Friday, September 25, 2015

Part 2 Thank you, Rachel Koch, from those who speak with tails

Welcome back, Rachel. Last time you visited, you told the story of Max, a special dog. This time, we're going to talk more about dog fostering and adoption in general.

Rachel with her pack
How many Great Pyrenees live with you ? I have 7 Great Pyrenees at the moment: 3 males and 4 females.

How do you introduce a new dog to the pack?
I just walk with the new dog and the rest will follow.  I’ve never had any problems.  If it is a young Pyrenees with a lot of blabla I present them to the pack and normally the blabla disappears very quickly when they are confronted by 7 other Pyrenees. Behavioural problems like that normally solve themselves.
I remember you once said it was like a man walking into a bar full of really strong people - he doesn't put on a tough act in that situation.

The pack chez Rachel
Do you intervene in the relationships between the dogs?After a month or two, maybe three, the pack will find out themselves where the new dog will be in rank. I never intervene. A pack is a pack and I am not a dog, but I am the pack leader so all the dogs stand under me. That has to be clear from day one!

I know that you worked with huge packs of hunting dogs in England. How did that come about? What did you gain from the experience?
Through friends that I had met through hunting I came into contact with various large dog packs in England and France.

The old saying is 'look at dogs and you will learn'. People do not take the time to observe and they treat dogs like humans and that is where all the trouble is coming from. A dog has a different way of looking at things. I see so many mistakes that people make and dogs going into a shelter because it is allegedly a mean dog who has attacked children. But for a dog, a child can be seen as another dog. 

This is very important - if a child walks by with a sausage, the dog will take it because he thinks that the child is lower in rank than he is. The dog would never try to steal the same sausage from a higher-ranked dog. That is why you should not intervene in a pack and normally they will sort themselves out. A dog that is too late for dinner eats less than the rest etc. Of course it is a difference if you have one dog or 10 or 60 but  basically it is always the same. If you want a stable environment, whether you have one dog or many, you must be a pack leader otherwise the dog will take over!

Christmas chez Rachel
You have succeeded with all kinds of dogs, including those who have been labelled as dangerous, aggressive with people or with other dogs; what is the secret of your success?
Especially in the beginning with an aggressive dog (by the way not so many dogs are aggressive it is mostly through fear that they developed that behaviour) but the best thing to do in the first encounter with a dog not to look at him and not to touch him just avoid him and give the dog time to come to you. I also think that as a pack leader you need a certain energy that the dog will pick up; do not hesitate and again maybe only 2 or  3% of dogs are really dangerous and the rest is simply bad behavior that you can correct with time.

Feeding Time
How do you cope when dogs you’ve fostered, and loved, go to new homes?
You simply have to. Of course it is not always easy but as a foster home you cannot keep every dog  and I am always happy if they find good homes.

As somebody who offers foster care, you have to work with many organisations. Do you ever find it hard to stay on good terms? If you disagree with their advice? Or if you know that the conditions in which the dogs are kept are appalling?
It is sometimes not easy. Some organizations are happy that the dog is in a foster home and think that the problem is solved. You have to ask them again and again to find an adoptant. They always think that you will keep the dog but the problem is that if you want to continue to foster dogs you cannot keep them all.

Let’s talk about money. Sometimes thousands of euros can be spent getting one very ill dog transported hundreds of miles to be rescued, while another healthy abandoned dog in a SPA, near the rescuer, is put down. Do you think associations make rational business decisions?
No I think a lot of organization are not run as a business but are run by people who react from their heart and not with rational thinking. I also think that organizations put sad pictures on the internet to get the most amount of money to finance other things. I had that with a dog from Spain who was in a very bad situation for months and months I was called by two ladies who had already donated 1000 euros to get the dog to France. However the dog was still in Spain and there was always an excuse why the dog could not be transported but they kept putting the most horrible pictures on the internet demanding for money.

So I decided to contact with the organization and informed them that I would take care of transport with the money they already had from the two ladies and otherwise I would expose the story on several sites. I arranged transport and the dog was brought to me the following week me in an extremely bad condition. I am not certain if he had been kept for much longer in the shelter in Spain where he was being fed bread if he would have survived.

I sometimes feel that the money that is spent bringing a dog in from a far away country could be better spent closer to home. Am I against taking dogs from Spain?That depends if somebody falls in love on the internet and wants to pay transport etc. to adopt that dog. There is nothing wrong with it but I am against organizations that use that kind of pictures to gain money even if it is to finance other things because I had the good example of the two ladies who paid 1000 euro for one dog and the dog nearly died in Spain. In my opinion that is bad management!

As somebody who fosters dogs, you make loads of money, don’t you? And get lots of other support too?
I never received any money except for the transport of the Spanish dog paid by the two ladies and it took a while to convince the organization!  I always pay the vet and the food. I see that as my contribution to help.  So as a foster home I have never received any money.

How do you keep your spirits up while working with abandoned, abused and ill dogs in a world that seems ever worse for them?
I always think that one dog saved is one dog saved. As harsh as it may sound, I do what I can but you simply cannot save them all.

Twilight barking chez Rachel
Tell us about some of the dogs who’ve come to live with you. 
We kept several dogs mostly because they were already quite old or very difficult to place.  Cimba, who tried to climb up the walls out of fear when he first came to our house and Weasson who had been maltreated.  Unfortunately they all died several years after they came to us, from causes that began in their ill treatment. 

Weasson died from a brain tumor, probably caused by being hit on his nose by his previous owner. He developed a tumor above his nose). Cimba was mistreated with a stick in his mouth when they wanted to move him from one box to another in the refuge.  He died from cancer of the jaw probably from the injury.  Max died from lymphatic cancer and that was very difficult for me because he finally had a good home but had such  a short time to enjoy it.

So yes, it is a great joy to be a Foster Home and yes, it is also difficult to lose a dog who in your opinion would have deserved a better life for many years but that is life and it does not always go as you want to.

Thank you, Rachel. 

If you would like to win an ebook of my story 'Someone To Look Up To' just post a comment below, before 30th September, in any of the blog posts about Rachel. If you already have my story from the viewpoint of a Great Pyrenees, please choose another book.

Rachel is happy to answer any questions you might have so feel free to post them below.

amazon link


  1. The photos of Rachel's pack are gorgeous!

    My biped says that a visit to Rachel's pack when I was a youngster would have been very useful as I had far too much attitude! But I say that would have spoilt my fun and my bipeds wouldn't have learnt nearly so much about dog training that way!

    1. Your bipeds are lucky you trained them kindly, Clowie, and I would love to visit Rachel one day!

  2. What beautiful dogs! And what a fabulous woman!

  3. Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Jackie. I've learned a lot from Rachel.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Glen. They are very beautiful dogs despite some horrific times in the past.