Rescuing Gracie – advice for humans and rescue dogs
Mom is one of those crazy runners. She always maintains that running changed her life so let me tell you the story of when it really did. It was a crisp August morning and she was nearing the end of a run with friends, when her path crossed a pathetic, scrawny, flea and tick infested little dog.
It was very early, and Mom knew they couldn’t just leave her and offered to drop her off at one of the rescue centres once they opened. The pathetic ball of fur was bundled into the back of the bakkie, totally unaware that her life was about to change forever. When Mom arrived home, I ran to greet her and just knew there was something up. I could smell another dog (a very smelly dog, even worse than when I roll in smelly fish)!
I sniffed and, if I am honest, wasn’t terribly happy with this stinky thing in my territory. ‘The rescue’ was left in the back of the car with some food and water, as she was too terrified to move. Mom then decided she needed a bath before being dropping her off at the shelter…you can see where this is going.
After bath time “the rescue” was allowed into the house and slunk terrified onto a blanket under the dining room table and curled up into a small ball. She didn’t move. Her eyes darted around, following everyone’s movements, but she stayed put. For nearly 24 hours she just stayed on this blanket under the table, simply exhausted. I suppose if I had been living on the streets and finally had a nice warm bed to sleep on, I too would just want to take a long nap. I like long naps and I have never even spent a night outside.
Our little rescue was named Gracie and over the next days she found her appetite, grew in confidence and her tail started to wag. She slowly started to explore her surroundings and interact with the rest of us.
Mom tried to find Gracie a home but no one wanted her and without meaning to, she slowly crept her way into our hearts. We couldn’t just let her go to a shelter. It would be nice if I could finish the story here and tell you that everything worked out and we all lived happily every after. But that is not the reality. When adopting a stray, they come with their own set of issues. Gracie used to try and escape on dustbin day. I guess this was her life for so long that she couldn’t resist digging through rubbish. She also had a problem with weeing. She would wee everywhere except on the grass! On the leather couch, Mom’s duvet, Dad’s sock draw! Mom nearly tore her hair out as the house just smelled of urine! It took a long time for Gracie to settle and even to this day she still has a few “quirks” but eventually, with love and patience, Gracie has blossomed into a loving little creature.
Humans here are some of the lessons to be learnt:
- Although Mom picked up a stray from the road it is never advisable to do so because of the high number of cases of rabies in our country. The best option is to phone your local shelter for assistance. If you absolutely must intervene, then make sure to wear full clothing and protective gloves.
- Know that when you adopt a rescue, they will need time to adjust and settle. The general advice is that adopted dogs take 3 days to decompress, 3 weeks to know your routine, and three months to start to feel at home. Even then, you still may have behavioural challenges that you might have to work through.
- Be firm and consistent in your training, while maintaining routines. This will allow your rescue to settle and find their place within your family.
Mom didn’t go out looking to rescue or adopt another dog. It was actually quite inconvenient. But when you stop and think about it, when is going out of your way to help a person or animal really ever convenient? Helping normally initially costs – time, money or both. However, the reward can often be far greater than the cost. Although we certainly didn’t go looking for Gracie, she has added a new dimension to our family. She is sweet, kind and loves everyone. Our household is better with her in it.