Know Better. Do Better. ~ Robyn Arouty Photography, Houston, TX

If you see a photo of a dog with their tongue hanging out & their ears not fully erect, you gotta know there’s something special there. She must have called me mama at some point…because only a mother could love that face!

Indeed! Meet Gracie, AKA Patti. And Ken&Barbie, her new parents. But, more about that later…gotta tell the story first.

8-ishPM & I had just dropped off a friend at their house in the ‘hood, off Patton Road in Houston. If you’re in rescue, they attract you like a magnet, you know. This one was chocolate, sitting in the middle of the road, just smiling.

Pulled over. No collar, no tags. And before I knew it, she had jumped in the front passenger seat & was licking my cheek. Long story short:  After days of signs, cruisin’ craigslist, etc., I named her Patti & fostered her for the next several months.

A local rescue, who shall remain nameless (lucky for them) was nice enough to sponsor Patti’s vetting & petfinder promotion. Was a bit discouraged when some time went by & Patti didn’t receive any applications. The rescue director thought she might look “too pittie” in the first set of photos. Maybe I needed to put a fancy collar on her & take some new ones? You just never know with people…she was so sweet & deserved only the bestest home…so I must have taken 3 rounds of pics or so.

Just about the time a really great application came in, I made the mistake of telling the rescue director that Patti loved to jump on the kitchen table & through the cutout in the wall into the other room. Hell, I thought it was cute & brilliant! The director…not so much. Next thing I know, she refers me to a “trainer” to schedule appointments for 2 intense sessions before she could meet the prospective adopters. Oy. Let them train her! She’s still a puppy. Shit. Mainly I was worried they’d find a new dog in the interim. BTW, I was strictly forbidden to contact them at all. (She’s only lived with me for ?? months…who better to discuss the baby & ask the right questions than me? But, what do I know, right?)

Anita arrived with a leather leash & metal choke chain collar in hand. Dude?? She said hello to me briefly & my other dogs jumped all over her in normal hello fashion. Patti was in the crate so she wouldn’t make a bad impression right off the bat & we could take her out slowly, as soon as my zoo calmed the phuck down.

Patti started to whimper…wanted out to give kissy greetings to our visitor too. Anita was standing approximately 5 feet from the big plastic crate. Without warning, she turned towards the crate & chucked the collar straight towards the metal grid in front…startling not only Patti, but me & my crew as well. I stood silent. Patti whimpered again. She picked up the metal chain from the floor & stepped back about 2 feet from the crate. Girlfriend flung that thing violently — metal to metal. That’s when it got scary…

Apple hid under the desk. Eldi was barking. & Ozzy, my chocolate miniature poodle mix, went totally wild & hysterical. Screaming & running around the office in a rage. I had never seen him do this in all the years he’s lived with me. Anita went after Ozzy next. Cornered him between a chair & the wall in the kitchen, turned the thick leather leash into a noose & got it around his neck. Then proceeded to drag him into the other room. (Yes, I thought I was in the twilight zone…none of this was actually happening. Right?)

She picked him up & pointed to an empty crate, “Is this his?” Just as I said, “No, it’s not. And Ozzy doesn’t like crates,” she tried to put him in the crate. That’s when he took a chunk out of her finger. Her blood dripping to the floor, “Serves me right.” Damn skippy! Why are you even messing with my dogs lady? But, again… we needed to have the training sessions so Patti could meet the really great potential adopters…so I continued to bite my lip.

The rest is a blur. It got a lot worse. Anita proceeded to abuse Patti for the next hour & a half…yanking on the choke chain every few seconds as we walked the neighborhood…never mind the marks it made on her neck or what fence her head just bashed into because of the power behind her tugs.

As we walked around the block, she spouted off her philosophies about dog training & the necessity of power & control in relationships. She didn’t know about my psychology background…& that I treated children in custody of CPS for abuse & neglect by their parents. In my opinion, I had just witnessed abuse to an animal from someone who called themselves a trainer & animal lover. She’s got a website & clients & everything. For the next 3 hours, Patti stayed in her crate with the door open; refusing to come out. Her spirit was broken & I was to blame. I’d never forgive myself for staying quiet. My only saving grace is what happened in the days to come.

An email went out to the rescue director as soon as Anita left. Didn’t want to forget even the slightest detail…she would surely freak & apologize profusely for the mix up. Nope. She sided with the trainer & condescended me for not requesting a different type of collar or method from them prior to the session. Let’s just say, it had been a very stressful several months dealing with this rescue & this was the ultimate in last straws.

I refused the second meeting with Anita & the rescue forbid a meeting with the potential adopters. (Tonite I found out that the rescue had been lying to the family & leading them to believe that Patti was no longer available for adoption). The only thing to do was pull Patti from their program. So I signed the paperwork immediately to do just that. I knew people. And I’d find her a home myself. But, what they didn’t know was I already had a copy of the application. Dialed the number right away to explain what had transpired. It was worth a try. Hopefully they hadn’t fallen in love with another baby now that it had been a couple of weeks since the app was originally submitted.

He was saddened to hear the awful story, but relieved to know she had not been adopted yet. Josh & his wife Charlotte hadn’t stopped thinking of Patti since first glance at her petfinder photo. Fer Realz??

Patti & I went out to their house that weekend. I brought all her stuff just in case. I was so nervous, but excited too. When the door opened, there stood Ken&Barbie…but with tears in their eyes…as if their own child had just arrived from the adoption agency. Patti ran straight to them & out of my grasp. Then she followed both of them around the house for the next 2 hours. I thought, “What am i now, chopped liver??” But I couldn’t have been happier! Patti had struck gold. They had already purchased everything necessary to bring a dog into their home & had hooked up with Stephanie Bennett, a positive based trainer that I recommended. (They never needed her services, btw.) I just can’t tell you the extent of the lovefest I was witnessing. They renamed her Gracie…& she had a sister. See Tessie in the photo? They are best friends.

That was a year ago…almost to the day. Josh has kept in touch to give me reports about Gracie’s progress. She’s gained 30 pounds, travels with them on trips & loves everybody. She sleeps in their bed under the covers with her head on the pillow like the queen she is. They take her on long walks through the trails several times a day. Oh! So, now it was time for holiday photos & Josh shot me an email last week. “Can Tessie come too?” Yay! My first ferret to photograph!

The reunion was bittersweet tonite. They thanked me again for bringing Gracie into their lives. They live & breathe her. As it should be. :)

(Note: There are options out there for canine behavior training. Interview these people & ask questions about their methods. This “ol’ school” militant style still exists & there are many out there parading around as “certified” dog trainers. In fact, one of them has a popular television show. (If you don’t believe me, feel free to google behind the scenes video of what is really happening during his sessions). But, as Oprah says, “When we know better, we do better.” Positive & reward-based training is humane & it works.)

Here are some referrals if you ever need them:

J-Canine Pet Resort

Michael’s Dogs

Peace, Love, & Dogs

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