BOOKS: Don’t Dump the Dog

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2009:

Don’t Dump the Dog: Outrageous Stories and Simple Solutions
to Your Worst Dog Behavior Problems
by Randy Grim with Melinda Roth
Skyhorse Publishing (555 Eighth Ave., Suite 903, New York,
NY 10018), 2009. 216 pages, paperback. $14.95.

“My boyfriend doesn’t like my dog,” says a caller to Stray
Dog Rescue of St. Louis, a shelter founded and operated by author
Randy Grim. The caller wants to surrender Rover. What shelter
worker hasn’t answered a call like this? Shelter staff, including
Grim, would like to tell her to ditch Romeo instead, but politely
take down Rover’s pertinent information, hope the owner leaves a
donation and say thank you, have a nice day.

Randy Grim rescues dogs from the gritty, mean streets of St.
Louis. These dogs have often been kicked around, used as “bait
dogs” by dogfighters, or have been used to guard meth houses. Not
every stray dog is captured, so Grim often leaves kibble at feeding
Stray Dog Rescue cares for the dogs Grim and staff catch
until they are adopted. Some are placed in foster homes. Many have
gone home with Grim himself.
Not every adoption ends happily, despite screening to weed
out inappropriate adopters. Months or even years after an adoption,
some adopters return their dogs, for reasons suggesting that they
should never have had a dog. Max, for example, barked whenever
someone knocked at the door, barked to signal when he needed to go
outside to relieve himself, and barked if he saw another dog
trotting past. Annie’s people wanted to return her for being too
active. Grim asked how many times a day they walked her. They never
did. They only let her out to relieve herself, and failed to see
that as a cause of her destructive behavior. Such calls send Grim’s
blood pressure surging. He pops a few happy pills prescribed by his
psychotherapist and deals with each situation.
Saving dogs from the gang-ravaged streets in certain St.
Louis neighborhoods is stressful in different ways. Grim confronts
thugs with guns and knives. Hungry, frightened dogs with broken
legs or mange tug at his heart. There is always a pressing need for
money to continue his mission. Calls demanding help do not stop.
Most give him a Maalox Moment, especially calls about moving: “I’m
moving and I can’t take Fluffy. When may I take her back [to Grim’s
Grim wonders if the caller’s children are part of the moving plan.
Grim suggests that the owner find an apartment that takes
dogs. Many apartments do, especially with an additional pet deposit.
If that is not possible, then Grim says it’s is their responsibility
to find a home for the dog. A shelter should be the last option,
not the first. Not many people want to adopt twelve year old dogs
with arthritis. Not everyone listens, and yet another dog gets
dumped at Stray Rescue.
Grim may not have an official training title attached to his
name, but he knows how strays react to stress and fear. Years of
abuse can cause submissive urination. Lack of socialization is hard
but not impossible to overcome. Gnawing hunger affects a dog. If a
dog keeper is committed, Grim can help.
Grim recommends behavior classes, offered by many shelters
at reasonable prices; halter collars for hard-to-control dogs;
reward-based training; exercise, especially for young dogs; and of
course sterilization.
Never use physical abuse, Grim emphasizes. Crate-training
is not cruel, he believes, unless the dog is left inside for
extended periods of time or outside in the scorching sun.
Don’t Dump the Dog is entertaining, informative and at times
infuriating. The excuses Grim hears when people surrender a dog are
not new, but Grim and Roth turn each one into a useful lesson.
This is their third book together, following Miracle Dog (2005) and
The Man Who Talks to Dogs (2004).
–Debra J. White

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