January 7, 2013

Where did you come from?

I don't often look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when a Wookie falls from the heavens into my lap, but after reading this blog post my thoughts of "where did Wookie come from?" have been rekindled. I do know that he was brought to the Gatineau SPCA as a stray, but everything prior to that is a mystery - at least to us humans.

When Wookie first arrived in rescue I felt awful for him but I also felt terrible for his family. I searched online classifieds in the Ottawa/Gatineau area for "missing schnauzer" ads but found nothing. Stray dogs always rip away at my heart just a little more than others because I wonder if their owners are looking for them. I imagined them knocking on doors, calling out his name, and suffering through many sleepness nights. Having shared lost dog stories for the past two years, I know just how difficult it can be to find a lost pet. Even if a shelter is pro-active enough to scan for a microchip (and some just don't care), not all microchips and scanners are compatible so it may not even read the chip. Or in the case of Halladay, it might go missing.

But then I started to get to know Wookie and much of what he displayed seemed to say that he'd been abused. He would duck his head if your hand came near him and he was always on the look out. He wanted nothing to do with Randie and I in the very beginning, and he seemed to be afraid.

More often than not, those of us involved in rescue tend to presume the worst about the history of a dog we've rescued: they were abused, left out in the cold, ignored, used for breeding and discarded, neglected -- the list goes on. Basically, their people didn't love them enough and that's why they ended up in a shelter.

I don't know why we do this, but we do. And the worst part of it all is that it doesn't make us feel any better and it really just makes things harder for the dog while they try to cope with these new changes. Imagine if something bad happened to you and people spent the rest of your life throwing you pity parties and saying "Aww, that poor Bob" every time they saw you.

Newsflash: Bob doesn't really care. He just wants to go pee on that tree over there and make some new friends.

I stopped feeling bad for Wookie long ago but that doesn't prevent me from wondering what his life was like before us. Was he happy? Was he loved? Did he sing his off-key schnauzer song for them the same way he sings it for us?

I used to imagine Wookie running through the streets, lost and scared, looking for his people. But truthfully, that's not my boy. More than likely he was looking for some cats or squirrels to chase, found some noms along the way, and decided to continue on with his adventure to see what kinds of shenanigans he could get himself into. He may have rescued a family from a burning building along the way, drank some beers with Stephen Harper afterwards, and then learned how to do the tango. When you're a schnauzer on the run the possibilities are endless.

If your dog's past is a mystery, what kinds of stories have you come up with?


  1. Pongu's story I actually do know, to some extent. He belonged to a college kid who moved out and left him locked in the apartment. The landlady found him and took him to a shelter, where I adopted him a few days later.

    It's likely that he rarely left that apartment, as he was severely fearful and undersocialized when I got him (some of which is due to crappy genetics and poor underlying temperament, but that lack of early socialization sure didn't help), and it's also likely that his owner was at best neglectful and at worst abusive, as Pongu came to me with a once-broken, badly healed front left paw that couldn't support any weight. He used to limp around on three legs, holding that foot up off the ground.

    About Crookytail's background I know very little. He was picked up as a stray on the side of the road in rural North Carolina, where dogs are commonly dumped for being unwanted. He was starved down to 45 pounds (his healthy weight is 75) and his white fur was literally yellow with grease. He acted like he'd never set foot inside a house and he knew no formal commands at all, not even Sit.

    But who was he before that? How did he live? I have no idea. He was affectionate and people-oriented and relatively stable from the beginning, so he must have had SOME socialization, and he's always been very good with other dogs.

    I don't think Crookytail was ever abused. I do think his former people probably didn't give a crap when he wandered off, and may have intentionally kicked him out, as left to his own devices Crooky doesn't wander far away for long. Whatever, their loss. He's my dog now and I like to think he has a pretty okay life. ;)

    1. "Whatever, their loss" has become my mantra every time we bring home a new dog. :)

  2. Miles was 5.5 months old in the shelter in Israel when we met him and brought him home. He was in shelter for about 2 weeks before we adopted him. Our made-up story for his past is that he may have had a family, before being abandoned to the street when he grew out of his teeny adorable puppy phase since the shelter said he was a stray.

    He was very fearful of traffic and men - particularly men in trench coats and large hats. He avoids spilled garbage on the sidewalk, and refuses to drink water or eat food outside (even treats from his people!) If we leave him a full bowl of food in the morning, he's nibble at it but wait to eat all of it until we come home and he knows we'll feed him again, so I think he may have had to scavenge as a puppy.

    I don't know if he was abused, but I do think he had at least one negative experience with people/children that made quite an impression on him. Luckily, the hardest part of his life now is whether he wants to sleep on the quilt on the couch or on the pillows in the bed.

    1. Israel! Wow, that's quite the journey for him.

      We've had a couple of fosters who would do the opposite with food - they would eat it so fast like they've never seen food before. Lola, one of our previous fosters, came from a hoarding situation with 20+ other dogs and the owners would just throw food on the floor for all the dogs. Eventually she realized that she would always have food, and she stopped inhaling it.

  3. First, I love the spam comments:)

    I wonder the same thing about Zaphod. What was that first 1.5 years like. He appeared to be abused too. If or more like when we raised our voices he would cower, shake and pee. It broke my heart. Like you, I try not to pity him. He ended up where he was suppose to. Although I sometimes fear that his owners will show up and I will have to give him up.

    Sometimes I wonder if maybe it is better not to know. It might make me too mad. Let him be a dog of mystery!

    1. Some of those darn spam comments sneak their way through. Sigh. Apparently I have a few fans in Russia.

      I think I'd be devastated if we found out that Wookie's past wasn't very kind to him. Sometimes the past is best left in the past.

  4. We often wonder that about Dot. She was a stray before coming into the rescue and she was skinny, matted and terrified of hardwood flooring. She had no idea how to play and I think she'd never seen a chew toy. Now she rules the house, hoards all the toys and is 50% bigger. Whatever she went through before she arrived she's flourishing now.

    After living with her for almost a year we've determined she used to be a Ninja (due to her black fur and the fact that she's always on excessively high alert). She also has a tendency to collect tools and nails when we're doing home renovations and snuggle with them in her dog bed. I assume that means she also once worked in construction.

    1. Construction worker by day, sneaky ninja at night. Love it.

  5. Anonymous1/12/2013

    I adopted 2 rescues since November 2011. Sonny a pinscher mix - real age unknown but somewhere between 5-6 years. He was found tied to a tree on a pedestrian walk in Montreal. Supposedly a good samaritan took him in to the SPCA. After concluding that he was to fearful in their cages, Loyal Rescue took him in and I found him on my birthday.

    He's the best dog I could ever ask for with no issues whatsoever....so why was he abandoned or was he? I keep wondering, did someone mean to come back for some odd reason ....who know's it is a mystery....but I agree with Kten that sometimes it's best not to know and just enjoy every moment with them as they bring us so much joy!!!

    Roxxy, a pinscher / chi mix - 6 years old, almost 7, was on the other hand an owner surrender because supposedly they were leaving for a 2 year trip around the world. I have to think that since she is poorly socialized and barks at loud noises it leaves me thinking she was left alone alot because she also has separation anxiety but is not destructive. I did the test where your suppose to pretend you leave home and she settles down within minutes....good all around but her biggest issue is when people come over. She barks uncontrolably and doesn't want to settle. This was becoming an issue so I found a new approach. I have this soft kennel which she came with and put her in before my visitors arrive (approx 5 min).

    The last people to visit said that it was much better because they can approach her and let her smell them. It allows her to feel safe and to settle quicker instead of letting her fear of strangers take over.

    I release her as soon as she's settled, a few minutes and she then becomes Roxxy the kissy monster...

    Oops getting away from the subject here, typical me....lol!!!

    1. That's a really smart idea. Wookie does that when new people come into the house, too. I've never thought about crating him for that, but it's something to think about.

  6. Bogey is a 50% enigma. Yes he was rescued at 5 1/2 years old from Paws'R Us puppy mill. But what did he go through there. That is basically unknown.

    Often times I wonder at some things he does or did and why. He would only drink after 8 in the evening. Still will not eat his supper until you move away from the bowl. When I come home he get's himself into a hyper state of excitement, running back and forth from the living room to me over and over but still won't let me pet him unless we are both sitting down, be it on the couch or the floor. That's OK though since a year ago he didn't get excited when I came back! It's the little things that make him such a great friend.

    When he is scarred that fear is acknowledged. But right away we move on to something else. Like children, dogs that are in a good forever home need to know that, yes I know you are scarred, I'm here for you but let's not have this ruin the rest of our "walk/class/car ride" etc.

    Tomorrow, on January 14th, it will be a year since the first time Bogey walked (or was carried into!) a real home. Can you believe it Mel?! And you know what, his biggest decision from now on will be when he goes to bed at night "Do I sleep under the blanket or over it!"

    Sure some dogs had a horrible start to life but how we let them end it is what counts.

    but he'll probably alway be different from a puppy who grew up being loved and cared for. But you know what, he'll never be loved more than he is now.

    1. I can't believe it's been a year already. In some ways it feels like it wasn't too long ago when we brought him home from the shelter, yet in other ways it feels like he's been with you for an eternity.

      He'll always be a different puppy, but all of that is what makes him Bogey - the sweetest dog on the planet.

  7. it always breaks my heart when i hear or see animal abuse. we've reported our neighbor before after witnessing him hit his pit bull and yelling at it for ripping the weed barrier in the backyard. this poor dog was left in the backyard all week long and only human interaction it would get would be when it was fed. it was never exercised and it might be lucky on the weekend to go with its abusive owner in his truck to go watch him ride his dirt bikes, so exciting for the dog. also, how you wonder about wookies life before you, i wonder about spartacus (my moms dog). He has a long scar on one side of his body and used to have a bad reaction when you touch one side of his leg. the vet said nothing was wrong with him and it seems like a psychological reaction and not a pain reaction. he still reacts a little when touched on that leg, but it seems he quickly remembers where he is and relaxes a lot more quickly. also when he was found, he was found with a chain collar around his neck. i dont think its ever good to have dogs wondering the streets because they are lost, but in cases of abuse, i think its better that someone good might find them and take them in, then left to the abuse.

  8. I’m fairly certain that Bonnie took it upon herself to be the protector of tourists in Mexico. She must have spent countless hours trailing the streets, protecting the innocent from pick pocketers. Visitors must have told her stories about Canada and how awesome it is, because from the moment she arrived she’s been acting like a Canadian. She’s polite, very apologetic and loves her surroundings more than anything. Also, turns out she’s a big Alfie fan- who knew?!?!?
    I was sad for a while that her puppies were still there, but then it dawned on me. She had to leave something begin to continue her work of protecting the innocent.

    In all seriousness though, both Bailey and Bonnie obviously had something happen to them that made them scared. Bailey was only three months when we brought her home, and whatever happened in that short time frame meant months and months of proper socialization. Bonnie had over two years in Cozumel dealing with God know’s what. I could go crazy trying to figure out what happened to them, but I think it would just make me sad. You’re right when you say that these animals don’t want to dwell on the past. They’d rather enjoy life and be happy.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.