Medea, Spring/Summer, 2003, The Monterey County SPCA
Fearful Eskimo dogs placed in loving homes
Terry Glasco adopted a timid dog, "We'll See." (right) from the SPCA four years ago before adopting "Medea," (left) one of the Eskimo dogs. "The SPCA took a lot into consideration to make sure the dogs found the right homes," said Terry. "The workshop made me feel better - I saw that other adopters were working with similar problems. These aren't average dogs (ed, this is a link to the American Eskimo Dog Rescue Association web site, www.heartbandits.com, but Medea is making quantum leaps every day."
As was widely reported in the media, The SPCA accepted 64 American Eskimo dogs in December after they were surrendered by a terminally ill breeder. Because most of the dogs were frightened and unsocialized, it took nearly an entire day to capture them at the breeder's Prunedale residence, where they were kept in outdoor runs and kennels. Except for four puppies, all the canines were adults, four to 15 years old.
Once the dogs were transported to the SPCA, the real work began for dedicated animal care staff who provided daily attention and TLC. The dogs received medical exams, and SPCA clinic staff began spaying, neutering, and providing badly needed dental care. At the same time, Humane Educator Lisa Giesick performed the labor-intensive task of rating each dog's behavior and personality traits. Only five of the dogs received an 'A' rating as highly adoptable. (ed. Medea was a B+.) The remaining 59 animals exhibited varying degrees of behavior issues due to their previous isolation. Over half of the dogs were extremely withdrawn, and would cower and urinate involuntarily when approached. (ed. The first time I picked up Medea, she peed all over me.)
Special needs dogs require special homes
The SPCA was flooded with adoption requests, but half were for puppies, and others were not for special needs dogs.
"Most of the dogs were very fearful," said Lisa. "We knew we had to find quiet placements with patient people who were willing to work with the dogs." Lisa personally interviewed all the applicants and developed a specialized workshop to educate adopters on the dogs' specific behavior problems. In the workshop adopters investigated breed characteristics, learned bonding exercises for fearful dogs, and received take-home behavior packets. All adopters signed contracts to ensure that the dogs' special psychological and veterinary needs would be met, with the support of SPCA counseling as needed.
In all, 48 of the 64 dogs were placed into loving homes. Three of the adopted dogs were borderline aggressive and needed intensive behavior modification. The SPCA located a breed rescue group, Heart Bandits American Eskimo Rescue, which placed the dogs with experienced adopters. Sadly, sixteen dogs had to be euthanized due to their highly aggressive, fear-biting behavior.
"We are gratified that most of the Eskimo dogs are now with loving families who are willing to give them the extra attention and understanding they need," said Lisa. "As with all the special needs pets we receive throughout the year, the commitment is greater, but so are the rewards."
The 64 American Eskimo dogs surrendered to the SPCA were housed in a separate wing at the Adoption Center dedicated to their care. Staff marked the dogs' foreheads with color-coded vegetable dye so they could easily recognize individuals and track their progress.