Animal lovers across the internet are fuming over aDaily Mail news story about Shona Sibary, a woman who claims she buys puppies and gets rid of them when they are no longer 'cute' and easy to care for. Sibary claims that she spends huge amounts of money to splash out on pet accessories, veterinary operations and the dogs themselves. Some have offered compassion and understanding to this woman saying that the problem is probably rooted in some sort of emotional difficulty. Others have been less forgiving. Being dubbed the new Katie Hopkins/Samantha Brick, she has already faced a huge backlash on Twitter. Dog rescue groups and charities like Dog's Trust have written to her offering to show her the impact of abandonment on dogs...
Let me introduce you to someone.
This is Bailie. My future mother- and father-in-law just adopted him this week. Someone abandoned him too. He is a real sweetheart but he's got a lot of problems. The dog behaviourist who consulted us before Bailie came home says it's because his owner abandoned him when he was young. It's okay - we're working on it. In fact, he's not the first rescue dog my future in laws have rescued. Before Bailie they had taken in another rescue dog called Dylan. Dylan was an integral part of the family unit, always offering up a cuddle or escorting you around the house in the most gentlemanly fashion. Both dogs, having been abandoned by their previous owners, came with their own problems from having been abandoned. Dylan would howl sometimes, staring out the window as if waiting for someone. If he heard certain soap opera theme tunes he would wail out a sad cry. We never knew anything about his previous owners but we often think these things set him off because they reminded him of his past. My future mother and father in law noted that his ears pricked up and he looked around if anyone ever said the name 'Andrew'. His origins will forever remain a mystery to us as he was handed off to a shelter with no back-story.
Bailie, it seems, is a lot happier. He's just a puppy but, as a Spaniel x Beagle cross he got a bit bigger and more boisterous than his previous owner had bargained for. Once he was 'too big' and harder to handle, he was given up. Being part spaniel, his owner found him too energetic and too much to handle. Rather than dealing with his behaviour with training and showing patience, it's just easier to get rid of him, right? He is now living with a lot of anxiety. When someone so much as speaks to him he pees himself unexpectedly and without warning. He can't help it. He also cannot be left alone. He becomes distressed and starts to chew on things and tear them apart. To some, this may not sound like the ideal dog. If Shona Sibary had a dog like this she would have rehomed him pretty quickly by the sound of it. It doesn't seem to have occured to her that dogs, like people, do well with a bit of subtle training. If she's so happy to fork out for her pooch-purchasing habit, why did she not throw some money on a canine behaviourist and dog training classes? Thankfully he came to owners that realised he is a living being, not just something there to be cute and entertain us. Like all living things he has a personality as complex as our own. He wants love and attention and a stable home. Dogs don't understand why they've been abandoned. No one can explain to them why they weren't good enough. Bailie has been adopted by a family that will see his behaviour and offer him patience. He has been taken in by a family that will put in the time to train him and help him work through his problems with as much love and affection as we can possibly give. Sometimes we have to form an orderly queue to do so.
My point is that dogs are living things and not some hot commodity. They form an attachment to you and I have seen first hand the heartbreak they endure at being left behind. They cannot comprehend why you left them and it stays with them for life. Shona's dogs probably thought more of her than she did of them. Sure, Shona says that her dogs all have happy homes now (although details of her stories differ), but those dogs probably still wonder why their original family let them go so easily. Dogs, like wine, are good at any age. Last year my beloved pup, Hamish, passed away. I was a child when my parents brought him home and he lived with us until he was old. Two days before my birthday he passed away. I loved him just as much as an old mutt as I did when he was a puppy. Dogs, they say, are man's best friend and I've always found them to astound me with their depth of understanding. Hamish would always seem to sense when I was having a bad day and he would come and sit by my side as if to reassure me. In his old age he was very sick and had lots of health problems but I did not turn my back. I took care of him because that's what friends do. I miss him all the time.
I would urge anyone with a heart big enough to adopt an animal from a shelter to give dogs like Shona's a second chance at a forever home with a good, loving family. Many shelters will often accept donations and volunteers to help socialise the dogs in their care. They will never, ever understand why you left them and why they weren't good enough.
Now someone hand that woman a Tamagotchi and be done with it...