Saving Ollie - Part 4 in a series about a shelter dog with severe behavior problems

Click to read Part 1
We know what sort of person Ollie will need to create a good home for him. He needs an experienced dog-owner committed both to safely managing his environment and to working on his behavior. We’re not, however, so sure what environment would be best for him.

Initially, we all wanted a quiet home for Ollie where he could enjoy his new family and be easily confined away from visitors. Now I wonder if he might actually need the exact opposite. Ollie has thrived in the shelter. He happily observes the constant activity from his private room off the reception area. He passes happily through a crowded lobby or parking lot when he leaves the shelter for any reason. He enjoys meeting new people (another risk I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s still not my decision). Dedicated volunteers put in hours helping him overcome his continuing fear of entering strange doorways.

Perhaps Ollie behaves so well because our behavior modification work has helped put his demons behind him. On the other hand, it may be the sheer volume of new people passing in and out of Ollie’s “home” that prevents the return of his aggressive behavior. So what environment would be best for Ollie – a busy life interacting with many people to keep him open to the world, or a quiet life that minimizes the risk of him biting again? I honestly don’t know.
Few homes could provide the opportunities for socialization Ollie enjoys at the shelter. Who can say how much human contact he needs to maintain his current wonderful attitude? A not-quite-active-enough home might mean a high risk of Ollie biting again. Opting for a quiet home where strangers seldom come and go, however, might guarantee the return not only of Ollie’s aggression, but also of his general anxiety. I guess we’ll worry about that question when we find the right person.

The shelter may actually be the ideal home for Ollie. Nobody could accuse AAF of warehousing him. He has his own room with a queen-sized (slightly chewed) futon. He goes for several walks most days, some of them to romp in the creek behind the shelter. He enjoys regular car rides that sometimes include trips to get an ice cream cone. He also benefits from the attention of a whole group of knowledgeable animal lovers committed to improving his behavior. The only real downside to permanent residence is that shelters exist to place dogs in their forever homes, not to become those homes.

I’m now touching on the issues that divide full service shelters and the no-kill movement, but there are a few other topics I want to cover before I go there.

Click to read Part 1, Part 2, 

Part IIIPart V

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