Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dog gone

Alright, so kinda a lame title, especially for a sort of serious post. See, this week I adopted a German Shepherd mix the shelter had dubbed "Shaggy". Great dog, fairly quiet, good-natured, well-mannered. And absolitely beautiful. But then, all dogs are beutiful when you love them. I was told he had previously been crate trained and house trained, and that he was good with cats. So I figured it'd work out reasonably well.

They explained to me a little about crating, and that he'd probably whine some in his new home. But if he started to tear things up, it could be a sign of bigger problems. I was given the forms, told I could call them at any time for advice, and I had 30 days to bring him back if things didn't work out. Thankfully, it didn't take me that long to find out - better sooner than once he's actually attached.

We got home, he seemed to relax in the house very quickly. The cat, however, was less thrilled. Can't blame her really - he is NOT a small dog. He can lay his chin on my countertops with no real effort. I tried to follow their advice, and put him in the crate sometime before bed to test and see how he'd do. As expected, there was some whining. I was told also to ignore it, and not let him out until he'd stopped for a bit. Ignoring him includes not even saying "no", because even negative attention is attention, and it gives them a reason to keep it up.

I took him out sometime before bed, walked him outside, let him sit with me a bit, then crated him again for the night (partly because the bedroom is the cat's safehaven and I didn't want him sleeping there until she relaxed more, partly because I didn't know how he'd react to the house in general, and partly because I needed to see how he acted to know if he'd be safe left alone while I was at work). Now mind you, he will sit in his crate even if you're not in the room, as long as it's open. He thinks it's just great to be in it, even with it shut, if you're there with him. But close it and walk away and the problems start. The whining I expected. Even the barking (he's got the least obnoxious bark I swear I've ever heard...), and the howling. But after a bit, I heard the telltale signs of him tearing at the crate. Still, the advice was to ignore him. Well, I could ignore him in the sense of not giving him any attention, but not in the sense of being able to sleep through the racket.

I went to work the next day, on no sleep at all, leaving my grandfather with a request to check on him and make sure he wasn't injuring himself while I was gone. And, at lunchtime, I called the shelter. No answer, so I curled up at my desk and went to sleep for about half an hour. Then they called back - one of the younger staff there gave me suggestions on a couple kinds of toys that are good for keeping a dog busy. Though she also didn't seem to understand why I didn't think going to insane lengths to make him tolerate my lifestyle was a good idea. He's 5 years old, and I don't have the sheer time it takes to properly help a dog through separation anxiety. I don't want him to tolerate my home, I want him to LIKE it, and that can't be forced. If he's not as happy with me as he ought to be, if he's going to be upset every day, he will be much happier in the long run with someone else.

But I hung up, tracked down my mom and asked if she minded doing a wal-mart run with me. I picked up the toys, and some treats, and hoped it would work.

That afternoon, Grampool told me he had done okay.... but he missed something I saw right off. He'd torn a chucnk off his crate. I'd have to watch him closely that night. I took him outside, I ran him until he insisted on going back inside. I made sure he was tired, in case that would help him calm down. I let him hang out with me in the living room all evening.

Then I crated him to take a shower, as a sort of test again. This time, he wouldn't even calm down to be in there for that long. Less than half an hour, and he was already ripping. But, I hadn't tossed both his toys in yet. So I figured, okay, maybe he'll be alright. Let him out until bedtime, and a few hours later re-crated him. And walked to the bedroom. And tried to sleep past his whining.

The night before, he had taken 10-20 minute breaks between fits. Last night, however, he was relentless. Barking, whining, tearing at the crate all at once. Around midnight I realized he wasn't stopping. I grabbed my radio, hoping that would at least quiet him for a bit. I went into the room where he's staying, turned on the light... and there was blood on his muzzle. He also had slobber all down his front from panting and generally being over-stressed. I opened the crate, tried and failed to get him to sit still long enough for me to 1) wipe the blood off him and 2) figure out if that was more blood or just slobber on his paws. Called my grandfather for help, so one of us could hold him while the other took a look (tried my parents but their phone was off). Thankfully the cut isn't as deep as I feared, but I kept thinking, this dog is going to end up seriously injuring himself if he's left alone that often. And I'm not sure, but I think he's getting worse the more he gets to like me, because that makes being away from me worse.

So I left the crate open, and slept on the couch. Called my boss this morning, opting to take a personal day in the interest of not having to stress the dog further. He's pretty much been sleeping all morning - and it's no wonder, it took him ages to stop panting last night.

That's the worst of it. I've already fallen in love with the pup. He's calm, reasonably quiet aside from when he's in the crate, very well-mannered indoors, understands what no means. I mean, he tries to nose at the trash when he thinks you're not looking, and tries to eat the cat's food, but all dogs do that. And he sneaks onto the couch when he sees my back turned too. As soon as I see him though, he hops off and tries to act like he did nothing. He's got just enough of that mischeif streak to make him fun.

He just will never be able to live someplace where he's left alone. Probably the best place for him would be a house where he can go both indoors and out, where there is at least one other dog to keep him company, since his owners will at least have to leave him for grocery shopping and such, even if there's usually somebody home.

I've called the shelter, and I'm taking him back when they open in half an hour. There's a choice of a 75% refund, or you can leave everything on record and get another dog later. I dunno how long it'll be before I find another dog I like quite so much to want to take it home, so the refund is probably the better idea. For now, Shaggy's sleeping by my computer chair.

I went crazy taking photos today so I'd have something to remember him by.

"Shaggy" in his crate, before I had his toys:

A nice side view of him, now with his stuffed animal and Kong toy (or rather, something made like them since I couldn't find the actual brand name):

Now tell me who could resist this face?

Or this one:

Here's what he looks like when his ears "stand up" (that's all the farther they go):

*sniff sniff* Yup, somebody peed there.

Here's a good one to get an idea of his size - Shaggy with my grandfather:

Shaggy with his new buddy, uh... Buddy. He kinda ignores him though. Buddy is way more interested in Shaggy than Shaggy is in him.

If you have ansy questions as to why I have to give him up:

And the chunks I managed to find that he tore off:

Some of the facial closeups, you might be able to see where he cut himself if you look hard enough. The dried blood sorta matches his fur though. It's not a bad cut, but I keep thinking of how badly he keeps trying to tear up the crate, and I know that even if I let him sleep in my room it won't be enough - I mean, what about while I'm at work? It wasn't a bad cut this time, but it could get worse if it continues.

I was really kinda hoping he'd make it okay. He really is a great dog....

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