Today we celebrate two years of Oliver being part of our family. It seems like yesterday I got a call from Kim, head of Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue ,about an owner surrender in the south suburbs of Chicago. I was told he was almost a year old, had basic obedience training and was overweight.
From my experience working with rescues time is of the essence with owner surrenders. Usually when someone decides to give up a dog we have to mobilize and get the dog as soon as possible, so I was surprised when during my first conversation with
Oliver’s former Mom- I’ll call her ‘C’- when I offered to come the next day she told me she was on her way out of town as we were speaking, and could we meet in a few days? Oh but we get in at noon can we meet you right then? Sure, I said. It was a confusing mixture of sadness to be relinquishing him and relief to be relinquishing him. She also let me know that Oliver was ‘pretty chubby.’
Sunday, August 16th we met outside of a Petsmart. Kevin and I got there early, relinquishment papers in hand. Finally we spotted them- a family of four. Parents and pre-teen girls, along with their dog. The girls were visibly upset. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to give up the puppy they obviously loved. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked for more information on Oliver.
He had been adopted from a shelter five months prior. He was their first dog. The husband worked nights, and keeping a puppy quiet during the day so he could sleep soon became too much work, so they plied him with peanut butter kongs to behave. They didn’t do any training with him outside of occasionally taking him to puppy class. The daughters ‘played rough’ with him, “probably too rough,” said C. They hadn’t done any socialization- he was very obviously worried about the two strangers standing near his family.
As we stood and talked the girls got more and more upset.
The younger one handed me a letter they had written us to tell us about Oliver’s likes and dislikes. It was heartbreaking to read the words from kids who had loved him so much. “Oliver is a loving and caring dog. His wonderful, caring, silly and unique spirit will be a perfect addition to your home. Thank you for giving Oliver love, affection and more.” They also noted that he loved carrots and playing with water bottles.
They handed me the leash and walked away, the girls obviously crying. Oliver watched them as they left. My heart broke for them. They were obviously a nice family, just not the right fit for him.
Many people disparage owners who relinquish their dogs to rescue, but I refuse to. They were completely over their head and did the right thing by Oliver. First time dog owners with a dog with a bad start at life. First time owners with no guidance to training and behavior modification. First time dog owners who, without guidance, relied on calorie-heavy peanut butter to keep him quiet, not exercise and training like more experienced owners do. First time dog owners who didn’t know the importance of socialization, especially with a puppy that hadn’t had much during his critical socialization period. They gave the reason for relinquishment as allergies. I’ve never been convinced that was the reason, especially now considering they have a new puppy (check out my reaction to that here). Either way, they absolutely did the right thing and found a rescue to take him in.
We foster ‘failed’ after only a few days. Oliver has been, and continues to be, an ongoing project. Managing his fear of strangers and building his confidence around them is something that will be life-long. We’ll also be managing the health effects of his early obesity throughout his life. Oliver has hip dysplasia and has already had one of his patellas fixed. He’s a project, but he’s also my baby dog, my fluffy puppy. The completion to our household.
Happy Gotcha Day, Pup Pup! And thank you to the family who kept him safe until the starts could align to bring him into our family.