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September 17, 2012

Update: Helping Rescued Dogs Recover and Learn to Trust

Last month, The HSUS helped rescue nearly 50 dogs from two suspected fighting operations in Michigan. Our policy is to treat every rescued dog as an individual, not as a category, and our hope is that they can eventually be placed with rescue groups or adopting families. Daisy Balawejder, coordinator of the HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition, sent this report last week from our emergency shelter in Kalamazoo, where she’s overseeing the care of the dogs from the raid and rescue.

I'm back in Kalamazoo and I just wanted to share a little bit about my experience here with these rescued dogs.

I am always checking myself and trying to put the brakes on when I start having expectations of the dogs. Like I tell the volunteers, we're dealing with trauma victims. They need our patience and care. They don't need us to draw conclusions or have expectations that they may or may not live up to. We just need to observe them and try to meet their needs.

Marshall, a brindle dog rescued from a suspected dogfighting ring in Michigan
Photo: Julie Baker
Marshall, one of the rescued dogs.

There were many dogs here who were very flat, emotionally shut-down, unsure, afraid, weary, and wary. Many dogs were reviewed over and over again by behaviorists, looking for any measurable progress.

One of the dogs, Marshall, is a big brindle boy who was very traumatized. You could see the confusion in his face. His life had been hell—but it was the only life he'd ever known. He must have been wondering, was he safe here? Could he trust us? He eventually settled into the routine and began to relax. It was a long process, but every week, he was a little less nervous. The notes from his socialization and interaction with volunteers showed his progress—the nervous, cowering, unsure dog was becoming a curious, loving, gentle, friendly dog.

Two weeks ago we made a huge, fenced indoor play area. Marshall's kennel door faces the front of that area. Marshall is so happy to sit and smile and wait his turn. He goes for walks daily and is blossoming into a really wonderful boy.

I appreciate and understand that these operations take a lot of resources. Recently I posted this on Facebook: "Does giving a chance to survivors of dogfighting take a lot of resources? Yes. It is proportionate to the amount of abuse and exploitation they have suffered, and to the loyalty and love they have to give." It's such a great thing for me to know that the organization I work for shares that sentiment. 

I just wanted to share this with you, along with a photo of Marshall taken last weekend. His smile pretty much says it all. Thank you for the opportunity to be here with these dogs, to help them find their way. I can't tell you how proud and honored I am to be a part of this. The extra time here has been such a blessing.

We rescue animals to prevent cruelty and spare them suffering. But we also do it to give them a second chance.

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