Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rudy Can't Fail


Rudy was put to death yesterday morning due to lack of space. As were young exuberant dog, Will, and the sweet, gentle older girl, Lady. RIP.


The last 2 weeks or so I've been spending some time with one of the many shelter dogs. His name is Rudy. The first time I'd ever met Rudy was during his temperament test, which he didn't do terribly at (after all he hadn't been outside for a walk in 4 days by the afternoon that we tested him...), but he didn't pass with flying colors either. There's no denying it - Rudy is a bit of a handful. He's strong, as most pitties are, and through no fault of his own has not received a single ounce of training.

But over the course of the past 2 weeks, I've taken a real liking to Rudy...Yes, I know I've mentioned that I have a big soft spot for the more "difficult dogs"...But, on a different level, I find myself really drawn to Rudy. He is SO excited to see me when I walk to his kennel, he'll lean into the kennel door to let me scratch his neck. He's stubborn. I like that in a creature. I like that I have to work with him, because when he does "sit" or "stay" or "drop it" (which he eventually does with some persuasion, AKA yummy treats), it's like a high for me. I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it again -- I believe that there is nothing in this life that's worth having that comes easy. What would be the point? Why would it be so special to us if we didn't have to work for it? This is how I feel about my relationship with dogs....I like working at it. I like meeting a dog that needs guidance. I like giving the dog that guidance that he so desperately craves, because not only does it make him a happier dog, but it makes me happy, too.

Does being stubborn or exuberant make Rudy a bad dog? No, of course not. It means that he was a dog that needed guidance, guidance which his bad owner failed to give him. That's right, I'm saying it. If Rudy's former owners stumble across this blog - SO BE IT. I'll say it again. Bad. Owner. Through my several months of volunteering at the shelter, if there is one thing that baffles me time and time again it's this: Why get a dog if you're not willing to be the leader that it needs? Why get a dog if you're not able to guide it the way it needs? Why bother?

Owning a dog is a big responsibility - like having a child. You can't abandon your child, so why should you be allowed to abandon your dog? Because he's misbehaving? Hello, I did that, too - I must have drove both my parents crazy. Dogs go through "phases" just like children do. And not surprisingly, the majority of the dogs that wind up in the shelter are in that dreaded "teenage" phase. They're not little puppies anymore, but they're not fully grown yet either. They're too big to do the cute puppy acts without getting in trouble - but they're still so cute that owners have difficulty being firm with them. This is the phase that Rudy is in. And like any teenager - he needs boundaries, a strong leader to set them, and plenty of t-l-c along the way to reassure him.

Unfortunately time is running out for Rudy. As you read in my last post the shelter is at full capacity. There are too many homeless animals and just not enough homes. It's about space. There's not enough room to keep every dog that comes into the shelter - and the shelter staff have to make a choice, who will stay and who will go? The more difficult dogs, the elderly, and the dogs with ailments are sadly on the list.

Now I know these things aren't pleasant to read about. You perhaps come to the BACS volunteer blog to read about dogs playing together, about happy adoption stories, and to read about some of the volunteer favorites at the shelter. But this is the darker reality of the shelter that needs to be known. The fact is that not every dog has a happy ending...the fact is that right now a number of these difficult, elderly, or sick dogs are going to spend the last of their days in the Berkeley Shelter.

Since I've been working with Rudy, every day I'll come home from work and tell my partner, Derek, about my day.

"What dogs did you walk today?" He'll say.
"The ones that didn't get walked yesterday." I'll reply. It changes every day...but lately I've been saying, "I walked Rudy today." And every time I mention Rudy's name, Derek will sing the lyrics from The Clash song "Rudie can't fail". I don't know why he does this...Derek is somewhat odd and unique (I like that in creatures, too).

I guess the point of this post is that I disagree with Derek. Rudy can fail. And unfortunately, he will.


Joel said...

I think a better way to say it would be that we as a society are failing Rudy. As I understand it, the percentage of adoptable pets having to be euthanized due to overcapacity is actually down quite a bit from past years (meaning the 1970s, 80s, etc.) but it's hard to feel good about that when faced with BACS' current situation.

Rudy is my favorite of the current wild crew. I've walked him three times and he's noticably improved each time. I hate to show favoritism for him though, because that implies that I'm pulling against another perfectly healthy dog at the shelter. Hoping for a last second rescue for all of these dogs.

Joel said...

Unfortunately Rudy had to be put down today along with Will, another pit with a similar background. RIP guys, we're working so that fewer dogs have to end up in your situation.