I’ve started so many emails like this now that I just created a ‘copy and paste’ template that I use now for my answer.
We have had so many incredibly generous offers of places to stay from our fans and followers- total strangers who are willing and interested in opening up their homes to us. It warms my heart, and although people seem to think I may find the offers creepy, I absolutely don’t, and would take advantage of each and every one if the locations worked! (Um, did y’all see my post about how much lodging costs for full time road tripping? Lol.). I love meeting new people, I love making connections, I love seeing how people live, and I love meeting new dogs and cats. So yeah, I *want* to stay with my fans and virtual friends!
However, I have a potential deal-breaker with me on this trip, and her name is Ferguson. (Sigh…. damn Fergie, why you gotta ruin things for me??)
You see, Fergie has always been ‘intense’ with other dogs, since way back when I adopted her at six months old. She was always the one chasing the other dog and biting their neck, growling and play ‘tussling’. She was always quicker to break into an argument than other dogs, and always the one to get the squirt bottle first in obedience classes.
But she loved dogs, and she *loved* playing, and loved going to the dog park, which we did several times per week. For years and years I took her. To official off-leash parks and unofficial off-leash parks, and everywhere in between. This was a good 6-7 years of her life. (She is 8, going on 9 now).
For a long time I trusted her with other dogs, but problems started developing, slowly over time, until the point where these ‘problems’ did what I feel is irreparable damage.
You see, because of Fergie’s intense energy, she has often brought out the worst in other dogs. She has been bullied at parks more times than I can count. She has been chased, barked at, bitten, tackled, you name it. She has *always* been harassed by other dogs.
There once was a female black lab at a park we visited on Queen Anne that made it her duty to be as obnoxious to Fergie as doggedly possible (taking after her owner, who was, unsurprisingly, also obnoxious). After months of tolerating her bad behavior, Fergie finally unleashed fury on her, chasing her up a hill, barking and snarling in every attempt to attack the black lab, in spite of my screaming at her to “leave it”, which she was always very good at. They never made contact because the humans grabbed them first, but Fergie was never the same after that. I was furious at her for not listening to me, but I thought “can you blame her?”. It’s like the kid being bulled every day finally giving in and punching the bully in the face. What do you do?
Although I could still bring her around dogs after that, I had to watch her carefully. She was very sensitive to being chased (after being bitten on the rump while running), sensitive to feeling cornered, sensitive to feeling threatened. She became fearful, and that fear turned into reactivity. She has drawn blood on two friends’ dogs now. (Both very minor injuries from ‘tussles’ that we could easily end, but still).
That reactivity has grown so much over time, that she went from being ‘defensively reactive’ to ‘pre-emptively reactive’, and now borderline aggressive and seeking out fights, or at least being very receptive to one if it’s a potential possibility. I *know* it’s from fear, and I haven’t known what to do about it. I have met with dog trainers with limited (ok actually no) results.
Now because of Fergie’s back and spine problems and osteoarthritis and chronic skeletal pain, there is a new wrench thrown into the mix, and that is of her being even more protective of her body. We met with a trainer before leaving Seattle that told me that even if I was able to get her comfortable around another dog, I couldn’t be sure of how she would react if the other dog jumped on her back and caused pain. The trainer explained that if this happened and Fergie lashed out aggressively, that behavior would be completely out of her control because she would be acting out of pain.
At this point I don’t know what to do. I want her to be able to trust other dogs again. I want her to romp and play and have fun (which she *loves* to do with the right dog. She’ll play for hours!). I want her to have that socialization. But as it stands now, I can’t in good conscience, trust her with another canine.
Since nearly all of my followers have dogs, this precludes us staying with them. SNIFF….
Fergie is often very good with dogs smaller than her, specifically dogs under 30 pounds, I think because she knows they can’t hurt her. We have walked by many many snarling, barking, freaking out smaller dogs and Fergie can go by very close to them and not exhibit even a sign of aggression. She also generally is very good with Frenchies and Pugs, both of whom she has spent a good chunk of time with. She is much better with males than females (dominant females her size are a disaster waiting to happen), she instantly hates any dog that resembles her in size and color (some sort of weird complex?), is usually great with puppies, if not a little bossy at first, and if she gets past that initial 10-minute ‘getting to know you’ period and trusts the other dog, she is pretty much golden forever after that. If you are a dog and she likes you and feels safe with you, you will be buddies for life.
She also LOVES cats, having spent the first six months of her life with one. She does try to play with them, doing a play bow to get them engaged. She doesn’t chase and is never aggressive, but definitely sets herself up for being scratched in the face and freaking poor kitty out. So it would take a special dog-friendly cat to put her in her place and be confident enough to do it.
Fergie has proven to be a fantastic road-tripping companion. She doesn’t bark, she is great left in motel rooms alone for hours at a time, is totally potty trained, isn’t destructive, and gets into a routine everywhere we go. She is actually a very good girl and more obedient than your average dog. I love sharing my experiences with my best buddy. It’s just the whole dog issue that makes it extra challenging.
SO, if you are one of the kind people who has so generously offered up your home for us for a place to stay on our trip, and you live within a 20-30-minute drive of one of our scheduled cities, and you have a dog or dogs or cat(s) that you think would be ‘Fergie-compatible’, we’d love to stay with you! LOL! (If not, well, um, thanks anyway! ::sheepish shrug::)
ALSO, if you are a dog trainer or know a great trainer that you think can help Fergie with her issues (rehabilitate my dog!), please let me know. I can’t give up the hope that I can help her get better with other dogs, and I’m certainly willing to try.
Fergie and Jamie