“Yappy Hour” with the rescue group

Greeting Blake
Tyler and Pyrrha greet Blake at Yappy Hour.

What is it about seeing a bunch of dogs who are the same breed together that is so thrilling?

This past Sunday, Pyrrha’s rescue group, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, held an event at a local vineyard, adorably titled “Yappy Hour.” Many adoptable shepherds were in attendance, along with a few from Pyrrha’s foster pack. We thought it might be a good way to expose her to some other dogs, especially dogs that she was already familiar with.

I was a little nervous about how she’d do with about 10 other big dogs, but it turns out that Pyrrha has no problem with shepherds. She’s kind of a breed-ist, apparently. During the initial introductions, she showed a little nervousness, but nothing like what she displays toward unfamiliar dogs on the street. I can’t help but think she remembered some of these dogs, too. In the photo above, she’s greeting gentle giant Blake, owned by one of the rescue’s coordinators, with Tyler, an adoptable dog who’s had a rough start.

Jagger!
Onyx bobs for drinks, while Jagger peeks his head out.

I think she was happy to be reunited with some of her foster pack. Pictured above from her foster family: Onyx, the adoptable Belgian malinois mix, goes bobbing for drinks, while Jagger pokes his head out for a look. Jagger, owned by Pyrrha’s foster, Cassie, is a sweetheart and I wish we had him around more to teach Pyrrha some manners. I have a feeling he keeps the pack in line, but leads with a firm and fair paw.

Rawhide time
Jagger and Onyx with rawhides.

I think I may have a weakness for sables. Next dog, maybe? …

Tyler
Tyler.

This is Tyler. He’s up for adoption and has had a really hard go of it. Cassie says he’s been returned seven times by potential adopters. So sad. He was found wandering the streets of a large, metropolitan area. Tyler looks much older than he is (which is about 4) and he’s struggled to keep any weight on. Unfortunately, after a recent check-up, the vets think he may have degenerative bone disease. He’s very gentle, though, and watches people closely. Here’s to hoping that he can recover quickly and find his forever home soon.

Cissy's ears!
Pyrrha and the adoptable puppy, Cissy (with flying ears).

We learned that Pyrrha is somewhat lacking in morals, as she is willing to steal candy from a baby. Cissy, the adoptable shepherd mix puppy above, would get a rawhide and then Pyrrha would sneak up and steal it from her. Tsk! Our girl needs to learn some general etiquette. Cissy, however, is pretty fearless and wasn’t afraid to fight Pyrrha for it; she even got it back a few times.

Relaxing a bit
Hanging out.

All in all, we were really proud of how our girl did. I think she was happy to get to spend some time in the company of other dogs, without much stress or anxiety. The only dog that made her anxious all day was a boisterous yellow lab, who came bounding up to her; all the shepherds (both old friends and unfamiliar ones) didn’t cause much fear at all. It’s clear that we need to expose her to lots of different types of dogs, but I think we’ll get there. For now, it was heartening to see her with lots of other new dogs (even if they were all German shepherds) and not stressed out.

So, question: Do you think this is possible, that a dog could be comfortable with one specific breed and not with others? Have you seen that behavior in your own dog? Does your dog prefer certain breeds, or actively dislike others?

Do rescue groups have excessively high standards?

Source: Vaute Couture.

Slate published an article by Emily Yoffe last Thursday, “No Pet For You,” with the subtitle: “Want to adopt a dog or cat? Prepare for an inquisition at the animal rescue.” It is a largely anecdotal article, but still, it’s one that I wish more rescue agencies could read.

Yoffe writes about the general interrogation that a prospective adopter will face from overzealous and protective rescue groups, and she says that she was so turned off by rescue groups that she ended up getting a Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy from a breeder instead. She shares a litany of similar rejections her readers got from rescue groups:

Katie wrote that she wanted to adopt a retired racing greyhound but was told she was not eligible unless she already had an adopted greyhound. Julie got a no from a cat rescue because she was over 60 years old, even though her daughter promised to take in the cat if something happened to Julie. Jen Doe said her boyfriend’s family lives on fenced farm property with sheep, but they weren’t allowed to adopt a border collie—whose raison d’être is herding sheep—because the group insisted it never be allowed off-leash. Philip was rejected because he said he allowed the dog he had to sleep wherever it liked; the right answer was to have a designated sleeping area. Molly, who has rescued Great Danes for more than 30 years, was refused by a Great Dane group because of “concern about my kitchen floor.”

Yoffe’s article is not about the good that rescue groups do, because I think we can all agree that they do a lot of good, but rather about the very high standards they seem to impose on potential adopters.

Several rescue groups I’ve seen have applications that look more like applications for adopting a human child. There’s one group I’ve seen in my area that I already know I won’t apply to because of how extreme and excessive their application is. I read these lists of qualifications and wonder, “WHO are they looking for? What kind of person fits this bill? Stays home all day, doesn’t work, has a huge fenced-in yard, never wants children, already has specific plans for the dog’s every waking minute of life??” Unless you’re a trust-funded housewife with an estate and nothing to do, I don’t know who these people are.

I myself have met many people who tell me the same story. They are extremely responsible and dedicated pet owners, even well experienced with the particular breed, but they’ve been rejected by rescues. When I tell them that I hope to adopt from a GSD rescue, I’ve received lots of raised eyebrows and warnings. Some people have outright told me NOT to go to a rescue group for the reasons Yoffe lists.

It’s a sad state of affairs when rescue groups have such an increasingly negative reputation. I myself have heard little good about them, especially breed-specific groups, from people who are trying to adopt dogs. They’re doing hard work to rehome needy animals and they deserve lots of support. But I can’t help but wonder if their standards are increasingly way too high. I really want to adopt a dog, but reading this article makes me really worried about it.

In many ways, despite my feverish year-and-a-half of research and totally serious commitment to the well-being of any dog we bring home, we may not be ideal candidates in a rescue’s eyes: This would be our first dog; we rent; we don’t have a vet recommendation, because we don’t have a vet yet!; we want to have kids one day, etc. I’m already nervous about applying. I don’t think I could stand the rejection. And I think it’s ridiculous that I feel this way! It’s not like I’m applying to college or to a job or to adopt an Ethiopian orphan. I just want a dog.

What do you think? Do you think rescue groups have excessively high standards for adopters? Or do you think they’re just right? Have you had positive (or negative) experiences with rescue groups? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.