In the United States alone, it is estimated that 500,000 animals are surrendered to shelters each year because their owners have passed away without leaving instructions or plans for their care.
The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center is based at Texas A&M University. Entirely privately funded, the Center operates with the support of endowments and private gifts. Animals that are enrolled with the Center come to live there when their owners are no longer able to care for them. It’s a rest home of sorts for pets whose owners want their animals to live out the remainder of their lives in a social atmosphere with quality veterinary care.
This YouTube video gives you an introduction to the Center:
The Center opened in 1993 and is named after Mrs Madlin Stevenson who donated 50% of the start up funds for the facility. The Luse Foundation donated the other half.
This video provides a tour of the facility:
Admittedly, not everyone will be able to send their dog for care at the Stevenson Center. Enrollments are based on the owner’s age at the time of enrollment and may either be paid in advance or through a bequest in the will. This is the current chart of fees for a dog (or cat or bird) in US dollars.
||Minimum Endowment by Bequest
||Minimum Amount for Paid-up Endowment
|30 – 39
|40 – 49
|50 – 59
|60 – 69
Want to know more? Visit the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center’s website.
When scientists studied captive wolves (and I’m talking about research that dates back to the 1960s), they observed fighting for dominance within the group and extrapolated that information as relevant to domesticated dog behaviour. Unfortunately, by studying captive wolves, the scientists were observing an artificial pack – wolves that were placed together in very unnatural circumstances.
Over the years and ‘informed’ by this research, the theory of being the Alpha Dog developed. The alpha dog is the top dog of the pack, the dog who eats first (as an example).
Trainers who picked up on the alpha dog theory taught their clients to ‘alpha roll’ their dog. That is when you force your dog to roll over on its back to signal your dominance.
It is true that wolves roll over as a submissive behaviour, but nothing in the record suggests that wolves force other wolves to roll over. Wolves will roll over on their backs as a submissive gesture – they do it willingly and not by force.
This YouTube video shows a wolf rolling over as a sign of submission:
There are many trainers today who are adopting reward-based techniques, but others still adhere to a rigid interpretation of dominance theory including alpha rolls. I’m saddened to say that when I first adopted Daisy eight years ago, I went to a local dog training club in Christchurch where the teacher believed in alpha rolls. When Daisy didn’t go ‘down’ on my command, he took both of her legs on the right side and flipped her over. I can still remember the frightened look in her eyes and I was almost in tears myself over the incident.
My advice is to stay away from any dog trainer that doesn’t use reward based techniques. Make sure any trainer you use doesn’t have outdated ideas of what is true canine behaviour.