Rocco: A Rehoming Success Story

Written in 2006 by Rocco's family.

When he was just seven-and-a-half years old, Chase, (our loveable, 100-pound-lapdog-wannabe-of-a-German Shepherd), was diagnosed with bone cancer and given up to six months to live. It was devastating news to us, and my husband and I found our own ways of dealing with (or, rather, avoiding) the impending loss: My husband simply refused to talk about it in any context, and I focused my mind on the task of finding another dog.

I’d always owned German Shepherds, and I knew that no other breed was going to satisfy me. With a new job and a very active toddler, I also knew that I didn’t have the time or patience to train a puppy; only an older, trained dog would do. I also knew that our new GSD would have to have certain traits: He or she would have to be loving, good with children, calm but also playful, and, of course, pretty. Armed with that knowledge and the internet, I began searching the GSD rescue sites for our new GSD.

I began my search more as a hobbyist, using the activity mostly as a distraction from thinking about Chase’s diagnosis. Then, as Chase’s condition continued to decline, I became more serious. I got really excited about one dog, only to be informed by the rescue organization that they would not adopt out to us because we lived too far away. Then I found a female listed with Central Illinois GSD Rescue who seemed like she might be a good fit, so I submitted an application and was thrilled when we were given the opportunity to schedule a date to meet her. We lived several hours away, however, and I just couldn’t make suitable arrangements for Chase’s care during our absence, so I ended up canceling our appointment.

About that same time I found a male GSD listed with another rescue organization who also seemed like he might fit our family. I submitted an application and was pleased to learn that he was being fostered in a neighboring community. A volunteer brought him to our home so that we could meet him while she did her home visit. We ended up adopting him right then and there.

We’d had our new GSD almost a month when the time came to say goodbye to our beloved Chase. Having over six months to prepare for this moment didn’t make it any easier to let go. The ride home from the vet’s office was extremely somber, but when I opened the door, there was a GSD waiting to greet me, and his presence helped to make the pain of Chase’s absence a little less acute.

Now that Chase was gone, however, it became gradually more apparent as each day passed that our new GSD was not working out. He was very attached to me, but he was, for no apparent reason, afraid of my husband, and his behavior with our son was becoming increasingly worrisome. After a couple weeks, we made the difficult decision to send him back to the rescue organization.

I couldn’t imagine being without a GSD for any length of time, so I quickly resumed my search – only this time I knew that our new GSD would have to come from a home with small children. And, since we had kept our rescue GSD beyond the two-week trial period and thus forfeited our adoption fee, we couldn’t afford to adopt through another rescue organization and pay another fee, which narrowed my search to owners only. I knew that, in order to better ensure that their pets went to good homes, many owners also asked for adoption fees, so I could only hope that an owner might waive that fee if she was convinced that I would give her GSD a safe and loving new home.

I tried to prepare myself for the likelihood that it could take weeks, or even months to find the right match, but now with no dog at home, my desire was more pressing than ever. I thought I remembered that Central Illinois GSD Rescue’s website featured listings of GSD’s that weren’t part of their program, and so I tried that site… and sure enough, I found the Community Dogs page… and Rocco’s listing. Rocco caught my eye immediately; something about his picture reminded me of Chase. I noticed that he lived several hours away, but with Chase gone, there was no longer any reason (besides a hectic schedule) why I couldn’t make the drive. I clicked on the link to view his profile, which indicated that he was living in a family with children. He just kept looking better!

I emailed the owner, and a few days later I was on my way to meet Rocco! When I turned the corner onto his street, he was out playing with children, and he looked so happy; I think I knew right then that he was going to be a perfect fit. When I met him up close, however, I noticed that he was not quite the handsome dog that I’d seen in his picture. He had a nice face, but he was SOOOOO skinny! (Not for lack of care by his owners, by the way, who had given him lots of love and plenty of food.) I have to admit that I considered for a moment my pride, having always owned very beautiful shepherds in the past, but he just seemed SOOOOO perfect, that my pride fell quickly away, and I fell instantly in love!

Several minutes after Rocco hopped into my car with very little coaxing, we were on our way! Although I’m sure he must have been a little confused and frightened, he never showed it, and by the time we were back on the highway, he was stretched out in the backseat, seemingly very much at home.

Rocco’s homecoming was all that I could have hoped for. Rocco accepted a warm embrace from our son and gave him generous kisses in return. As for my husband, who was no doubt a bit of a skeptic after having been rejected by our last adoptee, Rocco gave him one of those wary-of-strangers-sort-of-a-looks so typical of GSD’s, and then he buried his nose in my husband’s lap and gladly accepted his abundant affection.

And my heart smiled in recognition of a match so clearly made in heaven!

I am so thankful for Rocco’s previous family, who, first of all, gave him a safe and loving home during the time that they owned him, and who cared enough about his future to list him with CIGSDR’s “Community Dogs.” I am also very thankful for Central Illinois German Shepherd Dog Rescue, who provides such a valuable community service and who made it possible for Rocco and my family to find each other.

-Deanna from Missouri

Remember that any reputable rescue will always take back their dog if for any reason the owner can no longer take care of them. Also any reputable breeder will do the same no matter the age of the dog. If you choose to go to a breeder, make sure they will take back their dog at any time for any reason. This will be in the contract. If it isn't, adopt elsewhere. Many breed specific rescues will be happy to refer you to a reputable breeder.

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