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The many merits (and challenges) of adopting a dog

One day, a mighty black dog by the name of Rio, was standing hesitantly in front of a rectangular cage with steel bars. It must have been 1 metre in both length and width. Perplexed, the poor dog couldn’t understand what its purpose was, until someone standing behind him savagely shoved him in and closed it shut. The man who was pulling the cage with an iron chain whistled nonchalantly. Rio realised that he had been abducted by this man. Scared for his life and feeling defenceless, he started barking but that soon turned into whimpering. A mouth guard had been placed on his muzzle, which intensified his fear tenfold.

He started shivering as he looked with eyes wide open at the unfamiliar surroundings. “Is this a nightmare?”, he wondered. “Is this going to be my new home?” Unfortunately, the latter was true. Days passed. Those days soon turned into what seemed like weeks. No food was ever given to him. Poor Rio was starving. Was this his cruel destiny? His muscles ached and he could barely harness any energy to stand on his paws. The only thing that kept him sane was this recurring dream that someone kind-hearted would come and rescue him.

One day he was woken up by what sounded like chaos. His perception was hazy as the starvation led him to a perpetual state of semi-slumber. He was unable to discern what exactly was going on around him. When he weakly lifted his head, he saw shadowy figures in blue uniforms standing there with their voices muffled. There were cars with rotating blue and red lights. “Who are these people?” “Is my end near?”, he asked himself. Rio collapsed in a deep, deep sleep, although he could still hear distant voices around him.

The blue uniformed people carefully lifted the motionless body of Rio and took him to a dog shelter. The staff members of the dog shelter immediately came to his rescue. They fed him and gave him the medical attention which his emaciated body craved so much. This place was the polar opposite of the one prior, where he was held captive. The white robe-wearing people here were kind and showered Rio with affection. After several months went by, Rio slowly regained his health and strength. He became lively again and the torture he had gone through before arriving at this place started becoming a distant memory.

Rio also caught the attention of a couple who had been visiting the dog shelter for some time. The mighty black dog left an impression on them. Soon after they agreed that Rio had stolen their hearts and he was the dog they wanted to adopt. However, adoptions from dog shelters work in a transition-like fashion. Dogs are not taken to their new home cold turkey.

The adoptive couple did their homework beforehand. Preparations had to be made for the arrival of this new four-legged family member, which included understanding the animal’s temperament, as well as taking their time to understand the amount of mental and physical trauma the pet has experienced. The couple were also ready to adjust their current and potential future lifestyle to be able to give all the required care and attention to this dog.

This true story echoes the many cases of orphaned animals. A neglected animal without someone responsible and caring enough to nurture him, deals with daily pangs of hunger. The poor animal awakes to desperately forage for another day. There are animals who must deal with abandonment or the trauma of changing several homes, not feeling loved or living in difficult situations. Thus, their inherent dignity has been scarred, where there is so much pain, suffering and darkness.

These animals deserve to have their needs met, as well as to be treated with love and compassion. Those who find loving homes and families are truly the lucky ones.

Here are several useful tips that can help a new pet adapt to your house:

  1. Be prepared and make sure that you are ready to take care of a pet no matter what.
  2. It’s important to give your new pet space to retreat when he/she becomes overwhelmed or scared. Let the pet be.
  3. Establish a safe place for elimination to avoid mess in your house.
  4. Learn to read his/her body language. This way, you can support your new pet better.
  5. Training helps to build up his/her confidence and strengthening the owner-pet bond. Be patient and consistent throughout the training. Training exercises for your pet are helpful in cementing the relationship between pet parents and new pets. It is also a way to strengthen the line of communication. Working with your pet can make life easier and more predictable, which helps reduce her anxiety.
  6. Seek the help of professionals, whether it is your veterinarian for the pet’s medical needs or dog trainer for his emotional and behavioural aspects.
Maria Mifsud

About Maria Mifsud

Maria graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) in 2008, then went on to read for a Masters in Probation Services at the University of Malta. After years of being part of the Government workforce, she realised that to better understand her clients and be more equipped, she had to further her studies by enrolling in a Masters in Systemic and Family Psychotherapy with IFT-Malta. Some years later, she continued to pursue her studies in Clinical Supervision with IFT-Malta. Maria is also a qualified Victim Offender Mediator.

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