Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oh Sherry 2

Sherry came into the local pound with her sister. Her sister (Charlotte) tested positive for heart-worms & since we are an hour away from STAR, Charlotte went to a local foster home where she would be close to the vet for treatment. At this point, Sherry had been in a kennel with her sister, Charlotte for 4 months. When we picked up Sherry & Jenny, right away, there was growling from Sherry. We separated them in the vehicle & I thought that Sherry must need slow introductions; not a problem, we can handle that. This turned out not to be the case. Anytime a dog gets near Sherry, she reacts negatively. What does this mean for Sherry? It means that she must stay away from the other dogs & therefore is relegated to the foster house. Our normal procedure is to rotate the dogs so that everyone gets "house time". Since Sherry can't be near other dogs in the home, she does not get "house time". She spends the majority of her time alone. She does get a walk each day & one of us will go sit with her for 30-60 minutes each evening. On weekends, she gets extra time with people & normally a hike or two. She has shown no signs of discomfort with her situation & seems perfectly happy. While we feel horrible for her isolation, we really do not have a choice. We emailed a video of her to a trainer & after asking several questions, they said that it appears to be fear aggression. They also directed me to a great website that has tips & training ideas (thank you thank you!). The problem is I am scared to death of dog fights & am a nervous wreck even thinking about working with Sherry & any of the other dogs. I know that this will make the problem worse. This also means that her chances of getting rescued are pretty much zero as most of the rescues that STAR works with are foster based & can’t risk bringing a dog like Sherry into their home. So where does this leave us? We need to find either a trainer who is looking for something to do with the next several months of their life or we need to find an adoptive home with no other dogs. We have tried walking her daily with the other dogs as a group & individually & we have gotten no further with her. Do we feel Sherry is worth saving? ABSOLUTELY! With people, she is very gentle & loves attention. When she goes for her daily walk, her tail never stops wagging. She is low maintenance, calm & content to lay next to you while you read a book. She knows how to “sit” & does great on leash. She is house-trained & quiet as a mouse.  She is great with Pauley’s Boy! We love her. 

* In theory we know that resources are best spent on helping the dogs that are all around solid, but it is very different when you know the actual dogs at stake.
**This was written several weeks ago & since then, we have started bringing Sherry inside for short periods of time (everyone else is put up). And she has even spent several nights in the extra bedroom & she is very well behaved.


Val said...

This makes me so sad. I just wondered what happened in her previous life to have caused her fear. Thank goodness for your big heart and patience she will have a chance. I know the process will be difficult and lengthy but so worth the end results.

Two Pitties in the City said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences so candidly. I can't imagine how hard it must be to do the separating and rotating and always being on the lookout for potential conflict. At the same time, we know of many dogs who have been adopted in the city who do have fear aggression. So it really is just finding that one adopter willing to work on it.

Jean said...

I appreciate your honesty - I am also afraid of dog fights and that limits my fostering options. However, on the plus side, I have seen many reactive dogs become successful at tolerating and even enjoying others, and other reactive dogs successfully homed as only dogs with people willing to manage and work with the problem. Some trainers offer excellent 'reactive dog' classes and/or one-on-one training, so an adopter willing to commit to working with such a trainer would be a wonderful find.

I feel strongly that these dogs are worth saving, and their lives have just as much value as those who are 'easy' dogs. Fear reactivity is completely different from the type of inbred or highly-rewarded aggression that puts humans and other animals at risk.

English Rider said...

I fostered a fear-aggressive dog a couple of years ago, after she took a chunk out of the two dogs in another foster home. A nine year old Collie/German-shepherd mix. Very vocal, very strong and quite a scary 65 lb canine time bomb, (perfect with people though).
I chronicled the ten months we spent together. Our mutual learning curve was the most satisfying thing I accomplished in 2011. If you search on my blog for Abbey posts, you can see that she ended up in a home with another dog and can now even go out to the off-leash dog park. The quote below is pulled from one of those posts.
"I don't write as much as I did in the beginning. For a while this blog was a bit of a lifeline; an exploration and affirmation of identity that I had lost sight of; A crutch, a retreat and a safety valve. Abbey has been a part of my journey back onto a path that once again feels as if it might lead somewhere worthwhile. I'm getting my life back. I'll try not to lose sight of it ever again."
The most useful concept that I learned was to take all leadership decisions upon myself so that the dog feels secure. Your dog should look to you for all things. The same technique you would use to teach a dog to sit, multiplied and repeated a million times.
High value treats always at hand, going from dogs nose to your face and say "look at me". Reward. Repeat.
Once it becomes a reflex, you can redirect your dogs attention away from trouble and do exercises like "Sit", "Lie Down", "Heel" to change it up and keep it interesting.
Timing is important. Dog should be close to you at all times, not at the end of the leash. You must be vigilant, watching for oncoming dogs and your own dog's body language.
We are near to a park where there are always dogs being walked and we would go their every day to practice. I would warn other dog owners by saying "my dog is reactive. We need some space" If I found people who seemed to have well trained dogs, I asked if I could walk with them. Little by little we ended up doing doggie drill team, safely.
Sorry for the long comment but this subject is close to my heart. I didn't know it at the time, but it can be done.

PibblesNMe said...

Awww I feel so bad for Sherry, as well as you! Poor lil girl. I hope someone can step up and take her, work with her, and hopefully rehabilitate her. I'm sure it's breaking your heart gf. Hang in there. You're doing the best you can (hugS)

What Remains Now said...

I don't have any experience in this area, but I appreciate your heart and all you do to help. I'll follow along as you navigate through this.

Leslie said...

I'm itching to go read English Rider's blog now and think what she's described about her experience here may help you in yours.

That said, as you know, I have a fear-aggressive/reactive dog who largely doesn't like other dogs. So we remain a single-dog home. That's not all that uncommon and just because Sherry has that strike against her adoption options, doesn't mean there's no hope for her. Just trying to give you a little optimism.

Also, even Bella likes some other dogs - her boyfriend Gus and his sister Molly. There was something between Bella and Gus - an understanding, a compatibility, a gap that needed filling.

The first meeting seemed a disaster but they LOVE each other now even when they don't see each other as often. So there is also hope that Sherry may one day find a dog that suits her personality - probably a very mellow, confident dog (we call them "bomb-proof" as in nothing bothers them) who will take her snark and decide leaving her alone is the best approach.

(Bella wants to make friends with people but people always try to touch her so she remains fearful. Perhaps if Sherry had a dog that wasn't particularly interested in her, she could trust that dog and approach on her own terms?)

I guess I'm just trying to say I know how frightening it is, thank you for all the extra effort you're giving her and hang in there - it is not a hopeless situation. In fact, it may turn in to one of the most rewarding situations you've ever endured. <3

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