One Step at a Time...I guess
A long text post will follow and if you're willing to read about my recent struggles...that is awesome and I appreciate every single one of you. However, if you don't feel like reading me complain about how difficult life with a dog can be...I totally understand. :)
This is a really hard subject to write about and I was planning on writing about it for New Years to tie in my 2016 goals but events have occurred that are pushing me to write this now.
I love my dog to pieces and anyone who has seen me with him will confirm this without question. But my life with him has not been the easiest road. Its been a journey of trials and tribulations but also a journey of love, acceptance, and support. I adopted Ender at 6 months old and had no idea what I was doing. I tried to do the right things for him, I read books about how to raise dogs, I fed him healthy food, and constantly researched about the proper ways to care for your pup. I learned to deal with his extremely high prey drive and excitement around other dogs and I took him to an obedience course! I figured I had covered everything. What I didn't know about Ender were the reasons behind some of his behaviors. Later, through a series of unfortunate events, I learned that Ender was not comfortable around all dogs. As I grew busier, his bad behaviors worsened. He started to have some leash reactivity, he was more nervous, and one March afternoon he attacked our senior dog, Chase. Luckily the fight was broken up quickly and there was no physical damage done to either of the dogs. I found a trainer in the area with the words "RED ZONE AGGRESSIVE DOGS WELCOME" written on his website, called him and made an appointment for an evaluation the next day. I signed up to train under him and began working with Ender that day.
During this time I was also dealing with a pretty low point in my life. Contemplating many things including why I was still alive. I thought a lot about taking my own life. I felt that there was no point to it and that I wasn't helping anyone by existing. I think the combination of me being busy, not spending enough time with Ender, and also being that low emotionally led to Ender lashing out on Chase. He grew more and more uncomfortable as no one had control over anything in the house and Chase, being the dominant dog he is, growled at Ender to get out of his way causing the first fight. Through training, however, I learned how to be Ender's leader. The harder we worked, the stronger our bond became and through training not only did I create peace in our home, I began to find some peace in my own psychological health as well. By the end of my 8 week long Obedience 1 course, Ender and Chase were living peacefully together again! It seemed like a miracle and its a perfect example for how important it is to be your dogs leader and to work and train with your dog. Even though Ender and Chase had begun to tolerate one another again I was not ready to finish training. I learned so much in such a short time, I couldn't imagine all the other wonderful things I'd learn if I continued on his training, so I signed up for Obedience 2 and 3 and kept up the same work. For months it felt perfect. The dogs were getting along great, they'd chase squirrels together in the back yard, they hung out with each other in the house and even did tricks together for treats! By the end of June we were completely comfortable leaving them together. It seemed we had forgotten about their past. I also began working for my dog trainer in September of this year. I'm officially a dog trainer and started working with all kinds of dogs with a myriad of issues. Everything was looking up! I had a job I loved, a dog I loved (that was also loved by my family), and I was going on vacation to Australia soon! I had planned a month long trip to Australia and didn't think twice about leaving Ender at home with my family. Once the training began, Ender became the easiest dog to handle. I also had many friends willing to help with his care so I had no worries whatsoever about him.
Without his pack leader there he began to regress into the unsure self he used to be. I left him with people with no knowledge about dogs and saw his bad behaviors as funny quirks. He began pulling people on the leash, jumping on beds he wasn't supposed to, whining/demanding attention, and as these behaviors grew he understood that he no longer had a pack leader. With this comes his unsure tendencies around other dogs. Especially Chase. The morning I got back from Australia, Ender attacked Chase, however this time they fought for 5-7 minutes without being split up. There is a lot I could write about the situation to explain the reasoning for the fight and for the injuries and why this fight led to injuries but the others didn't... but I'll put this in the quickest terms possible. Ender was on his bed with a human who is not a pack leader. She was sitting on the floor with him. She then invites Chase into Ender's space/face creating tension between them and making Chase provoke Ender, most likely, in an unintended manner. Ender couldn't handle it, attacked Chase, eventually got a hold of his ear (because the fight was not broken up) and messed it up pretty bad.
Originally, when Ender began attacking Chase I had assumed it was out of dominant aggression. But through training, learning about dog behavior, and watching Ender's body language, I realized he is actually an unsure dog responding to these situations with fear aggression. But how do I explain that to my parents and friends about my own dog when they are ready to bring my dog to the pound and have him killed? Of course I understand why my parents were pissed and why they felt he should be put down. Of course I'm angry that this happened and Chase got hurt. I completely understand why my parents feel the way they do. I left Ender in improper care and it sucks...but how do I blame my dog for that? How can I blame my dog for feeling unsafe and feeling that he needed to protect himself? How do I explain these things to people who don't want to hear it? How do I explain these things and not sound like I'm being biased because I'm talking about my own dog? Luckily my mother, after she cooled down, was open to hearing why these things happened. She didn't want to put Ender down, she just thought that that was what you did to "dangerous dogs."
It has been a few weeks since the incident and I felt as though we were handling it gracefully. But recently I've found that some of us, including myself, had been holding feelings inside that blew up yesterday afternoon. I don't know how else to express myself. I can't just walk away and angry-cry at my parents. And for some reason this is the only way I can figure out what I'm feeling...so here I go... I'm angry because everyone hates my dog/thinks he should be dead. I'm angry because no one believes anything I say about dog behavior. I'm angry because no wants to listen to reason. I'm angry because people aren't trying to understand what happened, instead they want to blame something and "fix" the problem quick with death. I'm angry because I didn't take the proper steps to protect Chase and to keep Ender in check. I'm angry because I no longer can rely on anyone for anything. I'm angry because this situation is difficult and anger is the easiest feeling for me to feel. I'm angry because the only thing that has kept me alive this past year is my dog and my parents want him dead. I'm angry because without Ender I wouldn't be here today and they don't know that. I'm angry because I care too much. I'm angry because I'm a dog trainer who can't control her own dog. I'm angry because I was willing to work with Ender and was constantly told I was being to strict with him or being a "tyrant" but when he attacked Chase after a month without me there to implement his rules and boundaries I'm told "you should learn how to control your dog!" I'm angry and hurt because thats what I was doing for months while you harassed me about it and the moment I'm gone you can't control him and blame it on me. I'm angry because they're unwilling to learn how to be a pack leader/control our pack. I'm angry because I'm willing to work on my dog but no one wants to work with Chase. I'm angry because no one understands that Chase's dominant behaviors are worsening and can lead to bigger issues with him down the line. I'm angry because I don't know what to do anymore. I'm angry because I went 5 and a half months without contemplating the worth of my life, but 2 weeks home and I wish I was dead. I'm angry because I had to talk myself out of running my car into a ditch. I'm angry because the only way I can explain myself without being cut off or yelled at is through my blog. I'm angry because a lot of people reading these don't need to know all of these things about me but they're learning it anyways. And finally I'm angry because the only thing I feel constant love and support from is an animal who I can't even speak to.
I know this was not happy at all and it probably sounded really childish and I'm sorry about that. Most probably didn't get through the whole thing (I don't blame them) but I want people to know that my life with my dog is not easy. It is hard work, its time consuming, and its emotionally draining but I love every second of it. I think that Ender is one of the best things that has happened to me, he has taught me so much about myself and appreciating life and I owe so much to him. You guys always get to see the happy side of Ender and I. But its time you know he isn't an easy happy go lucky dog. He is unsure and needs proper introductions with new dogs but after that does great. He needs to feel that someone is in control and if someone is, he can relax and be the goofy dog he is. For those of you that have read this till the end, I applaud you for dealing with my sad rant. I hate that you know all of this about me, but also it feels really wonderful not to have to hide it anymore.
I really appreciate the love and support I get from you all. Thank you and Merry Christmas!
All my love,