Lifer? Or lover?

HuntermooseGus was a dog we took from another shelter a few months back. We didn’t have any issues with him at the sanctuary and we had a LOT of applications on this really adorable dog, but after being adopted, his new owners returned him the next day advising us he was vicious and very aggressive. Huh? We were shocked. We loved our little Gus and he was the happiest dog we’d ever seen. Always ready to wag his tail and always with a big grin on his face. But any dog returned for aggression raises many red flags. Will this dog become a lifer? Destined to spend his life here because he is unsafe to be placed?

That is the absolute worst possible scenario and something none of us want to see. We immediately put Nancy to work with Gus and he was a charmer. Still. We had to make him a yellow dog, based on what the previous adopters had said and we had to be very careful about adopting him out. I lost a lot of sleep over Gus. The previous shelter was willing to take him back (we had touched base with them to see if there were any issues when he was with them) but they were not a no-kill and we really feared for Gus. And….sigh…we loved him. He came into our arms, into our shelter and we felt responsible for him. He was so young too. Was he really as aggressive as the previous owners had said?

Well, along came Stephe and Rob. They really wanted Gus. We explained about his past history and our experiences and spoke at length to them about Gus and his possible issues. They came and met him. And ultimately adopted him. We held our breath and hoped that they were truly committed to working with him and that the stories of the previous adopter would turn out not to be true. Here is their latest update on Gus. I wanted to share it with all of you and I want it to always be a reminder to us ALL of what a little love, kindness and patience can do. Mostly love. Could Gus have become a lifer? Yes. But love showed him what his life COULD be like, and Gus accepted that and as a result he will be cherished and loved and lounge on a couch instead of in a kennel. I will always remember Gus as the dog that could have gone either way. Thanks to Stephe and Rob, he went the right way. All dogs have this potential. Do YOU have the patience and love to work with your dog through his problems instead of abandoning him at a shelter? Please think about that and this story if you are ever faced with such an issue. Here is their story:

When we lost Gypsy last May, after 10 years, we said “no more”. Then Rob saw “Gus’s” picture in the weekly adoptions featured in the paper and was struck by how cute he was. Not realizing that an appointment should be made, I just stopped by Pets Alive on my way home, since we live only a few miles from there, to meet Gus. Kerri was nice enough to bring him out to meet me and let me walk him, which was quite the challenge, since he pulled so fiercely. He calmed a bit and when I sat on a rock for a minute, he just sat next to me, put his paws on my knees and gave me a kiss, then just sat next to me. That was it. When I brought Rob to meet him, they also hit it off and he came home with us on April 5.

I learned that Gus had recently been given his name, so we had no guilt about changing it, as he was not yet responding to it. Over the next day or so, we thought of names like Buddy or Rusty, and then I realized that he was totally preoccupied with trying to find out what wildlife was living under the shed or pool deck sniffing and tracking on the lawn, and knew that he was indeed a “Hunter”, which became his new name, which he does recognize now.

It broke our hearts to hear that he’d been adopted twice and returned the next day for snapping. This worried us, but I wanted to see what it was about. Basically, we realized that it was partially fear and mostly playing. I noticed that he never “snapped” to hurt or to actually bite. When bringing him in from the rain, I went to wipe his feet with a towel. He was not totally receptive. He began to grab my hand to make me stop, not biting, though. I just petted and hugged him, gave him kisses and spoke gently, while GENTLY rubbing his feet with the towel to gain his trust. I think the biggest thing was to realize that his “growls” were not ferocious or threatening. Most of his growls are playful. I think many people don’t take the time to analyze what the dog means by certain sounds or actions and just assume that they are being threatening or nasty. He is anything but. He wants nothing more than to be held and loved.

When we first brought him home he had some slight stomach issues off and on. As a result his back side needed cleaning. I took a warm wet cloth to clean him and the same thing happened. He was frightened. After a couple of minutes of reassurance, I was able to clean him sufficiently while calming him.

He is excellently house broken, although we’re still learning his signals. We just ask him a lot until we’re sure what his signals are.

Huntercar2 He loves going for rides in the car and is excellent.

Hunter is an energetic, funny, loving and affectionate dog, who spends half his time going back and forth between us, spending time, playing, kissing keeping company and just making us laugh with his stuffed moose.

Does he get into some trouble? OH YEA!!! One day we came home to find sheet music on the floor and paw prints across the top (slightly raised) of the black lacquer baby grand piano. Another time he’d gotten into the tissues on the night stand and pulled them all out. And the time he ended up on the dining table. And I’m sure there are more adventures to come.

We realize that any adoptee will come with issues to be worked out. He still pulls on the leash at times, but is improving daily. He gets lots of hugs and love and positive reinforcement. He likes the treats also.

In emails with BlondeKerri and with Nancy, the trainer at Pets Alive, I was given additional hints and suggestions for helping him transition and work things through. It was great to know that after the adoption they are also there for ongoing support to help the adoption work. That’s important and appreciated.

He’s learned in short order how to endear himself. He has certainly brought the house to life again.

My advice to anyone adopting a dog with any issues is to give it at least a few days to let them settle in and just as with a child, approach them with love and caring and patience, trying to imagine what they may have been through before coming to you. Give them a chance. We’re so glad we did.

Stephe and Rob

Filed in Case Studies by kerry on May 05, 2010.  There are 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Lifer? Or lover?”

  1. Dee Dufault Says:

    Stephe and Rob… I wanted to tell you that your little Hunter is adorable. On the day you first sent an e-mail telling PetsAlive of his new name I lost my little Hunter (also a PetsAlive alum). He was blind and had seizures and that morning my vet and I decided that he had enough. It was April 6th. He was such a sweetie as I am sure your little Hunter will be. Good luck with him. Thank you giving him such a wonderful home. I’m glad my little guy has a “namesake.”

  2. Dee Dufault Says:

    Such a cutie!!!

  3. Trudy Says:

    We were so impressed with Gus/Hunter’s write up. I hope that it gives hope and encouragement to others adopting to give dogs with some special needs and issues a chance to prove themselves. I couldn’t imagine Hunter being a “lifer” in a shelter. What a waste that would have been. So much love would have been wasted and missed. While he is still working through his minor issues and getting better every day, he is I think, the most affectionate and loving dog we’ve ever had. I hope his story has the good fortune to inspire others to take the chance.

    All the best to you.


  4. Sarah Says:

    I also am very impressed with Stephe and Rob. Hunter is so lucky you two came along.

    Also, Hunter is the spitting image of my dog Walatowa (Wali) for short, whom I found on the side of a highway in the Jemez mountains in New Mexico almost 17 years ago. She had been hit by a car at least 48 hours prior–she had a dislocated hip, cracked pelvis and her left rear femur was healing with a 90-degree angle in it.

    She had some issues too, and was nervous and would “air-snap” at first. She turned out to be the best dog. She was a herding dog, so she had her own agenda.

    Wali passed away this past May. I miss her so much.

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