Monday, January 08, 2007

Bad Dog

All the talk and hope about our new beagle took a terrible turn this weekend. When we first met him he was friendly enough, but after we picked him up and brought him home, things started getting ugly.

His first night was ruff (sic), but we expected that. He had just gotten "fixed" that morning and he couldn't have felt very good. He absolutely hated the dog crate we have, though. He wouldn’t go in at first, and then he just whined and howled most of the night. He settled down after awhile, but I woke up with a splitting headache later on, and he started whining again when he saw me come out. I gave up and let him out, petting him and sitting with him in the living room for a while before going back to bed. When My Lovely Wife (MLW) got up later on, he had claimed one of the plush chairs in the living room. Neither of us were thrilled, but we knew this was going to be an adjustment period for everyone, including the dog. MLW and I don't like the idea of sharing our furniture with animals. Well, not the cushy recliners anyway. The sofa’s okay. We prefer to get pet’s their own furniture.

As the days went on, things just kept getting more and more weird. He'd be resting happily or playing fetch with us and then suddenly he'd get jump around crazily, like a junkie on speed, bark a bit, and then go do something else. It was as if a switch turned on in his brain, and then turned back off moments later.

He also started getting aggressive with our kids. We had been told he wasn't food aggressive, but our experiences made us think otherwise. He started getting more and more aggressive in trying to steal food from our littlest ones, and even nipped at my middle daughter when she wouldn't let him have an apple she was eating. Who knew dogs liked apples?

MLW gave him some food and then started pulling on his ears a bit, and he seemed fine, although he has his nose buried in the food dish. When she put her hand in front of his eyes though, he growled and lashed out at her. Sure signs of food aggression if you ask me.

What sadder is that my eldest daughter, Violin Girl, had initially created the best relationship with him. She trained him and treated him and he started following her around for the rest of the day. The next day, though, he started getting aggressive with her. She saw that he'd gone downstairs. From the top of the stairs she called to him, trying to get him to come back up. He started growling and barking at her, really raising a fuss. After she left his field of view, though, we got him to come back upstairs and he seemed perfectly happy, wagging his tail the whole way.

My youngest daughter, the Munchkin, had the worst time. She used to run and play with our previous dog for as long as we'd let them. They were the best of friends. When she tried to pet the beagle, though, while he was eating, this dog growled at nipped at her. From that time on it was all she could do to avoid contact with him, she was so scared. I just hope this hasn't put her off all dogs.

That was, of course, the last straw. As much as I wanted to be patient, and believe most dogs can be trained if handled well, I wasn't going to take a risk with my children's well-being. The dog had to go.

We called the rescue service and told them we had to return him. To their credit they took the dog back and completely refunded our adoption fees. They apologized profusely, although I don't really hold them at fault. The dog didn't act like this at all when he was at the kennel. Even when we first met him there was no clue that this kind of behavior would manifest itself.

If that wasn't enough, though, there was another incident on the way back to the kennel. Violin Girl called me on my cell phone and told me the story.

My wife and the other girls were taking the dog back in our van. Violin Girl sat nearest the dog, for obvious reasons. When she noticed that the plastic cone he was wearing (remember the surgery?) was coming off, and he was chewing on it, she reached down to fix it. As soon as she got a hold of the collar he reached up and bit her, hard. He didn't break the skin, so I don’t know how much he intended to hurt her, but he wouldn't let go either. Violin girl immediately grabbed the scruff of his neck and pushed him down to the floor of the car (a maneuver we learned from Barbara Woodhouse, the famous dog trainer), trying to get him to let go. He wouldn't. Violin girl shook his neck as best she could without hurting her captured hand (a submission move that adult dogs use on puppies), and he finally let go, but when she removed her hand he turned and bit her arm, as well. Then he went back to being happy and wagging as if nothing had happened at all.

Violin girl is okay. She got shaken up a bit, but her coat absorbed most of the second bite and so she's physically unharmed. I'm not sure this dog wasn't mentally deranged. I've done some reading on dogs of late and this kind of behavior is one of the signs of schizophrenia in dogs. I don't suppose I'll ever find out exactly why the dog behaved so badly, though.

All I know for sure is that the dog is no longer in my house and my wife and daughters are safe. In fact, I'm really proud of Violin Girl. She handled herself well in a ruff (sic) situation. She didn't panic; she just did what needed to be done. I sent her a "pic" message after hearing about all of this showing a picture of a "thumbs up" and told her she did a good job. I told her she was my hero.

Why? Because she is.

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