The warning was hardly necessary; Rex walked in the door growling and didn't stop until his owner carried him out 15 minutes later. Eyes bugging out of his head, he shook, he cowered, he tried to climb inside his owner's jacket, he lunged when we got too close.
The owner was very patient with Rex, holding him gently but firmly so we could work on him. He told us Rex is a wonderful dog at home. He just suffered abuse when younger and is now very wary of strangers. When with those he trusts, he's a normal, happy dog.
"I wouldn't trade him for the world," he said.
I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if Rex had ended up in a typical animal shelter instead of with this family. He probably wouldn't even have been given a chance to fail a "temperament test"; he'd have been killed after the first, fearful growl. Assuming that he'd take too much time and effort to rehab, he'd have probably been killed to make room for something considered more easily adoptable.
Luckily, Rex never had to go through the shelter system. A family gave him a chance, and that's all he needed.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except it seemed a good occasion for yet another endorsement of the No-Kill Movement. It's perfectly understandable why a shelter worker used to working under the old system would write off a dog like Rex, or spend time focusing on the abusers of his past instead of his prospects for the future. What I like about No-Kill is he would have a better chance to become that pet that someone wouldn't trade for the world.