Post from March, 2008

Misha Jekyll and little Miss Hyde

Saturday, 22. March 2008 22:47

Misha took over our house, I mean Misha came to live with us in March of 2007.

I knew Misha was a very timid dog and we had a lot of hard work ahead of us to help her gain some confidence. It seemed like we were off to a good start, she accepted us as bearers of treats and food in just a few days. She was even starting to wag her tail for us and greet us with ‘rooororoororoooo’ when we came home. Of course there were some problems, some destructive separation anxiety and/or bored puppy chewing. She managed to find stuff to shred on a daily basis – no matter how many toys she had available and how careful we thought we were at putting everything out of reach. But heck, we don’t have nice furniture anyway. As long as the electronics were safe and she didn’t ingest anything that had to be surgically removed, it was nothing we couldn’t live with. Honestly, she was doing much better than we expected. And best of all she was already housebroken, not a single ‘accident’ in the house.

About a week after we brought her home she started having some female problems. I’ll skip the gross-out details, let’s just say my first thought was that she was in heat even though I knew she was fixed! I felt really bad that we had to put her through a scary vet visit so soon but I knew she needed antibiotics. So I made her an appointment where she had been spayed. I didn’t know much about the office. Turned out they were very nice, competent folks at a VERY BUSY low-cost clinic. Translation – longish wait with LOTS of doggie traffic.

Of course I knew Misha was timid. I knew she’d be scared. I knew she’d put on the brakes when we tried to go in those big glass doors. I was a bit more worried – though not completely surprised – when she wedged her terrified self underneath the plastic waiting room chairs. But the vicious growling snarling barking fit from under that chair at the first dog that *dared* to look at her? Nope. Wasn’t expecting that at all. I did know she wasn’t people-social. But she was raised with three little dogs and an occasional canine visitor, so I did assume she was dog-social. (And maybe she was fine with other dogs before she was taken away from her ‘pack’. She didn’t trust me to protect her?)

Well, I got her out from under her chair and into the exam room. She promptly curled up like an armadillo. I unrolled her so the nice vet could look her over. He was very kind, and so gentle with her. She was petrified but sweet, even bravely licked his hand. Waiting in the lobby for her antibiotics, Misha Jekyll disappeared and Little Miss Hyde returned, zealously defending herself from all those scary, scary dogs. From behind my legs she barked and snarled at a little fluffy white mop, a goofy-cute clumsy English Bulldog puppy, and a sweet Pit Bull named Biscuit that whined and wagged her tail at Psycho-Misha.

We had to put obedience classes on hold. The training class we were going to take didn’t want a scared, grouchy snapper. We did continue to walk every day, venturing further out as the weather warmed up. Like most dogs, Misha loves to walk. She takes her ‘walkies’ very seriously. She starts to whine when I sit down to put my walking shoes on. If I take too long fumbling with my shoelaces, the whining escalates to howling. Did I mention she really, really loves her walks?

Unfortunately I started to dread the walks as we ventured further. Anywhere you go there are dogs. I learned where the crankiest dogs were and avoided those routes, but they were still everywhere. Dogs in yards, dogs on leashes, and the very worst – dogs running loose. Tail waggers or fence fighters, didn’t matter to her.  We kept a healthy distance but even a dog spotted a block or more away earned the same dramatic performance: Growl, lunge to the end of the leash, snarl, air snaps. I was in denial for a few weeks, thinking she would calm down and just get used to seeing other dogs. Nope. Getting worse, not better. We had to get some professional help.

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On Choosing a Dog

Thursday, 13. March 2008 11:06

I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails with questions about my comment about dog traits.

“I was reading articles on how to recognize certain personality traits in a dog. . .”

First question – what article was I reading about how to recognize personality traits in a rescue or shelter dog? There are others but the two I saved in my favorites were from Robin’s Pet Tips on the Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW, Maryland) website.
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_AgressionAssessment.php
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Temperament.php

And someone else wanted to know what traits I was looking for in a dog, so this was my doggy traits wish list:

Not too small – but no more than medium sized (Small enough for me to pick up in and emergency, lift into the bathtub, etc. – 30-35 pounds full grown?).
Misha:  Sixty pounds.

An adult dog, at least 1.5 years old, past the psycho teenager stage.
Misha:  8 months old when we brought her home. (Yep, the doggy equivalent of a teenager.)

Love people and dogs.
Misha:  Painfully shy, scared witless of anything/anyone new, fear aggressive towards other dogs.

Purebred or mixed didn’t matter, but a breed background that tends to be eager to learn.
Misha:  Incredibly stubborn, doesn’t think even the most positive training session is remotely fun (except for the liver treats).

Awww, I make her sound like a complete disaster. She’s actually pretty wonderful – sweet, affectionate, goofy, playful and adorable.  She’s completely housebroken, prissy in fact, about her potty habits. She’s really the perfect dog. Well, as long as we never leave home, no one comes over and no other dogs dare to walk past our house on HER sidewalk she is absolutely perfect.

Thanks for the questions! Nice to know someone is actually *reading* my drivel!

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