What Have You Done to Keep Your Pet?

We are often hit with finger-wagging reminders that pets are not disposable accessories, some people should not have pets, etc.  And while I don’t deny that argument, I think we need to hear more stories from the other side of the coin – that is, the lengths owners have gone to in order to keep a pet.

We have a dog called Linus who is extremely fearful and acts out aggressively as a result.  I wish I could blame his lousy breeder or his shoddy upbringing but alas, he was born in this house, from two of my dogs, and trained by me.  While I don’t claim to be SuperPuppyRaiser, I have a pretty good track record and didn’t do anything wildly unusual with Linus.  He is the way he is, for whatever reasons.

Because of his propensity to fight with my other dogs, we have had to arrange the inside and outside of our home in such a way that he is prevented from getting into trouble.  That means baby gates, closed doors, double rows of fencing, etc.  Billy cut into our front porch and built a dog door and stairs there so that we could have a way to let dogs in and out the yard in addition to the back deck.  One entrance to the yard just would not do.

Dogs have to be continually rotated throughout the day with due care to avoid the possibility of Linus making eye contact with someone he’d be likely to fight with.  This means dogs being shut in rooms temporarily while others are let in and that sort of thing.  In bad weather, we have no choice but to maintain the same routine, even though it results in muddy paw prints all over the carpeting.  Mowing the lawn with all these gates and fence layers is a task of woe.  (Thanks Billy.)

One of the other things that Linus does is vocalize an extremely shrill, sharp bark that affects me unlike any other dog’s bark.  It’s the kind of bark that makes me spew coffee, even though he does it many times a day, every single day.  You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now but no.  He does it when I’m trying to nap and I bolt upright in a daze.  He does it when I’m trying to cook and I drop knives.  Some days are worse than others and by dinnertime, I’m just a bundle of nerves.  Which I’m sure is not at all helpful to a dog with anxiety.

I’ve always been open to the possibility of placing Linus because obviously, he could have a nice life elsewhere, where he didn’t live with a house full of other dogs.  But I can’t just place him with the “average” pet owner.  Despite being a very good dog in many respects (no, really), he doesn’t get along with most other dogs, he jumps fences, he’s extremely fearful – you get the picture.  It would have to be the right match for me to place him and that person has not come along yet.  (If you are reading this Mr. Right Owner, call me!)

So for the time being, and for as long as necessary, we live our life accommodating Linus’ special needs.  We have other dogs of course – some elderly, some with cancer – and they have their own needs.  We do our best to attend to everyone but always, by necessity, in the context of meeting Linus’ needs.

I know to some people, especially those who don’t own pets, the situation sounds ridiculous.  But what would I do?  I can’t return him to the breeder (she doesn’t return my calls!) and I’m certainly not about to hand him off to any old person who isn’t likely to be able to handle him.  So this is what we do.  What looks bizarre to an outsider seems normal to us.

I know I’m not alone in going to what some might consider great lengths to keep a pet.  What have you done to keep a pet?

Leave a comment

9 Comments

  1. Accommodating Linus has surely earned you a place at the Rainbow Bridge.

    I’m sure i would do the same in this situation, but fortunately have never had to..

    Reply
  2. PJBoosinger

     /  May 5, 2010

    After nearly a decade of 4 cats with a Lab and a Shiba where I could let everyone have full access everywhere with no worries, in the past year, I’ve added a foundling black Lab mix and an elder shelter adopted Shiba and now have a situation similar to yours. I have come to adore baby gates in all their wonderful forms.

    Thanks for sharing because some days I think I’ve lost my mind or am the worst owner on the planet in not being able to “make” them get along. To me, it seems to be about commitment. Once you bring them in, what else you gonna do but accommodate their needs? I’m home nearly all day, every day so (even with rotations) each one probably gets more mommy and me time than in the average home where someone has to work 40/week outside the home.

    Normal is whatever works :)

    Reply
  3. cinci_celine

     /  May 5, 2010

    I believe there are more homes similar to the above than what people want to admit. We don’t want to give up on a loving good dog due to personality issues. I to have a rescue girl that loves every human she meets. But will attack any dog that gets into her face or comes close to me. I have accepted this situation and given up on the idea of placing her into another home. There is no sense to upturn her world anymore.

    Reply
  4. Where to start? You know us rescue people – we take the ones no one else wants.

    My brother had two Basenjis, and I had Trouper, my Border Collie. Trouper was more than willing to make friends with Rudy and Max, but you know Basenjis, finicky to the end. Some very ugly fights ensued, with me in the middle (ten years later, I still have scars to prove it!).

    We tried counter-conditioning to get these fellas to try to like each other, but that didn’t help. Eventually, we perfected the dance of this dog in that room; I’ll eat in here with T, you eat in there with R & M; gates, gates, everywhere; and, everyone is crated when we’re not at home, etc., etc.

    I could never part with a dog if the issue could be somewhat controlled and in this case, it could be. If one of the dog’s lives were in danger, that might be another story. Then I would have had to kick my brother and his dogs out! :0)

    Reply
  5. What’s odd is how many of us just take it for granted! My attitude has always been, once I’ve taken them on, they are then MINE and MINE to deal with – issues and all.

    let’s see, there was the cat that was my new car … long story but one of my cats required major vet care and we ended up using all the hard-earned money we had stashed away for a second hand car (we had NONE at the time)… there was me being the BAD mother and counselling my kids to assure their pediatritian that indeed, we HAD got rid of our cats! (allergies that were causing some issues – but I dealt with it responsibly, really! – haven’t owned a carpet since, get window coverings to a minimum, washed and vacuumed like a fiend – and the kids – and the cats survived!).

    then my present situation includes a demented rescue terrier who has bitten DOZENS of people and thus was slated to die, requires an incrdible amount of monitoring…. Llyr the junkyard dog who while with us is incredibly wonderful, is on ongoing work in progress with socialization with people and other dogs, Finn, rescue GSD who requires lots of extra hands on care for severe health issues (she was a puppy mill reject) and finally the naughty rottie, my latest foster – he and Llyr HATE each other – judiciously placed baby gates, yard rotations, hands on work with slow acclimitization to each other (although I can’t foress them EVER being safe to be left alone together) … well, just recently, passed up a weekend away at a spa that was being offered by a friend becuase “i couldn’t leave the dogs”…. sighs.

    Reply
  6. Janegael

     /  May 6, 2010

    I have two dogs (out of 7) who were like this. I read an article in a human medical journal about brain damage causing aggression. They had very good success with using Prozac to lower the human’s aggression level. One dog is brain damaged from being beated by a dog fighter (she’s a pit bull) the other had nothing happen that I know of, but brains are fragile and don’t take a baseball bat to injure. So I called my vet…

    They are both on Prozac now and have their liver monitored every 6 months to make sure the dose is right and they are in good health. We had to raise the level of Prozac for my Lab/shep quite high when she became resistant to the does she was getting. The difference in them both is astounding. From dogs that were miserable to live with, aggressive, demanding and not particularly affectionate, they are now affectionate loving dogs who stopped wanting to fight all the time. They are not perfect; not tranquilized, not doped up, but with brains that work better with the drug than without.

    If the idea of giving medication troubles you, please read what Dr. Doddman the behaviorist at Tuff’s University is doing with meds and problem dogs. At least think about consulting your vet, it might make a world of difference in both your lives.

    Reply
  7. mcappy

     /  May 6, 2010

    I’m pretty sure your usual readers can relate. I had a special needs blind/deaf dog that loved everyone until she turned 8mos old. Then she started biting anyone new. I was flubbed. Life became a huge management game. Thankfully I guess the small circle of people she had met in the six months she was with me that she liked and we were allowed to visit. That was the beginning of the no one allowed into my house period. After years trying medications, behavioralists and various training we learned to avoid almost everything…trips out in the wee am/pm hours at o’dark thirty. Basket muzzle aka hanibal lecter style when out in public as needed. In the end she had tons of chronic medical issues and at least she had over three years learned to like her usual vets. They too allowed me to wait outside, come in through the back door etc. The primary vet would always caution the residents to back away. I thought it was a good learning experience for them. She taught me a ton about patience.
    I couldn’t exactly take her back to the idiot breeder who dumped two blind/deaf dogs on the side of the road. I couldn’t take her back to the shelter. I couldn’t rightfully drop her off with my friends in rescue. I would have glad dropped her off at that perfect home on a farm far away from people…
    Linus is lucky to have you.

    Reply
    • PJBoosinger

       /  May 6, 2010

      Hannibal Lecter muzzles. 9 years ago, the dog trainer who trained my oldest 2 advised that I get those and I was horrified but did. I’ll be forever grateful. They are such a wonder to ensure everyone’s safety and, with 2 already trained to them, newbies take right to them like they understand it’s just the “norm” around here.

      I think back to my first large Lab of 25 years ago who’d been abused and SO wish I’d known about basket muzzles then!

      Reply

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