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Washington trainer works to turn bad dogs good

For Washington state-based dog rescuer Steve Markwell, so-called "bad dogs" are a stock-in-trade.  Aggressive or fearful dogs -- often with records of attacking humans and other animals -- have a home at Markwell's Olympic Animal Sanctuary.  As for Markwell (who got his start rescuing unwanted reptiles, explaining that rescue was "a way to get free snakes"), his theories on dog training are intriguing, to say the least.  Our colleague Kim Murphy has the story; here's an excerpt:

Markwell There have always been good dogs and bad dogs. The good dogs come when you call, romp happily with the children and stay off the sofa. The bad dogs chase after cars, trample the flower beds and pass wind under the coffee table.

Then there are the really bad dogs -- the cat-killers, face-biters and snarling, drooling wretches so mean even their owners want them shot. Those are Steve Markwell's kind of dogs.

"When people create these monsters, I think it's people's responsibility to take care of them. Not to just kill everything because it's inconvenient," said Markwell, who operates a sanctuary for canine ne'er-do-wells in the Olympic Peninsula rain forest.

"The fact that they have their quirks, the extra things you have to be cautious of, in some ways it's almost endearing. It's kind of like, the world hates you, but I don't," he said.

The Olympic Animal Sanctuary caters to the worst of the worst from around the country: dogs who would be euthanized or turned away at any other shelter, and those with records so bad that no animal welfare group would consider adopting them out.

Among the more than 50 animals currently at the sanctuary are domestic coyote mixes, guard dogs who once belonged to drug dealers, cat-killing huskies and one creature who appears to be 90% wolf and about as interested in being petted as a demon is in being in church on Sunday.


Photo: Markwell with sanctuary resident Snaps. Credit: Kim Murphy / Los Angeles Times

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I was at the Seattle Humane Society fundraiser and it was intriguing to watch Steve handling the dogs he brought over from Forks. He is very calm and patient with them. Every other shelter or rescue group refused to help Snaps who would be dead today if Steve hadn't agreed to take him. And he's right. The fact that Snaps is such a sweet dog but was going to be destroyed simply because his abusive owner set him up, shows that we need to change our attitudes about how we deal with "dog problems". This operation deserves the public's support. And, Steve, get that "Wish List" going! LOL!

Thank goodness for people like you! We have a 7-8 year old malamute who was abandoned, about to be euthanized, etc. etc. We got her 5+ years ago from WA mal rescue and can't say that it was 'easy' but it's all been worth it. I've been 'rescuing dogs' as many as I possibly can over the years, which means giving them a home I guess. I always say there are no bad dogs - just bad dog owners. It's just so unfair what some dogs and pets in general have to endure at the hands of so-called mammals with a brain! Thank you for being there...it makes me happy to know there are animals being saved because gosh knows I can't save 'em all so kudos to you!!!


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