Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Life and Puppies

We did something recently that I swore up and down I absolutely would not do. We got a puppy. We lost our Golden Retriever back in the summer months and, admittedly, I have had a really tough time dealing with the grieving process. Almost daily, I find myself shedding a few tears thinking about him - even today. I even have weekly nightmares about losing him. He was just an awesome dog, particularly for our family. He was a mellow boy, but could turn on the energy just when it was needed. If we didn't feel like walking him, he was perfectly content to snore quietly at our feet. He loved people and would happily greet anyone willing to pat him on the head, give him a treat, or tell him he was a good boy. He was also incredibly patient with other dogs. I can only recall two occasions in his life with us in which he even remotely had issue with another animal (and that was only after repeated warnings to leave him alone). The winter has been particularly difficult because I am reminded of how much he loved the snow. He would roll in it until he was sopping wet, but it made him happy and that's all that mattered.
*Image found here
A few months ago, I started talking about adopting another dog. I had promised that we would not have more than two dogs again in our home, but I had spotted an older Labrador at our local shelter who had been left tied to a pole with a note stating that someone needed to "take him or he would be put down." Fortunately, two kind ladies decided to take him to the shelter so that he could find his forever home (which, as I recently learned, he did find). When I met with him, he was definitely a sweet boy. I walked him for quite awhile and even had Sam come to visit with him. He agreed that he was a great dog, but we both thought we needed to have our resident alpha Lab meet him before we made a decision to adopt. Of course, that did not go well. Our Labrador is about as opposite as a dog could be from the Golden we lost. She believes she is the ruler of the roost, she has crazy amounts of energy, and she believes that it is her personal mission to destroy every stuffed toy on this planet as well as to fetch every ball thrown (whether she's exhausted or not). We love her just as much as the Golden, but she can definitely be a handful to deal with on a daily basis. Even at seven years old, she retains her puppy attitude and energy - something our vet swore she would lose by age four.

You can see why I really wouldn't want to deal with a puppy. Already having a seven year old "puppy" in the house is enough to deal with, and I know the headaches that come with a truly young dog. Because I work from home, I knew that I would be the one dealing with the madness throughout the day. Still, in a moment of weakness, I thought that perhaps it was time to add a family member. After all, we have a 7.5 year old Labrador, and a nearly 12 year old terrier... perhaps a little additional energy would do us some good. Or not.

I believe wholeheartedly in adopting from shelters because there are far too many animals given up and there simply aren't enough homes for all of them. However, we realized quickly that having a "new" adult dog come into the house wasn't likely to work with our girl. So, we started looking for adoptable puppies. Our shelter didn't have any available that seemed suitable for our home, so we started checking other possibilities within the state. One day, while perusing Craigslist, we found a family who had some "accidental" puppies that they needed to adopt out to other families. Sometimes adoptions come from the most interesting situations, but we thought it was worth a look.

We ended up with a week(ish) to wait for our little Golden Retriever puppy to make her way home to us. In the interim, I started having doubts... started questioning the decision to bring home a third dog. It had worked in the past, but I kept finding myself asking Sam, "Do you still want to adopt the puppy?" To which he continually responded, "Yes. Why? Are you changing your mind?" I was never really sure how to answer. I know we can handle a puppy, but I was worried about how our Lab was going to handle it. Our terrier... I knew he would adapt... but the Lab - Ohhh... the Lab... she's just, well, very much her own dog who likes things her way.
Chablis and Gandolf check out the "fresh meat."
The day we brought the puppy (Bernadette) home, the two resident dogs took to sniffing her as though she were a slab of meat laced with chew treats. You can almost see the look of disgust on Chablis' (the Lab's) face above. Who is this intruder? Why is she here? She'd better be leaving soon! We've had visiting dogs in the past and it's generally fine, but it was almost as though Chablis knew this one wasn't going to leave in a few days.
Bernadette's wound healing - the knot was actually quite large at one point.
As a side note, I swear I have a better collar for her (You know, so she doesn't look like a sad orphan dog, but it doesn't quite fit her yet).
Since the puppy wasn't going to leave on her own, Chablis decided to attempt to make her go away. About a week and a half into her stay with us, Chablis was no longer tolerating this ridiculous puppy and while our backs were turned, in an instant she attacked the puppy, leaving a huge bite mark and swollen welt on the bridge of her nose. I have no doubt the puppy was trying to play and Chablis wasn't having it. We took great care to be sure the wound would heal properly and not leave Bernadette scarred for life.
An increasingly rare nap - it was a good break.
Unfortunately, Chablis' attempts to keep the puppy away did no good and by the next morning, she was once again jumping around and wanting to play. We did our best to keep them separated, but there's only so much separating that can be done when a puppy wants to play. We gave the puppy time outs in her kennel so she could rest and give the other dogs a break, and continued to give time to each of the dogs, but about a week after the first incident, when our backs were turned yet again, Chablis went on the offensive. This time, the puppy let out a long, repeated, screeching sound. As I went to her, I realized she was bleeding profusely. I picked her up and wrapped her in a towel, attempting to figure out where all the blood was coming from. One of her eyes seemed to be swelling and shutting and I couldn't tell where any punctures were on her body.

We had our first animal-related emergency room visit that evening. I was shaking, stressed, and unsure of what to do. Frankly, I wasn't sure if the wound was life-ending or not because I couldn't tell where Chablis had taken out her hostility. The puppy was spitting blood and not breathing well. It just didn't look good. After talking with the veterinarian, she assured us that we weren't doing anything wrong, but just needed to figure out a way to help them co-exist. She also said that Bernadette would be fine and that there was no permanent damage. Even her eye was fine - simply swollen from the trauma to her nose (again).
Sassing the Rat Terrier
This poor puppy! I didn't want her to grow up thinking that all dogs attack, are mean, or constantly growl. I didn't want her to think that she could never play or have fun. She's a puppy... and so small. It's my job to protect and train her - and I had failed - miserably - at my job. Maybe it was time to give Bernadette up and find her a suitable home. I just wasn't sure that Chablis would ever accept her as part of the pack, and after reading through the material given to us by the veterinarian, I was even less sure that this was going to work.

After a nearly sleepless night and lots of talking about what to do, we decided to see if someone could help. I went to the Humane Society and they suggested a puppy training course for Bernadette. In the interim (the classes still haven't started, but will soon), they reminded me to back up the older, resident dogs when they (politely and nicely) ask Bernadette to leave them alone. I was also encouraged to spend at least 15 minutes alone with each of the dogs so that no one feels left out or as though they are being replaced.
A good sign?
I don't want to be overly-optimistic, but things have been okay for the last week or so. We are doing our best to keep the puppy away from the Labrador, particularly if she's feeling super playful. We have our training classes scheduled to begin in about two weeks. We are walking the dogs individually, allowing for correction time with the pup, but also giving an opportunity to be with the older dogs on their own and appreciate them for their own special qualities.

Our Lab isn't a mean girl (crazy as she may be at times). In fact, she's really quite sweet and loyal, particularly to me. Even as I type this, she's right here with me, waiting for our next adventure. She loves people and is acutely aware of my emotions, so I am learning that I have to relax a little bit and not let the stress of a puppy take over every aspect of life. She may not love having to share my time with the other dogs, but she's slowly learning to accept this reality (I think - I hope).

As for the puppy, she's healing up nicely. Unfortunately, she's had quite a traumatic start with us. But, as with anything in life, I can't go back and change what has already taken place; however, I can work on making the future better for all of us. Part of me realizes that perhaps I should've listened to that little voice, that bit of intuition in regard to adopting another dog, but I believe we can make it work with the right assistance and training. We have enough love for each of the dogs - now we just have to work to keep them all safe, healthy and happy.

8 comments:

  1. Hello, Bernadette! Welcome to your new home. I hope things settle soon.

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  2. We've had a few bitch (between two female dogs) battles in our day. My heart dog, Sasha, was a bit reactive toward our Cammie, another female. We learned to be VERY vigilant, and watch their eyes (i.e., how they looked at each other) and body language. 90% of the time they were fine. 5% or so of the time, we could see something coming and intervene -- remove the toy, distract the dogs, put one in a crate, etc. The other times might lead to fights and/or emergency room visits. :( It was especially fun (and by fun here, I mean NOT FUN AT ALL) when the girls would get into it and the two boy dogs would go "Oh boy, a fight!!" and wade in. The boys were much easier to call off than the girls, though. Girls are tough.

    If your older dog is a bit possessive of her toys or food, watch for issues there especially. OTOH, a young dog can really liven up an older dog that's gotten a little slow and sedate.

    Good luck! Your pup is adorable!

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    1. Part of what the vet offered us to read that scared me a bit was a document speaking to female dogs fighting to the death out in the wild. I definitely don't want to see that sort of situation take place in our home! So, hopefully, we can keep things relatively sane, stable, etc, so that we can limit the fighting. I don't think anyone wants to live with two dogs fighting, but I really do hope they can learn to live with each other. It's actually helpful to hear others' experiences, so I'm glad you shared yours... it helps me understand that others go through similar situations and we can get through it.

      Thanks so much!

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  3. These two dogs should adjust, given time. The pecking order will determined soon. As the pup gets older it will be better able to take care of itself. I hate that you're going through this. I know how tough it is. As you know I have Chows. Hell hath no fury as two Chow bitches going at it. I can't count the number of times in the last 20 years.

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    1. I can only imagine, LC! I do hope that they adjust and become (at minimum) tolerant of each other. They are both breeds that want to please, so I hope that wins out over their inborn need to be number one.

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  4. We had adjustment issues when our Springer Basil first came home. Claire the lab definitely needed to be assured that she was still top dog. We always made sure to feed her first, pet her first when we came home, and so forth. We had to keep them separated for almost a month. I was almost at the point of despair when they finally settled in together! Eleven years later when Claire died, it was hard to remember that there had ever been a time when we didn't have Claire-and-Basil.

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    1. That is really good to hear, Kendra! We are almost at a month now, and they do seem to be a bit better at this very moment, so I'm hoping it's the start of a long and beautiful life together. Like you, we feed the Lab first, pet her first, etc... so, I'm hoping that's helping her understand that she is top dog and will help her have a bit of patience with the new addition. Thank you for sharing your experience because the more people I hear from who've had similar experiences, it really does help me believe that there is hope for them to coexist as we move forward.

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