Moving dogs beyond their past. The story of Turner

I always say it’s never too late to re write the next chapter in your life. When I say that I would apply that to our canine companions.

Sometimes that can be a hard thing to believe. It’s easy to get stuck or wrapped up in the traumatic events that happen to us or in this case the dogs. When that happens the dogs sometimes “unintentionally’ get placed in a category or labeled with what I refer to as the “ I love you crutch” for the rest of their lives. The “ILUC” is like a Ninja, it sneaks up on you before you even realize what it is or what it’s doing and before you know it deprives the dog of that chance to see what they can overcome and become. They get stuck in the “this is what happened to me and this is what I will always be" A victim.

To much of the ILUC and not enough "moving past the past" can actually create more crippling disabilities for the dog that simply weren't there,until the ILUC Ninja created them"

No one wants to always remain a victim. Dogs are strong, noble, intelligent creatures; They “want” to move past the past.

It’s when we remove the labels and move on past what we see on the outside and look to what is on the inside that we can truly see what potential these dogs truly have.

Turner comes to mind when I say those things, a dog that by obvious examination of his wounds looks to have suffered at the hands of some sort of horrible cruelty or neglect - Broken? Damaged? Too far gone from abuse to help? I say No. This dog and many others …..Solid Temperament [Check]. – That’s the first step forward.

We met Turner recently while doing kennel enrichment for the shelter dogs at Indianapolis Animal Care & Control – Turner was being kept out of the general population and in the medical suite laying in a small stainless steel kennel with a bandaged covering the majority of his head-

We had no idea what was underneath that bandage but assumed that whatever it was it wasn't too bad as he came wiggling up to the front of the kennel to greet us, licking and rubbing himself as to say " come here girl, I want you to pet me, I want to give you some kisses" of course we obliged him. [This dog can’t hold his licker!]

It wasn't until we took him out of his kennel that we saw the serious extent of his injuries, behind his ear and halfway up high around his neck was cut wide open, literally open flesh. OUCH! 

"Dog, how can you be wiggly and even wanting to kiss and love on us dog? You must be in some horrible pain."

Yet he looked at us all hovering around him as if to say “what’s all the fuss about? Is there a treat wagon here someplace and I don’t know it?"

I caught myself saying, you must really hate the person who did this to you buddy, but it wasn't to long after that came out of my mouth that I looked at him kissing and loving on everyone, trying to get as close to them as he could, following them around the room over any treat or food that was presented to him that - Here it is, the " abused dog" and what am I trying to do to him right off the bat? I'm trying to disable him by "assuming" that because of all this abuse that was bestowed upon him he is immediately going to not like humans and something will be wrong with him his whole life- Oh gosh what did I just do? I quickly gathered myself and looked back at him and said " You're a good dog who's living in the moment, the now.

Here sits a dog that is READY to move forward in his life and he’s proving that to me here and now" I refuse to put a label on you and start your life off with a disability of being that " forever damaged & abused dog" I'm sorry buddy, forgive me, I am a stupid human. You already know what the deal is, I apologize “Grand Teacher of this world” for trying to hold you back right of the bat!

Yes, he was horribly abused, something terrible had happened to him but we are not going to start his new life out with a label- none other than. “Great dog with a Great temperament"

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the "temperament" just isn't right- and in cases like that we as ethical canine rescuers have to make those heartbreaking decisions, but in the cases where temperament is solid and a non issue we need to really make sure that we set those dogs, all dogs up for success and move them forward- without being the enabler to a disability that just wasn't there in the first place-

I say this because I have lived and learned of what "unintended consequences" we as great caretakers can create with a dog by thinking that we are being loving & caring- When my 12-year-old Mastiff/Am Staff cross Renny was a puppy.

I had investigated his cruelty case where someone had duct taped his legs and mouth shut and took a pair of office scissors and cut his ears off- for months and into the first year of his life I babied him and let him get away with everything, he had no structure at all . Why? because I felt so sorry for what had happened to him that I let all my training knowledge fly right out the window, he was just going to do whatever he wanted to do- errrr uhhh so I thought- that was until he began to make his own rules and they were certainly not want I had wanted when he was fully recovered and a whopping 120lbs adult sized dog.

He was unruly because I babied him and didn't give him the structure he needed, instead I gave him the much of the  “ILUC” and not enough structure and he became unruly and bossy to me, yes- I said it- he was. past tense now, he is no longer like that as I came to my senses, Nowadays we are much better balanced and much happier- GEE I could have saved us years of aggravation had I only followed my own advice 12 years ago.

I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t show them love, compassion or be daunting over them but we must not let the abuse they suffered stand in the way of giving them a well-balanced life- we can’t allow the past to hover over them all the time or get in the way of a forward movement.

If we do it’s like saying, You CANT recover dog- you just can’t do it- We need to remove that word CANT- because they CAN, IF we show them how. Truly, they already know "how" It’s us as humans that hold them back a lot of the time because It's hard for us humans to let go of the past, and that’s normal and that’s really not what I am asking for anyone to do. Its painful and maddening to us and we should always do what we can to make sure the people who do these things to these animals are held accountable for their actions.

My point is this, as horrible as the abuse is to a dog- we must move them past that and move them on to the future- No one likes to live in the past- why would we want to stay in the past- for abused dogs or dogs that have suffered a trauma they certainly don’t want to live in the past- it's not happy there nor is it useful to them, so they move on- and when they have someone who will show them a different way of life they lie that and they move forward to that.

That’s what we want for Turner, Yes whatever happened to him was certainly horrific and the man who did this to him will have his day in a courtroom, and we will be there to see that he is held accountable for what he did, but Turners future is our focus at the moment- steering him out of the past and into the future- a bright one, a RIGHT one.

It’s our job & commitment as the rescuers, citizens & caretakers to be the ones who remember those horrible things that were done to these dogs and make it a point to attend court trials, write letters, be the advocates- but we cannot keep the dogs in the past- It's also our job to be the ones who regardless what they have suffered, be the ones that give them the tools they need to move them into the future.