Written by Brenda Yannuzzi of Delaware
My husband and I have been involved in pet therapy for some time and when my therapy partner (an adorable little Sheltie) passed away suddenly, we were stunned and greatly saddened. After several weeks of grieving, I got a call from a local shelter I volunteered at. A single father who was commuting out of state for his job needed a place for his elderly Border collie mix to stay during the week. The owner would take the dog home on weekends to visit with his 13-year-old son and expected to stop commuting in 4-5 months. He would gladly provide food, vet care and cover all expenses for the dog.
Hansel arrived at our house with NO training beyond letting us know that he needed to go outside. He couldn’t walk on a leash, he couldn’t ride peacefully in the car, he had never been socialized; he was not neutered so he had lots and lots of energy that he didn’t know what to do with (and neither did we). He was basically a 12-year-old, 75 pound incorrigible dog with no manners but a sweet disposition who got along well with our epileptic Basset mix and the cats.
He Slowly Slipped Out of Hansel’s Life
Weekend visits with the owner went well for about a month. In the second month, he called less frequently. By the third month (holiday season) he called to ask if he could take Hansel for a visit and we arranged the day and time. He never showed up. During the holidays, I tried reaching him; unanswered voice and e-mail messages and letters confirmed what I suspected: that Hansel was being dumped on us.
I continued to try reaching the owner after the holidays and three months after our last contact, I had to admit that we were stuck with this dog, and were not going to recover the vet bills or money for food as promised.
Once we established that Hansel was indeed abandoned and were free to do what we wanted with him, we decided to keep him. We immediately got him neutered, which calmed him down to a manageable level. A few months later, I bumped into a friend who does dog training and happened to have some free time and she offered to evaluate him. After just 20 minutes, she assured me that Hansel was extremely intelligent and eager to learn and to please. We spent a year training Hansel, who is a dream to work with. He quickly mastered all the basic commands plus a few extras, walks well on a leash and is calm in crowds of people. He sits politely when strangers want to pet him and is quite the gentleman now.
Hansel took and passed the exam to become a therapy dog and we now visit at a local senior center. He hasn’t fully grasped the concept that letting people admire and pet him and give him treats is his new “job,” but he’s a smart dog and I predict that soon he will be even better at making people smile. Until then, he trusts that this is what I want him to do and he gives it his best.
I don’t know how many more years we will have with Hansel. At nearly 15, he sometimes shows signs of arthritis and other health concerns, but he is young at heart and enjoys being a member of our little family as much as we enjoy having him. We do not appreciate the way in which Hansel came to be ours. It was cowardly and inconsiderate of the former owner to just walk away without a backward glance like that, but typical of the lack of loyalty many people have for their pets.
Luckily, this beautiful dog was dumped on people who had the time and desire to help make his golden years more meaningful. He is living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase
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