Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Ruff Week

Honestly, I don't want to write this post.  It is a hard post to write.  I think I've cried enough this week to solve the water wars down here.  I wouldn't have been able to get this out yesterday.  And it's literally hard to type because my wedding ring finger is bandaged up and doesn't bend so easily right now - though it's a ton better than yesterday.  Typing yesterday was damn near impossible.
So Monday afternoon I got home from work and did my normal routine of letting the pups out.  We always keep Belly and Gertie separated while they're home alone to prevent them from getting in a fight.  They don't fight often, but when they do it's bad - so we don't take a chance.  Anyway, I let them out and a few minutes later, while I'm rummaging through the mail, I hear Gertie run to the front window to bark at some passerby.  Then a split-second later Belly is running after her to see what the fuss is about and I immediately ran to the window - because this is when fights will break out.  It's most often over someone ringing the door bell or seeing something outside that is bark-worthy.  We don't know exactly what sets it off, but we think Gertie sees Belly's aggressive barking (at the door or person outside) as being aggressive toward her (feeling threatened).  And then she snaps and goes to town on Belly.  And Belly is of course like, "Aw HELL no!" and gives the fight her own 110%.  But poor Belly is just no match for Gertie.  The girl has the heart of a lion but no body to back it up.
Gertie is a lab/pit mix and while she's not a huge dog, she has incredible strength.  She fights like any other dog would fight, but she just has so much power behind her that it's near impossible to physically get her to stop.  And dangerous, hello bum finger.  So yes, a nasty fight broke out not 10 minutes after I got home on Monday and I was alone with them.  I've been alone with them before when they've fought and I managed to quickly break them up unscathed.  This time, however, I was helpless.  After reading this article, I realize I did everything wrong.  Running toward them screaming, "NO, NO, NO!" - yeah, that was me.  Rushing in and trying to grab the dogs and pull them apart?  Yep, that was me too.  (If you have a weak stomach, don't look at that article - it has some grody dog bite pictures.  I did get beat up a bit, but nothing like that - don't worry!)  Try as I might, I could not get the girls off of each other.  Dogs will typically just latch on to each other when they fight and Gertie gets in lock-down mode and won't let up.   I tried everything.  I tried dumping water on them.  I tried stuff I'm embarrassed to admit.  I was in a total panic and completely terrified watching my girls rip into each other with me not having the strength (or know-how) to stop it.  I was doing everything I could think of and getting worn out in the process, praying out loud for strength, "I can't do this, I'm not strong enough, please help me!!!"  Absolute terror.
It was probably only 5 minutes, but it seemed to go on for an hour.  By the grace of God, I finally managed to get them separated.  They actually separated several other times but dogs will immediately charge each other again - as they did.  So somehow I finally managed to get Gertie off, while simultaneously yelling "OFF!!!" at Belly.  She actually listened (a miracle, seriously).  I had Gertie pinned down and got Belly to back up far enough that I could escort Gertie out the back door without them locking up again. 
I just knew Belly had to be torn up, but of course she was prancing around wagging her tail 2 minutes later.  I, however, was a mess.  I managed to get a couple of bite wounds in the process since I unwisely tried to get in the middle of it.  Luckily nothing serious at all, but I'm definitely sore and bruised up.  I was getting in all kinds of awkward positions trying to over-power them, to no avail.  So yeah, lots of sore muscles and bruises.  Surprisingly, the dogs are actually OK.  Belly is definitely sore - she got scratched up a good bit around her neck, but only had one small puncture wound.  Gertie had a small puncture on her snout, but she's fine otherwise.  As long as that fight seemed to go on, I'm seriously amazed Belly was not more hurt.  Her worst fight injury to date was actually from Charlie years ago!  Knowing Charlie, it was over food, I'm sure.  We can tell she's sore though and have been giving her lots of TLC.  She's been curling up on the heating pad at night and getting lots of gentle rub-downs.
Being alone in the middle of that terrible fight Monday night left me mentally and physically drained.  It suddenly became really clear... "I just can't do this anymore."  These girls are just NOT going to get along.  Sure, 99% of the time they're completely civil with one another.  Gertie would actually love for Belly to be her buddy, but Belly is the Alpha and she is not interested.  Belly starts the fights most often it seems, but Gertie will finish them.  It's just a bad match.  If you remember, we got Belly almost immediately after getting married - so she's been with us for 8 years.  The hub rescued Gertie from a hit-n-run accident a little over 3 years ago.  We rehabilitated her and planned to foster her back to health and find a permanent home for her, but uh... obviously we fell for her and ended up keeping her.  We did have one family who really wanted her, but they backed out at the last minute. 
So we are at a crossroads.  And my heart is totally broken.  Especially with us looking to get pregnant and bring children into our home, we can't risk them getting in the middle of a fight like this.  I'm 110% confident that neither Belly or Gertie would ever attack my kid.  They both are so great with kids, actually.  But Heaven help us if a fight broke out within a few feet of a toddler.  When dogs are in fight-mode, they are in their own little world and anyone that gets in the way is sure to get hurt.  (Hello again, bum finger.) 
We love our Gertie more than I could ever explain in words.  She has the sweetest demeanor of any dog I've ever known and the girl loves us SO hard.  She especially loves her daddy, her own knight in shining armor.  She wants nothing more than to be with us.  She's always at our heels (and we're always tripping over her!).  She would be the *perfect* dog if she was by herself.  But being with another dog, certainly another particularly bitchy female, is not best for her.  My mom thinks maybe Gertie senses Belly getting older and is really starting to challenge her Alpha status.  I'm sure that's part of it, as Belly feels the need to constantly remind Gertie of her place.  She's always herding Gertie and anytime we tell Gertie "OFF" to get off the bed, Belly insists on escorting her off, growling the whole time.  As if to say, "Yeah, did you hear that?! Get off our bed, you dog!"
It's crazy because Belly is without a doubt the "dominant" one, but get them in a fight and Gertie just completely over-powers her.  You'd think Belly would just wave the white flag, but the girl is a true bitch and won't give in.  So with Monday's big fight and all of this considered, we feel something really must be done.  We think the best possible outcome, though it tears me up completely, is to find a new home for Gertie.  Of course everything I read makes this sound like an impossible feat.  There are hundreds and thousands of doggies out there looking for homes.  Gertie would be a perfect only-pet... but how are we supposed to convince people of that?  She deserves the best -she is SUCH a good girl.  She would thrive in the right setting.  It breaks my heart that our girls don't get along.  We really don't know what our solution is yet - we are still in research mode.  But I've already begun to pray for a new family to take our sweet girl.  If you were reading a handwritten version of this, you would see tear drops all over the paper.
I realize there are "behavior" coaches.  We haven't ruled that out, but we don't exactly have the cash to pay an expensive trainer and our pet insurance policies don't cover any such fees.  In my heart of hearts, I believe the best solution is to find a better place for our girl.  It is not what I want.  I feel like a failure of a mom.  I feel like the outside world will see it as us "giving up" on our girl.  But at the end of the day, we have to find a solution that is best for her, best for Belly, and best for us.  So please pray for us as we're seeking wisdom here.  I am praying hard for God to point us toward a family that will love our sweet Gertie.  She deserves nothing less.  This is so hard on us.  To me, it's worse than losing Charlie.  As tough as it was to let him go, we knew we were making the right decision for him.  This is different.  There is no clear, easy decision.  All we know is that something has to change quickly. 
I certainly welcome any advice on what to do in this situation.  We are absolutely not the type to kick a dog to the curb because we decided we don't want them.  This is about finding the best place for our beloved girl and you can't imagine how heavily this weighs on our hearts, so please don't go thinking this is easy for us in any way.  It's not a decision we ever anticipated having to make.  We sincerely appreciate your prayers.


The Shabby Princess said...

Awh, sweetie, what a hard situation to be in. I'm so sorry. I can totally understand your feelings. I'm sure that a perfect family will come along for your sweet girl. When I was a little girl, we "adopted" a dog from a family friend in a similar situation and he was the perfect dog for us. I'm praying that a family like that comes along for y'all.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

I've been saying big BIG prayers for y'all to find the best solution for all involved. LOVE you!

Karen said...

Oh my goodness, I can't imagine how tough this must be for you. We have two Labs who are our babies so I can understand the feeling. Like you said perhaps a trainer could help, maybe even your vet could even prescripe something for the dogs to help with agression? Not sure just throwing out some suggestions. Best of luck to you :)


E.B. in Tennessee said...

Oh, goodness...definitely a tough situation. Wish I could give you some words of wisdom. I'll be praying for you!

Lauren & Eddie said...

We have the same type dog and have realized that having another would be terrible for us. We have a baby and are VERY watchful when she's in the room with him. She is sweet as pie when she's sweet and awful when she feels threatened. I'm so sorry you're going through this. They're like babies so I understand why your heart feels torn!

Pammy said...

Awh, Amanda this just breaks my heart for you honey. I will pray that the right solution will be revealed to you. Love you!!!! Hugs!!!

Fay said...

This is so tough, as a dog owner, I know the love you feel for them. I wish I had advice but I'll pray for you :) Thinking of you.

Ruth said...

That is a tough situation to be in. I hope you are able to find a loving home for Gertie

Teri said...

I'm sorry to read what you went through, what a scary thing. I know that private trainers can be a little costly, but perhaps even consulting with one could give you some ideas? I think that she needs to know that you and your husband are the true alphas.

There are medications, but I sometimes wonder if that is only a band-aid for the problem.

You are obviously a very responsible pet owner, and very loving. Finding a new home for a loved memeber of the family can be difficult. But perhaps you could check local rescue groups? There are rescue groups for every breed, and some that are not breed specific. If they do not have room currently for her, they might have a Private Party page on their website where you could post her picture and a little about her. Maybe your vet would allow you to post a flyer, or might even spread the word for you?

I hope that you and your husband are able to work this all out, I know it's difficult.

Sending you good wishes.

Hurley Lucy said...

Advice is hard here. We totally feel you and are hurting for you guys. We know how much you love them both. Hmmmm, personally, first I would try to find ways to keep Gertie before finding her a home. It's easier to keep her in her familiar elements (especially w/ her rescuing history) and work w/ her before finding a new home.... Do you kennel her? Maybe, some medication to give her to mellow out in the afternoons?.... Just suggestions.... I'm sure you're prob. aware of them. Love you!!!!

thepreppyprincess said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch, what a tough situation to confront, I feel so badly for you. I wish there was some wisdom or sage advice I could offer, but I can't. I only know there are lots of us out here pulling for you, hoping a solution becomes evident of its own accord, or through speaking with a trainer or vet or... someone I haven't yet thought of. An animal behaviorist at one of the big vet schools.

Sending you a hug and prayers things get better,

The Pink Putter said...

Oh, what a tough situation. As a dog lover who is very attached to my lab, I was tearing up just reading your post. Prayers that you will find a great family for Gertie.

Steph @ Flip Flop Chic said...

Just read this post and I have been in your shoes. We have three rescues and the oldest and youngest have gotten into a few fights. The last one I was home alone and it was bad...blood everywhere. We had to have the carpet professionally cleaned! Anyway, if you want to email me, I'd be happy to give you some suggestions of how we handled ours - we still have all the dogs. I went through this with another dog when I lived in GA, and having the right knowledge to handle it this time made ALL the difference. In the meantime, just try to relax girlie! :)