Zuko’s Story : Finding friendship in the most likely place
By: Brittney Frazier, Found Chicago
If you love dogs, you have probably heard some of the rhetoric supporting the adoption of rescued dogs; dogs that have been abused or abandoned in one way or another. Phrases like “adopt, don’t shop” and “rescue, rehabilitate, rehome” express to anyone searching for a canine companion to avoid purchasing a dog and head to the nearest shelter for a unique selection to choose from. But all too often, rescue dogs are labeled as “broken” and thought to have too much baggage to make good pets.
As a dog trainer, I have certainly met my match in working with rescue dogs over the years. However, that’s not to say that a “perfect” purebred dog or two hasn’t been just as difficult to train or make manageable for their owner. I would like to share one rescue story that may shed some light on why many dog lovers are so passionate about animal rescue.
When one of our team members at Found Chicago begins their search for a new dog, we are all very eager to participate in the exciting process. Recently, one of our dog trainers began looking for a small, active new addition to her life, as she had recently moved into a dog-friendly apartment. She was looking for a young dog open to extensive training, as the dog would be working alongside her at work, learning things like agility and tricks. She would need a very social, intelligent, and well-balanced dog and we were all confident the right one would come along. And when an adorable Jack Russel Terrier mix popped up on the Chicago Animal Care and Control’s social media, she knew immediately that we needed to take a visit.
Within the last year, the city shelter has often remained at max capacity due to the fear of dogs suspected to have been exposed to the dog flu that ran rampant throughout Chicago during the Spring of last year. This means that the large majority of the dogs that wind up at the shelter are reliant on local rescues to pull them from the shelter into their care and find the dogs new homes to avoid euthanasia. Because dogs exposed to illness at the shelter will need to be quarantined before being put up for adoption, the process of rescuing dogs has become exponentially more difficult for Chicago area rescues. Consequently, without enough resources of foster homes and for veterinary bills for the sick dogs, extremely adoptable and desirable dogs are stuck at the shelter with no place to go.
We found Zuko, as he was later named, our sweet little terrier mix, in a far back corner of a flu-exposed pavilion, ears held high and tail wagging furiously. I’m sure he was just happy to see some new faces, as were several other small mixed breeds housed near him. Of course our trainer fell in love with him instantly and we knew what an amazing companion he could make. Just like every other visit to the animal control shelter, it is always so difficult to leave the others behind, with the uncertainty of where they may end up. With the population always so high, there is always the chance that the ones who fall most ill, are injured, or are displaying obvious behavioral issues, won’t make it to the following day. While it is rewarding to pull a dog out of that situation, I am never able to escape the feeling of guilt that I am unable to rescue more.
As we found out, Zuko had been living at Chicago Animal Care and Control for over a month. He was under a year old and in perfect health when he arrived. He was found as a stray, but appeared to have been well socialized thus far. It appears he was simply thrown away and lost in the system, where he contracted a bad case of kennel cough making it difficult to place him in a foster home. If it weren’t for the hard working volunteers at the shelter, we would have never known he was there, nor would have known where to find him.
It has been a few weeks now, and Zuko’s new mom reports that his health has improved greatly and he is everything she hoped he would be. He loves everything and everyone he meets; even his new feline sister! She has found that he enjoys playing ball, and is just as eager to please and learn new things as any purebred dog. She has extremely high hopes for him and is already teaching him manners and new skills. Little does Zuko know, he is one of the luckiest ones. However, many dogs we met the day we pulled Zuko may not be as lucky.
Although Zuko’s rescue story is not very unique or dramatic, it is highly representative of the dogs found in the Chicago shelter system and entirely all too common. There are hundreds of dogs waiting at the animal control nearest you who may have been forgotten or looked past for reasons out of anyone’s control. They are just as loyal, affectionate, intelligent, and trainable as any purebred dog, but have fallen on bad luck.
It is important to support your local animal rescue agencies because they are working to end this cycle, so that more dogs can live and enjoy a full life. Remember that it is only through education and sharing stories like this that people can know the benefit of adoption. Spread the word and save lives. Together we can make sure that all people know about the beautiful souls they might be missing out on.