loving home with puppy classes, endless love and everything he could ever need wound up to be what one behaviourist called a “hopeless case”; what would we end up with by getting an adult dog someone else has raised and then abandoned? I had always been a huge supporter of adopting adult animals; however, as hypocritical as it may sound, I wasn’t convinced it was for me.
Reluctantly we traveled to a nearby city to meet the chocolate labrador retriever named “Hershey” (original I know), that they had posted on their website. We met with the adoption co-ordinator who told us he was found several weeks ago running the backroads with a Beagle whom had already been adopted. He had been viewed by several families whom said “he’s just not right for us”. Butterflies were going crazy in my stomach as we waited for the staff to bring “Hershey” out to meet us. We were met first by the huge “lampshade” on his head (he had just been neutered the day before). When I looked down into that cone and saw his sad green eyes, my heart melted. His age unknown, he was completely emaciated (37lbs as a full grown adult), he had disgusting green nasal discharge and drooled like a Saint Bernard. We took him outside for a walk, he made it 15ft. out the door to a bench, where he had to take a rest because he had no energy to continue. We were in love! We helped him back inside and signed on the dotted line- he was ours!
Hershey became Archie and unfortunately his struggle was far from over. It turned out Archie had leptospirosis (a bacterial infection causing severe kidney failure) and his journey was just beginning. Many people would have given up on him, his kidney failure was so severe the veterinarians had never seen values that high. They gave us a 10% chance he would pull through. But we had made a commitment, we signed that paper and promised to show him the love he hadn’t been shown in the past, to be his caretakers, and do everything in our power to help him live a long, healthy life full of love. Archie spent the next 6 weeks on IV fluids treating his condition, and a year later his kidney values were finally in the normal range, yay!
A year and a half later we found our black labrador retriever “Rambo”. Rambo was found wandering around a family members farm, the local dog catcher said his only option was euthanasia, so my family member took him in and found him a home…us! Rambo, age unknown, was emaciated with raw pads on all 4 paws, hot spots all over his face, and a pretty bad eye laceration where he had been attacked by another dog. He also had the most honest brown eyes, when you looked into them you could see the years of hurt he had endured. We took him home, and after trying several names finally found something he would answer to- success! We took care of all of the skin issues and treated the lacerations on his face. It was evident to us that he had never lived in a house, but he caught onto house training pretty quickly, and voiced no complaints about being able to sleep on the couch!
Archie is definitely the brains of the family. He can sit, lay down, high five, shake a paw, roll over and get your keys for you. Rambo can sit, lay down and…, and… well he’s just so darn cute! It still breaks my heart when you move your hand towards their heads to pet them and they squint and duck out of fear. Several years later in a house full of love, the pain of the abuse is still apparent. They are the best dogs either of us have ever owned. Sure we had to start buying joint supplements 2 years into owning a dog instead of 7, and they came to us with medical issues that puppies typically aren’t plagued with; but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
They chose us. They chose us to trust, they chose us to love, they chose to give us their second chance. Where would they be without us? Maybe they would have gotten lucky and found another family just like us, or maybe they would have been one of the “un-lucky ones”.
Many people choose the holiday season to replace lost family pets, or purchase their children their first family pet. I encourage you to take a trip to your local humane society and give those amazing, loving, trusting animals a second chance. Even as a Registered Veterinary Technician I was skeptical, but it was the best decision I ever made; and I will never look elsewhere for another pet. Whether you get a 6 week old puppy, or a 6 year old adult there are no guarantees of what you kind of temperament, medical issues, etc, you are going to end up with. I challenge you to give the “unwanted” animals a chance, you won’t be disappointed.
They may have been nothing to someone else, but they are our family’s most valuable treasure.