Over the weekend, Nick posted a Beware of Dog sign on our driveway.
He did it in response to the fact that two of our neighbors were burglarized, but he also did it because legally it’s a good idea. You should be aware of my dogs.
It’s a sign we should have posted long ago since Lucy bit the UPS guy and Gracie tried to bite the Fed Ex man (and bit me instead when I stepped between them). And now Frankie is following their tradition, threatening everyone who comes near.
If he’s given a slow introduction on his terms, Frankie is a lover, welcoming all guests, but people who arrive unannounced or approach him before he has a chance to approach them, get a much fiercer welcome.
This behavior turned up right around Frankie’s first birthday and I was distraught. What had I done? He’d been socialized at home and out in public, and done beautifully. He was a rockstar at doggie classes, even earning his Canine Good Citizenship certificate.
With us and with people he accepts into the house, he is all love. Keeping his happy kisses out of people’s faces is the biggest challenge.
Where was this aggressive/defensive behavior coming from? Was it because he was a ‘teenager’? Or were people right – it’s the breed?
Frankie is a pitbull. He’s got the big head and the muscular physique and the intensity and over-the-top affection that are trademarks of the breed. Does he also have the attitude assumed of all pitbulls by an ignorant public? Am I wrong about this breed?
All summer, I’ve been distressed – what happened to my sweetheart dog who loves everyone? I don’t want the judgmental people to be right. I was certain Frankie would prove them wrong. I’ve lost sleep and spent tears on this. I love my wubba bubba. I’ve done everything you’re supposed to do to raise a loving, friendly dog. Why wasn’t that enough?
I guess what happened is Frankie grew up, and as he was growing up he had Gracie and Gala as he role models. Gracie and Gala do not automatically trust people. They bark first and wag later. They are fierce in their defense of what’s theirs. Frankie loves them both with absolute devotion. It was inevitable that he would want to be like them.
It took Oreo’s presence at our house for me to realize this. Oreo loves EVERYONE.
He might be the biggest dog in this house right now, but he is no guard dog. In fact, I’ve heard him bark exactly once. And it was a ‘don’t pet her, pet me’ plea when Ian’s friends went through the baby gate and left him so they could pet Gracie.
In just a few days of witnessing Oreo as he greets people, Frankie is softening. There was no growling or threatening when he met new people who came to the house on Saturday evening. He still jumped on them and tried to kiss their faces and goosed them when they turned around to avoid his leaping love. But at least there were no bared teeth.
Can Oreo re-program him?
I don’t know. I’m not counting on it.
I’ve also been plying Frankie with high-value treats whenever he meets new people. We’re back in doggie school taking a class called ‘Try It’ which consists of an introduction to Rally Obedience, Tricks, and Nosework classes. Frankie is happy and shining at class. (that’s him in a clothes basket I asked him to get into during Tricks class – see how focused and obedient he is?)
Dogs are work. No one should ever think otherwise. They are intelligent and emotional creatures who need us to nurture and instruct and challenge them. If we don’t, it’s our fault and not theirs when they misbehave.
I’ve always wondered why there are so many 1-2 year old dogs in the shelters. Witnessing Frankie’s transition to that age—I understand. Housebreaking and leash training is nothing compared to adolescence. Now is when the real work begins.
Let me update you on the fosters –
Flannery Oconner went home to have a happy, busy life in a home with four kids! They met her at my signing event last weekend and on Saturday they came to take her home. They seemed more than prepared, but I’m guessing a family with four young kids will take one more right in stride. I am thrilled for her – she deserves the awesome forever family she got. What a great pup!
The puppies are ridiculously cute. Their eyes are open and they are getting even more vocal. Dixie is a good mama, but she’s still shy and skittish when away from the puppies. It will be interesting to see what happens when weaning starts.
Dixieland is finally gaining some weight and so are her babes. All but one are thriving and fat. Little Ramblin Man is struggling.
I’ve started attempting to bottle feed him, but so far that isn’t going so well. He’s also getting some alone time with mom. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with him except he isn’t growing as fast as the others and has less body fat and muscle tone.
This happens with puppies sometimes, it’s labeled ‘failure to thrive’ and there is no real explanation for why it happens. He loves to snuggle with his siblings and loves to burrow to the bottom of the pile for warmth. His fury when I attempted to bottle feed him, bodes well for his fighting spirit. I’m hoping we can pull him through this, but at the same time I would ask for your prayers.
If you follow the Another Good Dog facebook page, you may have noticed, I don’t post much about him. For now, I’m keeping him top secret. There are forces in my home that are pushing for a foster fail and my will is weakening with every day.
This dog is amazing. He’s easily the best-behaved dog in our house and sets a great example for Frankie with his attitude. He’s a dog I could train to be a therapy dog – something I’ve dreamed of doing. He’s a dog I could take everywhere – he loves to hike and explore, greets everyone with the same friendly love, doesn’t jump up or pull on the leash. He doesn’t chase the cat and this morning on our walk when we encountered deer – he didn’t even try to chase them. Squirrels are his kryptonite, but squirrels are understandable, he is a dog after all.
I can’t justify three dogs in our house, but at the same time I’ve felt the pull of this dog since the day I met him in the Anson, North Carolina shelter in August.
He still has a long road until he is adoptable anyway – his heartworm treatment scheduled for Halloween. So I’ve got some time to think on this. I’m hoping the ‘way is made clear’ as the Quakers say.
Note: Next week’s post might be a few days late. On Sunday, I fly to LA to be a guest on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show. Super excited. Super nervous. Please don’t mention it because it makes me anxious just thinking about it. If you want to follow along, I’ll be posting pictures on my writer Facebook page.
I’ve got a busy weekend coming up. Hope to see you at one of these adventures:
Saturday October 13 – Shrewsbury Family Pet Shop. We’ll have adoptable dogs and information on volunteering and fostering with OPH from 10-12. Edith Wharton will be available to pawtograph your books the entire time, but I’ll only be there from 10-11:15.
Saturday October 13 – Barnes & Noble, White Marsh, MD, 1-2:30pm. I’ll be there with Momma Bear and one of Edith’s puppies – Zora Neale Hurston and possibly a few others! This is a great chance to collect pawtographs from the dogs in the book.
Sunday October 14 – I’ll be at OPH’s Volunteer Seminar to share what I saw and learned in the shelters and unveil a VERY exciting new event that will take place in the spring! OPHers – if you haven’t RSVP’d for this awesome day of connecting and learning, do it now.
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, check AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, the schedule of signings, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals!
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available for preorder now: