The Humane Society Lied To Us About Our Dog
So, this all started because of my ex-husband. Last year, he had a mental break and I ended up having to get a restraining order against him. We moved to a new house and I'm not sure what the people living here before us had allowed, but for whatever reason, we had a lot of contractors, working for the utilities company or the city, walking into the back yard, without so much as knocking on the front door to tell me they were going back there. I would look out the back window and there would be a guy, in regular street clothes, roaming around my back yard.
Lemme just tell ya: When someone has to get a restraining order, they had a reason to get the restraining order. You don't "just" get one; the person you get it against had to do something bad enough for a judge to decide that person isn't allowed to come within 100 yards of you ever again. So when I saw strange men in my back yard, it freaked me out more than a little.
It turned out that they were working on the phone lines, but this went on for a few weeks, with each crew of guys telling me that the work was done and they were the last people that were going to come out. That was until the next bunch of guys came out. I don't think it's a surprise that their presence made me pretty skittish, so I took some measures to keep this from happening anymore, like putting locks on my gates.
Oh yeah, and the brilliant idea of getting a dog.
This idea was simple enough: Get a younger dog at the Humane Society that didn't have more emotional baggage than a middle-aged divorcee, and that would eventually transition into being a well-adjusted part of our family. It didn't have to be a trained attack dog, but would have to at least make people think twice before bothering it. I had to take my mom with me, because I couldn't afford the high fee associated with adopting a dog. And that, exactly, was my first mistake.
My mom has adopted two dogs and a cat, and all three turned out to be abysmal failures as companions.
First she adopted the cat, which she named Simon. He was not a bad cat, but she kept trying to make him stay inside, regardless of what he wanted (if a cat is gonna go outside, a cat is gonna go outside). If you get a cat from the Humane Society, there's a good chance that's how the cat wound up there: The owner's inability to make the cat stay inside. After all, they probably didn't pick up this "stray cat" in the owner's back yard or living room.
Being indoors made the cat angry, and he took it out on my mother. He knocked things over. He sat across the room, glaring at her like he was plotting revenge. She inexplicably took him on several road trips, also not allowing him to leave the trailer, knowing that he would go from "Forever Friend" to "Forever Lost." This was too much for Simon, who then took out his anger on her by trapping her in the back of the trailer, hissing and spitting and growling at her, or biting her toes, maliciously, while she slept.
Simon's end was a tragic one; my mom came out to visit us in Washington and left him with a friend. The friend was more realistic about Simon going outside, but apparently, karma was not on his side, and they found parts of him, eaten, throughout the neighborhood over the next couple of days.
My mother was livid; how could her friend be so careless? I can't even remember how many times I had to bring her back to reality and remind her that Simon often bullied his way past her to get outside, too.
I also asked her why she wanted a cat that went all Pet Sematary on her, just because she wouldn't let him outside.
The second nightmare my mother brought into our lives was Max, a pure-bred rat terrier that looked and acted like a playful and charming lil' buddy when getting his way, but a demon, directly bred from the Hounds of Hell, when he wasn't.
The details of my mother's acquisition of the dog were fuzzy; she somehow adopted it at some place from a person, but the dog's bad behavior seemed to make her want to remove any culpability she had in making such an awful choice in a pet.
Watching one of those pet rescue shows several years later, I learned that Max was probably "Food Aggressive." On the show, that usually meant that the dog had been starved and had to fight for its food because it lived in near-starvation conditions. For Max, that meant you weren't sharing your hamburger.
Max was so certain that he was entitled to people food that, if we did not share our people food with him, he would bite the most naked part of your body available to him. If your elbow or small toe was bare and the closest thing to that vicious little mouth, that was what he would bite.
And no amount of dog food or more people food satiated his hunger. He could have just eaten an entire bag of dog food and three Cal's Jr. double burger meals, and that little rat bastard would demand more!
"Oh, I see you have some hash browns," his greedy little eyes would say, surveying my kids' breakfast, after a morning trip to McDonald's. But having been taught not to give the dog people food, and also because this was their breakfast and they were hungry, they hesitated in giving him the greasy patty of delight; he replied to their insolence by snarling at them with great menace.
His front lip would curl up above his teeth and his eyes would narrow. His body shook from anger. My son, only 2 years old at the time and really wanting to eat that hash brown patty, recoiled in fear. That's when Max saw his chance and struck out at my son, biting the small toe on his right foot.
Max spent a lot of time in the crate during mealtimes after that. And then one day, he disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived. I last heard he was living on a commune in California for other naughty rat terriers (no, really), but was still having trouble adjusting to the idea that he was not, indeed, human and was still not entitled to sit at a dinner table and eat a lot of food that would most likely make him very sick.
Have your shelter animals been:
I am, admittedly, a cat person. I really like dogs, but they have to belong to other people and, like grandchildren, I get to leave them at their house and go home. Cats are just so much easier.
I have several theories about cat people and dog people, like dogs are much more like women and cats are much more like men, but the theory I seem to have proven after years of intense research (watching my friends and family) is this:
Dog people hate cats. Hate them. But cat people don't hate dogs, they just hate the responsibilities that go hand in hand with owning a dog, like walking them at 3 in the morning because they got diarrhea from that corn dog.
And then, there was Buddy. Poor, poor Buddy.
My mom adopted Buddy, an older Golden Retriever that, while beautiful and jovial, ended up being an emotional basket case whose only goal in life seemed to be winning the love and affection of his owners by utterly smothering them, both emotionally and physically.
My mom was one in a decent line of previous and future owners who just couldn't fill the hole of his eternal need. She had been told, by his previous owner, that the vet she adopted him from had rescued Buddy from a breeder situation in which he was constantly tethered - day or night, rain or shine, hot or cold - to a tree in the breeder's back yard, released only to do his business, and I don't mean numbers one or two. Strangely enough, there was no story of why the vet got rid of the dog, but I had my suspicions.
Buddy's next owner, the lady that my mom met, loved him dearly, but could't keep him from running away. He was indeed a very powerful dog, and she said he would pull away from her on walks and just ... run. He had no destination, he only wanted to run. The lady insisted that she walked him often and she had a big back yard he could run around in, but he kept escaping the fence, and that with the running away in walks had completely frayed her nerves.
She was picking him up at the shelter after another escape attempt, when she saw my mom as an obvious target. My mother must have been drawn to Buddy immediately; he genuinely was a beautiful and sweet-natured dog, but was not only incredibly nervous but also incredibly needy, traits that my mom apparently looks for in a pet.
When you meet an animal at the shelter, you discount any anxiety as stress they're exhibiting as the stress from being in there. This was not the case with Buddy.
Buddy was a large dog; I think he may haver weighed more than all three of my kids combined. And because of some deficiency or abuse in his past, he just couldn't ever get enough love. It wasn't enough to lay at someone's feet. It wasn't enough to lay next to them on the couch. No, Buddy had to do one of thwo things: Buddy had to actively lean on someone, and by "lean" I mean "push;" or, Buddy had to sit on you. Buddy was a big, heavy, furry beast of a dog and again, he probably weighed the same amount as all three of my kids combined. And that's fine, sometimes, but most of the time, it was incredibly overwhelming and more than a little annoying that he had to sit on top of you, breathing heavily, while you watched TV because you might not really be watching TV, you might actually be contemplating how to leave him. Alone. Forever.
He also never barked, which everyone found very disturbing. We don't know why, but I feel like a dog is supposed to bark.
Eventually, he got to be too much for my mom, so I volunteered to take him. I thought that by taking Buddy on daily miles-long hikes and constantly interacting with him (I was a stay-at-home mom), I could cure him of the intense nervousness that plagued him. I was wrong. In fact, his old nervous habits weren't enough to show me how stressed out he was; no, he had to start chewing up everything on and about one foot up from the floor, which included electrical cords. That was not working out for me, especially since I had three young children in the house that were prone to leaving things on the floor.
He also had a tendency to over eat. If the food bag was left where he could find it, he would eat himself sick. And it would all come back up, so he would eat it again.
I ended up having to corral him in the living room because he was eating things like laptop power cords and toys. I didn't think that was probably very good for his tummy.
So, yes, I should have thought long and hard before letting my mom choose our dog. But she has owned dogs all her life, and was even a breeder for a long time, so I thought she would choose a breed that would look a little ferocious and loudly scare off intruders, but had a heart o' gold.
To begin: I hate talking about the faults of any rescue animal, because even though this animal may be the worst creature ever plucked from the ether, it might not be its fault, so I at least have an obligation to try and help it. Or fix it. And yes, I do the same with people.
I have adopted several cats from the Humane Society and only one, a long-haired black beauty they named Princess - the perfect name for her - turned out to be a dud. She behaved, as long as there were no other animals around, and it seemed that her only purpose was to lounge around the house looking like, well, a Princess. But she was really mean to the other cats and the day we moved into our new house, Princess bolted off, away from the house and out of the yard, and we never saw any trace of her ever again.
Adopting a dog had to be different.
I told my mother my dog plan to keep strange men out of my back yard, and she agreed to help us out. There weren't many young dogs at the shelter that day, but our Sadie was one of them. She is a German Shepherd ... mix of some kind, but she seemed really sweet and looked pretty tough. We also looked at a boxer that would have been high-energy and I was definitely leaning toward getting the boxer, but my mom said Sadie would be a better fit for our needs. So that should have been our cue to get the boxer, but because my mom is right about stuff some of the time, I ignored all good sense and got Sadie.
Sadie's not a bad dog, she's just incredibly nervous. She lives in a constant state of worry that someone is going to try to catch her and for whatever reason, you know, feed her or pet her or the very worst thing of all, take her outside. Or bring her back inside, except when there's thunder. Thunder is the thing that scares Sadie the very mostest, next only to rain and people walking by her. She also hates those things the most.
She spent the first several days at our house crumpled up in a heap as far behind a living room chair as she could get, tail wedged firmly between her legs and only went outside, and then come back inside, if we took her out on a leash. She wouldn't sit next to any of us, and would only tolerate us petting her as long as it didn't mean we were going to try to do anything different, which sent waves of panic coursing through her.
Her food must be strategically placed throughout the house, depending on her mood and fear level that day. Just this morning, she contemplated whether going into the kitchen to eat that new food she really likes would be worth the risk, and stood about 5 feet away from the food dish, at the door of the kitchen. I think that if it were possible for dogs to use a computer, she would generate risk assessments of the best place to lie down or eat in the house, and the likelihood of us taking her back to the shelter if we use a different car.
She especially won't come for a treat - any treat - and the only way she lets us pet her when we are outside is if we are sitting down, leaned back, and she has an escape route available. She doesn't let you walk toward her without preemptively running past you to a different area, nearly knocking you down in the process.
We love this dog, our Sadie. If we could only convince her that her nerves are cracking our nerves, that we're sorry the Dog Whisperer isn't our cousin and that no, we're really not planning on selling her to either a vicious dog-fighting ring or a Chinese food market. But she's just too terrified to listen.