Camerado! I give you my hand!

Camerado! I give you my hand!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Don't Blame the Dog!"

A while back, I wrote a post about shelters and rescue groups not wanting to see the forest for the trees, and therefore were unwilling to properly screen dogs up for adoption, euthanize aggressive dogs, or admit that what they were doing was unethical, and bad for dogs.

I've been in a back-and-forth on an email list about this very subject the last few days, and it made me think of some more things to add to my diatribe.

Why are we not allowed to blame the dog, again? When dogs bite, and especially when they bite aggressively, with purpose to maim or worse, it is ALWAYS because the owners "did something wrong"?

They didn't socialize the dog when he was a puppy. They didn't train him. They overtrained him. They trained him too harshly. They trained him too wimpily. They used the wrong type of treat/training collar/leash/attitude. They fed him food with too much protein. They fed him from a stainless steel bowl, when they should have used plastic. They fed him from a plastic bowl. They fed him too much/too little/too often/not often enough. He was hungry. He was itchy. His feet hurt.

They crated him too much. They didn't crate enough. They let their kids tease him. They didn't let their kids interact with him enough to make him understand the kids were "in charge." They should never have gotten a dog because they had kids. Didn't they know Fido doesn't like kids?

The people worked too much, and were gone all the time. They didn't work enough, and were home all the time. They petted the dog too much. They didn't pet him enough. They paid too much attention to him. They didn't pay any attention to him. They tied him up. They didn't tie him up.

They named him a silly name. They didn't take him to the vet. They neutered him too early/too late/not at all. He wasn't vaccinated. He was over-vaccinated. They fed him Ol' Roy. They fed him top-of-the-line food, but it was crap because it wasn't raw food. They fed him raw food when he should have been eating kibble.

They dared to walk into the kitchen one day, nowhere near the dog's food bowl or toys, or the actual dog, and the dog launched himself across the floor and leapt up and went for the face of the teenage girl, and latched on, shaking back and forth, knocking her backward, and would not release despite her father beating him with a chair. He would not release until the hold on his collar made it hard for him to breathe, and he opened his mouth to get more air, and he was propelled backward. After the father shoved him across the kitchen and bent over his daughter--who had never done anything to the dog but interact normally with him--to try to stop the bleeding from the gash, the dog came back for more and the father had to cover his bleeding daughter's body and take several slashing bites to the back and arms before someone mercifully leashed the dog and threw him in his crate.

I KNEW I had left out something from the previous list of wrongs committed by this stupid, clueless, never-should-have-owned a dog family: walking into the kitchen!!

People are so dumb, right? How dare that girl walk into her own kitchen. She should have known better.

My brilliant, inspiring, and astute friend Sarah Wilson is, among other things, an author, trainer, teacher, lecturer, student of the human/animal bond, and wise sage when it comes to dogs and people. Her definition for serious aggression is the most succinct way I've ever come across to express it.

"When normal life events cause offensive aggression with little or no warning, that dog is not a pet." ~Sarah Wilson

So, when a dog bites without warning over normal life events, whose fault is it?

It's not an easy question to answer, but I will not lay blame at the feet of the teenage girl walking into the kitchen.

Perhaps the family was inconsistent with this dog, and he was truly confused as to who was the leader in the home. Perhaps he absolutely believed he was ruler, and she had no right to cross "his" property without permission. Perhaps any number of things from the above laundry list of "sins" dog trainers often bemoan were happening in the house.

Maybe he had a brain tumor, or some other medical issue that contributed to his vicious, unprovoked attack. If they had just taken him to the vet and had a full blood workup done, the vet might have found something. Neurological disease? Cancer? Thyroid imbalance? These can all contribute to aggression.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the dog was genetically wired wrong. Maybe it's the breeder's fault? Mother Nature? Zeus? Charles Darwin?

Does the picture above make you think, "Awww! How sweet!" or does it make you cringe?

A popular book amongst a subset of dog trainers (those who call themselves "positive" or "all positive") is Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog! Originally published in 1984 (I believe), it is a slim volume from a dolphin trainer-turned-dog-trainer that points out some of the misconceptions about dogs and behavior. It was the first book I remember reading that specifically exhorted dog owners to blame themselves for their dog's issues, not the dog. Other authors have done this, too--and for good reason. Most of our dogs' behavioral "problems" are indeed our fault. We are lousy communicators with species other than our own (and not even so great with our own, right?)

We get frustrated and angry at our dogs over things we should have trained them not to do. Dogs do not have morals or ethics, they simply have behaviors. Some of those are acceptable to us, and some are not. Training is about instilling the behaviors we want and teaching the dog to abstain from the behaviors we do not like. Since many of these "bad" behaviors are normal for dogs, it can be challenging sometimes.

Certainly, we cannot expect the dog to learn our language--we must learn his, and speak it to him.

When we fail to do this, problems can result, aggression among them.

So we must hang our heads in shame as a species for our arrogance at thinking the dog "knew better." After we flog ourselves, we need to get on with the business of being better communicators with our dogs. Modern dog training is about building relationships based on trust, and it allows humans and dogs to coexist quite peacefully the vast majority of the time.

But training cannot override everything. It cannot trump DNA or disease. When it squares off with genetics or medical issues, training by itself often does not come out victorious.

That is why blaming the dog is sometimes necessary, and when serious aggression is on the table, the dog must often pay with his life.

I know what it feels like to love a dog or two. And I know what it feels like to grow attached to dogs one does not own. I have been in the animal sheltering world for more than 10 years now, and working with animals for almost 30 years. I've loved and been attached to many dogs in my life.

I know what it is like to have to euthanize a dog I love who is no longer safe. The pain and heartache is overwhelming. Euthanasia of a beloved animal is never easy, but when the animal is in obvious pain, or simply no longer has a quality of life, at least we can clearly see the need to humanely end that life (and so can everyone else).

Euthanasia of aggressive animals is less clear-cut, so much so that I've had clients tell me their own trusted vet would not do perform the procedure on their dog after its aggression had reached unsafe levels. To the vet, the dog looked healthy. But the vet didn't have to live with what the dog had become. He or she did not have to walk around on eggshells in his or her own home because the family pet could "go off" at any given moment. Vets, like doctors, are taught to do everything possible to save lives, not destroy them.

Is the pain of euthanasia worse when one is made to feel guilty for it?

How do you think it feels to the family of the dog who attacked the teenage girl to be told by their vet that euthanasia is not appropriate for this dog, that they must have done something to provoke the dog, and that putting this dog down would not be fair to the dog? Perhaps the maimed young woman should be the one to, oh, I don't know, maybe take the "healthy" dog to an obedience class after she heals and get him the training he never got. Her scar(let letter)s could be an abject lesson for all to see: see what a lack of training gets you?

Until one has lived with a truly aggressive dog, has lived with the fear that the dog might hurt a family member or a friend or a stranger, or might escape the yard and maul a child, it is hard to imagine what it feels like. It's something that keeps decent people awake at night.

And from the often-grim insides of a rescue or shelter, teeming with unwanted animals that have, through no fault of their own, been cast off, treated poorly, abused, or simply neglected, the thought that the dog deserves another chance is not as uncommon as you would think.

After all, it's not his fault, right?

When it comes down to it, a homeless dog with a known bite history is a huge liability for anyone with which it has contact. Good shelters and rescue groups know this, and will not put up for adoption animals with known bite histories.

(NOTE: ANY dog with a bite history is a liability. But my main beef is with groups housing and adopting out homeless aggressive dogs, NOT owners who have such a dog and are trying to manage the situation while keeping the dog. That is still an issue, one based on personal choice that should never be taken lightly, but there is a difference.)

Fault is not the issue here--knowledge is. And knowledge can be a painful thing.

Good shelters understand that people deserve better than a pat, facile, "It's not his fault."

Some shelters and rescues who ignore this dictum and believe all dogs are salvageable claim to give "full disclosure" to adopters about the dog's history. They say that "some people want to adopt these damaged dogs, so we should let them." They think that disclosure will shield them from a lawsuit, but it won't.

And it wouldn't matter if it did. If the known biter bites again, more lives will be changed forever. The damage will be done.

Is it POSSIBLE to adopt out known biters and have them managed safely so that they never bite again? I suppose it could be. Is it ethical? I do not believe so. Is it kind? No. Are most adopters equipped to deal with this sort of dog for the rest of its life? No. Should they have to? No.

Some of these "rescuers" decide that Fierce Fido isn't safe for the average Joe, but he would be fine for a dog trainer to adopt and work with. How many of us do you think there are walking into shelters on a regular basis, looking for such a liability-er, project? Very few--we already have multiple dogs.

Doing something unethical and quite possibly dangerous "because some people want to" is not a recipe for a successful enterprise. And, here's a shocker--MOST people do NOT want it. They don't want to own an aggressive dog, they don't want to live next to an aggressive dog, and they don't want aggressive dogs in their neighborhoods.

So these "save 'em all" rescue groups are endangering the majority to make themselves (and the mysterious "people who want to") feel better. Since it's never the dog's fault, they think what they are doing is humane. But what they are really doing is eroding the rights of dog owners, little by little. They are creating a culture of fear with dogs, so that children are growing up afraid of dogs--a fate that should not be visited on anyone, much less a child. These groups are turning people away from adoption (or dog ownership in general) in tiny little increments, which affects all animals in shelters. It has been said that only 10% of the animals in people's homes came from shelters. Do we want that number to decrease even more?

(And that leads us down another slippery path towards the "Abuse Excuse" and its ramifications.)

The truth is that some dogs are just not pet material. And until shelters and rescues get their emotions pushed aside for just a minute and realize how their inaction with aggressive dogs ripples out community-wide in mostly negative ways, they will continue to blame the owners, the breeders, the pet store proprietor, the puppymiller, and Jesus, Joseph and Mary for the dog's aggression.

It may not usually be the dog's fault, but it is all our problem.


  1. I agree that a dog that exhibits unprovoked aggression with intent to maim is not a suitable pet. But as for shelters, I think probably the overwhelming majority tend toward the euthanasia side with a very small minority being on the side of "blame the owner and adopt out the dog".
    I appreciate your sentiments on the subject of an individual keeping an aggressive dog as well as someone who opts for euthanasia. While I have had to deal with dog-dog aggression, I have never had a dog that was aggressive to people. Indeed, I hope I never do as I would be woefully ill-equipped to deal with the situation - mainly because I am *afraid of dogs that bite*. I feel for anyone facing the terrible and often limited choices available to them in this situation. I wish there was a humane sanctuary option available for every dog with the 'wrong wiring' but I know that's not the case.

  2. Dogs RARELY "bite without warning". So who is to blame when a dog gives repeated warnings that the human doesn't see (or chooses not to see)? Hundreds of thousands of dogs are killed in shelters because of "aggression".. can you truly believe that a large percentage of these dogs really are dangerous and deserve to die? If dogs were so often dangerous.. well, they wouldn't have evolved to be dogs in the first place. I agree wholeheartedly with the basic notion that dangerous dogs should not be adopted out. OTOH, I always remember the incident from my childhood when the neighbor's absolutely saintly Lab bit their son. Because he had been persistently annoying her despite her efforts to avoid him. When she bit him, everyone told him it was HIS fault, and the dog went on to live many more years of saintly existence never biting anyone again.

    1. Wise words Emily. People can choose to educate themselves in regards to dog behavior or not. Choosing to remain ignorant, however, does not make it the dog's fault.

  3. Emily, I agree that dogs rarely bite without warning. Human error is most often to blame for aggression in dogs, but that doesn't negate the fact that the dog now has a bite history and cannot be deemed to be safe.

    Yes, many dogs are killed in shelters, some because of aggression, and some of that may be undeserved. But the sad fact is that now the shelter or rescue knows the dog has a history, and they cannot un-know it.

    I don't buy the notion (usually from people who don't work in shelters) that "tons of dogs" are killed that didn't need to be because they weren't "really" aggressive.

    Does it happen some? Yes. When a shelter is in a place where they must euthanize, they should pick the less-adoptable animals and the ones who pose a danger to the community. Why should nice, adoptable dogs die?

    It's easy to be an armchair quarterback when one loves dogs but has not worked in the sheltering business, or had experiences with aggressive dogs and seen how it affected people. It becomes a trust issue, and so many rescues are so hell-bent on excusing dangerous behavior and blaming people that everyone loses.

    The sad thing is that dogs die because of human stupidity every day. But my basic argument remains the same: adopting out aggressive dogs has a huge negative impact on us. Once a dog bites, "fault" becomes, sadly, irrelevant.

    Thanks for commenting.

    1. I have been volunteering in various shelters and rescues for the last 15 years and YES, "'tons of dogs' are killed that didn't need to be because they weren't 'really' aggressive." Unfortunately, many of the people who work in shelters and rescues, despite their love of dogs, lack the education and experience to deal with dogs that have been poorly raised, neglected, and/or abused. It is not that these dogs aren't aggressive, but rather that their aggression has rarely reached the point of no return. The problem is compounded by the inexperienced people who drag dogs out of cages with catch poles (this is NOT what catch poles were designed to do), scream at the dogs, bang the bars of their cages when the dog reacts aggressively, and so forth. And as others have pointed out, a single bite does not make a dog a danger for life.

      The first dog I ever owned as an adult bit me the first day I had him. A lack of experience and lack of knowledge regarding his food aggression led me to reach for a piece of bone that he had dropped on the floor of a local pet store. When I went to pick it up, he lunged and bit me - hard enough that I needed a trip to the ER and months of rehab. My knee-jerk reaction was to haul him back to the shelter, but as soon as we got in the car to drive to the hospital, he was licking my face. He didn't bite me out of malice (dogs are INCAPABLE of doing so); he simply reacted to my behavior the only way he knew how. I decided to keep to him but realized that I had a responsibility to him, myself, my family, and the general public to educate myself in regards to dog behavior. I read books, took classes, and many months later was able to give and take away his food without issue. He spent the next ten years sleeping in my bed, romping in the park, etc. and never bit another soul. It would have been unethical and immoral for me to kill him for a problem that humans created without doing all I could to at least TRY and resolve the problem.

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  5. My local (large and well-known) shelter regularly adopts out dogs with bite histories, without disclosure. How do I know this? Because at least two of the dogs have come through my class at different times, with different owners. We also have BSL where I live, and the same shelter will adopt out obvious pit-crosses and call them all manner of other names. Completely unethical.

    Don't get me wrong -- I don't agree with BSL -- the legislation is dreadful and I'm on the public record as speaking out against it many times. And yes, dogs deserve a chance at a good life through training and consistency. But to flat out LIE to adopting families does nobody any favours in the long term.

  6. Well, the real challenge is to define "aggression" and then to decide whether "aggression" makes a dog "dangerous". Not every dog that bites is "aggressive" and "dangerous" (the Lab in my anecdote was certainly neither) I certainly agree that any bite history should be disclosed, as should any other behavior issues such as food guarding. But I do not agree that a bite history should invariably condemn a dog to death. Most shelters look for reasons to kill dogs, not to save them. Saving most dogs abandoned to shelters takes work. I have many many problems with the Winogradian so called "no kill" movement, but its focus on "fixing" dogs as one way to stop killing them is something I agree with.

  7. Very touching, very painful post. I have worked in shelters, fostered scores of muts, adopted several. Some dogs are just broken and even the most gentle, loving intentions can't fix that. Some dogs (and this gets very close to home) live fine around people most of their lives and then just lose it, for reasons unknown and unapparent. It is very, very painful to make the decision, and just as painful to go through with it, but yes, sometimes you have to look beyond the hope, beyond the want, beyond the love and realize that for the sake of the family, people and dogs alike, that this dog is now too dangerous to be trusted around others. It's not the dog's fault, it's not even always the owner's fault. Sometimes bad things happen and we have to make a choice. We can pretend it never happened, or that this that or the other thing brought about this freak attack, or we can take responsibility and realize it for what it is, a dangerous situation that will more than likely repeat at some point. Thank you for a wonderful, yet heart wrenching post.

  8. Well done and very thorough article. I love Sarah's definition of aggression and agree with it completley! Working in the trenches of breed-specific rescue for the last decade, I have very specific ideas of what constitutes aggression and do a pretty good job of avoiding it. We are always mindful of the adoptability of a big, powerful breed like a German Shepherd to the general public. We want safe, reasonably well-socialized, tolerant dogs that will make good family pets. We evaluate all dogs before they come into our program and any evidence of aggression immediately rules them out. Most of our dogs go on to live fine lives as well-loved pets.

    I've often wondered how many dogs are initially given up to the shelters because of an undisclosed bite incident. Some are pretty clearly old hands at biting people, and very easy to rule out. Others give no indication at all of any aggression and once they're in our program, never again find a situation in which they need to bite. Some dogs are just plain bad-tempered and don't need a second chance, there's too many nice ones out there and not enough room for both. Sad, but true.

    Some times it really is the dogs, sometimes it's the people. Sometimes it doesn't matter.

  9. Most shelters look for reasons to kill dogs, not to save them.

    Is this coming from your experience? I ask because that has not been my experience, but of course it could be happening. I think we have to look at what type of shelters we are talking about before making this sort of claim.

    I work in a large metro shelter, and I have scores of friends in other shelters, and our experiences are of adopting out as many animals as possible. I think a lot of the perspective may hinge on where shelters are located, too. I agree that "the old model" isn't gone, unfortunately. But I wouldn't say "most" shelters look to kill dogs.

    Saving most dogs abandoned to shelters takes work. I have many many problems with the Winogradian so called "no kill" movement, but its focus on "fixing" dogs as one way to stop killing them is something I agree with.

    I agree with it from the standpoint that some shelters have the funds and resources to try to rehabilitate dogs with bite histories, and can work with dogs that are not truly aggressive. But what happens if the shelter does not have those resources?

    I just think shelters and rescue groups should be places to get nice, healthy, temperamentally-sound pets, and they should work toward establishing that reputation.

  10. There is a middle ground -- hard to find, as broad as it is -- between icing every dog who shows some whale eye when an idiot pokes him with a rubber hand and misrepresenting Cujo as a suitable pet to some unsuspecting adopter.

    At least five of the fosters I've successfully placed (happily in homes without any untoward incidents for 3-9 years) came to me with "aggression" histories -- defense bites, territorial nips, owner-protection bites, alleged "dog aggression and hatred of men," and "snarling" that turned out to be submissive grins. All responded swimmingly to training in foster, and only one actually had to be convinced that teeth were not an option (a sweet, dumb farm collie who had reflexively nailed an even dumber shelter adopter when she tried to de-mat him the day she brought him home).

    Putting some resources into evaluating and training a dog with an alleged aggression history can often reveal not just a safe, acceptable pet, but a fantastic dog who was not getting what he needed, and has much more to give back than the average dog when he does get it. He may require a more savvy adopter than the idiot-proof dog, but I don't think the public is served by being universally regarded as idiots, either. I suspect this is just about impossible to do in a kennel environment. It is the role of expert foster volunteers.

    When that dog is NOT hiding out in there, the rescue needs to be absolutely clear-minded about what must be done. I do not believe in faith-based animal rescue.

  11. me: "Most shelters look for reasons to kill dogs, not to save them."

    Doubtful Guest: "Is this coming from your experience? "

    The whole point of temperament tests was to weed out allegedly unsuitable dogs.. just look at Sternberg's videos, especially the one on pit bulls. Rightly, there has been a rebellion against that notion (because most sane people don't want to kill dogs) and they are increasingly used to identify behaviors that need "fixing". Heather has described this above. As for resources, shelters find resources for the things they want to do. If they want to stop killing dogs with fixable behavior issues, they should... stop killing dogs with fixable behavior issues. If not all of them, at least some of them.

  12. BTW, speaking of "bite history", Karen Delise's latest analysis of a "fatal dog attack" is a must read:

    Though the family called the dog a hero, they didn't reclaim it from the shelter, which subsequently killed it. Perhaps because of its "bite history". Which did not exist.

  13. Heather, as usual, is spot on: "I do not believe in faith based rescue." Winograd may not have started out that way, but his rhetoric and his followers now form (to my eye) a Cult.

    Rescue work is not for the tender-hearted.

  14. Jill, I don't think Winograd advocates adopting out aggressive dogs. He has explicitly stated otherwise.

    He is rightly critical of the way that "temperament tests" are deployed to manipulate the stats on "adoptable pets" killed.

    If every pibble and every surplus big black untrained adolescent male dog "fails" a "temperament test," then a shelter can claim to be "no kill" while juicing most of the dogs.

    I look forward to a paradigm shift that puts resources into employing results-based trainers to rehabilitate hard-to-place dogs, rather than into employing "euthanasia technicians" to make them go away.

    I will happily mentor shelter employees who will put in the effort to become effective rehabbers.

  15. I once adopted an old dog from the local (crappy) shelter. Several weeks after I brought him home, he launched at me and bit me several times in quick succession, tearing through pants, long johns, and breaking skin (though not badly). What scared me more than anything is that when I was backing up, he kept coming.

    I'd certainly provoked him- I'd gently put a hand on his back to encourage him to lie down (I was sitting on the floor at the time). And he probably gave some sort of quick warning signal before he bit me, but I wasn't eagle-eyeing him looking for it so I didn't see it.

    I put him down. I talked to a trainer I knew and respected and consulted a behaviorist with the credentials to back up her shingle, and while both were willing to work with me and him, I wasn't willing to live (alone) with a dog that I was scared of, and who was willing to bite me over such a small thing.

    I regret it sometimes. I still cry over it at times, wishing I'd been brave enough, dedicated enough, *something* enough to stick by that old dog. But I get angry sometimes, too, that he had been adopted out in the first place. Maybe my anger is misplaced. But then again, maybe it's not.

    Sometimes I think about, too, how if I'd been a lot of people, that would have been the last time I'd ever consider a shelter dog. That one was damaged goods, and if one is, what's the chance that another isn't?

    Fortunately I know better. I have had three other shelter dogs (all pit bulls) who have been marvelous, marvelous creatures. None of them have been idiot-proof, but none of them have been aggressive toward me (or anybody else), either.

  16. Sometimes I think I was a good dog owner. It is easy to tally failures. I wanted a rescue dog. Had doubts; she seemed shy and sad. She had a respiratory infection and worms. The rescue said she was a border collie/lab mix. Blazingly smart, good water dog/retriever, not bothered by loud noises. She was uncomfortable with new dogs; some she liked and made friends until 12 mos. No more dog park. Went places less dog-dense. We walked at 6:30 am every day. I took her swimming. I was careless. She was too far from me. I called and a lab came. Bite wound. My fault. We got a trainer experienced with aggression.
    In the early morning she chased tennis balls at the soccer field. I missed the lake but trainer said Jelly did not spend her days bummed out about not swimming. She loved training. She slept on the floor with the cats. We watched TV on the couch: two cats and a dog. Heaven.
    Then my boyfriend was diagnosed with brain cancer. I lost my mind. I got on the bed with her and cried. Brain operation. So many problems; much crying; much anger. I yelled a lot.
    One day, we all went to the backyard to eat grass. Jelly grabbed Frankie by the head. I yelled. Miraculously he ran. I think Jelly was surprised too. I ran. She didn't catch me until the door. I whipped around with raised fist to strike her. She cringed; I never hit her. She broke his jaw. We drove 2 hrs to UC Davis.
    Our trainer had moved. Everyone said: PIT BULL. I got a pit bull expert. Expert said no pit, border collie + ? Signs of emotional instability = human aggressive. Never saw a better trained dog. Not training problem. Problem = genetics. Never touched Jelly or came close. Jelly wore a basket muzzle when the cats were loose in the house. We adjusted, I thought. Signs of sound sensitivity and new fears. Extreme fits when someone came to the door. Blood test. Healthy dog. I boarded her at a nice place when we went to UC Davis to have appliance removed from Frankie's mouth (fed in tube for 5 wks). Jel lasted 1 night. Became extremely stressed pooping bloody diarrhea. I had a friend pick her up and leave her in my house. What.A.Mess. Crapped blood for 2 days then settled.
    One morning we walked to soccer field, she was bouncing up and down in front of me for the ball. After TPLO I wanted to move to softer ground. We crossed the cricket pitch and I was saying "Ready-Back-Back." Still on hard ground, I said "no, here" and stepped past. She bit my upper arm. As I moved, my heavy sweatshirt pulled from her mouth. Pain. I didn't know what happened. I looked down; she was sitting looking up. I walked her thinking I need to work harder. Need help. Last one no good. Jim-no immune system. Cannot get bitten. No more dog walker. No off leash. Banished by friends. Isolated. Cannot be a dog. No freedom. We are trapped.
    I am just a person, not a trainer. I looked for help and read many books about dogs. Something caused her to change. The risk was too great. I put my darling to sleep that evening launching myself into hell. I wound her up then stepped past then killed her for what happened. The skin was not broken but the bruise was big, sore, black. Sometimes I am rational. She looked normal; she was not. I didn't have time or strength or will to find an answer. Not knowing haunts me.
    Rescue group would have taken her after she attacked Frankie. Would put her in sanctuary next to a couple of really nice male dogs until they could put her into foster. Sanctuary: a cage in bitter cold or blazing heat, a wood box for shelter, and fresh straw every day. Jelly couldn't do 1 night at a luxe kennel. She lived inside with me and the cats and never spent a day outside by herself.
    I wanted a nice dog to play with, snuggle on the couch and make her life healthy and happy. Not the rescue group's fault if Jelly was flawed or if she was ruined by me, if she was, but they DO put dogs into homes that have bite histories. They should not. I don't have a dog any more. I am just a person with a sad story.

  17. I think the concept of the "idiot proof" dog, and the pet owner who needs (or just wants) one is helpful. I've never had dogs, but in my experience it's normal to draw this distinction between cats, since (for obvious reasons) more of us are comfortable with cats that retaliate when provoked. Just to take my three cats as examples, there's a difference between a cat that hisses at scary people and will employ its claws to avoid a nail trim, a cat that runs from scary people and shows aggression toward the vet, and the cat that resorts to sad faces and vocal objections at the vet, doesn't seem to regard anyone as scary, and has to be separated from babies and small children so that the cat doesn't get hurt. It sounds like the last is what we're looking for if we expect an untrained young dog from a chaotic household never to have nipped or acted out defensively. All the more reason to be honest about aggression history, I think.


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