Nothing Like Normal

I came across a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel listed for adoption the other day. He’s not in a Cavalier specific rescue, but a good one nonetheless. I don’t want to point out too many details.

I could have this all wrong. I don’t know this dog at all, I haven’t spoken with his foster mother or the rescue, all I know is what I read, and it broke my heart. Not only for the dog but also because the lengthy description kept describing this adult puppy mill rescue as nothing like a “normal” Cavalier.

I guess I don’t know “normal” then because my puppy mill rescue has a lot of the same behaviors.

She’s not a big cuddler. She likes to be near you but, for instance, right now she is at the far end of the couch, away from me.

She hates to be picked up, carried, or held in a restraining way. The best thing we ever did for her was getting dog stairs for the couch and the bed. She loves the stairs so much that when my wife tripped over them and broke a piece, Callie had to wait a day for us to fix them and she was depressed all day long. She wasn’t even that excited about treats. That’s right, a Cavalier so depressed she didn’t care about food. Freedom is better.

She shakes and runs if touched from behind, even just brushed accidently. Nobody can reach for her head to pet her at first, always her sides so she can see your hands at all times.

She grumbles all the time, licks her lips, wiggles her nose, and makes this sound that I will do my best to spell phonetically – bhuumph – when she is annoyed or wants something or unknown reasons. She makes the sound so frequently that my daughter started calling her “Bhuuphy” which, of course, turned into “Bhuuphy” the Vampire Slayer.

I am being somewhat facetious here.

These points are all equivalent to ones in the adoption ad. Callie was terrified of everything (working on it), she is still “nothing like a normal Cavalier” apparently, but it’s hard to see that because she’s my Cavalier.

I know she’s not ever going to be the type of dog who runs to the door to greet me, who climbs into my lap or feels totally safe all the time, but she’s here, and I am doing the best I can with my normal.

My point is that most puppy mill rescues exhibit a lot of these same behaviors. A lot of puppy mill rescues are “not normal” for their breed. When I went to meet Callie, there were a couple of Bichon/Poodle mixes from a puppy mill, and they were wholly different than dogs of that breed mix I have met before.

The puppy mill is what makes the dog “not normal,” but to repeatedly point that out is detrimental to the adoption of puppy mill dogs everywhere. I didn’t rescue a Cavalier to get “normal,” I rescued a Cavalier because it mattered to me.

I don’t want individuals adopting puppy mill rescues without understanding the specific issues that come with the dogs, but I also don’t want people walking away just because that rescue dog came from a puppy mill.

I don’t accept the distinction of “normal” and “not normal.” I don’t accept the idea that just because a puppy mill rescue might act differently than dogs of their breed raised from puppies in a home, they are NOT like their breed at all. And, you know what, half the description of the dog sounded just like a Cavalier to me.

10 thoughts on “Nothing Like Normal”

  1. Always be open minded about the dog’s potential. Our Ray (a rescue) was about as distant as one could get, and had an aggressive response if his space was invaded. We had him muzzled for quite a while when in public. He has just past his 4 year anniversary with us and, while he is still reserved about strangers, he is very affectionate with us. Time can be a great healer if approached intelligently and with much patience. There’s always hope!

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    1. That’s how I feel too. Although I don’t believe I could have taken on Ray, I don’t like this distinction of “normal” vs. “not normal.” It’s about who you are and who the dog is, not their relationship to their breed.

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      1. Absolutely agree! Two children being raised by the same parents will often turn out very differently. Why anybody thinks that certain breeds/litters are all going to be alike is beyond my understanding. One can only predict traits based on breed, but to expect nothing more than those traits is unrealistic. An irresponsible owner can turn a “passive breed” into a major liability without too much trouble!

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  2. We’ve adopted numerous rescues who suffered horrendous living conditions before we found each other.
    One had given up and was on death row as completely unadoptable. He had been so abused he cried, wet himself and cowered anytime anyone picked up a stick shaped object near him. Certain women types terrified him…and not being familiar with Bouvier behavior the shelter though he was old and hopeless. We were tipped off by a kennel worker and managed to pry him loose from them. We think Raggs was abiouyt 18 months old. It wasn’t fast, but Raggs became a fabulous dog – we cherished him as much as he did us. Just have patience. They can’t explain what happened to them or what they know or expect. Slow and steady.
    I love the way your pup grumbles and talks to you. What a charmer this one will be in a while – after she figures it out and decides you are a keeper.

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  3. Normal can be overrated, don’t you think anyway? I would categorize our fearful Lab mix Luke as anything but a normal Lab. He’s certainly totally different than our first Lab mix Maggie. Yet he is one of the most loving and smart dogs I have ever had.
    Categorizing dogs by their breed doesn’t always make sense. The two beagles we’ve had have been total opposites. Each dog has an individual personality shaped by many factors; and being raised in a puppy mill would be a huge factor for any dog.

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    1. I am amazed at how often dogs are stereotyped by breed (Golden’s love everybody), by history (rescues are trouble) etc. etc.
      Just think about people! Two offspring from the same parents can be vastly different in character. A poverty stricken upbringing can produce amazing individuals, just as an affluent upbringing can produce delinquents. A religious family can produce an anti-religious offspring… and so on… and so on.
      Knowledge of a dog’s history can certainly be used to speculate potential issues, but it is nothing more than speculation. If anybody disagrees with me, then I can only suggest thinking about the superior (?) species…. being us! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And we stereotype all those individuals. I love that comment, though – knowledge of history gives us speculation but not all the answers. Sometimes we can figure out what’s going on based on what we know, but most of the time we are left to understand the situation by growing to know our individual dog.

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