Vizsladogs, Ltd.

Adopting an "OLDER" Vizsla
By Jane Mellott

This article first appeared in the Vizsla Club of America's November/December 1998 "Vizsla News". Thanks to Jane and the VCA for letting the Vizsla Home Page reproduce this article.

As one of many regional coordinators for the VCA’s Rescue Program, I’m used to fielding calls from potential adoptive homes that start out, "we’ve seen these dogs and they are so beautiful, we’d really like to adopt a Vizsla! Call us if you have any 18 month – 2 year old dogs, preferably female, spayed and good with kids and cats." I usually stifle the urge to chuckle out loud. As I age, I’m getting very good at internalizing those outbursts of laughter in every facet of my life! I then set about explaining how our rescue program works and that young "perfect" dogs are VERY rare and that we hope to find loving homes that are willing to take on a dog with "some baggage." A dog with baggage can mean many things, as anyone can imagine. It runs the gamut with rescue dogs including stray Vizslas with no ID in shelters, products of divorce, or pet store impulse purchases that are as cute as a button when they bring them home but then turn into wild and crazy Vizsla teenagers! Occasionally, the dogs' owners have a change in lifestyle and are unable to care properly for their dog.

Recently, a discussion was held on the worldwide Vizsla e-mail List (to subscribe send an email about irresponsible owners and how they dump their dogs when times get tough. Personally, I’d RATHER they approach the VCA Rescue or one of the Regional Vizsla Clubs for assistance in placing these dogs. I refrain from judging owners that have surrendered their red dogs, but rather rise to the challenge of being an advocate for the DOG and commend the owners for having the wherewithal to surrender their dog to vizsla people.

Older Vizslas are difficult to place. Potential owners don’t want to bring a dog into their home, knowing from the get-go that they may only have a few precious years. However I have had the opportunity over the last few years to work with two older dogs that were successfully placed in loving homes. The new owners took the dogs’ needs into consideration. They lovingly opened their arms and hearts to a dog that needed a home. They knew that they wouldn’t have as many years to spend with their new companion, unlike those that hold out for that "18 month – 2 year old dogs, preferably female, spayed and good with kids and cats" placement.

A single man with a severe health problem which required hospitalization surrendered Ollie knowing that Ollie would be better off in a new permanent home. A VCA member in New Jersey first alerted me to Ollie’s situation. Apparently Ollie had been fostered by a gentleman who loved him dearly, but the man was heading south to Florida for the winter and was unable to take Ollie with him. Thus, we needed to place an 8 year old, unneutered male Vizsla who later turned out to be heartworm positive. Those are the kinds of dogs that give a rescue coordinator major heartburn! I kept Ollie in foster care at my house until the day John Fitzgerald called, looking for a rescue Vizsla. He located us through the American Kennel Club's referral service. I told him of my latest boarder and he was very interested! He had an older teenage daughter and as a carpenter/sculptor, he worked out of his home most of the time and was more than willing to take on an older dog. John was willing to fight the heartworm battle as well. Due to Ollie’s age, a less-aggressive approach was used in treating his heartworms and now he’s on the road to recovery. I talk to John often about Ollie’s new life and I hear nothing but good news. He’s a very active dog and spends his time running with John as he mountain bikes through the Pennsylvania hillside. He often romps in a stream near their house. Ollie has a new lease on life as he battles the groundhog that is living under John’s garage!

Ferris, a 9 year old unneutered male, was surrendered by a lady with two children under the age of 2. Ferris was the husband’s hunting dog before they got married and after they had children. Ferris and the kids didn’t mix well. The wife claimed Ferris wouldn’t spend all day in the yard alone. He whined to come inside and it drove her nuts! I posted a call for help on the vizsla  listserv to foster Ferris and for potential homes. Another VCA member who lived in Pittsburgh at the time, answered that call and graciously volunteered to do Ferris’ foster care-taking care of all the veterinary chores of getting him neutered, teeth cleaned, nails trimmed and even arranging the flight to his new home. Eventually, we found a home for Ferris in Portland, Oregon! Ferris needed to be placed as an "only dog" in a home with no children. Steve and Jennifer Ott fit that bill. They are a very active couple with 2 cats.

Jennifer recently told me how they first met Ferris, "We drove up to Seattle to pick him up at the airport, and I waited at the car and Steve went in to get him. I was waiting expectantly, watching the doors and here comes Steve with Ferris, just trotting along, a happy dog, he didn't even hesitate, jumped right in the back seat, laid down, and waited for us to get his gear in the car! He settled right in with us; the first night he jumped right up on the bed, laid his head on my neck, and I promptly fell in love while he fell asleep."

After his honeymoon period with Steve and Jennifer, Ferris ended up needing behavior modification when he presented a biting problem. Steve and Jennifer were willing to work with him on this problem and with practice and diligence are overcoming his fear biting. They are an amazing couple!

Opening your heart to an older dog is hard enough, but one with "baggage" is even tougher. They were willing to go the distance and make it work with Ferris! And it's working!

Jennifer elaborated about their life with Ferris, "We recently took Ferris to the beach for the first time. His original family  wanted no further contact with Ferris or us. So we have almost no history on him. Every experience is new for all of us, and we had no idea what to expect from him on this trip to the beach. We walked down the trail to the beach with Ferris leading the way, he got down to the sand, kind of hesitated and looked back at us, then he just took off! He ran and ran and ran, went right into our 55-degree water and had a wonderful time! We finally had to take turns in the surf because when we were both in the waves, he kept coming in and getting run over by the tide. At least 5 people stopped and ask what kind of dog he was. No one could believe he was 10 years old!!"

Adopting any rescue dog can be very challenging and very rewarding. Adopting an older one takes a special breed of people! John, Steve & Jennifer are a tribute to the vizsla breed and should be commended for opening their homes and their hearts to Ollie and Ferris.

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