Frustrated with GSD Rescue - SAD STORY :( - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 12:11 AM Thread Starter
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Frustrated with GSD Rescue - SAD STORY :(

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.

Last edited by Myah's Mom; 04-20-2014 at 12:16 AM.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 12:58 AM
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No blame placement here. I am so torn by your story in just the pain you must feel. Sometimes, whether it's with a dog or not, things happen in your life that aren't always in your full control. I can not imagine the memories and pain you must live with every day. You could have been more prepared for the situation if everything were disclosed from the beginning. That could have been your son on the other end and who would have been ultimately responsible then? I pray that you find peace in this situation and when the time is right a new dog will find you.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 01:05 AM
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What a heart breaking story, I just want to give you a hug. If you like I can reach out to some friends who run rescues, maybe they can help. No promises, just a thought.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 01:21 AM
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I also don't see how you did anything wrong. If anything you weren't supplied with enough knowledge or resources and that isn't your fault. I was at a adoption event(this is why I don't foster right now, I don't have time to get to events) and they brought in an older huge male GSD that was not a happy camper. He was barking and lunging and not easy to control. The one guy wanted me to handle him but I had my foster with me so the dog was brought back in the back. Fast forward a few weeks...same dog was at an adoption event and some guy with crutches got in his face and that dog bit him. It was all on tape and the dog was quarantined(rabies). I'm not even sure where the dog is now, but I do know that all this happened while the dog was being handled by someone that knows GSD's and is quite familiar with the breed. The point is even with the experience one can't control everything. I am not sure why they would black list you, there are definitely more manageable dogs out there that you would be find with. Keep moving forward until you find a rescue you are comfortable will happen

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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 10:51 AM
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What a traumatic event! You sound like a very caring person, this is like one of those stories "when bad things happen to good people" even for the poor person who was bit in the neck. I've seen some wonderful rescue dogs, but if I experienced what you did, I'd probably start fresh and buy a puppy because I would feel like my fear would transfer to another rescue.

My neighbor and friend experienced what you did, the honeymoon phase. She rescued a border collie and large breed mix. He was a beautiful, well trained dog but within a week became very possessive of my friend, he wouldn't even allow her live in partner to get near her. She was heartbroken and had to return the dog. Her next rescue was a pitbull mix that was friendly with all humans, but was very aggressive to dogs. For some reason she did not want to return this one, sold her condo and moved to a house where she could have a yard because the dog could not be trusted to walk even on leash. She moved and lost many friends. About 2 years ago in my area, a rescue volunteer took and herder mix to the beach off leash (bad decision with an unknown dog) the dog ran to a 5 yr old boy and bit him in the face. There are a lot of well meaning people out there trying to save dogs but not all attempts have happy endings.

I'm sorry you are now blacklisted, CA is a litigious state, maybe an attorney recommended to people at the rescue if an incident happened again they would look bad for them. Have you considered just going through the SPCA or have they refused to adopt to you too?
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 11:09 AM
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When a first experience goes south fast and hard, people tend to be cautious. If the first strike is a big one, word gets out and more people may be cautious. I would imagine such an incident could be a really big issue for a rescue - both in terms of liability & reputation.
Their mistake perhaps for not building more of a connection with you before placing a dog -- certainly for asking you to move too fast with this dog --- yours only for acceeding to their push --- culminating mistakes = tragic results for the person bit, for the dog doing the biting. And for other dogs missing out, now, with your home being "off limits."

Why not volunteer in another capacity rather than as a foster home or adopter? That might be more readily received. You could also build a positive reputation that way and perhaps overcome the apparent stigma of this experience.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 11:48 AM
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Thank you for sharing your story. I really feel bad for everyone in that situation. Everyone truly wants what is best for the dog and then this happens. I know rescues intentions are great and they are so important to the dogs but with all the scenarios and good intentions, sometimes mistakes can be made and everything does not always go as planned. I can tell from your thread that you are a dog lover with the best of intentions. I would not let anyone interpretate your kind actions as a foster as anything but gracious.

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 12:06 PM
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Adoption events are useful and give exposure to dogs. However they can be extremely stressful to some dogs, especially to GSDs that tend to be sensitive. Many people and dogs makes for a tough environment that may set up a dog to fail. Also, some potential adopters may approach these dogs in a not very dog savvy way. People love to hug dogs, and not every GSD will allow a stranger to hug them.
I used to volunteer for a large rescue. They had some incidents at adoption days and at some point they stopped doing them and mostly showed them by appointment, at the foster's home. Only dogs known to be completely bulletproof were allowed/approved at the Petsmart adoption events. It sounds like this was a wrong setup for the dog to be shown. This dog should have had "proper introduction" to new people.
You can still adopt from shelters, humane societies, this will blow over. It sounds like the rescue overreacted by blacklisting you. These incidents tend to lead to a lot of emotion.
It is hard to know what to do: rescues would get attacked if they rejected iffy dogs, put them down, but also if an incident happens. It is between the rock and the hard place type of situation, unfortunately.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 01:58 PM
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I am very sorry this happened to you and the dog. Evidently the rescue was not able to accurately temperament test this dog before handing him over to you. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME and now they pretend that it is your fault?
The GSD rescue in my area was the reason I went to go to a breeder (they didn't trust me with a spayed female GSD as I had an 14 year old intact male!). Some are just over the top.
As a trainer I get plenty business through a local shelter that doesn't temp. test their dogs and cranks out many undersocialized, aggressive dogs imported from other states. It is heartbreaking for their owners.
Please stop beating up yourself and send this dog good thoughts, wherever he is. I know the heartbreak.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you. Time has been healing, and I love my 14 month old girl.

But to learn from this, I would suggest to people (like me) wanting to get involved with the breed and rescues:

Go slow. It's hard, when your heartstrings pull and you really want to get involved. But for you and the dogs, go slow.

Spend a lot of time with the dog you think you might want to foster or adopt. Don't bring a dog home on the first day (which is what I did).

When you bring him/her home, keep an emotional distance - perhaps like if you were going to watch someone else's dog (lots of care, but not with the heart open wide). It's the "trial" period.

Spend time observing dogs behavior, what other volunteers say about a dog and listening to how they counselors present the dogs to prospective adopters. It should all match.

If the rescue and counselors know what they are doing, listen to their advice about the dog's temperament.

For rescues, I would give this advice:

Go slow with new volunteers and do thorough training. Help them go slow, as well. There's lots to do to help.

Disclose everything about the dog to prospective fosters and adopters.

Don't take in so many dogs that you can't properly place them.

Don't have so many dogs at an event that overwhelm the supervision. (I would see 1 volunteer show up with 4 dogs; 1:4 ratio probably isn't safe).

Partner-pair your new volunteers for longer than just a few days. Have a systematic way of training (Phase 1 - help with setups/take downs or admin work, Phase 2 - partner paired for dog handling, Phase 3 - transport to events, Phase 4 - Supervised dog handling at the kennel and events, Phase 5 - Foster a softer temperament dog, and do play dates with other volunteer fosters).

Don't slam the door people for mistakes, but learn from them.

I work in healthcare, and the stakes are high for medical mistakes. When they happen, it would be easy to fire the person on the ground responsible, keep hush-hush and trudge on. However, it isn't effective. What we managers do is come alongside the person, look at processes, policies and procedures and come up with a risk management plan, realizing the mistake could have happened with anyone. People need support. And sure, if with the proper support and training, negligence happened, then that's another story.

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