A nine month report…
This time last year we still had an elderly Golden Retriever living with us, by this time last year his nasal tumour was starting to cause him problems and our visits to the vet were getting more frequent, and while all of this was going on this time last year the dog in the photograph was living in an unknown town with an unknown family, and with an unknown name, he would be around 15 to 18 months old this time last year, still a pup in many ways but quite obviously well trained, stable, not aggressive, socialised both with people and other dogs, all in all a very pleasant dog to have around.
And then, in just a few weeks time he would be abandoned, again we do not know the circumstances, we do not know why or how he was abandoned but we do know which city’s dog warden found him and we do know that he had no identity tags and had never been chipped, we don’t know how long he had been abandoned for but we do know that when he eventually arrived at The Dogs Trust he weighed only 28 kilos – an adult male German Shepherd should weigh between 36 and 42 kilos.
We both arrived at The Dogs Trust on the same day, we to look at a Dalmation that was actually declared as being unsuitable for rehoming, he in the dog wardens van together with another German Shepherd who had also, by complete coincidence, also been abandoned in the same city, they were kennelled together in the “new arrivals” section where they would be kept from public view until properly health checked,, neutered, chipped and more importantly assessed for temperament and suitability for rehoming, The Dogs Trust never put to sleep a healthy dog but they will not re-home unless a dog is assessed as suitable.
Because we had owned two German Shepherds in the past they asked if we’d like to view the dog that they had temporarily named “Mo”, so we did, and we told them there and then that we’d take him after his seven days internment was up.
But he had a problem, as many abandoned dogs do, he was terrified of being abandoned again.
The Dogs Trust have dog behaviorist in each of their kennels and she gave some good advice to us but basically it was down to trust and possibly lots of time and patience.
His phobia shows when you take him out for walks on your own, he’s fine when two or more people take him out but when only one person goes he has panic attacks. At first he would not go beyond the end of our driveway, now nine months later he will walk the streets around here but only over a designated route, try and deviate from that route and he will stop and refuse and when a 40 kilo dog refuses to go any further then you are not going any further believe me.
Until this weekend I have never been able to get him to walk near trees but its time to lay that ghost to rest and so I’ve taken him up onto Otley Chevin and into the Chevin Park forest – Saturday he had one small hesitation but was fine, we walked through the woods for an hour, got very muddy and he seemed to enjoy himself.
Sunday morning I took him back there, got him out of the car all excited and then the panic attacks started.
No matter how much coaxing, pushing and pulling he wouldn’t move out of the car park, wanted desperately to get back to the car, food won’t help at times like this, the dog behaviorist at The Dogs Trust suggested treats to coax but when the panic attacks hit he stops thinking with his stomach (normal mode for all dogs) and ignores everything except getting away from the danger that he perceives himself to be in, whatever happened to him during his time of abandonment and however long that lasted it left an indelible mark in his mind that simply will not be removed or over-ridden.
You have to sit him down, crouch down with him, rub his chest to calm him down, speak gently, re-assure him and then try again, and again, and again and as many times as it takes to finally distract him enough to get him walking in the direction that you want to go and not the one that his brain is telling him to go.
We walked about half a mile and then another panic moment hit as the woods closed in on both sides, he wouldn’t be talked out of this one and so we turned around and walked back, a bit of a disappointment from the day before when we’d walked up and down escarpments for an hour and knackered both of us, but at least we walked partly into the woods and the work continues…
Someone really screwed with his mind just under a year ago, I hope they never think that owning a dog would be a good idea again, I do know that they have missed out on owning a great dog, and for that I am very pleased for they did not deserve him.
PS – we also sponsor two dogs at The Dogs Trust, as mentioned they never put a healthy dog to sleep but they do end up with dogs that are unsuitable for rehoming, these dogs can spend a long time or even the rest of their lives at a Dogs Trust kennels and so the charity needs public support and subscriptions to continue their excellent work – read more here : Sponsor a Dog At The Dogs Trust