It has been two years since my first GSD rescue ended tragically. I still have his pictures (I took tons) and videos and look at them often, even though I have a beautiful girl from a breeder now.
My goal in telling this story is that maybe we can all learn something here - those thinking of rescue, and those closely involved with them. And I'd like to say, that even though I'm frustrated with some of the people and decisions, I did meet lots of great people and was blessed to see so many great dogs find homes.
Disclaimer: this is my opinion/perception of what happened.
Here it goes.
I've always been a dog lover, always had dogs. I'm a good amateur trainer and my dogs are loved and cared for until the very end. I have even puppy raised a service dog for two DVM's with a special needs child.
They were all large breed dogs, but never a GSD.
While recovering from an illness and surgery, I read a book about GSD Search and Rescue ("So That Others May Live") and fell in love. I wanted to learn about this breed and have one for myself one day.
I reached out to a local rescue and volunteered. On my first day, I signed papers, took a training at an adoption event, walked a few dogs and, like a dog lover, fell in love with one of them, a 3 y/o male, purebred GSD. The only thing I knew about the dog was that he was an owner surrender (deployment) and the family was uncomfortable or not equipped to take care of him. And he was gorgeous. We "connected", just sitting under the shade on our walk. It was hard for me to send him back to the kennel at the end of the adoption event. I said I would foster him. (I had never been a foster, never owned a GSD).
I took him home with my teenage son and he was fantastic. Perfect house manners, very relaxed and loving. I could go on and on. It was wonderful. I read everything I could on fostering dogs, bought GSD training books, kept notes on behavior and updated the rescue organization with constant notes and pictures.
Then, I later learned that we may have been in "foster honeymoon". Aggression issues started raring their ugly head. No one could come over, or he would have to be crated. Sometimes, he would have a conniption like a tazmanian devil (at times, almost breaking out of the crate). Other times, he would remain in a down-stay, but just at the threshold. We kept him leashed and he was well exercised - we took to the trails (long hikes!) and he would see other dogs and people (no problem). Some people he really loved. There were no cues to pick up on to head off his reactions - no hackling, no death stares, no lip smacking, etc.
We kept up his basic training. He was a doll in the house - a real lovebug, but we kept to NILIF and a pack structure. I kept sending updates. But my mother or older son could not come over, unless he was leashed. He bit our friend on the arm and leg once (suddenly stretching out the length of the leash). I kept sending updates. The rescue sent and paid for an experienced trainer to evaluate him. At the end of the evaluation, I asked the trainer to rate him on a scale of 1-10 (10 being worst aggression) and he said he was a "3". Hmm. Ok. Well, he liked the trainer! So, duh.... Watch him with someone he doesn't like.
Fast forward about 5-6 weeks, when I had him at the rescue adoption event. I handed him off to other volunteers to walk him. I felt that the rescue leader made me feel guilty for not having him at a few previous events (which, I communicated that I would miss a few, due to catching up with work), saying that "I" had prevented him from going to a nice family. So, I tried to make him visible and out and about, meeting potential adopters. I may not have done everything right (I was brand new at this!). In retrospect with what was about to happen, I may have saved that family she talked about. Who knows.
So, while I was standing and talking to another volunteer at an adoption event, with him at my side (close leashed), an interested person walked up to us, on my blind side. He roared, lunged and bit her neck within a nanosecond, as she knelt down. It was bad. I put him in a down (which he was fine with) and cried buckets of tears. Heaving. Volunteers rushed to attend everyone (the victim, the dog and me). I will never forget the compassionate care given to everyone involved.
That was the last time I saw him. I heard he was sent to a "sanctuary".
It took me a year to recover from the incident, emotionally. I reached out to another local rescue to adopt, and said that aggressive dogs would not be suitable for me.
I was turned down. They had heard about the incident, and I was on some sort of "black list". I wanted to meet with them, as I had nothing to hide. I was completely honest about the situation, when they asked me about it. I was brokenhearted. Me? What was wrong with me? Even after the incident, I begged the rescue to talk about it, so we all could learn from it. Nothing. Later, I heard from another volunteer that they knew this dog was a really "difficult one".
My goal here is not to place blame or hurt a rescue (I want them to succeed and be supported!). So, please, let's not take this thread there.
But I would like to say this: please, rescues, don't be so quick to judge and blacklist someone.
I love dogs, I have a good home for them (I'm often home during the day), I feed them well, train them, love them, devote myself to learning about them, take them for their veterinary care, play with them, socialize them -- I mean, what else would you want in a family for a rescue dog?
I'm all for placing the right dog with the right people. Clearly, that didn't happen for me. No blame.
But I had to go to a breeder for Myah. She's a doll. Completely submissive, people loving (she LOVES all people and visitors to our home).
But being on a rescue blacklist bothers me. I have room in my heart, home and yard for another dog and am happy to proceed carefully.
Sadly, it will not happen for me.
If you made it this far in reading this, thank you. Please don't jump on anyone to place blame. Maybe, we will all learn from this.
Two years later, I'm finally able to tell this story.
I miss you, baby doll. I'm sorry we all failed you.