Dolly’s Law

Written by Kelly Hare,

This is written in memory of a little dog called Dolly whom we hoped to build a better a better life for, but she was sadly killed on the road after escaping from a fosterers house. This split second reaction to a situation cost her life and we endeavor to prevent this happening again, such was the devastation to all involved

Prior to any dogs in our care moving into any home, a home check is carried out. The purpose of this is multiple but primarily the house and garden is assessed for the dogs safety and the probability of escape. We would expect a secure fence or walled area. Expected fence height would be variable depending on the size of dog intended for the home. Many times in my rescue career I have had people accuse rescuers of making it too difficult to adopt. What they fail to see is the immense responsibility we have to keep these dogs safe and ensure their future is a safe and secure one. We are not a perfect rescue, there is no such thing as a perfect rescue, and while we strive to get it right, at times we get it wrong. It is not at any point because we are not trying, holding the future of another living being life in your hands is not a responsibility we ever take lightly.

Safe Rescue for Dogs was primarily set up to help dogs in emergency situations, wherever in the world that dog may be. Over the course of the last few years, this path has led us to become heavily involved in the adoption of street dogs in other European countries, particularly Romania where we have built up a strong trust with rescuers. Our experiences over time have shown us that whilst these dogs make fantastic loyal pets, there are differences in their behaviour that MUST be discussed prior to them entering any household

There is seldom any problem with housetraining these dogs, we find them to be instinctively clean in the home. There is seldom a moments hesitation in most of these dogs to climb on a sofa or find a bed by the radiator despite very few of them ever having been inside a house. The instinct that we finds remains in them is the failure to recognise boundaries. A street dog has never been kept behind a fence, they have roamed free going where the need takes hem to find food. Most will have suffered abuse on the streets or been in difficult situations that they have had to escape from, using their strength and their wit.  A street dog can climb, dig or wait for the opportunity that a door or gate is opened a fraction to far. They are not always thinking of running away, sometimes they will get a few feet away and then wonder why they did it and come straight back, but the instinct to run is still there in the primary stage and it is strong.  In dolly’s case she ran, later she tried to get back home but was spooked by people trying to catch her and she ran further afield. Dolly’s carer had been told of the street dogs ability to run and had taken the right steps to guard her, but what she didn’t bank on was Dolly being able to open the living room door. When he returned from shopping he opened the front door, not knowing that she had access to it and before he could react, she had shot past him. The carer, and the charity have had to live with this, and it is a hard cross to bear, we are determined that lessons will be learnt from it in her honour.

If you have a front door that does not lead out into a fenced area, try not to use that door. Use the back door that IS fenced and secure. If this is not possible, don’t walk trough the door with bags of shopping or swing the door open wide until you have checked that the dog is safely away from it. In the first few weeks and months of the dog living in your home maybe consider a stairgate at the front door. This is not fool proof, as dogs can jump them but it may slow then down enough for a reaction to prevent disaster.

Check your fencing regularly, particularly after severe winds, more dogs of any nationality  go missing after freak conditions than at other times. Keep benches, and anything else that can be used to climb on, away from fences and boundaries.We have even heard from another rescue of dog climbing a tree to escape! Where possible keep gates locked to prevent human error of visitors/ tradesmen leaving the gate open and put a sign on your gate alerting people that dogs could be running freely in your garden. Most importantly, during the first couple of weeks of having your new dog in your home, be vigilant and do not leave your new charge unattended in your garden until you are sure they are settled and comfortable with you. You will know if a dog is constantly inspecting boundaries and looking for a means of escape. This is not a reflection on how happy they are with you or the level of care you giving them, that is simply not how an ex-street dog thinks.

Try to find out as much as you can about the history of your dog. In many cases the adult dogs from Romania will, at some point, have come into contact with the notoriously abusive dog catchers. Some will have spent time in the horrific public shelters. To know what they have been through is a real asset to explaining certain behaviour. It is common for a Romanian dog to be overly sensitive about their necks and their ears being touched or handled. If you have ever seen the brutal use of a dogcatchers pole by the dog catchers or the barbaric and infected ear tags, you will instantly understand. In my opinion it is not acceptable for these fears to continue through their lives, nobody likes to live with fear. I always make an effort to de-sensitize the dogs to the fear of these areas being touched in a kind and controlled way. I know many people will use harnesses on these dogs to avoid the stress of having anything around the dogs neck. I have so many dogs back out of harnesses throughout the years that this fills me with dread. I always train dogs to a slip lead as these are almost impossible to escape from. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I have never met a dog yet that couldn’t become used to them in time. ALWAYS have an ID tag on your dogs collar, it is a legal requirement for these to be worn at ALL TIMES!

The provision of this document is not an intention to put you off adopting a dog from our rescue. In 99% of cases adoption and the settling in of our dogs passes without incident. We have fostered and rehomed hundreds of dogs, but one loss is simply too many, and there are other incidents of escape where happily the dogs were returned home safely. Sadly for Dolly her life was tragically cut short, this could happen to any dog of any background but in her memory and honour, please, please take extra care to keep our dogs safe.

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