Good things in small packages

Caroline and Cammie are just two of the almost 2,000 dogs that PARTNERS! Canines has rescued from overcrowded shelters so far this year.

Dear BooneDogs: I’ve been reading your column this summer, and was just wondering why you seem to gravitate towards medium and large dogs. Why no small dogs?

How ironic that you would pick this point in time to ask this question! Although you are totally, 100 percent correct in your assumption that I always have preferred to own dogs on the larger side, I have recently acquired a love for —and a longing for the companionship of — small dogs. That wasn’t always the case. When I started working in shelters and also when I started doing my own rescue transports, I did focus on saving the really great larger dogs that crossed my path and needed rescue, mainly because the larger shelter dogs are those often needing rescue the most. However, through my rescue work with PARTNERS! Canines, I have, especially during the past few years, met so many wonderful, adorable, highly adoptable small and toy breed dogs that I no longer refer to them as “ankle biters,” and I actually look forward to the day when I can adopt one of my very own.

In the meantime, though, I am happy to announce that I am currently fostering two wonderful little dogs, Caroline and Cammie. These two little girls came to us through one of our rescue partners in Surry County. Cammie is a purebred Chihuahua, and Caroline is a “Chiweenie,” a “designer dog” of sorts made popular by unscrupulous breeders in the region who are currently breeding all types of mixed breed dogs and selling them at outrageous prices to unsuspecting people who don’t seem to know that these very same types of dogs can be adopted from our local shelters. While we don’t know for sure where Caroline and Cammie came from, or what happened to them that caused them to be given up, we do know that these two have experienced the stress of abandonment and will need a little time, patience and TLC to recover. But the good news is that they will likely recover.

What I like about fostering these two tiny dogs, who are so much smaller than the type of dog I normally foster, is that even though they came in small packages, they are real dogs.

Far too often, I see people carrying their little dogs around, refusing to put them down, or even worse, pushing them in strollers, which would be fine except for the fact that most of them are perfectly able and even more willing to walk to wherever they’re going. (Stay tuned for an upcoming column on the need all dogs have to move forward.) Although they’re small, they still act like my dogs, or like any other dog for that matter, and when I’ve attempted to take their dogness from them, by carrying or carting them around, dressing them up, or doing the other things that steal most dogs’ dignity, they’ve made it known that they just won’t stand for it. So, Small Dog Lesson #1 for me.

One of the things we struggle with as a rescue is finding more dogs just like Caroline and Cammie for our transports. We rely on finding cute, small, “in demand” dogs to keep our transports going, so we can continue to rescue lots of dogs. This is how it works: All of the shelters we have here in the High Country and those we work with across western North Carolina find themselves overcrowded with unwanted, homeless dogs, some from time to time, others, chronically. And that’s where we come in to help. Unfortunately, many of these dogs are larger dogs, who were bought or acquired as cute little puppies, and who then became a nuisance or a “non-necessity” in their family’s eyes once they had the audacity to grow into what they were bred to become: large dogs. Although we try to rescue as many of these large breed dogs as we can, the sad fact is that they are just more difficult to adopt out or find homes for, resulting in our rescue partners’ understandable demand for puppies and small breed dogs.

Thankfully, when we send them puppies and small dogs, we’re also able to save some others as well, including some of the really great large dogs, who are the ones that most need our help. But, the reality is that while we can help most of the healthy puppies and nice small breed dogs that enter the shelters we assist, we end up leaving many of the larger dogs behind, not because they don’t deserve a second chance, but simpy because there is nowhere for them all to go.

It’s a sad reality, and one we wouldn’t be forced to face if everyone who owned a pet dog would only consider spaying and neutering to be part of the necessary responsiblities of owning a pet (which it is). It’s also the reason why my pack is composed of medium-sized and large dogs; I like to adopt dogs that I know may be more difficult to successfully place elsewhere.

But, for now, I’m happy in the fact that I have two great little dogs here who not only deserve a second chance, but who will also likely get that second chance. Cammie the Chihuahua is already learning to trust people again, and will be ready for her forever home in no time.

Caroline the Chiweenie is healing from the tail surgery we provided for her in the hope of alleviating the pain she was experiencing from a broken vertabrae, and only time will tell if she will achieve full recovery. But she’s feeling good, things are looking up for her, and all signs point to that full recovery. We also firmly believe we’ll find a great home for her too, one that won’t mind at all that she’s missing part of her tail and may need a little extra time to learn to fully trust them. But in the meantime, these precious little dogs are here, they are temporarily ‘mine’, and all three of us are pretty darn happy it worked out that way.

About BooneDogs

BooneDogs is a weekly column by Melissa Bahleda, certified canine behavior counselor and founder of PARTNERS! Canines, a Boone-based nonprofit shelter dog rescue organization.

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