Mimi’s Forever Home

April 22, 2013  

How kennel stress almost kept us apart

By Tim Leehane
This article was originally published in Mimi’s Forever Home.

Although we didn’t know it at the time, our search for Mimi began in August 2012, shortly after the passing of our 12-year-old Golden Retriever, Bailey. Even though our 12-year-old, mixed-breed rescue dog, Morgan, was enjoying the perks of being an only dog, we all felt there was room in our family for a new dog when the time was right.

Kate had been perusing the Facebook pages of our local shelters for some time, and on November 29th, came across this video of Mimi on the San Jose Animal Advocates Facebook page.

We all thought Mimi was a cutie, but weren’t sure if we were done grieving or if we should take on the responsibility of a new dog right before the holidays.

As time passed, the more we talked about it, the more we realized that we were ready to bring a new dog into our home. The one thing we knew for sure is that we wanted to rescue a dog — we wanted to give a great life to a dog that might otherwise not have one. And soon after those discussions, we saw a video on the San Jose Animal Care Center Facebook page that was posted on December 2nd, with the following caption:

“It’s raining, but we’ll be open as usual 11am-5pm today. This is Mimi’s last day available for adoption. Watch this video and if you are interested please come by. Sharing the video helps. Let’s get Mimi a home today!”

Her last day? Through misty eyes, we agreed to head to the shelter right away to see if Mimi might be a good fit for our family. We piled into the car with Morgan and the kids and headed to the shelter to meet Mimi.

Not what we expected

We arrived just as the shelter was opening. We walked our kids through all the open kennels. It was hard for all of us to see so many beautiful dogs in need of a home. We came across two other dogs that seemed like good fit, and then we saw Mimi.

Mimi didn’t look anything like the dog in the video. She was barking at us and baring her teeth. We were expecting to see a happy dog who would run to the front of the kennel to greet us. But she backed away and looked very upset. Our kids were a little scared by her reaction to us, and to be honest, so were we.

What is kennel stress?

Kate explained to me that she had read about this on their Facebook page — that Mimi was just scared, frustrated, and lonely and that this behavior was just kennel stress. I was still a little concerned, so I hopped on to the web site to read what Kate had read. There was a note from the shelter manager that explained Mimi’s situation:

“Hi Friends, this is Staycee Dains, shelter manager. I know there are a lot of concerns about Mimi…

“…Our dedicated staff and volunteers have been working with Mimi for over a [month]. She is a wonderful girl, friendly with other dogs and loves people when she is not in her kennel…

“…Mimi’s issues happen in her kennel, where she spends 95% of her time and where potential adopters first meet her. While in her kennel, she displays extreme aggression toward other dogs who pass by her kennel and in the kennels next to her. She then redirects this aggression onto the people who are looking for a pet to adopt, who then become terrified of her.

“We cannot continue to hold her in this current condition. It is unsafe for her, other dogs, staff, volunteers and potential adopters. I hate that we have to make these decisions. It is not fair to Mimi or to all of us who love her. But, dogs that act like this also keep adopters out of rooms where other dogs are kept that need homes too. They also frighten other animals who begin to display similar behavior. Without a family or rescue to come and take her, we cannot continue to jeopardize other animals, staff, volunteers and clients…

“…Please come meet her and take her home. She will love you and you will love her. She will bring you great joy and happiness if you love her, teach her and protect her.”

Suddenly it all made sense. Kennel stress is the reason Mimi is still here at the shelter! People are not interested in meeting her because she isn’t herself when she is in her kennel; but this is where everyone first meets her.

Getting to know the real Mimi

We decided to give Mimi a chance and meet with her as well as two other dogs. All three meet and greets went very well. All three dogs were wonderful around the kids, Morgan got along fine with each of them (given it was their first meeting). We knew it was Mimi’s last day at the shelter, so we spent extra time with her in the volunteer room.

Mimi was wonderful. She cuddled with the kids. She sat in our laps. She gave everyone kisses. This was a totally different dog than we saw in the kennel. In fact, our kids didn’t even remember seeing Mimi in her kennel after spending time with her alone. We knew that we couldn’t leave the shelter without taking Mimi home with us.

Mimi has been a wonderful addition to our family. In the time since we brought her home from the shelter, she hasn’t shown any behavior similar to what we saw in her kennel at the shelter. We created Mimi’s Forever Home to educate potential adopters about kennel stress and to urge you to keep an open mind when you visit the shelter. Ask questions about the dogs and take a chance to visit with those who may be displaying signs of kennel stress. You just might find your own diamond in the ruff.

A very heartfelt thank you goes out to the staff and volunteers at the San Jose Animal Care Center and countless other rescue organizations that work tirelessly to find homes for beautiful animals like Mimi. You are our heroes.

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