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What is Irresponsible Rescue? Meet Begley

March 6, 2015

There has been much turmoil among the Dallas rescue community lately; a lot of talk about “irresponsible rescuing”. It’s hard to look past the idea of saving as many lives as possible to see just what the ramifications of over-ambitious rescues really are. Begley’s story is one of such a rescue. The story of what can happen when there is no plan. When good intentions simply aren’t enough. I have wanted to share Begley’s story for quite some time, but have held off as many of the players in this tale are still very involved in the rescue community and active with the Dallas area shelter. However, keeping silent about this only benefits those at fault. It is my hope that many independent and budding rescuers will take note and re-evaluate their practices after leaBegleyrning what damage can be done.

Begley’s story begins 3 years ago as he and his 2 siblings ended up at the local shelter. They were all only 3 months old, eager and playful puppies just starting out in life. These adorable puppies tugged at the heart-strings of one Dallas rescue volunteer. She couldn’t let their lives end this way, and although she had no plan and no foster, she scooped them up and freed them from shelter life. Or did she? With no foster lined up, this rescuer took Begley and his 2 siblings to a partnering boarding facility. Everyone loves puppies, right? Certainly a foster or adopter would be found shortly. But no foster or adopter ever materialized. Perhaps the rescue got caught up in the next save, and the next, and the next, and so on. Or maybe these puppies just fell through the cracks due to poor communication. Whatever the reason, Begley and his siblings spent the next year in that kennel without the interaction and guidance they needed to thrive. Those once happy puppies withdrew, becoming more and more unsettled and reactive as the months went by. Finally, the inevitable happened – one of Begley’s siblings bit an employee of the boarding facility. As a result of either lacking communication or poor rescue management, the boarding facility owner took Begley and his siblings back to the shelter. That’s right – once again these dogs found themselves at the same Dallas shelter where they started. The biter was quickly deemed to be aggressive and was euthanized. Begley and his remaining sibling would be next. Fortunately, another rescue stepped up in the nick of time. DFW Rescue Me had a plan in place to deal with this situation, and Begley and his remaining sibling were immediately placed into experienced foster homes.

This story should end here on a happy note, but no, for Begley it continues. DFWRM understood that this would not be an easy rehabilitation or a quick adoption. As rescuers we not only have a responsibility to the animals we save, but also to the public at large and their general safety. Begley would need time, patience, and guidance to acclimate and adjust. But love can save them all, right? Unfortunately that is far from the truth. Begley didn’t thrive immediately in his foster home. His once playful puppy spirit was broken and he shut down. While he enjoyed the company of the other dogs in the home, he was terrified of any and all human interaction. He paced and whined and flattened himself in the nearest corner in an attempt to be invisible.

For over 2 years now Begley has remained in foster care. I am his second foster mom – only because his first realized that while she made remarkable strides with him, she had taken his progress as far as she could. Even after all of this time has passed and we have worked diligently to rehabilitate Begley, we know that he is likely still not adoptable. Begley is a wonderful dog under the right conditions, but heartbreakingly he often falls victim to that cage of fear in his mind. His relapses are sporadic and he shuts down at the first twinge of stress with the slightest change to his routine or when out of his normal element. His fear is so irrational and paralyzing that I honestly can’t predict his behavior in any situation. I cannot in good conscience set him up for failure with an inexperienced handler/adopter.  There is no doubt in my mind that Begley could (and should) have grown into a “normal” dog if he wasn’t forgotten and mishandled in his original rescue. He is a perfect example of irresponsible rescue and should never have been forced to develop this nervous, fearful, and unstable disposition.

In a rush of emotions to save them all and figure out a plan later, Begley’s story is far too common. Responsible rescue is not just about covering expenses, it’s about the overall well-being of the dogs we attempt to save. We must focus our efforts on what we can realistically accomplish. By diving into every body of water, it is the dogs who ultimately suffer.

  1. Julie permalink

    Well said, Jill. While I am very greatful Boots & Begley made it out of DAS (twice) alive, it will always sadden me that Begs is not the dog he should have been. You & I (and Jim & Tam) have seen what an absolutely entertaining, sweet, goofy, lovable companion he can be. Unless that one, special adopter is found & is willing to see through his fear, Begs will stay with DFWRM – NOT a bad place to be by any means, but not the life that bright eyed, big eared puppy should’ve had…
    I can only hope that any well intentioned rescuers out there that read this realize that getting them out of a situation (be it a city shelter, off of the street, out of a less than idea home) is the easiest part. Securing a stable foster home, finding them a soft place to land, investing time and patience in rehab & training, attending adoption events, and, finally, finding them the forever after they so deserve – that’s the hard stuff. And the most important part.

  2. Vickie Hurst permalink

    Beautiful piece…..So poignant and so true…..thank you!

  3. Julia permalink

    I would say the same about Jaxx. Rescued from an abusive home, put into boarding for three years, not having any walks or human interaction for at least the first six months due to being labeled aggressive…He is so sweet with puppies and old blind dogs, I have no doubt he would have been a great family dog had he gone into a foster home immediately. Instead, his traumas were left to fester and even though he’s made huge strides with me, he still hates kids and has the occasional urge to bite a stranger.

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