At the end of August 05 Katrina roared over the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. In the process, more than 50,000 pets entered the already overburdened shelter system in an area of utter devastation. People from all over the country responded. I agreed to sponsor and find homes for 4. This is the story of one dog.
All we knew about him was his name, Nick. He was an owner surrender right after the storm. The shelter where he was dropped off, designed to house 50, was inundated as people's entire lives were destroyed and they were unable to care for their pets.
I met the caravan and took the 4 assigned to me: A fat Weimereiner, a happy bouncy black chow mix, an APBT still lactating but with no puppies in tow, and Nick. Thirty minutes into the 5 hour drive to my house someone coughed. By the time I got home, the APBT and Nick were hacking their lungs out.
Nick was a bone skinny 37 pounds with advanced demodectic mange and a staph infection, hook worms, round worms, kennel cough and really depressed. His sponsors/potential new home I'd arranged renamed him Cooper and took him to the vet the next day, where I was to meet them. At that vet Nick/Cooper finally had had enough and responded with an aggressive eruption right before I got there. He was muzzled and firmly restrained in a headlock being examined when I arrived, panting hard through his nose blowing snot. The veterinarian said he had dominance aggression. I wanted to slap her. Sheesh, I know vets are highly educated but how could she have been so stupid? (more on asshole humans and their ideas about dominance in another post) The dog did have a meltdown, but fear, not dominance. Hindsight, it was completely my fault. I should have been there to handle the dog myself. Should have instructed the sponsor couple to wait for me to get there. Should have used my own vet and not theirs. I took the muzzle off him, handed it back to the vet and took Cooper home with me.
Cooper was so sickly he had to be isolated from my pack for a couple of weeks, but his training began the very first day. He was put on crate rest during his recovery and began basic obedience training as a way to establish my leadership. He was either crated or supervised and put on a dependable schedule. Cooper adapted very quickly, sleeping a lot, eating like a pig and being very cooperative. I started massage as a way to help him overcome his fear of the vet exam and by his next visit a week later he did fine. At a my vet, who didn't muzzle or restrain him, and did the exam sitting on the floor.
Once off isolation he was integrated into my pack. That is when the trouble started. Cooper, as with a lot of dogs who have been underfed, was resource guarder. He violently defended his food and bones from the other dogs. Since I had established myself as the dominant entity here, I broke up the first brawl quickly and began to teach him he couldn’t guard, there would always be plenty. I was not about to "manage" the situation by banning bones and isolating him for food, he learned the right way. He stopped his guarding, but did take up bone hiding. I found him with his tail wagging butt hanging out of the closet in the dog room. Stashed in the back of the closet were 9 bones. He was so proud of this alternate method of keeping them from the other dogs.
I got very attached to Cooper. I always have a hard time placing my foster dogs, but this one would need clear handling for some time to come, so I placed him with my daughter's family. Her son (the kid in the pictures) was raised in my pack and they had two other dogs. They continued his training and visit me often. He is very happy in his new family and they love him very much. There has been no return to aggression and he is well behaved and cooperative, and even getting a bit chubby. His good weight is about 50 pounds. My daughter tells me she still finds bones stashed behind her shoes. This is him one year after placement.
The others - Thor the Weim went to Weim Rescue and was successfully placed as a couch potato. Harley the Chow mix went to a man in Tampa, where he is still happily entertaining everyone he meets. Ruby the APBT went to a vet tech who fell in love with her during her heartworm treatment (paid for by a wonderful donor who wished to remain anonymous).