Not All Dog Rescues Work Out

Over five months ago, we adopted Teddy, a Tibetan terrier mix. He was five years old, and cute as a button. We had no idea what his life had been like before his owners surrendered him to the animal shelter.

After about six weeks, Teddy really started to relax. He began playing with toys, and racing around the living room, hoping that Molly (the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon) would chase him. She often did, barking in frustration because she couldn’t catch him. (Karma’s a bitch, Molly dear. You did the exact same thing to Sophie when you were a puppy.)

We soon discovered, however, that Teddy had a few physical boundaries that, when violated, turned him into a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. It’s as if he was possessed for 10 seconds, then normal. One of the boundaries was human feet, so he might have been kicked a lot. We hired a trainer to help us, and I worked with Teddy every day, and kept him leashed to me all day to help establish dominance. We muzzled him and did desensitizing exercises, touching his feet and body. It was going well….then not well…then well…then not well.

Turns out that I, as a person with clear boundaries, somehow chose a dog with clear boundaries. Melissa and Molly, on the other hand, do not have boundaries. When you don’t have them, it’s hard to recognize and remember that others have them. Teddy became my dog, following me everywhere. Melissa became, to Teddy, “The Other.”

To make a long story short, after five months it was clear that Teddy and Melissa/Molly weren’t a good combination, which upset all of us.

A friend of ours who’d met Teddy, and spent an evening caring for him, stepped up. “I’ll take him,” she said. “I live alone, don’t have visitors, and I can respect his boundaries.” 

We have never given away a dog. Any dog we’ve owned–purchase or adopted,  no matter the problems—stays with us until he or she dies. But after five months of really, really trying, I had to accept that we couldn’t do that this time.


Three weeks ago, Teddy went to his new home. He’s doing well. I miss him. Melissa even misses him. It’s easy to fall in love with a dog even though he has ‘issues.’ Luckily, he’s only five miles away, so I can visit him whenever I want.

A friend recently asked us for advice. She’d rescued a little dog from a horrible living situation, but the new dog wasn’t getting along with her existing dog, and there was lots of stress. She wanted to find him another home, but felt guilty, as if she had to keep him. We reminded her that she’d done something important—getting the dog out of a difficult situation, which is the first step. 

I guess we have to look at Teddy’s situation that way. We got him out of the shelter. We showed him what a good, safe home looks like. We taught him lots of things. We loved him every day.

Now it’s someone else’s turn.

We’ll get another dog soon—there are too many dogs stuck in kennels to not open up our home and try again.

9 thoughts on “Not All Dog Rescues Work Out

  1. Why is it that doing the “right” thing is sometimes the hardest to do? We feel like failures somehow . . . like we’ve done something wrong. Not so!

    You and Melissa (and Molly) provided a halfway house for Teddy enabling him to start his recover from his former life. Now what a great solution to have found another good, loving home for your little fluff of a mop!

  2. I agree with Mama Pea. Sometimes the best decision is the one that rips our hearts out. You got Teddy out of a bad situation, and got him into a healthy, happy one. Ya done good. And the ‘right’ dog is at a shelter waiting for you…

  3. I couldn’t have said it better than “Mama Pea”! It’s very painful to have to let go, but…doing the right thing is not always the easy thing. I hope you can feel proud of what you’ve done for Teddy and for your family. You set a great example.

  4. Thanks, your comments do help me feel less guilty. I’m very used to making things work, so when they don’t, it feels like a personal failing. Gotta get over that….

  5. I feel for you and have been there – rest assured, you did the right thing! You got Teddy back on his feet and helped him a lot and knew that he needed a new place in order to thrive. I had to place my Sophie about 9 years ago when it was obvious that she and my then 3 year old daughter weren’t a good match (running toddler, small dog, toddler fall down on dog, mom screams, baby cries, 3 year old cries, mom cries, and so on). Hardest thing every to get her into a new home – but best thing to do. Sophie still sends us Christmas cards 🙂

  6. Yes sometimes we are but the comforting stepping stones to helping the rescued get to higher ground, that counts for a lot, their higher ground sometimes doesn’t stop at us.

  7. Hi – I saw the title of your post on another blog and HAD to see what it was about since we are a pack of seven rescued dogs, some with physical handicaps and others with issues.

    I totally and completely agree with what you have done! You are SO right in not trying to make it work and making everyone, human and canine miserable. One of our pack “doesn’t play well with others” but is easily kept away from those situations that aggravate her.

    By trying to help Teddy (and it sure sounds like you did what you could, a whole lot more than some people would) you were able to define his fears and as a result be sure that his new home was a good fit. A big thanks to you and also your friend that took him in!

    I’ve bookmarked your blog and will be checking back in to read more about the farm life.

  8. I’m not sure what else you could possibly have done – and in the end he’s got a great home that is a better fit given his challenges. I think most people wouldn’t have worked at it as long and as hard as you did – so I hope you’re not feeling bad any more.

  9. Thanks, everyone. I am feeling better because Teddy’s doing well with our friend. She’s getting out more by walking him several times a day, and loves taking him to PetSmart. (As a cat owner, she’d always been jealous of dog owners who could parade their dogs around the store. Now she does it!)

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