Last updated: September 2013
I was told he was about 10 months old, but was actually 4 or 5 years old!
By: Kimberely Morrison
January 3, 2009
You'll see the story of my experience below and although it is not nearly as horrible as some of the others, I wanted to share it. After I drafted my story, I saved it planning on reviewing and finalizing it in the morning. I then started doing a little more research and came across the story of Tiergan. I was floored. I just had to write and elaborate slightly of my experience with the English Mastiff with the "dead" leg. The story I got from Tracy was almost identical. She told me she had been vet checked, but it was not necessary to amputate the leg; she was perfectly fine as is and wouldn't have any problems because of it; that they did not know what happened, but I do remember Tracy saying she was or would be smaller than average due to the injury. I believe she said it had been like the since she was very young, but I couldn't swear to it. When I said I really wanted a Neo, Tracy said she would give her to me for free if I adopted another dog. I declined. The decision was made even harder because Tracy kept making comments like "she loves you," "see how much she likes you". I had no reason not to believe everything Tracy told me and assumed she was being well taken care of there. I wish I could remember her name. I thought about her a lot after leaving, but was not prepared for two large dogs (and, as I say, I had my heart set on a Neo) and was slightly overwhelmed with being put on the spot about adopting a special needs dog, I hadn't even considered it before then. After reading Tiergan's story, I feel sick about it. It was so dark, I can't really say anything more specific about her condition other than she was friendly and sweet. I won't sleep tonight wondering if she was actually in pain and suffering.
So, I was at a local dog park today with my 10 month old Presa Canario puppy, where I was talking to a woman who asked me about my dog because she wanted to get a mastiff and was looking into the different mastiff breeds. I told her that I had adopted a Neapolitan Mastiff from a rescue in 2005 (he died in March 2008), namely Gentle Giants Rescue in Norco, and that although you should take some of their claims with a grain of salt (i.e., ALL of their dogs are well socialized and trained), I believed they had good intentions. The woman told me they had looked into GGR, gotten approved, but then found a website called gentlegiantnews.com and decided against it and suggested I check it out. I just finished reading all of the posts and am horrified by what I have read. Below is my story. It is not nearly as bad as some, but I wanted to share it.
In early 2005, I decided I wanted to get a dog and came across GGR through searching on petfinder. After reviewing their website and researching different breeds, I decided I had to have a Neapolitan Mastiff. Based on their requirements, I could only adopt an older puppy or adult dog. I put on the application, and told them in person that I wanted a Neo under 1 year old. I was willing to pay the high adoption fee because of their claim that all of their dogs were behavior trained and well socialized. Worth it, right? I applied and was approved for adoption. Their website painted such a pretty picture of their facilities and their dogs' lives there, that I actually started to feel guilty that I would be taking a dog from there and into my home where he would be an only dog and live with just me (I was single and didn't have any kids).
I showed up on my scheduled date right on time (3:00 p.m.) in March 2005. It would be closer to 5:00 before we (there were several other adopters there that day) were allowed to get out of our cars and start the process, partly because there was a Dane running around the yard that Tracy was trying to get into the house, but he kept running away from her all the while barking, for lack of a better word, frantically. Tracy said it was because he was new. She finally left him alone and allowed us in, as he stayed in a far corner, barking. My first impression of the property was that it was a filthy mess, but then again it had been raining so of course it would be a mud hole. It definitely did not look like the pictures on their site. At some point during the day, a group of us went to use the bathroom which was in a building somewhere behind the main house. Bart had to escort us and we were told to be careful and use the restroom and come right back because he trained police dogs back there. I remember thinking something didn’t seem right about it. Who kept and trained police dogs in a run down old building like that? My only other specific memory about the property (other than it being run down and a mess in general) was the front door which looked like at one time must have had glass panes along the sides, were now boarded up with plywood, presumably from dogs trying to get out.
THE ADOPTION PROCESS:
We first sat down in the designated area to await the coming of their herd and Bart sat down to chit-chat with us. I don’t remember the specifics of much of the conversation other than (1) he asked what type of dog I was looking for and I told him a Neo. He stated that they had a lot of Neo puppies at that time. I told him I was looking for an older puppy because (according to them), I was away from home for too many hours a day for a younger puppy. I never thought about it before reading the posts on gentle giants news, but it does seem unusual to have “a lot” of Neo puppies available for adoption. Over the past nearly 4 years, I occasionally review the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club’s rescue program (www.neorscue.net) and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Neo for adoption under 10 months old; (2) I remember him making a comment that there was no such thing as hip dysplasia. Having just done a bunch of research on large breed dogs, I thought it odd that he would say, let alone believe, such a thing; and (3) I remember him making comments that the dogs were Tracy’s kind of domain/area (or something to that affect). It just seemed odd, he lived with the 50 plus dogs in the house too didn’t he? This was the first time that I realized that all of the dogs literally lived inside their house, day and night. Can you imagine?
Tracy came out with their “herd.” The dogs, although filthy and smelly (which I attributed to the mud caused by the recent rains, but now it appears that they are in this condition all of the time), looked healthy (weren’t skinny) and were very friendly and social. But none of these dogs where up for adoption.
She started bringing out dogs, one at a time. Almost everyone else was there for a Dane, so I just waited patiently. The Danes appeared to be terribly thin. When commented upon, it was explained by “stress.” I guess it made sense, going from their former family, to a shelter, to the rescue… seemed reasonable. The entire process seemed chaotic and disorganized. Tracy would bring out one dog at a time that would spend probably 10-15 minutes outside, then it would start all over with the next dog she picked out (sometimes it would be 10-15 minutes in between taking the dog back in and returning with the next one). As people would choose a dog the entire process would come to a halt as the paper work was done, they were micro chipped, sometimes nails clipped, and the introduction of the family’s other dog(s), if they had one, with the infamous paper towel roll at the ready. Other than the weight issue, I didn’t see any outward signs of illness, but it was already getting dark. I do remember an incident where Tracy brought out a young female Dane for an older woman (who had previously adopted 2 Danes from them back when they only had Danes), to look at but the poor thing would just cower, tail tucked, and try to get away. Tracy said the Dane’s sister had just recently been adopted out which was why she was behaving that way. Tracy insisted that she would come around. The woman was very patient and spent quite some time with the Dane to see if she would warm up to her, even just a little bit. She didn’t. She just cowered and shook the whole time. I remember the topic of the price for her came up. I forget what Tracy said it was, but the woman balked at the amount. She said she only expected to pay $400 and that is all she could pay. Tracy went back in the house and brought out a $400 dog. The woman did adopt the $400 dog, but left somewhat upset by the whole thing. I never really thought about it before, but these are people supposedly trying to find homes for these animals, but appear to be charging their “adoption fees” based on the quality (and by quality I mean breed confirmation, coloring, size, etc) of the dog.
For example, say I saw 15 specific dogs that day that were available for adoption and every one of them were underweight (which every dog I saw was) isn’t it safe to assume, based on the stressed from being displaced theory, that these same 15 dogs had not been at GGR for very long? Otherwise, they’d be in better body condition, right? So what are they basing the varying fees on if not the physical quality and appearance of the dog, as a breeder would? Just my personal observation-in retrospect.
It was approaching 11:00 p.m. and I still hadn’t seen a single Neo yet and I was the last person left. I’m a patient person and I was enjoying meeting all of the different dogs, so I hadn’t spoken up. To be fair, Tracy did apologize and said I should have said something and she would have brought out Neos sooner. But then she brought out an English Mastiff with what I can only describe as a dead hind leg. She seemed to get around fine and seemed to be happy, but the one leg just hung there and was kind of dragged around. I was told she had been cleared by the vet and she shouldn’t have any problems because of it. I felt horrible, but my heart was set on a Neo and I told Tracy that. Tracy offered to give her to me for free with the adoption of another dog. I declined. Memphis (the name I gave him), was brought out next. I was told he was 10 months old. He was thin like the rest, but was affectionate and seemed happy so I said I’d take him on the spot, despite the fact that he smelled awful. Really awful. I just couldn’t go through having dogs brought out one at a time and rejecting them to see what would come out next. To be honest it was so dark that I really didn’t even get a good look at him until I got him home. Even if I never found out about the horror stories regarding GGR, I would never put myself through this ordeal again. Tracy told me he was $750, so I paid her my $400 in cash and wrote a check for the balance. I don’t regret it for a second because although I didn’t have him for long, he turned out to be the love of my life. But, he was troubled…
As many have reported, I never received vaccination records, and had to have him revaccinated. He also did have some sort of infection that was cleared up with antibiotics (a greenish discharge was seeping from his penis). I guess I’m lucky that he was fairly healthy, other than the infection and being 35 pounds underweight. On that first vet’s visit I was told that he was AT LEAST 2 years old, but the vet suspected he was actually 4-5 years old. The vet was mystified by the fact that I was told to feed him Pedigree dog food. He remarked that of course the dogs liked it, it was high in fat and sugar. On that note, their claims of dogs life spans being doubled because of their own brand of food is total BS. When I was there, nearly 4 years ago, I was told they were developing their own food, it wasn't even available yet. They were making this same claim about Pedigree at the time.
Memphis bonded with me instantly and totally, but the VERY LAST thing he was was a well socialized dog. When I first got him, he would cower behind my legs if we came across another person, especially men. It took a lot of time and patience to get him to the point where I could walk him and stop to talk to people and, although he never wanted them to pet him, he could at least sit by my side with his head up- not cowering behind me with his tail tucked. I had dreams of dog parks and doggy day care, but that was not to be. The first time I walked him past a fence and another dog barked at him from the other side, he just bolted in blind terror. We were on a very large, busy street and I was not prepared for it. We only narrowly avoided disaster because I pulled back on the leash just as his front paws leapt off the curb which gave me enough leverage to pull him back and I struggled to get him away from the fence and calmed down. There is no doubt in my mind that if he had gotten his front paws on the ground, he would have run straight into the street and nothing but a car would have stopped him. There was a similar incident with our interview for doggy day care, only this one ended with him and his leash wrapped around the poor FedEx man who had just gotten out of his truck and me on the ground with bloody hands and knees…
I could go on and on about his fear and distrust of men, some women (he seemed to pick and choose) and other dogs, but I’ll try to make it short (too late I know). It was a long slow process to build his confidence up. I was successful to a certain degree, but I learned his limits and never put him in a situation that would stress him overly. He would eventually somewhat warm up to most people after awhile, but would never fully relax around large men. He was never dog aggressive (he never went after another dog), but would let them know if they got too close that they were not welcome. Although he was fairly tolerant of my Mom’s female Sheppard mix and of puppies, funny enough.
I’m not a dog psychologist, but it cannot be good for a dog’s psyche to be locked in a house with 55 plus dogs. I think another poster hit it on the nose when he stated that they seem to be exhibiting hoarding behavior. I cannot regret getting Memphis, but I will never contribute to what is going on out there again and I sure as hell will never recommend them to anyone looking to adopt a dog.
It is disturbing to me, and I commented on this issue with other people before today, that there doesn’t seem to be any real evaluation of the dogs or the lifestyle they are being adopted into. You cannot just make a generalized statement that they are “gentle giants” not taking into account an individual dog’s temperament, history, needs, etc. Take myself for example. I would have never adopted Memphis to me. I was a first time mastiff owner and had no experience in such a powerful, dominate breed, let alone one with “emotional” issues. It was just luck that I am a quiet person with a quiet home who was willing to learn and work with him. I hate to think what could have happened if they had given him to a busy family with rowdy kids and people coming and going. It could have been tragic..
What is equally disturbing is what I have read about people getting unaltered dogs. How long had these unaltered dogs been packed together in that house? I find it hard to believe that amid all the chaos and disorganization (they can't even keep track of paperwork) that they could successfully keep unaltered dogs away from each other at all times. It would be hard to prove that they were deliberately breeding, but if the truth were told, I'd bet a good number of their puppies come from females who become pregnant after arriving there as a result of their utterly careless, irresponsible, if not deliberate, actions.
In early 2008, Memphis's vet heard a heart murmur. I took him to a cardiologist and he was diagnosed with a degenerative heart valve disease. A few weeks later, I came home from work and he went out to pee, but couldn't. He was straining and trying, but nothing was happening. It was discovered that he had a massive tumor in his abdomen. So large that it was squishing up his organs. I was told that they would have to likely perform two surgeries, one exploratory to find out what it was and where it was coming from and attached to, and a second to remove it, if possible. Due to his age (which was likely 7-8 by now), and his heart condition making one surgery, let alone two, risky, I made to decision to put him down. My heart was broken.
I don't blame GGR for his health problems, they can happen to any older mastiff, other than the fact that he was years older than what they told me he was and I wasn't prepared to loose him just yet. I guess I breached my contract by not consulting with them and their vet before having him put down, but he was my baby and I wasn't about to get permission to do what I knew was best for him.
Kimberley A. Morrison
This comment is from individual person voicing his/her opinion and warning about Gentle Giants, based on what he/she has personally encountered with Gentle Giants.
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