Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All American Rejects, today featuring Jayne

This was his Craigs List ad picture. He was so fat when we got him he couldn't kidney bean with out falling over. So funny!

And this is him now, after a roll in the dry grass, I had to brush him before I let him in the house!

Ah yes, my own personal autistic dog. Most trainers use the term 'reactive' when analyzing this type of dog but we'll get to that in a bit, first you need to hear how we came across this 'little' bundle of madness. FYI he's a bit taller than breed standard, I'm 5'1" and his head probably comes almost up to mid chest on me. He's built like a horse and oddly, his face looks very much like not so far back in his blood line he has pit bull in it. Like really not so far back, like a parent? He's got white haws (you know, that inner eyelid thing) which boxers are not supposed to have, it gives him psycho looking eyes. Which, in retrospect, is apropos.

When we got Roxy from the pound we always knew she would be the first of 2. We wanted 2 dogs and unlike the fact that we want 2 kids we are able to afford 2 dogs so after having Roxy for a few months we kept our eyes out for another dog (most likely boxer). One day I was flipping through Craig's List and found an ad (with a picture) for an adult male brindle black mask fawn. Thing to note, I'm not a big brindle fan, the dh loves brindle so he was all excited about this ad. Oddly enough when I called the owner she said she did not have many responses because one of the stipulations in her ad was that she wanted to come and look at the new home and make sure it was appropriate for him. Yeah this woman had no idea what she was doing with this dog, no control whatsoever and he needed serious help. The last thing she needed to worry about was how the house looked. No she wanted to make sure he would be contained and wouldn't bite anyone else. Yeah you heard me, she was pawning off a dog with a bite history. Do ya'll have any idea of the legal ramifications of that?

So I set up a date to have her come over and visit with him. Thing to note about San Diego, it's all valleys and mesas. You can be driving on a street and have it end abruptly only to continue on somewhere else if you know how to get around into that valley. Drives the newbs nuts, we natives are used to it. Anyway turns out the woman lives 3 doors down from us in the valley that goes down (we were the 2nd to last house on our end of the street) and so it was not a long drive for her to bring him over one night. So she shows up in her Mercedes and Jaynie on a leash with a German prong collar on. He's still got scars from it, don't even get me started. It's the WORST collar you can put on a reactive dog. Just the absolute worst. Fool woman, and I'd elaborate on her but she's not worth the wasted letters on the computer. You see that Louis Vuitton collar he has on in that first picture? She kept it, it and his leash (?). Beotch.

She comes up to the door, I go to greet her and Roxy follows behind, dh a little behind Roxy, dd is somewhere flitting about. Jaynie spots Roxy and goes apeshit, just like a dog aggressive reactive dog does. He's up on his hind legs rearing and barking growling foaming at the mouth, the woman has a hold of his leash and is trying to restrain him. I have not opened the security door yet so I'm not worried, dh thinks oh there's no way in hell we can take this dog. Me? Oh yeah, so used to this and I take it in stride. I have the dh take Roxy in the backyard through the house so Jaynie isn't looking at her then I have her give me the leash for Jayne and explain to her that it'll be fine. He can't have her on the other end of the leash and be calm, not going to happen. I've done this dance before, I was a dog trainer with a reactive dog so I know what's going to set him off and how to change the situation to one we can deal with. #1, take the old owner out of the equation, #2 put him in a place that is not his but is owned by Roxy. Roxy is a mellow girl but when she needs to put her foot down you can see the cranky mom in her come out and put the smack down. We love it when she puts the smack down, it's sooo fun to watch. She does it just like a good momma should, hard core with out any blood actually being shed. So I take his leash, lead him into the back yard by the side gate and introduce the 2 dogs with his old owner hanging back. And it goes really well. He doesn't mind Roxy at all and he just starts with the play, she plays a bit then puts the smack down just so that he knows it's her house and she's not going to put up with his crap even though he's a head taller than her. Jayne's old owner was amazed that he went from psycho to playing so quickly. I went though some basic dog behavior things with her and she hadn't a clue as to how a dogs mind works, much less this one.

Turns out she had gotten passed this dog by a gay guy friend of hers, I never found out why. She worked 14 hour days and he was locked out on the porch the whole time. So her excuse for re-homing him was that she didn't have the time. My ass. Do you know 2 months after adopting him she sent me an email with pictures of her shiny new puppy? She told me that Jayne had bit a homeless guy that wanted to pet him once when they were on a walk. Also the Fed Ex guy, she opened the door, signed for her package and when the guy turned to leave Jayne went after him. She was shocked and amazed. I was shocked that she just left him lose to have the chance to bite the guy. That dog is never, ever let lose around strangers in our home. Even on leash he's not allowed to visit with strangers. He will bite them, no doubt in my mind, with out proper introductions. When it comes to the fight or flight instinct he doesn't do flight, just fight and as far as he's concerned everyone is out to get him and his family. Dog is not wired right. So she took Jayne home and told us to call her if we decide we wanted him. Oh and if you didn't catch it before the dh was also impressed with how well Jayne did in the backyard. After the initial flip out he was absolutely sure that we couldn't take this dog. Oh ye of little faith.

We discussed him in the days to come, I think it took us 1 maybe 2 days to call her back. Dh had reservations so I had to explain a bunch of dog behavioral stuff to him. My last dog, the one I left with my ex boyfriend in college, was a reactive dog. Same thing, totally wired wrong. No, neither of these dogs were abused, as for nature vs nurture I know that the root is definitely nature but there are things that an owner can do to make it worse. #1 problem? Ignorance. And this old owner, she was stupid. She took him jogging once and he was attacked but a group of unleashed pit bulls and a rottie. Can I tell you just how observant we are when walking Jaynie? We can see a person or dog from a mile away and we avoid the situation. It's just too much for him at times and a dog can take up to 3 weeks to get that adrenaline rush out of his system. One of the things I told the dh when we were discussing whether or not to adopt him is that if we didn't take him he'd either go to a home that would have no idea how to take care of him or he'd end up euthanized. Most likely he'd end up miserable and then be euthanized. I was pretty sure he'd be on the fast track for a death sentence.

I know these reactive dogs, 99.9% of dog owners can not handle them. It's just like having a severely autistic child and not everyone can raise one, it's hard and the whole family has to know what they are doing. And we had a 5 yr old at home that we'd have to train to understand just what kind of mental case with potential disaster we were getting into. Now before you think OMG they adopted a known biter and they have a small child, don't stress. Believe it or not I do know what I'm doing. No, really I do. And let me tell you, the dd? An amazingly well rounded dog trainer by age 7, no lie. Plus she knows and understands dogs really well for a kid her age. I didn't realize it until I saw other kids her age around dogs. It's a miracle more kids don't get attacked by dogs, no really.

We ended up getting Jaynie, of course. We did change his name to Jayne, after a character in a movie/tv show made by Joss Whedon (Serenity/Firefly). He came with a name of course, it was the same name as my dh. My dh is named after his great uncle who helped design the San Diego Bay, it is not, however a common name. At all. Everyone gets it wrong. When he came into our home we started making immediate adjustments. We found that when we took him on walks he couldn't handle the sight of other dogs. Also he couldn't handle people walking by us, he'd wait until they passed and try biting the backs of their legs. Unstable much? Yes, why yes we are. We got a hold of a positive reinforcement trainer and did in home training lessons every week for 2 months. Learned an insane amount of things about how to read what was going on in this dogs brain. He ain't all up there, let me tell you. And yes, that's how I decided this boy is, for all intents an purposes, autistic. We had to learn how to make his life safe. Not just for the people and animals around him but for him all by himself. He has very few front teeth left, he chewed them all down in his neurotic behavior before we even got him. If he's left lose in the house and sees someone walking by he'll freak out and try to bust through the window. Not a good city dog.

We did everything we could to make everyone's life happy but ultimately the best thing we've done for him is move to suburbia, city life was just waaay too much for him. He's hypersensitive to external stimulation and if ever there was a dog that needed his crate this is him. He doesn't like physical touch, you can watch his skin twitch every time you touch him. He doesn't snuggle or come up for affection and loves. If the kid is hyper you can just watch the stress all over his face. He doesn't like toddlers, wrong height for him and it freaks him out. He won't do anything to them he just tries to get away from them with a stressed look on his face. See now you know why I think he'd be euthanized by now if given to anyone else? Who wants to put out that much effort and change their lives for a dog? It took us a good year to really love this dog, not that he isn't lovable but his sensitivities make it difficult to get close to him.

Interesting thing though, these 'reactive' dogs make the most loyal of companions. He's damn smart, really damn smart. I can train him to do anything. And when I came back from brain surgery he stuck around me, checked on me when I was in the shower, waited for me at the top of the stairs until I was ready to go down. Bets have it that if I wanted to train him to be a handicap assistant dog it's take me about a month. I started doing agility training with him and dang is he good. Even the dd can get him to follow the commands and do the tricks. We'd never be able to compete since all dogs have to be off leash and under control around other people, crowds and dogs. I would never do that to him, lord the stress for him!

Despite all of his issues he is, oddly, our favorite of the rejects. He's just so easy in the home. Unlike Roxy (who will pee on carpet for whatever reason she has) and Corbin (the poo eater who hates going to the bathroom outside, oy) he has no issues inside the home hanging out. He's even gotten to the point where, if invited on the couch, he'll lie on top of us. HUGE difference to what we started with, he didn't like to be touched or touching us. Yeah, inbreeding at it's finest...


Trailboss said...

There are just too many backyard breeders in our fine country. I hate it. I do love the fact that you saw what you did in this dog and despite the challenge you saved his life. I have never known a boxer to NOT like the touch. Ours lean on us constantly, especially Sophie. I believe there is a special place in Heaven for folks like you and your family.

MichelleSG said...

Oh and he did come from a backyard breeder, I have the papers to prove it. Some place in Kansas that I'm absolutely sure sells to pet stores, bad bad bad. He is the only boxer I know that doesn't like touch. He's learned to like it though, but only from me and my hubby. He does love attention for play and the like but not touching unless it's under his terms. Roxy on the other hand, has no sense of personal space. I swear she crawls up on you and tries to go all the way up your nose, the love has boundary issues...
And no, there's not a special place in heaven for us. I told you, we're going to parent hell! The kid maybe, the both of us, nah.

Anonymous said...

You are such a great dog mommy! He is such a cutie! I can't stand all of the horrible dog breeding that goes on. Makes me so sad!