After the disaster of Caramel and Cocoa, we decided to take a break from fostering. While Cookie had been a wonderful experience, we quickly learned that abandoned dogs often come with behaviour problems. While these issues are never the dog’s fault, we are not dog psychologists or professional trainers, and we didn’t have the patience, time, or knowledge needed, in the words of Cesar Millan, to “rehabilitate” dogs.
Well, as they say, man plans, G-d laughs. Barely a week later, our “lady who does” asked if we would take in a dog her granddaughter had picked up in the street. The dog was running loose, but when Stacey called “Come, boy,” he came to her. He had a choke chain, but no ID tags. She knocked on a few doors, asking if anyone knew whose dog it was. Finally, one person told her, “He lives in that house over there, but he’s been outside for a few days now, and I don’t think they’re feeding him.” Stacey went to “that house over there” but no one answered, so she took him home.
The dog had been living with Kate for two days. He was completely housebroken, seemed non-aggressive, and didn’t bother her cats. She showed us a picture. My immediate response was no—I saw a German shepherd mix, and didn’t want anything that big or that potentially aggressive. The Spouse saw a gorgeous animal. The next day I picked up Our Best Friend and home we went.
Well, he is gorgeous. A big, plumy, wavy tail, intelligent face, and a coat all shades of brown. He’s smaller than a shepherd, but just as smart. He learned his new name the first day, and already knew “sit” and “lie down.” Plus he didn’t try to climb on the bed, a bonus for me just recovering from two sleepless months sharing a bed with Caramel and Cocoa.
However, OBF’s anxiety was clear from the moment we met. He cried all the way home in the car, and jumped back and forth over the seats until he squished in between me and the passenger seat. While he seemed friendly and played beautifully with the children, he showed a fear of adult males, and growled at a stern voice saying “No.” When we tried walking him, he pulled on the leash; if he saw another dog, even three blocks away, he lunged forward and barked uncontrollably. Handsome as he was, I saw a big dog with “issues” that could end with someone getting bitten. I told Marisa to put him up on Petfinder and find him a home.
But because of OBF’s dog aggression, Marisa had a tough time finding another home for him, and the longer we had him, the more attached everyone got. OBF was just so darn smart. The Oldest taught him a slew of tricks in no time at all. He loved to play ball in the back yard, and seemed eager to please as long he didn’t feel threatened. In spite of his initial fears, he quickly bonded to the Spouse, and slept on the floor beside him every night. Kate said if we’d keep him, she’d babysit anytime we went out of town. After two months, I invested in rabies shots and a check-up at the vet. We decided to have him evaluated to see if he was “salvageable,” and took him to Jason at K9 Corps, who offered a free assessment.
Jason operated out of a storefront in a rundown commercial area. He asked us a few questions, tested OBF’s reaction to loud noises, and then swung his clipboard toward the dog’s face in a slow-motion move. OBF immediately sprang to his feet and began barking aggressively. Jason nodded and said, “This dog’s been hit.” Some dogs, when abused, become cowering and submissive. Others engage in defensive aggression. OBF clearly fell into the second camp.
Jason then impressed us with a display of obedience from one of his pupils, a little cocker spaniel who obeyed a rapid series of “sit/up/sit/up/sit/up” commands like a marionette on a string, while completely ignoring OBF, who was barking hideously the whole time. He told us OBF could be every bit as obedient—for $500, give or take, with lessons every week for about 6-8 weeks, and 15 minutes of daily reinforcement at home. We told him we’d get back to him.
We put OBF in the back of the van and got in. As we drove off, the Spouse asked, “What do you think?”
I started to cry, thinking of how sad the kids would be, and how money, again, had to be a deciding factor. “We don’t have $500. Not for dog training, anyhow. I don’t want a dog that might bite someone, and I don’t have the energy or strength to train a dog that big. If he was Yorkshire terrier, I could pin him to the floor if he tries to bite, but I’m not strong enough to wrestle with Our Best Friend. He’s going to have to go.”
“Whatever you say,” he said, then added, “Let’s see how it goes over the next little while.”
I knew I wasn’t getting rid of this dog so fast.