Thursday, February 12, 2009

Furry Friend Thoughts

This is Blake! Yawning, lazy fur slob that he is! LOL Blake is a Brittany Spaniel. We got him when he was 3 months old. We were waiting for a puppy, our beloved Irish Setter having been lost to cancer in March 2 yrs ago. We researched breeds and decided that Brittanys had lots of the joie de vive of Irish but in a smaller package. We hoped this meant a Brit would be able to come camping with us (Feargus was a big Irish larger than breed standard at 92 pounds and coming to my waist in height. We had to board him whenever we went away as we couldn't fit all the kids and all our gear in the van)

Blake had a rough start with us. We had him only a week and he became very very ill. Turns out he had giardia which he had to have gotten from his previous owner as he had not been around any contaminated water in the 7 days we had him. We got a huge vet bill, the breeder refused to help with it, and we had a really sick little puppy. He dehydrated so badly that he needed hospitalization. Sigh. When he came home again almost a week later, he had to get used to our home all over again. Much like some of the children who come to our lives, he had been bounced a lot in his short life. Starting his life with sibs at the breeder, he was sold to a friend of said breeder and taken around the show circuit while she showed other dogs. The new owner was a college girl whose family subsequently experienced a marital breakup. With mom and dad divorcing, no one wanted to take Blake while the daughter went to school. Blake was returned to his breeder where he lived for a few weeks again sharing a crate with a sibling. The breeder tried to find someone else who wanted a "show" dog. With no takers she then turned to us, people who had registered with her as wanting a dog for a pet. We bring him home, begin bonding, he goes to the vets. Returns home to us but it is almost like starting over. Sort of like going from foster home to foster home and it showed in his behavior.

First off, he had no idea of our family expectations. He worked very hard to learn them. I have to say, he is a very VERY smart dog. Secondly, he was "anxiously attached." He hated being left alone. He would chew anything in sight, when left alone. His bedding, his wire crate, you name it. He would bark so much that he required a no bark collar for the times when we could not be in the same room as him. Because he was not reliably house broken and we had 2 small children, we didn't allow him anywhere but the kitchen for the first few months. We have a large rambly house and the kitchen has a door right outside for quick potty runs.

At the time we were going through all this it totally seemed like the wrong thing to do. Elizabeth was still an infant, and a fretful one at that. KC was only 3 and training a dog was just one more thing. We also had gotten a kitten (I know, I know, where are our brains anyhow!) just a few weeks prior.

But you know, it worked out. Blake house trained very quickly, in large part because this time around we really knew what we were doing. With Feargus we were feeling our way more and it took him way longer to be reliable in the house.

We also did a lot more obedience classes with Blake. It helped teach him he was not the boss, something Fearg always had a hard time remembering. It was a big investment of time (and money) but it helped not just with obedience, it helped with creating that solid bond you want between pet and family. It also helped us feel secure having Blake around the younger kids (though I really have a hard and fast rule that they can never be with our pets alone. It may be anal but I don't trust any animal or any child to be safe with one another when they are both younglings)

And over time, I have seen Blake become a very secure (um and slightly overweight) Brittany Spaniel. His even temperment has blended well in the family and while he doesn't have the perkiness of our former dog, he has a beautiful little personality of his own and I have grown to love that. He has decided that our cat Maui is a great playmate (Maui rides him occasionally!) and they wrestle often. Like our kids, he has built himself another family and enjoys it. OK I know it isn't an exact parallel to the traumas of kids who have been through foster care and multiple placements, but it did strike me that there really are similarities! Tomorrow I'll try to remember to post a pic of Maui and tell his story. There are some striking parallels for him as well.

1 comment:

DogLover said...

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