Over the years, as sad as it is and how counter it is to the idea of rescue, there have been 5 rescued German Shepherds that ultimately revealed they could not be safely adopted. Of those lost souls, only one was euthanized almost immediately after being pulled. This particular boy I named Hero was classified as "Use Caution" which creates waning concern after pulling hundreds under this same advisement. Any one who is familiar with the GSD in shelters, know they are extremely stressed and can present alarming behavior. I have lost count of the number of shepherds who showed teeth, growled, lunged at the kennel gate, who ultimately were adopted and are now incredibly loved. These dogs were given a chance in spite of poor cage behavior which provided me affirmation of making the right choice to safe them.
It is important to understand the average scenario of pulling a shepherd from a shelter. Most shelters are under the same stress as rescues; space concerns, safety for other dogs, and safety of humans. The pressure to quickly pull dogs always seems to be too little time to fully make an accurate assessment of a questionable shepherd. The available background information is generally generic and minimal at best; "too many, needs more room to run, doesn't like kids". It is indeed a gamble because the dog I am willing to save is also going to be placed in my car by myself. The dog will also be taken care of each day by me which includes feeding, taking to the veterinarian, and all aspects of handling.
Let's go back to the shepherd who I had to euthanize for a moment. This boy less than 30 minutes prior to letting him go, gently ate a cheeseburger from my hands and leaned up against my legs to signal he wanted more affection. The first time I met him at his cage door, he was horrible. The second time, about the same and then strangely enough on the third time (different days), he was very calm and licked my hand. Time was growing short for him and his improved behavior was enough for me to give him a chance. I look back on that day and replay each step. What did I miss? Should I have given him one more try? Making absolute sure I was making the right decision, I asked the vet care staff their honest opinion. Their confirmation was helpful but I will never forget this boy. Anger then crept up into the layers of emotion..."It's NOT his fault!" It's the damn owners who didn't socialize him. This is the absolute truth.
When I describe a GSD as "mouthy", every shepherd owner knows exactly what I am referring to and always with a cheeky grin. This behavior presents a fine line of acceptable behavior or an undeniable sign of something more serious to come. It is not as easy to distinguish as one may think. My goal has always been to save as many adoptable GSDs as possible. There are adopters with different training capabilities and years of experience with the breed. True, I prefer adopters who know their drive and intelligence. It isn't for everyone. I believe there are more people who want a German Shepherd than who should truly own one. My God, they are beautiful and their loyalty is unmatched but they have some serious needs.
The number of rescued GSDs is somewhere around 440. All of these dogs lost their homes for these top reasons: unclaimed stray, behavioral issues, not enough time, landlord, and finally health concerns. There is usually one reason for a stray to be unclaimed; they were not wanted. As best I can, I give a shepherd a chance to get out of the shelter. I have to accept the risk if I misinterpret an action by them. I'm proud of the questionable shepherds who were facing certain death only to be running freely with their new adoptive families.
With this pride, is also the guilt of placing dogs who were later euthanized due to poor behavior. I look back on each one and I'm left with trying to figure out a puzzle. What did I miss? Am I giving too many questionable dogs a chance? The last thing I want for a family is to experience fearing their dog. God gave us his Creatures to provide us unconditional love as we are to provide them the same. How do you love your dog who scares you? You don't. The emotional battle that ensues with those who have experienced this, can testify to the deep pain that lingers. I don't want to subject anyone to this pain. Being loved by a shepherd is perhaps the greatest love of all. It is a love so true that many of us will never be worthy of it. How can I say "no" to a shepherd in need? How do I know who will go against all my hopes for them and their future homes.
It isn't as easy as it looks.