The Winding Path to Dog Ownership, Part VII: Our Best Friend, Home for Good

I guess I’ve delayed writing this post because I’m not even sure how it happened. One day we were fostering a fearful, aggressive dog off the street, one we couldn’t let near other dogs, one I was sure would bite someone at some point, one I refused to invest any of our scarce monetary resources into… The next thing I know, he’s ours, and he’s not going anywhere.

When did that happen? When we paid for the rabies shots? When we paid Paul to teach him to stay? When I fretted about leaving him with Kate when we went on vacation?

Was it after our first trip with him to the dog park, when Ronnie told us– nay, ordered us– to remove the leash and let him go free, and nothing bad happened? Was it when he caught his first mouse?

Whenever we decided, it was a done deal by the time we nursed him through a bad neutering. The vet clinic sent him home without a cone, and within two days the swelling was twice as large as what had been removed. We’d had him about seven months by then, and even though he loved us, he wasn’t above snarling or snapping at us if he felt threatened. We had to ice the area and shove antibiotics into him; there’s nothing fun about trying to help a dog in pain who might turn around and bite you, but we did it anyway.

How all the bugs get in

Every so often we talked about getting rid of him. We talked about it after he attacked Zach. We thought about it when he took off through the neighbour’s back yards; when destroyed the kitchen window screens jumping at squirrels; when he raced out the front door and chased a terrified friend down the street. We still think about it when he barks like a maniac late at night. He’s a high-maintenance dog. But let’s face it– he ain’t going nowhere.

When we first got him, no amount of coaxing could get him up on a bed. Now he rests his chin on the bed, with this pleading look that says, “Can we cuddle?” When I tell him “Come,” he leaps up and curls up next to me. At first he’d only stay up ten minutes, max; now he falls asleep next me. Eventually he climbs down and stays down for the night, but he’s getting more and more addicted to them. And while he’s generally aloof with strangers, there are those few who get the full-body press and adoring gaze.

Seriously-- who could resist this face?

Ultimately, it was beauty that saved the beast, at least at first. As shallow as this sounds, we– The Spouse especially– couldn’t resist a dog this beautiful. (Research has shown that we are more like to give the benefit of the doubt, and more chances, to people rated good-looking than to those rated average. I’m sure that’s doubly true for dogs.) And if beauty hadn’t done it, brains would have. He responded to his new name in less than a day. He learned “sit” almost immediately, even though he had been trained in a different language. Now we have to spell words like “out” and “park” unless we want the barking frenzy to commence. Our biggest fear– that someone might someday get bitten– was alleviated by all the trainers we spoke to. Both Jared and Paul told us he was completely salvageable and neither felt he was a danger to children or non-threatening adults. And so far, thank goodness, they’ve been right.

Every day he gets more loving and less reactive. He still growls at me on rare, rare occasions; all I have to do is stare menacingly and say, “WHAT did you say to me?” in a disapproving tone of voice. He’ll cringe and whimper and lick his nose. I CANNOT be mad at him; it spins his world off its axis. If ever a dog benefitted from positive reinforcement and oodles of love, this one has; love is his primary reinforcer.

So that’s the story. A family ready to give up on fostering finds their forever dog, and it’s not the dog they expect. Three trainers and several kibble upgrades later, he’s our boy forever. And the final truth– we didn’t adopt him. He adopted us. There’s no turning that out of your life.


About one person's view

I'm the mother of three girls, three cats, and a dog. All need constant attention, but only the dog likes to go for long walks!
This entry was posted in Dog behaviour, Dogs, pet ownership and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Winding Path to Dog Ownership, Part VII: Our Best Friend, Home for Good

  1. Jodi Stone says:

    Absolutely beautiful tribute to fostering/adopting. It sounds like you have made great strides with your best friend. I’m happy for all of you. 🙂

  2. Mel says:

    We foster-failed with our first dog Agnes after just two months. My husband was out of work and she was the sweetest and quietest dog, super mellow. The only problem was that she wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted a puppy that would grow up to be a guard dog (she doesn’t have a protective bone in her body). Even though she wasn’t what he wanted, she has been a great ‘starter’ dog.

    Last Thanksgiving we got a GSD puppy and he has a lot of the same issues as OBF even though we raised him. Lots of them (protection breeds/GSD) are just very reactive to things that move quick and they tend to have leash/barrier aggression. Our hates bicycles. If we had screens he could reach he’d probably bust through them chasing squirrels. He’s great at the dog park off-leash but barks all the time when on-leash and he spots another dog. He loves us and will give kisses and allow cuddles but is aloof to strangers. But he is very bright and is starting to mellow out now that he’s finally a year old.

  3. lexy3587 says:

    AWWW. the sweetest story 🙂
    OBF was lucky to find you, and it sounds like you guys were lucky to find him too!

  4. Kristine says:

    OBF, or YBF, is gorgeous. I remember the first time I saw his face – I melted. Gorgeous, smart, funny, AND a good cuddler? How could you possibly let him go to someone else? What’s a few broken screens between friends?
    I am so glad he found his way to your family and convinced you to give him a chance. Like any good trainer, he just kept on rewarding your baby steps until you offered the behaviour he wanted!

    Thanks for sharing your story. Happy endings are the best.

  5. Julie says:

    He’s got the sweetest smile, pretty hard to resist 🙂 What a lovely story . .thanks for sharing.

  6. Pamela says:

    What a wonderful story. I’m so glad you lifted the veil on some of the mystery. I’ve always wondered about the back story of YBF.

    He’s very handsome. And It sounds like he’s learned to trust. That’s a beautiful gift to give anyone.

  7. thatjenk says:

    Aww. This is a great series of posts. And OBF is very handsome! Hard to resist that happy-go-lucky gaze, I’m sure!

  8. Pup Fan says:

    It sounds like you and OBF were meant to be. Thank you so much for sharing your story… I can’t imagine resisting that cute face either. 🙂

  9. The Hook says:

    This should be Freshly Pressed! FANTASTIC, moving post. Awesome, even!

  10. Kari says:

    Its so hard to let them go after they come into our homes.


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