thinking about rescuing a pet? find out if you have what it takes

Posted by Dr. Pippa Elliott on Sep 10 2014



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Do you have what it takes to rescue a pet?



From guinea pigs to bearded dragons to cats, all my pets are rescued. First came Skate, who was terrified of his own shadow and who had survived by scavenging for fast food scraps. Then Pilchard, one of seven kittens found in a bag hanging from the door of a bottle shop. And next came Widget, a stray left on the streets when her family moved. And finally Gravos, the bearded dragon, who was kept in an outside cupboard for 18 months with nothing to look at and no mental stimulation.

For me, rescuing is a no brainer. I can't imagine a home without pets, and I have the patience to turn an animal's life around by showing them the love they sadly lacked.

Animals find themselves homeless for all sorts of reasons. Some had caring pet parents who lacked the resources to care for them. Others are relinquished because of allergies, relocation or behavior issues. But whatever the reason an animal ends up in a shelter, they need security, stability, patience and positivity in their new homes.

As a veterinarian, I am humbled by the efforts of pet parents on behalf of a rescued animal, like the nurse who devotes her retirement to giving elderly German Shepherds a happy final few years. She takes on the old and infirm that no one else wants and shows them compassion. These dogs aren't pretty and come with limps and lumps, but under her guardianship they blossom.

Dogs like Molly – a scruffy, bony Shepherd, who could only shuffle along because of severe hip dysplasia. At her first visits to the clinic, her lack of trust was evident in a low head carriage, hunched appearance and flattened ears. But as treatment eased her arthritis pain, she came to understand that we were there to help, and a light came on in her eyes. Yes, she growls when a sore joint is manipulated, but then she wags her tail in apology and gives a lick of forgiveness.

Another patient that leaps to mind is Dave, a rescued Greyhound. The first time I saw him he quivered from head to tail with fear – even the tip of his nose shook. He had "no-go areas," such as his feet, and if I went to touch them this mild-mannered wreck turned into a snarling beast.

Over the years, Dave learned to enter the waiting room without trembling and cautiously approach reception for a treat. His final illness was a tumor in the bone of his back leg. Where once he would freak out if I touched a limb, in those last weeks, he stood as gentle as a lamb while the painful leg was redressed, never growling and totally trusting – such was the impact of his caring pet parent.

All of which leads to the question: Do you have what it takes to adopt a rescue? Have you the patience to ignore difficult behavior and reward the good?

I have yet to meet an animal that can't be turned around. My first cat, Skate, became my rock when my husband was in the Gulf War. Pilchard is naturally timid but utterly loving and sleeps on my tummy at night. After years of isolation, Gravos is understandably shy but he has the most amazing character and is now gaining the courage to show it. Widget is quite simply like a child to me; she is perfection in a furry coat.

Now it's your turn. Tell us about your rescued animals, and what advice you would give to someone considering adopting a rescue pet. Share your experiences in the comments below and help others to understand the challenges and the joys of rehabilitating a rescue pet.

Want more rescue stories? Keep an eye on your mailbox for this issue of fetch!, the “Rescue Me” issue.

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