Monday, July 06, 2009

Dog troubles

We have been dealing with some awful things with our two wonderful Golden Retrievers. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have Sebastian, who will be 8 in October, who I adopted from rescue when he was 10 months old. Although Sebastian was diagnosed with mild mitral valve insufficiency at his annual check-up in March, it has only caused him to have a little activity intolerance so far, and he is generally healthy. Sebastian is placid, friendly and confident.

As I've posted about here, we adopted 4-year-old Hunter in early May. Prior to coming into rescue, Hunter's previous owner kept him in the backyard and used him as the stud for his backyard breeding operation. He had never lived in a house until a few weeks prior to coming to live in ours. Based on his behavior and reactions to various things, we are 99.9% sure that his prior owner was abusive. He certainly yelled at the dog and, we believe, likely hit him also.

For nearly two months, Sebastian and Hunter got along great. They play-wrestled together, slept together, shared toys & chew-bones, went on walks and to the park. I've posted photos of them together here, and I think it was obvious that things were going well.

Hunter has had a lot of problems since we adopted him, some of which I have written about previously. To briefly re-cap, he came to us having been exposed to kennel cough--which he developed within the first few days of coming to our house--and with a small earflap hematoma which grew large enough to require surgery to remove it. Post-operatively, he developed right-sided facial paralysis which lasted about a week and then gradually resolved on its own.

The last weekend in June, MM and I were talking about how great it was that Hunter was finally healthy and well and feeling very good about having adopted him. We were discussing how much more confident and calm he was becoming as he settled in and felt better.

I guess we spoke too soon.

On Sunday 6/28, another dog ran into Hunter's rear end at the park when both were running to catch a ball. We knew that Hunter was hurt because he yelped several times and refused to get up from where he'd been knocked to the grass for a few minutes. Eventually he stood and walked home, and his gait seemed fine.

Over the next few days, we noticed that Hunter was slow to get up and down from sitting and lying down. We still thought that he was bruised or had strained a muscle in one of his legs. We continued with his daily walks, though we stopped taking him to the park for fetch after one session two days after the collision obviously caused him pain.

Thursday night I fell asleep on the couch during the news, and MM let me stay there and went into our bedroom on his own. He left the dogs in the living room with me. A little after two in the morning, I was awakened out of a deep sleep by growling, snarling, and snapping. My first thought was to break up the fight, and I stumbled over in the dark and grabbed the waist of the first dog I touched (who happened to be Hunter). In the process, I was bitten on the left hand and right forearm. (Yes, I know: my own fault for jumping in the middle of a dog fight.) My right forearm in particular is still, three days later, deeply bruised and swollen and quite painful.

This event was so uncharacteristic of both dogs that I knew right away that something must be wrong. I took Hunter to the vet the following day and learned (after $600 of diagnostics) that he has a hairline fracture in one of the bones at the base of his tail. He is on two strong painkillers, prophylactic antibiotics, and rest for two weeks. He must return for a repeat x-ray in two weeks, and if the fracture does not heal on its own, they will have to amputate his tail. Poor lamb.

Since Thursday night's fight, the dogs have gotten in one other fight (over food, initiated by Sebastian!) and have been split up once for growling at one another, though no fight resulted. This type of behavior is so unlike both these dogs, and MM and I have been totally stressed out about it. MM is afraid that Hunter (being younger & stronger) will seriously injure or kill Sebastian, and I can't say his fear is unfounded.

I have a call out to a dog behavior specialist recommended by our vet. I am hoping to set up a home visit where someone can come out and work with us and help us fix this situation that has developed.

In additional to the tail fracture and the fighting, we learned the hard way Saturday night that Hunter is afraid of fireworks. I felt like such a dumbass because, what with all his other anxieties, I really should have guessed. Though to be fair, it is illegal to set off your own fireworks in our city, and we don't live anywhere near any of the approved shows. Regardless, apparently some neighbors a few doors down were setting off small fireworks. . . . the type that make a lot of popping sounds.

We arrived home to find the bottom half of the molding around our front door ripped off and parts of it chewed into small pieces on the floor. Hunter tried to claw his way out through the wall next to that door; he dug through the drywall all the way to the studs in places, leaving a huge pile of plaster dust on the floor and plaster stuck on his fur and claws. There were little smudges of blood on the floor and on the wall and molding, too, as he had cut his pads trying to claw out of the house. All told, he did an estimated $500-600 worth of damage.

I felt so horrible for Hunter when we arrived home and saw what he had done. How terrified he must have been to cause such damage! He was still panting heavily and drooling everywhere when we got home. . . . two things he does when scared, as we learned the first day we brought him home. It took 15-20 minutes to soothe him and calm him down, and he still jumped with every little pop he heard outside. As we cleaned up the mess he'd made, he was cowering and obviously afraid of being punished. We never even raised our voices to him, though, and made an attempt to project a calm air, once we overcame the initial shock of walking in and seeing the destruction.

So my two Goldens, who usually bring me much joy and entertainment, have been causing us some serious stress the past few days. There have been no fights now for a little over 36 hours, but we still aren't sure how exactly things will be resolved.


The GVZ's said...

Oh, man. I am so sorry. How heartbreaking, but thank goodness that you are the one that adopted Hunter. He is lucky to be in such good hands.

TUWABVB said...

Oh honey - I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say to you except I think you are proceeding in the right way to get these issues fixed. I feel so bad for you and your husband - all you want to do is give this dog love and assurance, and it's just impossible to communicate that to a traumatized animal sometimes. I know a few people that have used behvavior specialists when it came to their pets, and it always worked. We just need to learn how to communicate properly - we don't know dog-speak! I know it will work out, but it will likely take a little effort on everyone's part (including Mr. Sebastian) - I'm just happy that you are willing to make the effort! I know how much our pets mean to us - so if you need to talk, drop me a line!