One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. – Anon.
Junkyard dog. Nothing makes my eyeballs itch quite like those two words put together. Technically, it’s just a dog who is set to watch over a person’s property. Sparta has a similar job description: please don’t let any burglars in. However, therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare put it. Sparta has sooooo many other, much more important jobs. Afterall, you don’t have something precious guarded by something even more precious. Sparta is our:
- Pillow for reading
- Tension reliever
- Hiking buddy
- Floor monitor
- Trick learner
- Darwin Dogs mascot
Most junkyard dogs I have known (and usually rescued) have one job, with little to no benefits. At times they are literally chained to their post. Most have never even been pet by the hand that (sometimes) feeds them. Most are initially ill-suited to their jobs, but due to the torture of deprivation, solitude and exposure, become unbalanced, and can require training to readjust to the role of family pet. There’s only so much an animal can take, after all.
The amazing thing is, though, that the number of dogs who have difficulty transitioning from junkyard dog to family pet is actually pretty small. Take Icee, for instance. During my tenure as a trainer for a local shelter, Icee came in as a cast off. Apparently this vicious looking beast was actually wearing an ill-suited costume: the outside may have looked a bit menacing, but inside she was 100% sweetheart! Funny enough, that was the cause of her being at the shelter. Her “owner” had a junkyard. He bought Icee to guard it. Unfortunately, he never told her what to guard it from, because apparently she let the place get robbed. Several times. The owner brought Icee to the shelter and gave an ultimatum: either we take her in or he’d put a bullet in her head.
Icee was such a trooper. She was completely green – no manners, no leash training, nothing! But she was game. She was the perfect dog to start the new volunteers with. She’d give you a run for your money, and would even drag people at the end of the leash, but even just a modicum of Piloting made her true manners shine through. However, with just a bit of Piloting, she would put Miss Manners to shame in the etiquette department. She handled like a Aston Martin. She desperately wanted to please, and generally just being around her would please anyone. Her attitude was a mix of Shirley Temple and Pippi Longstocking. Impish, but wholeheartedly good. She helped a lot of people see the results from just a little bit of Piloting. She found her forever home not too long after arriving at the shelter. Humble beginnings. The regal happily-ever-after she deserved.
Recently I read an article about Elmer and Elsie, two junkyard dogs who were recently saved. Their Cinderella story is pretty similar except for they are still looking for their happily ever after. Not all dogs can come from grand origins, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of storybook endings. I urge you to overlook backstory on dogs, because they all start at the same place. Once upon a time…the ending is up to you.