Uncomfortable

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I’m feeling a little like I am doing something wrong by returning Sandy to the rescue. It’s probably just me and my own doubts about myself and my disappointment regarding the entire situation, but still. I keep worrying I am coming off as someone who is giving up on Sandy. Am I a fair-weather dog owner? God, I hope not. I really don’t mean to be. I take all of this very seriously, I honestly do. You all know how much my pets mean to me– they’re my world. So… saying that I cannot handle one dog that has been entrusted to my care (by my own doing)… can feel like I am a quitter, hypocrite or worse. Am I?

There may not be an opening in the foster home network until December 23, so at the moment I’m mentally preparing to handle this on a possible long-term basis. I need to get a wire crate. I don’t have one, and maybe I can crate her out in the dining room area so she isn’t locked up in a bedroom. I don’t want her to feel that she is being punished; I just want to have a place to keep her away from Hurley so he can be safe.

I found out a little more about Sandy’s history last night, too. I guess the people who owned her would just lock her in the laundry room when she did anything inappropriate. She didn’t get a chance to learn how to behave among other dogs… she was just always taken away and removed from the situation. Of course, dogs need to interact with all kinds of dogs and people so they’re properly socialized from the time they are young. I don’t know that she knows that what she is doing to Hurley isn’t acceptable, and why. And Hurley’s not going to be much help in teaching her, unfortunately… he is so scared, timid and nervous around her at all times now that it’s like she can’t resist the urge to run over and bully him. He’s giving off the submissive, weaker-dog vibe and she’s just messing with that.

I have tried to use positive reinforcement so their interactions together are pleasant, and so far it’s not doing anything. Hurley won’t accept treats, and Sandy will take it, and once she has it, get all confident and start posturing at Hurley. Then, it’s like I am rewarding her bad behavior! Timing is everything, and trying to treat her at the moment she is being totally calm and cool has been so incredibly difficult. Nothing like most other dogs who learn through repetition, pretty fast. I tried positive reinforcement without treats, but with attention and praise, too. Same thing. The second she gets something from me, she immediately switches to Confident, Nervy Dog and uses that “happy” energy to look for a fight! Honestly, I’m at my wit’s end and I have read so many different articles and book excerpts regarding dog-on-dog aggression and what I’ve got here is a major problem.

One of my contacts at the rescue, C, is being very supportive and has sent me helpful resources and everything, and she said that it sounds like at this point, we would need the help of a professional. And that can be a big time commitment, not to mention a money commitment. C reminded me of something that made me cry last night when she said it: “You’re trying very hard and we can all see that, but we also see that you are a single person with a lot of responsibilities already on your plate as it is. I don’t want to make you feel bad, that’s not my intention, but L, you need to think about the realistic limitations to what you are capable of doing right now. This simply might not be an ideal match.”

I did feel bad when she said this, because I don’t like remembering that I am the only one doing everything with my house and yard, my pets, my life in general. So many things would be easier if there were another person there to help support me in this stuff. It’s true. I don’t like that fact, but it’s true.

I feel like a single loser on days like this. Not that a husband or boyfriend would automatically make this situation better, of course. But when people I don’t know all that well make observations like that, it hits the point home. Reminds me I am alone. That I am 35 and alone; not even dating yet. Ugh. Puke.

So, yeah. Today I feel like some people might think I am a jerk, and I hate this feeling. I feel like people might be thinking that I never should have adopted in the first place… I should have known that there was a chance I would be getting in over my head if the dog didn’t fit in easily. I did know that, on some level. But she seemed SO GREAT! Everyone who met her said so, too. She came off as sweet, calm, and normal. And yet, once she got comfortable her true nature came out and it’s violent towards my other dog. I can’t let Hurley get hurt. Period. If it were just a short dominance fight, that would be one thing. But this is something uglier. It’s very hard to watch. I should videotape it and post it someplace so people can see what’s going on first-hand. Maybe they’d understand why I’m resorting to FAIL as a dog adopter.

One final thing. Some people have reminded me of the similarities of the Sandy situation to the X situation. How, at the onset, everything looked wonderful and it seemed like I was with someone I was meant to be with. But then, as things settled in, his true nature came out. Gone was the easygoing, happy and carefree person and in its place was someone who could be downright nasty and controlling.

And so, it seems to be with Sandy. She was great when we first met her, and for the first several days. But then there was the aggression towards Simon, and now, Hurley. She’s a very nice dog, at heart, though, so that’s the difference between her and X! She doesn’t know any better than to behave the way she does, and she is still obedient to my commands. She’s trying to be good and loyal. She simply appears to enjoy being the only dog. (She attacked a cocker spaniel before I adopted her, but only after being around that dog for 4 days. Sounds familiar.)

It’s very sad that it had to come to this, for me. I wish I could do more. I wish I was “better” at this. I do feel like failure today.

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8 responses »

  1. I would only be disappointed in you if you let blind determination not to “fail” keep Hurley in a situation that makes him miserable. You tried to do a wonderful, selfless thing and bring an unwanted animal into your home. But your main priorities need to be Simon and Hurley. Even if you shared your life with someone, it wouldn’t change the way Sandy is treating Hurley. You are absolutely doing the right thing by returning her.

  2. It’s NOT your fault that you were not given all of the pertinent information about Sandy before adopting her. Somebody obviously knew this information, and set you both up to fail by withholding it. She should never have been the dog you adopted in the first place and you DO have an obligation to support and stick up for Hurley. He’s a rescue, too, after all, and how would it look if something really bad happened to him because of this? That would reflect badly on the rescue group, which is not something they want, either. Your first two pets are your main priority, and there is no reason to feel guilty for this. Every pet owner should keep such things in mind. It’s really a testament to the rescue process that you and Sandy even found yourselves in this situation. She should have been explicitly listed as “would do best in a home with no other dogs”, and now maybe she will be. Better that somebody as knowledgeable and willing as you happened to adopt her and keep her long enough to find this out- what if she’d been adopted by somebody with a smaller animal, and she’d killed it? That would REALLY make everybody look bad.

    I think that in Sandy’s case, several people dropped the ball or failed to communicate, and that’s the real reason this adoption story wasn’t successful. Now you all know and the rescue can do better next time.

  3. Please do NOT feel like a failure or like you’re giving up – if keeping her will make the rest of the household miserable and keep her locked up, either in a crate or in a bedroom, it’s not good for anyone.

    A few months back, we adopted a young-ish boxer from the animal shelter because our old dog had died and I thought our younger dog needed companionship. She was a total spaz, she chased the cat and she made the other dog miserable – this all put the rest of the household on edge. We ended up returning her to the shelter and the next day she was adopted by a family who turned out to be the perfect family because they had another boxer.

    If she’s not right for your family, you’ll be doing her a favor in returning her so they can place her with a family that will work out better for her.

  4. Thank you for backing me up on this, both of you! I do know very well that this is the only thing that the rescue and I can do right now. It sounds like they’re very surprised by this change of behavior… which is weird, because the more I find out about her past, it sure adds up to “unsocialized, dominant dog” and that’s so not what they told me she was. They do own up to this “mismatch” which is good, and also said they can learn from it. Of course they can… now they have so much more information about her and they can represent her correctly!

    I just spoke with the behaviorist for a few minutes, even though Sandy will be returning to the rescue. I told her that Sandy had only lived with her own son for 5 years until they were turned over to the rescue in August. I did know this background information when I adopted her, so that was no surprise. However: the behaviorist sighed and said, “When mother/son dogs are paired together long after the son is whelped, the mother will usually establish a strong dominant relationship. If that is what she knows, of course she would repeat that behavior in all her other dog relationships, if she feels she can pull it off.” Being that Hurley is a lot younger, smaller, and a male, you have to wonder if she really has been treating him like her “son.” Interesting stuff, anyway.

    What a learning experience… for everyone.

  5. You’re obviously upset about this, and I don’t think anyone who knows you or has seen you with animals thinks that you’re doing this lightly. Hopefully Sandy will find a home that’s the right fit for her, but that’s NOT you, and it’s NOT your fault. I don’t think it has anything to do with you being single, either. I can’t see how two people would be better able to handle this situation any differently.

  6. Being single has nothing to do with it. You are a great pet owner and this is a clear case of a bad fit for you family. You are not giving up.

  7. Wow. Even I didn’t know that about the mother/son thing. I can see how it makes sense, though. My goodness! She really does need to be in a “one dog only” family.

  8. You are a caring and loving dog mom. Which is why this is both hard for you (because you feel a connection to Sandy and don’t want to “give up” on her) and something you need to do (because Hurley needs to be thought of too) Giving her back will probably be best for everyone because I can’t imagine Sandy is happy either, getting reprimanded for something she probably thinks is okay. You did not fail anyone, you are looking out for your family. I would hate for your wonderful dynamic with Hurley be threatened by another dog. And I am sure he is confused as well. This is what is best and you are making the right decision.

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