I never thought about adopting a pet. I guess I fell into the pet store trap. I never thought about how necessary it was. Every day a shocking amount of pets are sent to shelters or put up for sale by their current owners. There are even more pets that are being abused and neglected. These pets deserve a second chance. They come with their own set of problems and emotional baggage, but sometimes all they need is a second lease on life.
It wasn’t until recently I became totally aware of this plight. I had always known that there are many animals in pounds, shelters and Humane Societies across the country. I knew that pets were neglected, abused and abandoned, but I never had a personal connection to the issue. That is when I adopted my first pets.
I had been contemplating buying a bird for quite some time. I went to the pet store and looked at the cockatiels, and as cute as they were, none of them really stuck out to me. I didn’t have that connection. My boyfriend suggested I look in the classifieds and trader magazine. That is where I found the ad. A local woman was selling her lot of young cockatiels. You could buy one with a small cage for $50. I only wanted one bird, but when I called her she said she only had two of the lot left. Something told me I couldn’t separate those two and I agreed to take them both and a cage.
The first time I saw Batty and Beaker, I was totally in love. They looked so frightened. They were huddled together in their cage with one perch and a feeding dish. There were no toys in the cage, but I just thought she had taken them out. She was a breeder, and she did have other birds. I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to keep them.
I had a feeling they were cage bound and probably neglected when we were at the house. Just listening to her talk about how busy she was and how she didn’t have time to hand feed herself, let alone her birds, made me suspicious. She hadn’t even bothered to name them. I didn’t realize how correct I was until I made it home.
It became apparent rather quickly that the two were attention starved. They loved having us around and paying attention to them, but if they could see our hands, they would freak out. I put toys and treats in their cage. It took almost 24 hours for Batty to go anywhere near the treats and almost a week before they played with the toys. They had no idea of what to do with them. If I left the door open while I filled to food dish, they wouldn’t come out of the cage on their own. The way they flipped out when you put your hands in the cage (even just to feed them) was evidence that they had been mishandled. They are happy here with me, but they could still have a much better life. I am working on getting them to that point, but it will take a great deal of patience and training. That is something I am ready to handle.
Whether it is birds, cats, or dogs, many adopted and rescued animals have many of these same issues. They have been mistreated and now they have a good deal of emotional baggage. There are many reasons this happens. The breeder could just be in it for the quick money. Sometimes breeders just aren’t on top of thongs like they should be. This doesn’t mean they are evil puppy kickers. Like the lady I bought Batty and Beaker from. She was a nice lady, but she did not have a clear understanding of all the work she had to do. Sometimes the pet is bought for the wrong reason. They buy the dog because the child wants it, but what happens when the child loses interest? Sometimes the owner wants to upgrade pets.
With birds they will buy a parakeet or cockatiel and then upgrade to larger parrot. With dogs they will start with a collie sheltie mix, and then upgrade to a Dalmatian. Sometimes they get a pet because they like the idea of owning one. After the novelty wears off, the pet isn’t near as entertaining. All of these things can cause behavior problems and emotional damage they will take to any new home. Sometimes it is the behavior that pushes the original owner to give the animal away in the first place. If the animal is neglected, it will start acting out. If it is acting out, rather than fix the problem, the original owner may be more apt to get rid of it.
What ever the situation, if your adopted pet has been abused or neglected, you have your work cut out for you. Yes, adoption is a rewarding thing, but it isn’t a walk in the park. Your animal will have emotional baggage. They may be afraid of humans, they may try to bite. They may be a nightmare to train, but if you were in their position, you would be difficult too. Not to mention, even if their old home was hell on earth. It was still home. They may have been miserable, but it was familiar to them. If your animal is from the shelter they have been removed from their new home, put in a temporary home and now have been shuttled off to your home. That is a great deal of change. If your animal loves routine, they will not take likely to this. Most times the damage can not be undone overnight. You will need to build a relationship with your new pet. You will need to gain their trust and then take it from there.
When you are ready to train your new pet, remember each pet is an individual. You may have rescued Spot from the shelter five years ago and training him was a piece of cake. However, the new dog may not be as quick to trust you and will learn at a different pace. I see this with Batty and Beaker. Both birds lived in the same place for the same amount of time. They both had been treated the same. Beaker is more friendly and more responsive to humans. Even though he is still cage bound, I think he will not be that hard to train. He still doesn’t like hands, and is not happy when he thinks you are going to try and handle him. Batty on the other hand is much more vocal, and he will come out of the cage on his own. Now, if you try to approach him, he freaks out. If you get to close to the cage he tenses up. He will be much more work.
The best bit of advice I can give in regards to pet adoption is to always be sure to make an informed decision. Sometimes animals find themselves shuffled from home to home because their new family can not handle them. This creates even more stress for the pet. Ask yourself, can you afford this animal? Can you give it an adequate home? Do you have the time to dedicate to this animal? Are you ready to train this animal? If you aren’t sure, search online or read a book on pet training. Deciding it is too hard after the dog is home is not the best idea. Is this a start pet? Are you doing this just to appease your child? Remember this is supposed to be a second chance at life, not another nightmare.