Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evaluating New Basenjis

As a dog lover and a rescue volunteer, it's often very hard to understand why someone would want to give up their dog.  When I hear about a basenji that's being given up, my first instinct is to blame the owners.  Judgmental thoughts immediately start to roll through my head:  "How could they do that to their poor dog?" "They must be irresponsible people!" "Don't they care about their dog enough to change?"

I imagine that many of us who are passionate about dogs often feel the same way, and it's tough to remind ourselves to reserve judgment until after we learn the details of the situation.  But we must remember to try very hard to do just that until we truly understand what's going on, because time and time again I have been proven wrong after passing unfair premature judgment on an owner. 

Take for example the family who recently asked BRAT to re-home their basenji because they are working long hours and don't want their dog to be crated all day and night.  My initial thoughts when I heard about the situation were, "Well why don't they just hire a dog walker?  Why did they get a dog if they were going to crate it all the time?" But then I went to evaluate the dog, and I found out the truth -- the family has owned their basenji for a very long time, and they love him very, very much.  He is well-trained, 100% affectionate and great with handling, well-cared for and up to date on all of his vetting, and he has the most joyous baroo I've ever heard.  His owners recently experienced some financial hardships and had to take on second jobs in order to pay their mortgage, so that's why the sudden change to working long hours.  As a result, the basenji is starting to feel some separation anxiety when they leave, and it upsets the owners that he's crated so long in the first place. They can't afford to pay a dog walker or doggie daycare, and they considered getting a second dog to keep the basenji company but didn't think that would be fair to the new dog to crate him all day.  They have tried to think of anything else they could do to remedy the situation, but since there doesn't seem to be a workable solution they decided to contact BRAT to find their basenji a home where he will be with people all day.  They refuse to take him to the animal shelter because they know how much that environment would upset him, and they're not trying to "get rid of him" by any means - they truly just need some help in locating a loving and basenji-savvy home for him.  As volunteers and ambassadors for the basenji breed, that's exactly what BRAT is here to do, and it makes me happy to be able to assist this family in doing the most loving, responsible thing they can do to give their dog the quality of life he deserves. 

Of course, on occasion after learning the specifics of why the dog is being given up or the state of its health, it does turn out that my pre-judgment was warranted and the owners are just crappy people.  But more often than not, it turns out that the owners giving up their dog are really truly caring people who are between a rock and a hard place, and just want to do the best they can for their beloved pet.  Many tears have been shed and the decision to re-home their pet has not been arrived at lightly.  Usually there have been many intervention measures that have taken place to remedy the situation, and quite often the family is willing to try additional intervention suggestions in order to avoid having to give up their pet.   But sometimes re-homing truly is the best solution, and it's our job as rescue volunteers to help make that happen.  And as much as we can, we need to remember to do so without passing judgment, and to give people the benefit of the doubt. 


  1. My first encounter with BRAT was surrendering a dog. Cleo, our first Basenji, was in danger. And we were in an untenable situation. We just moved to a new home that took a long time to find because of the dog friendly requirements I had. Because of transfer difficulties and pack mechanics, our dogs were at four different houses. When we brought all of our dogs back together, a day at a time, Cleo and our Rottweiler had a terrible fight. It ended with Cleo rushed to the emergency vet and 50 stitches. We tried everything to enable keeping both dogs. We built specialized fencing in the backyard so when Cleo was outside she could not fence fight through our French doors with Kyrie, the Rott. We tried some training techniques, etc. Inevitably it came down to finding a new home for one of them. We chose Cleo because we felt she had a better chance at being adopted. When the BRAT volunteer came to meet us and Cleo when spent most of our time in tears. (I'm tearing up right now.) But the ladies were so understanding and so good with Cleo that it made this awful decision bearable. The found Cleo a great home within days. I talked to Martha, Cleo's new mom, who is wonderful, in order to organize Cleo's delivery. When I met Martha that too helped. Martha and I still talk after three years. Se sends me pictures of Cleo and tells me how she is doing. It was the best experience possible for this horrible situation. My husband still keeps a picture of Cleo in his office. We will always love her and know we are blessed because of organizations like BRAT and people like Martha. Because of this encounter, when I decided to volunteer, I chose BRAT.

  2. A perfect example -- thank you so much for sharing, Lori!