By now, Rugby had lived with me 6 months or so, and his behavior was predictable for the most part. In a word he was one speckled little wackadoodle dogger. He really couldn’t go anywhere and my family and I couldn’t do much of anything without setting him off. He was learning tricks and doing amazing performance behaviors, but day to day living with him was just crazy and no fun at all.
I felt so guilty that he wasn’t making progress when I knew the techniques I was using should work with him. Those things worked with other dogs I had trained, and I was so puzzled that I just didn’t seem to see consistent progress with him. I felt guilty that I couldn’t keep him safe, and now I wasn’t sure if he would ever trust me. I felt guilty that the peaceful, quiet home my family had enjoyed, was now a battlefield of barking….from the dog and from the family in an effort to get him to stop.
It was time to have the tough talk with myself. I had waited five long years to get a really, really great dog. Clearly, Rugby was not going to be the dog of my dreams. He was not going to be able to do any of the things I had planned for him. He was a very young dog….barely a year and a half old. He was going to live for 14 years if we were lucky and he was healthy, so that meant a very long commitment to life with a nutty dog, unless I could find a way to train him through his issues. Honestly, I did not want that life. If I had known Rugby was going to be so difficult to live with, I wouldn’t have given him a second look…despite the most amazing eyes and cutest face. I would never have brought him home. And now that I had him, I knew exactly why he had been recycled through the system over and over. I didn’t see many families being able to live with Rugby. He was so hard for me to live with, and I was the dog professional for goodness sake! I knew that much of what I was seeing could be traced back to Rugby as a very young puppy, and lack of training, socialization, and likely trauma that had occurred to frame his view of life and changes in routine.
I was weighing out what I wanted and needed in a dog. I needed a dog to help rehabilitate other damaged dogs. And on the other end of the balance was the love I felt for this poor little speckled throw-away dog that no one had wanted. I knew a big part of his behavior was due to the fact that he had been placed in a home, trusted the humans, and then they let him down by returning him. Over and over that cycle had been repeated for him, and I think by the time he came home with me, he had learned that humans were not to be trusted. I kept seeing things that pointed to a lack of trust, which absolutely broke my heart. I’ve never had a dog who didn’t trust me, and it just devastated me to think that even at a year and a half old, Rugby had been recycled enough that he just didn’t trust the very human who was trying so hard to help him. I had to face the fact that he might never be fixed. Was I willing to live with this dog, just as he was, for the next 13 years? That was a huge decision, and it affected my entire family, so I knew it was time to really do some praying and some soul searching, because one way or the other, I was going to have to live with my decision, and Rugby was hanging in the balance.