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.