At most rescues or shelters, dogs of different sizes are segregated from each other and often kept in individual kennels. Animals at shelters are in transition and have little opportunity to form bonds of friendship even with animals of their own species and size.
Home for Life's care for life philosophy means that we have the luxury to get to know our animals as individuals, and our animals have the time to reveal themselves free of preconceptions. Although animal species and breeds within the species have typical characteristics, each animal is also an individual. A small dog can have such a strong personality that a big dog turns out to be the perfect friend, and a dog feisty with strangers or other dogs is soothed by the calm presence and camaraderie of a cat. A sanctuary, the third door in animal welfare, is a true home to the animals. A feature offered by sanctuary that is unique even to a typical adoptive home is the friendship a sanctuary animal can enjoy with other dogs and cats. Many pets in the typical home are quite isolated from others of their kind. Although dogs and cats dearly love their human caretakers, the companionship of animals of their own kind provides an understanding that only another cat or dog can offer.
The case of Snoopy, a black and tan, smooth coat neutered male dachshund illustrates that rules are made to be broken when it comes to stereotypes about dogs. Snoopy came to Home for Life nearly 6 years ago as a surrender from a family where he had lived from the time he was adopted as a puppy until he was age three. This family had a special needs child, and though everyone, including Snoopy, tried their best, this home grew to be a challenging place for Snoopy to navigate as daily life adjusted to focus less on the family dog. It was difficult to help the child understand the dog's boundaries, and when Snoopy felt he was being intruded upon, he made his objections known by becoming aggressive- growling, snapping and nipping. Mostly to relieve the stress on this family, and to give Snoopy a second chance, Home for Life agreed to accept him at the sanctuary when other rescues had turned him down for re-homing due to the behavior he had demonstrated.
Many people make the mistake of thinking of dachshunds as small lap dogs. It's true they are close to the ground with their short legs, but in the way that really counts- a dog's attitude- they are as big a dog as one could hope for. Dachshunds were bred to hunt and kill badgers, a ferocious opponent. To this day, dachshunds retain the determination and courage that made them such relentless hunters. Snoopy wasn't out in the fields hunting badgers- he was trying to fit in in a busy suburban household, and his formidable personality was not serving him well in this situation. Initially at Home for Life, he met with obstacles as well. He was so confident that he landed like the Marines at the sanctuary, never looking back after being surrendered by his family. He was assigned to live with a group of small dogs and Snoopy, after "sizing" up his roommates, was sure he had found his calling as the boss of the group. The other small dogs begged to differ, and let him know before long, in several loud skirmishes with Snoopy ending up on the "short" end of the stick, that HE was definitely NOT the boss of them.
We had to get creative after Snoopy's first placement failed. A group of large and medium sized dogs who live next door to our group of small dogs seemed to be receptive to Snoopy through the shared fence, and Snoopy seemed interested in them as well. The bigger dogs were at Home for Life for nipping and biting at people but, as a group were harmonious. The group included Spiderman, Jake, Lily and the late, great albino rough coated collie, Trudy, who was also deaf. The group all got along but felt the lack of a obvious canine leader. We thought that Snoopy was feisty enough to hold his own with this group, and that these dogs might just accept him. We gave it a try, and it was more than a success! The dogs not only got along, but at long last, they had the fearless leader in Snoopy that they had lacked. Taking his role very seriously, he checked out all arriving visitors to the sanctuary, and the others relied on his discernment before relaxing about anyone new. Under his leadership, the group of diverse personalities became a cohesive pack. Snoopy became special friends with Trudy the collie, and the image of them running in the fields by Mandy of Glimpses of Soul Photography, St. Paul, MN is still at treasured photo of the Home for Life archives.
A few years ago, Trudy passed away from kidney failure, and the dynamics of the dog group seemed to change with the addition of another large dog to take her place, Jacques the bi-colored standard poodle. Snoopy was also aging and had developed low thyroid, a condition which required medicine to treat. Snoopy missed his old friend Trudy and was ready for a new group of friends who were more compatible in energy and age. At Home for Life, we have multiple dog groups, and knowing each of our dogs as well as we do, it's possible to mix and match to promote fun and friendship. Creating the dog groups is more art than science, but we kept an open mind about where Snoopy could be happy. Once again. the perfect placement for Snoopy was an eclectic group of docile dogs, varying in size but distinguished by their lack of an obvious leader. It was as if they had been just waiting for Snoopy to join them and take over- or so it seemed to Snoopy. His new group of friends includes the shy Sheltie Monty, Susie and Daisy, Muffy the schnauzer and Otto the Pekingese mix, the hound mix Rocket and English Setter mix Jazz. Now part of this older group of dogs who reside in the feline leukemia building, Snoopy lives in peace and is always in the center of the critical action at the south end of the sanctuary where he directs, with much fanfare and drama, traffic in the kitchen. During breakfast preparation, treat time and medicine distribution (dog medications are administered wrapped in lunch meat and liver sausage) he positions himself strategically to be the first to grab any dropped pieces of food or treats. Snoopy's new friends defer to his leadership during the high stress times of treat and meal times, knowing that they will also get their fair share. The other dogs tolerate Snoopy's bossy attitude with good nature, realizing that he is more bark than bite Keeping order is hard work, and these days Snoopy spends a good part of his afternoons burrowed under blankets napping, and snoring.. Calling his name will bring the entire pile of bedding that he's resting under to life!
Snoopy's earnest and intense personality was misunderstood and could have so easily resulted in his demise. Instead he has found the safety and acceptance at Home for Life which allowed him to find friendships on his own terms.
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