In five minutes of ignorance, we nearly threw it all away. Our dog, Vector, is a Sato, which is Spanish for “street dog.” He survived three years on his own in Puerto Rico, one among approximately 250,000 strays on an island whose canine homelessness problem is so infamous it literally features a place called Dead Dog Beach (official name is Playa Lucia).
Vector is 20 pounds of tough-as-nails fortitude. He competed for scraps within the unforgiving Caribbean heat and humidity. He lost his tail, a toe, chunks from both ears. A gaping scar adorns his snout.
“ Street dogs are more likely to run than U.S.-based rescues, 95% of whom are adolescent dogs given to shelters by their overwhelmed original owners.”
Finally, he was rescued by the saints at The Sato Project, who save as many strays as possible and find them forever families on the U.S. mainland. Weeks later, on September 25, 2013, Vector took his first tepid tour of our front room . The family had replaced famine. He had done his part: survived until he could live.
The first walk, almost last walk
What my wife and that i did next was as understandable because it was ill-advised. We snapped on Vector’s brand-new harness and took him for a walk. Barely a block from home, Vector stopped and, in one Houdini-esque motion, shimmied and shook freed from his harness. He then bolted into the first autumn night, his haunches rapidly diminishing before disappearing altogether. a bit like that, our first walk together almost became our last.
Fortunately, with an important assist from strategically placed meatloaf, Vector returned. But that was after two hours of searching, swearing, and eventually sobbing. We had nearly negated Vector’s salvation —
and the love and dedication that went into saving him — in one well-intended act.
Always use a harness on new rescue dogs no
matter where you’re or how friendly your
new dog seems. Until they’re bonded, they don’t realize you’re family. Photo: Ksenia Raykova | Getty Images
The trust gap
We never should have had him out there — or a minimum of , not so cavalierly. Jill Breitner, canine visual communication expert and founding father of California-based Shewhisperer Dog Training, explains why. First, Jill points out the importance of distinguishing rescue dogs saved from outside the mainland U.S. from those adopted at domestic shelters.
“Street dogs are more likely to run than U.S.-based rescues, 95% of whom are adolescent dogs given to shelters by their overwhelmed original owners,” she says. “So when you’re rescuing a street dog, fear and trust are significant factors early within the relationship because they’ve never been domesticated.
“You weren’t Vector’s rock yet,” Jill continues. “He’s a nimble, quick survivor and, due to that, a highly elevated flight risk.”
At the very least, Jill explains, my wife and that i should have had Vector wear two harnesses, with each folks holding a separate leash. Escaping two harnesses simultaneously is an act even Vector couldn’t have performed. Ideally, though, we should always are housebound that night — and for several days thereafter. Pee pads at the best , and keenly monitored backyard visits at the worst .
Vector was comfortable with us approaching him indoors, but some rescues aren’t . If the dog is so fearful that he won’t even let new relations near him, Jill explains, it’s going to even be necessary to use a leash indoors for a short time , until a bond is made . This mitigates the likelihood of escape through an open door or screen window.
Accurately in my case, Jill surmises that new owners are often naïve to the subtler signs of fear that rescue dogs, and particularly street dogs, frequently exhibit; indications that a trust gap exists.
“In addition to typical fear expressions — shuddering and whimpering — smaller cues like yawning, looking away and lip-licking are often signs your dog is frightened.” Jill created the Dog Decoder app to assist demystify dog visual communication to assist dog owners with this.
Today Vector may be a full-fledged, bonded
the loved one who wouldn’t consider deed , especially from his human brother , Nicholas.
Tag that dog
Dr. Keith Samson of Brookside Veterinary Clinic in Bloomfield, New Jersey, agrees with Jill’s caution-first approach. He also advises an analog solution that, he finds, is increasingly overlooked in today’s digital-centric world.
“Microchips are great, but the very very first thing a replacement dog should get may be a collar with the owner’s name, address, and telephone number attached,” Dr. Samson explains. “If the dog runs away, this enables whoever finds him to return him on to you instead of get scanned at a shelter or elsewhere. Those modern ‘into the system’ extra steps are valuable, but also give the dog more chances to urge away again.”
Today Vector may be a nub-wagging, face-licking, full-fledged loved one. We couldn’t picture our lives without him. We were lucky that night. Others won’t be so fortunate. Don’t make an equivalent mistake my wife and that I did. Practice flight aversion with all new dogs — especially new rescues, and doubly so for street dogs.