Monday, March 10, 2014

Am I being too cautious? When the perfect adoptive home becomes the enemy of the good

Lars is an incredibly special creature. I found him--or really, as reported in my story on Care2 that went viral, Fozzie found him--and transformed him from a feral stray to a goofy family dog. 

In my house, Lars learned the joys of domesticity. 

He went from being impossible to even touch, to being a dog who would come up to me, stick his head on the floor next to my lap, and flop his whole body over to end up paws akimbo and primed for a belly rub.

Though he reacts when he sees other dogs on leash, he still likes to be close to Fozzie and seems to love other dogs when properly introduced. 

Though still not what you'd call gregarious, he has developed a closeness with Florian and he approaches for petting and begs for food when my dad or Uncle Johnny come over. 

He loves to be close to us. OK, especially me. If I get up and walk into another room, he'll follow me. 

So yes, he's a bit of an anxious man, but I consider it a good sign that he takes comfort in being close to his humans. 

He loves it when I take his head in both my hands, and massage the whole thing, rotating his ears and rubbing his scalp, squishing his nose and mouth and massaging his teeth and gums as I kiss his nose and he kisses mine. We could do that for hours. 

So I am torn between thinking that Lars is really a pretty normal dog, who could adapt and be happy in a range of different homes and with a bit more focused, positive training, and thinking that he is a special dog who really needs an experienced owner who knows and loves his breed. 

Because there are still those times when he plays a bit roughly, and his teeth come down on my hand a bit too hard. Not because he's trying to bite me, but because he's mouthy, playful, and clearly has not ever been thoroughly socialized.

There are times when, on a walk, he jumps at a jogger going past. Probably because of his prey drive and anxiety, and not aggression or a desire to do harm. Probably, if he got close enough, he would just do a nose bump and not a bite. But still, he needs some management and training.

So there are some reasons Lars probably shouldn't go to a home with a first-time dog owner, or a bunch of small kids. 

On the other hand, there are far more challenging dogs out there, who find loving homes every day. 

Lars loves his humans and is treat motivated, smart, and easy to train. While he loves to go for drives, go hiking and running and walking and tennis ball chasing, he's calm in the house and happy lounging around. 

He loves other dogs, and he does his best to avoid conflict with dogs who don't like him.

So we've gotten some applications for Lars, but I haven't felt quite right about any of then yet. One wanted to jog with him and their other dog, and I worried he'd nip at another jogger.

Another had a big yard that was not totally fenced, and had no other dogs, and a 12-year-old kid who wanted to wrestle with the dog, and I worried he'd run away, or be miserable staying home alone with no other dog to keep him company, or nip at the kid.

I've worked with rescue groups and shelters that would definitely have turned away these adopters, others that would have approved them almost immediately. What's the right approach? 

Sometimes I feel fine just taking whatever time it takes to find him a perfect home, and if that doesn't come along maybe just keep him.

Other times I feel that if I hear Lamar bark and snarl at him one more time, or have to take two separate dog walks on an evening when I'm already tired and rushed, or decide to bring them all on one walk and regret it when Lars and Fozzie both decide to lurch after a cat or a squirrel at once, I will explode. 

And I despair that there are so many homeless dogs out there that a gorgeous one like Lars doesn't get snatched up immediately, and rescue groups are so overwhelmed that none of them really wants to help or can help, and Florian tells me that as soon as I get a promising applicant, I should just go with it and not worry so much. 

Am I thinking too much? 

Lars, what's best for you? 


  1. Sweet Lars! You are doing such a good job with him. Having fostered a handful of shy German shepherds myself, I have totally been in your boat! I think your approach--erring on the side of caution--is wise. I turned down lots of sweet, wonderful families who wanted Rainer, our foster with the most issues, because I knew that he needed a really special place. It was hard, and I was tempted at times to just let him go to a less-perfect environment, but I knew that waiting for the right home was what would be best for him in the long run. I imagine the same will be true for Lars!

  2. I don't think you are being too picky. You are just picky enough. You know Lars best and thank you for not setting him up to fail in those homes that are not "just right". I have seen what happens when rescues decide to roll the dice and place a dog in a home that isn't the right fit. It often ends in disaster for the dog and the adopters usually are soured towards rescues in general because it didn't go like they thought it would. Let's face it - most people base their interest in a dog because of the look of the dog - they don't usually take into account the dog's personality. That's where fosters play a key role in determining the best fit for the potential family and the rescue dog. I know that it is often frustrating for adopters when they are turned down for a particular dog - but in the long run - it's best for everyone. Don't worry - the right home will come along. Sometimes it just takes a while. In the mean time, it's easy to see that Lars is getting love and proper training to help him in his forever home.

  3. Kudos to you....what you do works, so picky, no way
    Lily & Edward

  4. I think that whatever feels right to you is what's right to do. It's hard when you overthink things so just keep doing what you are doing!

  5. Hi Kirsten, if we had the resources and time, we'd save them all. Every last one of them. That's what I'd do with part of my Lotto winnings. That hasn't happened yet so we do what we can. And that's what maybe you should do. Don't worry about Lars's future too much. It'll straighten itself out. Until then, love and take care of him. He's in a good place now. If there's an opportunity for you to save more. Then great, If not, do what you can.

  6. Only you know what's right for you and Lars, BUT I will say this. Considering he has already come back to you once, I certainly understand your hesitation and the care in which you are screening potential adopters. One can never be too careful.


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