As much as I have worked with her in the two-and-a-half years I’ve had her, (and no one said that rehab was easy…) and as far as she’s come, she was still hanging on to some issues, and lately it’s just been a battle of wills between she and I. She would just get herself so worked up at odd times to the point where she’d freak out and get all nervous, and suddenly anything I’d do to try and control her would turn into her feeling like she was being threatened and needed to defend herself.
I tried getting more advice from trainers, behaviorists and rescuers, all telling me that it would be better to put her to sleep than try to rehome her, but I simply could not believe that, with how good she’d become. The times where she’d feel insecure and defensive were so rare, that I seriously did not believe that someone with more experience couldn’t handle and continue working with her.
The woman I know who works for Animal Control here came by yesterday with a co-worker of hers, to do an evaluation on Zena. Well of course Zena sucked right up to them, given them her paw and rolling on her back for pets - for total strangers. A year and a half ago she would not go to anyone she didn’t know (she even followed them down the stairs and tried going right out the front door with them when they were leaving!) They were dumbfounded, and didn’t understand why I felt I had to give her up. So I explained about the troubles I’d been having with her recently, where even something as simple as trying to go and get her by the collar if she would not come when called would be risking possibly getting bitten.
If for whatever reason Zena thought that she was in trouble or being “chased” I simply could not deal with her at times, as she’d go straight into defense mode. We were finally able to get over the crate-hell, and got her trained to a point where we no longer had to confine her while we were gone… we could leave her 8-10 hours now, with no problems of her destroying the house anymore! But just… stupid things, like me asking her to lie down if she’s pacing and whining… she’d stand there and look at me… I’d day it again a bit more forcefully, “down,” and she would go maybe halfway and just freeze there, looking at me sideways… but I can’t just go up to her and tug on her collar and physically put her in a down when she gets into her nervous moods, because she looks at me like, “I am thinking about biting you if you touch me in any kind of assertive way…” D-: D-: D-:
With the Animal Control people there petting her, and playing with her paws and mouth, and her being very good for them, they both said that they didn’t see her case being serious enough to having to resort to putting her to sleep. They deal with dogs on a daily basis who are nuts and will tear your head off rather than look at you, and they’ve apparently placed dogs that some people thought could never be worked with. Just a few days ago they placed two “caution” Rottweilers that were nabbed from a grow-op. The two dogs were “guard dogs” and have now been moved to a kennel that specializes with rehabilitating aggressive dogs. They either work with them to the point where they can be safely adopted out to experienced dog owners, or they are trained to work in defense protection with a professional K9 handler. But they always try to find a solution, rather than the quick resort of putting the dogs to sleep.
They think that it’s as simple as our personalities clashing, and that someone with a better fit to Zena’s personality would have much better success with her. The biggest problem is that I am not confident enough to deal with a fear-aggressive dog. I can deal with dominance-aggression no problem, and I have done it quite successfully a few times with past foster dogs. But fear-aggression is a totally new ball game for me… trying to find that balance of being firm, but gentle, and not overly aggressive enough that you’re scaring the shit out of the dog is a hard one. And that’s where I think I failed with Zena. At times I was nervous and overly cautious around her, and I think that she could totally pick up on that, and that’s where we clashed and everything started to become a battle of wills.
They told me it wasn’t my fault, and that up to this point I’ve done a wonderful job in getting her to where she is now. They just think that it’s time for the next step, and time to let someone else, who can better suit Zena’s needs, take over the reins. They said that with her disposition, they should have little problem placing her in a good, responsible home, and I know that they screen their applicants well.
So, today Tim drove me to the Squamish Municipal pound to surrender Zena over… I went with huge bags of toys and treats and food and medication and vet papers and other records… it was so hard…
But the place is nice, and the staff is very nice. It is just a small kennel, clean smelling, and they had maybe five other dogs there (one elderly Yellow Lab had just been adopted). They do not put the dogs to sleep, unless of course they are too sick to nurse back to health, or too aggressive to rehabilitate. So the space is limited, (a few kennels are always reserved for RCMP dogs) but apparently they do very well with adoptions. The kennels are built as indoor/outdoor runs, with a flap in-between, so the dogs can go outside whenever they want. The outdoor kennels each have a doghouse and a kiddie swimming pool. The dogs each get “office time” where one is allowed out to socialize with the staff for a while during the day. The dogs get to socialize with each other too, if they know that they will get along.
I hope that Zena will be okay… I know that they will take care of her, but I hope that someone good comes along for her soon. I feel so damned empty right now… I feel like I’ve failed her in so many ways… but at the same time I know that she came as far as she has because of me… if I had not taken her in, she would have been brought to some Toronto pound and put to sleep right away without even a chance… At least I’ve given her the option to find someone who will be able to give her what I couldn’t…
Bye Zee… :( I hope that you will do much better, wherever you end up…