Photo Courtesy of @polototherescue
Polo to the rescue
Edited by Melanie Dziengo
Moira-Christelle Ghazal thought she was rescuing her dog, Polo. It turns out, it was the other way around. We found out more about Moira’s life with her 4-year-old lab mix,what makes Polo special, and how he has given Moira more than she knew she needed.
We first learned about Polo when we applied for another dog named Oscar, but the family who gave him up decided at the last minute to take him back.
We asked Niagara Dog Rescue for a dog who had been at the rescue for a while and didn't have an easy chance of finding a home, so they showed us Polo. Hint: In August 2019, we got exactly what we asked for.
Polo’s back story started when the lady who paid for his surgery found me on Instagram and told me all that she knew about him. She had donated money from her grandma's wedding gift to pay for his surgery from his attack. She then gave me the name of the lady who actually found Polo hurt at the park ,who then gave me more videos/pics/pieces of the story of his history.
I think Polo was in Houston, Texas when this happened, but from what we know, there's a guy that lets his dogs use the strays as bitework/bait dogs. Polo was abandoned at this park, and got bit by this guy's dogs, and that's when he was found.
Unfortunately, the woman who found Polo didn't have the resources to take him in, so she had left while still trying to find a way to get him out of that situation. She came back to check on him, and he had been attacked again and this time his wounds were super infected and full of puss. She knew Polo would die if he was left alone, so she managed to get the money to pay for his surgery.
From my understanding, Polo ended up at a three-day kill shelter (which is the part that confuses me the most), but he got yanked out just in time by NDR, and brought over to Canada. He was rehomed three times before he got to us.
Photo Courtesy of @polototherescue
We ultimately decided to adopt Polo because he had such a sweet face and he was so sweet right off the bat even though we knew coming in that Polo had some issues. I have a hard time saying no in general, so it was hard to meet him and turn him down knowing he'd probably never find a home, at least not for a long while. So I said yes (and I'm so happy I did!).
Every day, Polo finds a way to surprise me. Polo is one of the smartest dogs I've ever met, and has so much personality. We have full on conversations with each other (him mostly with his head tilts/ears) and he's just so, so sweet. Polo is also full of fear and insecurities, but we've been working on that.
Any time a dog has rushed him unexpectedly, he's cowered in fear; he's a gentle giant who's been hurt one too many times.
There wasn’t much of an adjustment period between us because Polo loved us right away and we loved him. It definitely seems like we had to adjust to him more than he had to adjust to us, to be honest. Having a severely reactive dog with behavioural issues is difficult and lots of work, so it took a lot of time for us to figure out how to do it right without burning out. I think we'll forever be adjusting the more we grow and learn together.
I didn't fully realize what we had signed up for until months later. The issues that Polo came with were pretty severe (at the time), but what I didn't expect is us working through them as fast as we did. Polo has made an incredible turn around, and has had a wonderful journey trying to become less reactive. We've had our share of mistakes and moments of regression but he's been progressing slowly but surely throughout the years.
I also didn't expect that Polo was going to teach me so much. He's changed me and my priorities a lot, actually.
I did, however, expect to fall head over heels in love with him.
The adoption process was fairly easy; they definitely take the adoption process seriously to find the best match for the dog which was reassuring. We applied, they did a house tour to check our place and talk to us, and then we had a meet and greet.
We had negotiated a three month trial (foster to adopt). Because of Polo’s behavioural issues, we wanted to be sure we'd be able to help him and be the best home for him. We also didn't want him to be rehomed a fourth time...turns out, we were his best home.
Oh man, Polo's taught me so much about being a pet owner. He's taught me how to be more patient, more loving, more thoughtful and more self-aware. He's also a living example that healing is not linear, which is always a nice reminder to have on our own mental health journeys. Polo has given me a purpose and he's given me more confidence. Learning how to handle a dog like Polo has been a game-changer for my confidence. Plus, I wake up and I have something to look forward to - his face.
Polo has also given me a reason to fight through my bad days, and taught me how to be a better person. I’ve become more patient, compassionate, thoughtful, and understanding since meeting him!
For anyone thinking about adopting a big dog, I would say:
Know what you're getting into. if the dog has any behavioural issues, for example.
Be physically and mentally ready to advocate for your dog at all costs.
Do not turn away from training tools if your dog would benefit from them. I had never used them before Polo because I never needed to, but they have been a huge help in his training.
Do your research, follow different trainers, find a good trainer near you, and put in the work even if your dog isn't reactive because a trained dog is an incredible pet to have.
The advice I have for someone thinking about adopting a rescue is, depending on the dog and the history, it can be a lot of work, so be honest with yourself about how much you can take on. However, I must say that if you do decide to do it, the work is worth the effort and knowing you saved a life is an incredible feeling.
A few things readers can take away from reading Polo’s story is the following:
Second chances can be super beautiful, even if the road isn’t always the smoothest.
Reactive dogs are good dogs
Know what you're getting into before you adopt: finding the right dog for the right human is key
Sometimes things don't work out (Oscar, the first dog we were supposed to adopt) and that probably means it just wasn't meant for you. Something better is coming.
Training (and training tools, depending on the dog) are your friends