Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Face of Worry
In the 7 months that I've had him Leo has really come a long way. There are things that have improved dramatically. But he hasn't reached his potential yet. Not even close. In one word I can tell you what he needs. Relationship. He doesn't understand that it's okay. That it will be okay.
He needs to trust. He needs to know that someone loves him. He needs to feel secure. I know this because this is not my first experience with a dog like Leo.
I haven't been able to give him that. Relationship. This whole time he has not been my dog. A foster dog, a project. All of my fosters have of course gotten bits of my heart. Afterall I spend countless hours with them- training, living, teaching. But they aren't mine. If I were to give my heart to each of them I'd never be able to give them up. And I have fostered a lot of dogs. A lot of really fabulous dogs. And while I love them, it's not the same as your own dogs. Those that have fostered dogs know what I am trying to explain. It's a different feeling. And most dogs aren't affected by that partial relationship. They go on their merry way, ready for a new life.
But not this kind of dog. This kind of dog needs all of a person in order to move past this point he is at. This dog is sad. Except when he is working, or playing. Then he is fine. But in life, in the house, at my feet, in the neighborhood, wherever- there is a sadness. With this very expression on his face. Uncertainty.
And for good reason I suppose.
With the recent bite, and his unpredictable reactions to people it sure limits the chance of a perfect home coming along. How can I expect someone else to trust him if I can't. There are not many homes that are suited for a dog like Leo. And the ones that are don't want a dog like Leo. It is a catch 22. The good home he deserves isn't going to come until his behavior is better. But his behavior is not going to improve much without a real, genuine relationship. And even then he can never be trusted 100%.
I could never pass on the problem to someone else, or just forget about him and pawn him off to the rescue. Giving up on a dog is the last resort. I don't feel like his behaviour warrents euthanasia. He is not a bad dog. But he could be a dangerous dog. Whoever takes on a responsibility like that needs to understand the nature of that. This last incident is an example that it only takes a second. Even in the hands of someone who (mostly) knows what they are doing.
So. He will stay. Permanently.
I do not need six dogs. I do not need another dog with issues. His baggage could fill a room. I certainly did not intend for this to happen. I had planned for a puppy- four or five years down the road when my older dogs are old. But sometimes fate hands you something entirely different. He was just another scared foster dog who would be here for a while to learn about life. Just like countless others.
This has not been an easy decision. It has weighed heavily on my mind for a week. Is it fair to my current dogs to add one more? Can I do him justice being one of six? Do I have the time to give? Do I have the heart? Is it the right decision? Or is it the only option left? Is it a decision of convenience? Pity? Can I love him? Can I save him? What if he hurts someone? At what point do I draw the line? Am I willing to take that responsibility? Am I willing to make that last decision for him? Can I stand that heartache if that were to happen?
I don't really have all the answers yet. Time will tell.
So things will change for Leo now. The rules will change, the expectations greater, and even more time will be spent. Mostly I will let him in. I will build a relationship with him. And see where that takes us.
Who knows, maybe my next agility dog has been laying at my feet for the last 7 months...