Saturday, March 07, 2009

One dog day at a time

We went to a psychiatrist last night. Ha ha, no, it wasn't for me.
It wasn't for Jayden or the twins, either, though I've been tempted. The wife? She's the only real stable one in the house.
No, it was for our dog, Denali.
We wanted a husky when we walked into the animal shelter eight years ago. I'd always loved them, and they'd be perfect for the name I already picked out. Plus some of my best friends had one and I got along with her better than most of my girlfriends, despite her about as much attitude as many of them.
But we walked by the cage, and he met our eyes and started wagging his tail as if it was a metronome, and by the time he had finished with his back and forth, he had our heart.
We knew there would be some issues. He shuffled on his butt, as if he was afraid of someone booting him there. It took some work, but underneath all that fear was a sweet, loving dog who wanted to please, played ball with the best of them and lay with us at night on the couch.
When he bit the first person, a jogger, about four years after we had him, it didn't seem that seem that serious. He didn't hurt the guy, really, and he was running right at me. I honestly didn't blame him.
However, the next time, it was a friend. Again, not serious, but it was like that once or twice a year. And then, two weeks ago.
My sister-in-law's mom and dad came to Kate's parents. And they just walked in the door.
That was the thing. If you spent a little time with him, Denali would be in your lap in a few minutes. But if he didn't know you, and you walked in the door, he'd bite you. And this time, it was serious.
He bit her so hard, in fact, she had to go to urgent care. Thankfully it really wasn't that bad, but there were two puncture wounds, and we know it was terrifying for her. Frankly, it would terrify the hell out of me.
We were ready to put him down.
I called our vet, who I've known for years, and he recommended a behaviorist. That's who we visited last night.
She's made a career out of reading animals. She'd probably make a pretty good poker player, as she's a master at reading non-verbal clues. But she's a mother of three and very busy. Her time is in great demand these days.
I could see why right away.
She taught us how to defuse his anxiety, as that's what was causing the bites. I agreed with her. It seemed that first year never did leave him, no matter how much we loved him. She taught how to help him relax, mostly with food, and how to establish his own area where he can feel safe.
It will be some work, but there is hope now that our dog, really our first child, can stay with us and leave his demons behind.


Riggstad said...

Peaker, I love ya man... but it's an animal... That has a history of biting humans.

My brother lost the bottom half of his lip when he was 9 to a dog named snuffy.

We all knew snuffy. For years. A very well behaved dog. But snuffy caught a case of the crazies one day for about 2 minutes. Those two minutes made my brother look like a puppet for the rest of his life.

I know people love dogs, and all that stuff, but they are animals.

Que the monkey story.

I love dogs. Owned three over my life. The first two died of old age. The third was the best. His name was McBride. Best dog I ever had. Never needed a leash. Was one of the family.

We had a fantasy football draft one night, and Macky attacked the 2 year old son of one of the players. He didn't bite him. He just charged, growled, and jumped on him. I told my mother to make her peace with Macky that night.

My very best friend got a dog about a year ago. Last week we were in his basement working out (PHAT GYM)...

My 2yo son was with us just minding his own business. The dog bit my son. I told my best friend... make your peace with the dog.

I get it. We all love dogs. They are loyal, happy, etc... but they are animals. Animals can't control their urges. It's been proven over and over and over again.

God forbid the dog whisperer gives you a sense of security and one day Denali gets all jammed up over something that dogs get jammed up by and decides that one of the kids needs a beating.

Now if the dog was docile, then fine. But he has a history. And it's not because someone stepped on his tail.

Just my 2 cents. I don't judge either way.

OH, and btw.. treadmill gets delivered on Wed.!

lightning36 said...

Yo Peaker -- I'm writing this because you need to hear this.

I loved my dog, a mixed-breed beagle. He was with us for years and we never had a problem with him ... until about the time we had kids. He attempted to bite two people. He was grouchy around the kids and started growling. We took him to an animal behaviorist who said, "Nothing may happen, but are you willing to risk your beautiful daughter's face that he will not show future aggression?"

That was all it took for me. We put an ad in the paper and were lucky to give him away to a guy who had recently lost his wife and his dog. He lived in the country and had no kids around.

You have always impressed me as being a great family guy. Are you willing to risk your kids for a dog? Willing to risk jail time or a huge suit and your family's financial future if your dog bites or mauls someone outside your family or friends?

Sorry man, but you need to think about this. Now.

btw -- Giving up my dog was extremely painful. It hurt like hell. But I never questioned my decision.

Sorry that you have to face this situation. It sucks.

pokerpeaker said...

Good comments, guys. I definitely don't blame you for feeling this way. We went through the same thing. But this person really believes it's a safe scenario. He has not shown even a slight hint of aggression to the kids. If he does, it's over. We also know this may not work, and if we're not making progress, it's over. We really do think this will work.

But we will definitely keep this in mind.

And good luck Riggs!

kurokitty said...

A friend was just mentioning Temple Grandin talks about anxiety in animals in her latest book: