Friday, January 06, 2006

Our Dog's Life

I mentioned that we have two dogs in my "about" section. (We have two cats too, but that's a different story.) We didn’t set out to have two dogs, it just sort of happened.

MERIT (April 2001) (Merit was born sometime in September 1999, so she’s currently 6.)

I started w/Merit. I worked at an ad company at the time and they had a dog policy. I know, most companies have a dog policy, which is “don't bring them to work”. Our policy was to bring them on in. I had bought a condo w/a small yard the year before and felt that if I could bring the animal to work with me then it wasn't irresponsible to get a medium sized dog. Merit is a border collie/beagle mix (at least that’s the info we got on her). She’s super socialized and we dubbed her “The Princess”. She’s smart enough to understand her boundaries and just how close she can get to crossing them. She’s spoiled and knows it. And in most respects she’s really my first baby. I adopted her about a month before DS and I got engaged. I asked him to go with me when I went to the shelter, but he declined and a good friend from work (who is a dog person) went with me. I remember my friend was like, “How can you just go pick a dog out like that?” He felt you needed to research the breed, etc…I agree to a point. But I also remember telling him, “If my dog is there, she’ll pick me.” (I knew I wanted a female.) He thought I was so weird. But I was right. We saw Merit and took her into the greeting yard. My friend & I sat on this bench they had there. She came over to me and stood there wagging her tail, like asking permission to greet me. I patted my chest, like come on up and she promptly put both paws on my shoulders and nuzzled my neck. Basically she gave me a doggie hug. I know now that that she’s actually pretty stingy w/the dog hugs, so I was right. She let me know I was hers. A family who said she was too hyper had brought her to the shelter, but really she just had puppy energy issues. She loved coming to work with me and it was a very rude awakening for her and I when I had to change jobs and no longer got to bring her.

MOWRY (October 2002) (Mowry was born sometime in March 2002. He is currently 3.)
So a year and a half later, my brother’s family gets a dog. His wife (who really hasn’t owned a dog before) wants a “puppy that will be a big dog.” Having had a Lab growing up we (my family) all told her she was loony, but she insisted. They got a Lab/Border Collie mix and named him Mowry. He was about 6 months old. He promptly dug up their yard and chewed up bunch of lawn furniture. My SIL freaked out. A lot of Mowry’s issue at that time was puppy stuff and being a Lab mix meant he had a lot of energy to do it with. Merit and he had had a couple of play dates and got along pretty well. So when it became apparent that they were not going to keep this dog we told them to bring him over. We figured we’d foster him and contact a local rescue group to help find him a home. (We would now be his fourth home in his first year of life.) We immediately enrolled him in obedience school and thought, if we can get him trained like Merit it would be a great for them to have each other (since we both have to work during the day). And Mowry has made great progress. But he has issues.

He’s a chronic barker. We finally had to get him an electronic bark collar. Not the basic kind you get at Petco or something either. We had to graduate to hunting one (which is serious, trust me). I don’t need to hear the debate on this one. I’m not a huge proponent of them, but we had literally tried everything else leading up to this. We were down to either this, debarking (which I think less of) or getting rid of him. There are a handful of animals that these are appropriate for and he is one of them. He will literally stand in the middle of the yard and bark at nothing for HOURS. He did it two weeks ago when the battery died on his collar. I thought I was going to have nervous breakdown. Our old neighbors had us cited over this, so we had to do something.

He used to be a chewer, and digger, but (knock on wood) he seems to have outgrown these behaviors. His other big issue is that he won’t be confined. (Something they tell you to do with chronic barkers.) First, he broke out the front of an airplane crate (he was crate trained at one time). He broke the lock on it and then bent the wiring. My husband fixed it with rebar. So the dog chewed out the plastic in the back of it. (Have you seen the plastic on these things—this was no small feat. I would not have believed an animal could’ve done this if I hadn’t seen it.) His mouth was a bloody mess. I felt so bad that he felt so panicked that way. That was the end of crating him. We’ve build “dog-runs” in both of our yards (we just moved to a new house in November). But it turns out Mowry can jump the gates on these. He seems content to stay in the main yard for now (but based on past experience I’m not counting on that lasting). Needless, we are feeling very at the end of our rope on this one. There are a bunch of other smaller issues. This post is already so long I’m not going to go through them, but they’re notable in the fact that make us realize that Mowry’s real issue is severe separation anxiety. We had a discussion last night about finally calling that rescue group to have him placed with another family. I pulled up info on it today and turned into a basket case over it. I just feel like no one else will put this kind of effort into him and he’s going to end up being put down. He’s only 3 and he’s not a bad dog, he just needs a lot of attention. I don’t think we’re really the right family for him, we work and can’t exercise him enough. We’re about to have another kid and he doesn’t deal well with these types of transitions. But if we’re willing to put in the money and effort does that make us the right family? We understand our limitations, and the reality is that we have them—are we the right family for him? Is it fair to us (as a family) to constantly be dealing with this stuff? (The neighbors, fixing fences, etc…) I know we took him on and I’m not complaining, but it does create an additional level of stress on our family and it’s not far to the family either.

It’s so hard to know what to do. I really think he belongs with a family who has a significant yard, (like out in the country,) a SAHM and preferably has a couple of boys ages 8-12 who will help keep him occupied and tire him out regularly. But this family would have to be really committed to him. Moving him to another family will make his anxiety worse for some time. That’s what scares me. I just don’t know what do to about it anymore.