Working through the decision to keep Rugby was very difficult. It wasn’t just myself and my family I was considering. I was primarily thinking about my little speckled dog with the chocolate drop eyes. I’m extremely loyal, and I don’t give up easily. I’m an eternal optimist, so I held out a lot of hope that I would be able to figure out the magic method that would fix all of the broken things in my little dog who had such a big heart. He was barely out of puppy-hood…he deserved a great life full of fun adventures! I read book after book….talked to many trainers…went to conferences…all in an effort to “fix” this one little dog that had so captured my heart! He was such an amazing dog in so many ways! I didn’t want to imagine that he couldn’t be fixed! I also didn’t want to face the fact that he might not ever be a stable dog! But late at night in a dark bedroom as I was falling asleep, all of the “what ifs” came to visit me.
What if the neighbors got tired of all of the barking and called Animal Control to complain about him? Could I ever train him to go on a simple neighborhood walk without barking and lunging at every imaginary stimulus? If he couldn’t be walked, how would I ever give him the exercise he needed? Would we ever be able to have any kind of normal life at home? Could I spend the next 13 years checking outside for loose neighborhood dogs before I could take Rugby for a simple potty break? What if he accidentally got out of the house and attacked another dog? What if he bit someone? Was I going to get bitten if a dog came around the corner when Rugby was in his own yard playing? What if my dog training clients found out I had a crazy dog and fired me? What if…what if…what if….an endless parade of what ifs! I lost a lot of sleep working through this decision!
From time to time, Rugby gave me little glimmers of improvement, so I continued to have hope. I always hold to the hope that if a dog can do something one time, he can do it twice, and then three times, and eventually develop a good habit rather than a bad one. I’m an optimist. I can’t help it. Sometimes Rugby responded fairly calmly to our next door neighbors, as long as their dog wasn’t anywhere in sight. On a long line outside, he even seemed as if he wanted to play with the little Jack Russell puppy on a tie out two doors away. He sent all of the right barks and body language, but I had seen him fire up in the blink of an eye, and I couldn’t take a risk with someone’s sweet puppy!
I knew if I gave him up, he’d go back to the rescue and into another foster home. When I started uncovering his past, I’d already discovered that we were at least his 5th home, and I knew that he was having trouble really trusting me. He had bonded well to our family, but he wasn’t making much progress when he was scared or over-stimulated. It was as if trust went right out the window in those situations, and his fight or flight responses took over. I knew that recycling him to another home would make trust that much harder for Rugby and his next owners, and I knew that over time….trust in humans would be almost impossible for him as the cycle was repeated over and over. And yet, I just wasn’t sure I could sign up for 13 more years of living with him. He just didn’t fit what I needed from a dog, and I was struggling with feeling selfish for wanting a dog who didn’t have significant behavior issues. I knew I just needed to make a final decision, but neither alternative was a good one in my opinion, so I continued to waffle….and wait.